South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth will this week make a final push to ensure the planned South of Scotland Enterprise Agency is locally accountable.
The local MSP is proposing a number of amendments to the legislation to establish a new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency. These will be debated this Wednesday when the legislation goes before Parliament for the final time and MSPs will get to vote on both the amendments and the final Bill.
The local MSP was successful in making a number of changes to the proposals for the Agency during the Stage 2 process of the bill which took place last month at meetings of the Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. More than half the proposed amendments discussed at the Committee were tabled by Colin Smyth and amendments agreed included strengthening the Agencies aims to cover improving transport and digital connectivity and supporting social enterprises.
On Wednesday the Stage 3 process will see further amendments debated and voted on including proposals from Colin Smyth to make it a legal requirement for the new agency to consult people in the South of Scotland on their proposed action plan as well as performance and to ensure that the action plan is reviewed by the agency at least every five years.
The local MSP also hopes to add to the aims of the agency to make it a priority to promote affordable housing in the region and to make it a requirement for all other national agencies such as VisitScotland to work with new agency and set out what they will do to support the economy of the south of Scotland.
Colin Smyth said, “Having campaigned for a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency for a decade I am pleased we are now reaching the stage where the plans will go from being debates in Parliament to the law of the land in the next few days and the hard work can really begin with the setting up of the agency between now and early next year. But there is still a lot of work to be done to create an Agency that is rooted in the South. As the bill currently stands there is still no requirement for the new agency to properly consult people in the south of Scotland and the local councils on a regular basis. I plan to change this to ensure there is accountability to the people of our area through a proper consultation process”.
“A big issue raised by many people during the discussions I have had over the Bill is the lack of affordable housing to help keep more people in our region and attract others to move to the south of Scotland. So one vital change the Bill I will be proposing is to make it a requirement for the agency to promote efforts to increase the building of affordable housing in the area.”
“One of the strongest messages we have had from businesses in the area is the need for a one stop shop when it comes to business support. People are sick of going from one agency to another when it comes to asking for help of advice and they are worried that we will have yet another agency to add to many different places businesses need to contact. That’s why I am proposing a legal requirement for all the agencies to work together and set out clearly who will do what in the area, and give businesses a single point of contact they can get support from which will represent all the agencies”
“This will be one of the most important prices of legislation the Scottish Parliament will pass for the South of Scotland as the new Agency will have a key role to play in tackling the big economic challenges we face in the area.”