South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has called on Scottish Government Ministers to give an urgent Parliamentary statement setting out what support will be available to businesses and homeowners following last week’s devastating flooding.
Heavy rain and high tides saw some of the worst flooding in years across the south of Scotland.
A major incident was declared in Hawick and in Dumfries and Galloway, two foot bridges were swept away by the River Annan and the Nith flooded the Whitesands in Dumfries.
Roads were closed across the region and rail travel on both the Nith Valley and West Coast Mainline ground to a halt.
So far, no Government Ministers have visited the region since the flooding or announced any support to areas affected as they begin the clean-up operation.
Colin Smyth wants the Scottish Government to immediately activate the Bellwin Scheme which reimburses local councils for costs they incur as part of their response to incidents such as major flooding. Under the scheme, councils dealing with the flooding can apply to have eligible costs they incur, above a threshold, reimbursed by the government.
However, the local MSP wants the Government to go further and provide direct grants to businesses affected, similar to a scheme used in 2016. He is also urging the Government to fund projects that may not be covered by the Bellwin scheme such as the reinstatement of the foot bridges in Annan and to explore speeding up flood protection schemes currently underway such as Hawick and commit to funding for those yet to get started such as Dumfries.
Colin Smyth said: “I know first-hand just how devastating flooding can be and the scenes across our region in recent days have been the worst I’ve seen in years.
“I’ve spoken to many people who were desperately trying to protect their homes and businesses from the flooding, and they are now facing the misery of cleaning up the mess. They need all the support they can get.
“I have tabled an urgent Parliamentary question demanding the Scottish Government provide an update on the support available to those affected by the flooding. So far ministers have been silent on the issues and have been posted missing but I know many, many people will be looking for urgent answers on where they can turn to for support.
“The Scottish Government needs to urgently activate the Bellwin scheme but go further by having direct support to business and residents to help with the clean-up. Many businesses were just getting back on their feet and were hoping for a busy run up to Christmas and this has been a devastating setback for them.
“When I spoke with residents and businesses on the Whitesands on Thursday night there was almost a feeling of inevitability and that is just appalling that we have got to this stage. We cannot go on like this where time and time again we have the utter misery of flooding and the Government needs to put in place funding for a robust flood protection scheme.
“Travelling through the Borders on Friday, there was hardly anywhere that hadn’t been affected in some way by the sheer scale of the rainfall that had hit the region and there is a need for the Scottish Government to explore how they can speed up flood protection schemes in places such as Hawick.
“I also spoke to a number of residents in Annan who saw their gardens submerged and the news that the town has lost two very popular footbridges over the River Annan is terrible. It’s frustrating that flooding hit the town before the work on mitigation by Scottish Water has been completed. It’s vital that it’s finished urgently and I will be pressing the Scottish Government to fund the reinstatement of the bridges as soon as possible.”