Borders wages are £65 below average

Raising the profile of small local businesses is said to be essential.
Raising the profile of small local businesses is said to be essential.

Average wages in the Borders have slipped further behind the national average in the past decade, and the difference now is £65 a week.

Reviving the local economy and making the region an attractive place to live and work is now a priority for the South of Scotland Alliance.

The alliance is a partnership between Scottish Borders Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Enterprise, and it has set out three priorities to set the area on the road to recovery.

The first is fostering a culture of innovation which aims to improve business competitiveness and revitalise organisations in the public and third sector.

The second priority is inspiring enterprise and entrepreneurship through co-operation with schools, colleges, universities and business people.

The final priority is creating resilient, future-proof enabling infrastructure in the form of better digital and transport connections.

A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “The South of Scotland Alliance is committed to raising the profile of the south of Scotland and the positive contribution that the region can make to Scotland’s economy.

“The alliance has developed a new south of Scotland competitiveness strategy to set the direction for actions that it will take over the next seven years to help deliver transformational economic growth.

“The vision is that, by 2023, the South of Scotland will be a thriving rural economy, transformed by a growing core of innovative, ambitious businesses, and sustained by a renewed culture of entrepreneurship.”

A report to Scottish Borders councillors this week read: “Despite the notable successes of the South of Scotland Alliance and other partner agencies, the regional economy has continued to struggle in recent years.

“Growth has not kept pace with the rest of the country and gross value added per head actually fell between 2007 and 2013, from 72% of the national average in 2007 to only 70% in 2013.

“Average weekly wages have also slipped over the same period, from 89% of the national average to 87% – in monetary terms, a gap of more than £65 per worker per week.”

The entrepreneurial spirit of the region is reflected in its high levels of self-employment – 12.6% of the workforce compared to a national average of 8%. However, business expenditure on research and development indicates the relative absence of commercial innovation in the region, with spend per head almost 75% less than the average.

Alliance partners acknowledge the long-term structural weaknesses of the region’s economy but are determined to make progress with the new seven-year plan.