Departing First Minister Alex Salmond has been praised as a great friend of the Borders and for his commitment to the region’s new rail link.
Mr Salmond – who was due to be replaced as Scotland’s leader by Nicola Sturgeon yesterday – was on his last visit to the Borders as First Minister earlier this week.
Announcing publication of a new blueprint for boosting economic and social benefits from the railway, Mr Salmond was speaking at Abbotsford House, near Melrose.
Scheduled rail services are due to restart along the reinstated Waverley Line from Edinburgh to Tweedbank in September next year and Mr Salmond believes a million passengers will be using the route within five years of it opening.
And he called the line’s re-opening a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to deliver major economic and social benefits to the region.
“I see no reason why the Borders’ tourist potential shouldn’t take the number of journeys beyond the one-million mark,” he said.
“There will be few, if any, railway journeys anywhere in Europe to match the outstanding scenery along the route of the new Borders Railway.”
The blueprint has been produced by Scottish Borders, Midlothian and City of Edinburgh Councils and “Team Scotland” (Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Transport Scotland and Visit Scotland).
Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker praised what he called the commitment of Mr Salmond’s government to both the railway and development of the blueprint.
“I want to recognise the very special contribution that Alex Salmond has made to the Borders. He has been an outstanding First Minister, a great friend of the Borders and an unstinting supporter of the Borders Railway.
“When the SNP came to power he instructed his ministers to make themselves available if local authorities needed to speak to them.
“As a result, we’ve been able to pick up the phone pretty much when we wanted and have forged a very good working relationship.
“For example, this blueprint is backed by £10million which, basically, came about after I was able to spend 20 minutes speaking to the Cabinet during its summer tour of the Borders.
“In fact, the Borders has been visited by this Cabinet more than any other region during those summer tours.”
And Mr Parker believes that close relationship with ministers will continue under Ms Sturgeon.
“Nicola is one of the easiest people to deal with – mainly because you always know where you are with her. She’s very straightforward.”