Well, here’s another fine mess

Dog fouling has to be one of the most common causes of complaint which comes across my desk.

Scottish Borders Council receives nearly 500 complaints every year about dog mess, so I’m sure it’s the same for councillors. This problem isn’t just a nuisance – it’s also a health risk, particularly when children are playing outside.

The Scottish Government has increased the fine for irresponsible dog owners from £40 to £80, which is good news. It sends out the message that you must clean up after your pets and if you don’t you risk real punishment.

Unfortunately, this change won’t make a single bit of difference in the Borders, because the SNP-led council doesn’t have any wardens to dish out fines. Not a single fine has been handed out in the past two years.

I understand the council is looking at reintroducing wardens, but they also need to ensure that when fines are imposed, they are paid. Unfortunately, when there were wardens in the Borders, fines were routinely ignored and more than half remain unpaid.

There is little point in handing out fines if so few are actually paid and until that changes, people will continue to think they can get away with not cleaning up after their pets.

apprenticeship

I paid a visit to ScotlandShop near Duns to congratulate Auryn Chorley who was recently awarded Level 2 Modern Apprentice of the Year.

He’s a great example of how apprenticeships can benefit both employer and apprentice. Employers are able to secure new staff who are eager to learn, and apprentices benefit from skills and experience.

We need to move towards a system which values vocational education at least as much as academic qualifications.

Going on to further or higher education is great for many youngsters, but it’s not the right move for some who would benefit from a vocational qualification instead.

That’s why I’m backing calls from the Scottish Conservatives to create 10,000 new apprenticeships a year in the next parliament so that more Borderers like Auryn can get on the career path.

We’ve also set out plans to create 10 new industry-led skills academies which would provide an alternative to academic training and give young people the chance to get world-beating training in everything from IT to engineering and construction.

job losses

Next week I’m attending the Scottish Government’s meeting to discuss challenges facing Hawick after the closure of Hawick Knitwear and other recent job losses.

I welcome this meeting after I raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament, but was disappointed that the minister hasn’t agreed to my calls for a specific longer-term task force.

I hope this will be the first initiative of many to discuss the future of Hawick. A single meeting isn’t going to reverse what has unfortunately been a long-term trend.

I intend to listen closely to businesses and will come to the meeting with my own ideas, which I hope the minister will closely consider.

As I’ve said before, Hawick needs a long-term plan to support the textiles industry and rejuvenate the High Street. We need a radical and coordinated plan for the town.