Alliance meet to tackle rural economy issues

A rural economic development programme for the south of Scotland was discussed between councillors and John Swinney last month.

Friday, 10th January 2014, 6:00 am
To mark five years since the first meeting of the South of Scotland Alliance and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, Alliance chair Councillor Stuart Bell made a presentation to John Swinney MSP of a Border Reiver statue.

The Scottish Government’s cabinet secretary for finance, employment and sustainable growth met members of the South of Scotland Alliance at the Heart of Hawick.

The alliance is made up of SBC and Dumfries and Galloway Council, Scottish Enterprise and Mr Swinney.

At the meeting in Hawick new EU programmes, superfast broadband and mobile phone coverage and assisted area status were discussed, as well as a rural economic programme.

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An SBC spokesman said: “There were constructive talks and significant consensus around the table, whilst recognising challenges which still need to be overcome.”

Chair of the alliance, Councillor Stuart Bell, SBC’s executive member for economic development, said: “Both local authorities will work with Scottish Enterprise through our partnership to formulate an agreed programme for rural economic development. This will be a great opportunity for the Borders.”

Mr Bell added: “Topics such as mobile phone and superfast broadband coverage are vital if the south of Scotland economy is to grow, and we welcome the chance to put our case across to the cabinet secretary.”

Dumfries and Galloway councillor Colin Smyth said: “Alongside our partners in the alliance, we have ambitious and achievable plans for boosting the economic performance of the south of Scotland.

“All we need is the high level support to allow us to activate these vital infrastructure works.”

Mr Swinney said: “The Scottish Government is committed to the delivery of higher levels of sustainable growth to build a Scotland that is stronger, wealthier and fairer. At the heart of this approach is a partnership with local government and the enterprise agencies.

“The alliance demonstrates this partnership in action and I cannot overemphasise the substantial benefits that come out of it.”