Business boost for Borders

There was jubilation this week with news that a bid to have Assisted Area Status restored to parts of the Borders has been successful.

Council wards in Hawick, Galashiels, Selkirk, Tweedbank, Melrose, Earlston, Gordon and Lauderdale are to be supported under the scheme, after the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, led by Vince Cable, this week published a map of the areas in the UK which will enjoy the designation from later this year.

Subject to approval by the European Commission, it means that for the first time since 2006, government grants will again be made available to Borders businesses that support jobs by investing in machinery and equipment.

Prior to 2007, the scheme saw almost £4million pumped into the region and Scottish Borders Council leader, David Parker, said its reinstatement is a massive boost: “This is fantastic news for a very large part of the Borders.

“The council has worked hard with both the Scottish and UK governments to secure Assisted Area Status for as much of our region as possible.

“The rules governing it have been challenging and our officers have had to spend many hours on this matter, but I am absolutely delighted we have been successful and it will have a huge beneficial impact for a large part of our region.

“Moving forward it will mean many Borders companies, which are eligible for financial support, will be able to expand or see their business proposals supported.

“Previously, when we were covered by Assisted Area Status, Borders companies made good use of the funding and I have no doubt businesses will do so again.

“I would particularly like to recognise the hard work of Michael Moore MP who has worked with us to do everything possible to secure this excellent result.”

Mr Moore was also delighted at the announcement.

He told us: “Providing grant support for local businesses will help them to invest and to recruit and retain staff.”

“Subject to final approval in Brussels, this will be a real shot in the arm for the region.

“Over the past few years, we have lost out on Assisted Area Status and the support it provides. After the Viasystems disaster nearly 15 years ago, we were given the support until rule changes took it away again.

“Vince Cable has listened to arguments put forward by me, George Lyon, Jim Hume MSP and others, in particular at Scottish Borders Council.

“That team effort has been important in making the case and I hope it will now be endorsed in Brussels.”