Government ‘zoning in on votes, not jobs’

LOCAL councillor Vicky Davidson has expressed disappointment that the Borders has not been included among 14 new enterprise zones announced by Scottish finance secretary John Swinney.

South of Scotland list MSP Jim Hume, from Yarrow, has also blasted the region’s exclusion from areas which will benefit from reduced business rates and other incentives to incoming and existing businesses.

Councillor Davidson, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for economic development, claimed it would make it harder for the region, acknowledged for its low pay and high public sector dependency, to compete for inward investment and retain existing companies.

Each area will offer, from April, sector-specific incentives to encourage private investment.

Mr Swinney said the sites had been selected due to their “clear, achievable opportunities” for development in the short term. He claimed many faced challenging economic conditions.

But Mr Hume, Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokesperson at Holyrood, blasted: “It’s absolute neglect from the Scottish Government that the Borders has been ignored. This region is crying out for this type of economic focus which would undoubtedly attract much-needed inward investment. In a low-wage area like the Borders, that means jobs.

“At a time when the jobless figures are spiralling upwards, it’s a crushing blow to the region’s employment prospects. It is obvious to me that the Scottish Government is focusing its efforts on where they get votes, rather than where people need jobs.”

Ms Davidson said: “It is disappointing news as the potential to reduce business rates in these chosen areas will make it even harder for the Borders to compete for inward investment, or even to hold on to companies needing investment to expand.

“The areas chosen are based on the type of activity already there and reflect considerable government investment in those areas and the chosen priority industries, so we were not starting from a level playing field in being considered for inclusion. Clearly, as only 14 sites were chosen, there are many council areas in Scotland excluded.

“However, if high-growth industries are attracted into Scotland as a result, there may be wider spin-offs beyond these chosen areas and we will try to play into them as far as possible.”