Hawick action plan cash agreed, but how £3.6m will be spent remains a mystery

Projects aimed at reviving Hawick's ailing economy by cashing in on a £3.625m funding boost from the Scottish Government are being kept under wraps for now.

Friday, 31st March 2017, 2:47 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 7:03 pm
The action plan was triggered by the collapse of Hawick Knitwear.

“Due to ongoing negotiations which are commercially sensitive, specific details of the projects cannot be released at this time,” said a spokesperson for Scottish Borders Council yesterday.

Asked by the Hawick News when those details would be made public, the spokesperson said: “We will be in that position once these negotiations are complete.”

The funding allocation from Holyrood, announced last September, is a lynchpin of the Hawick action plan, drawn up in the aftermath of the closure over a year ago of Hawick Knitwear with the loss of 170 jobs.

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“These resources will deliver projects that are key to revitalising Hawick, making it a great place in which to live, work and invest,” said SNP south of Scotland list MSP Paul Wheelhouse at the time.

A condition of the grant, from the Scottish Government’s local economic development fund, was that the money had to be committed by today.

Earlier this month, council officers, having consulted with the town’s elected members and partner agencies, submitted their list of preferred projects aimed at business growth and the development of empty properties in the town.

And on the eve of that deadline yesterday came confirmation that the Scottish Government had approved the list and released the funds.

“The proposals include the immediate development of key sites, along with a second phase which includes feasibility studies for some other prominent sites,” said the council spokesperson.

“It is anticipated these projects will provide new job opportunities to benefit the local economy as well as act as a catalyst for further potential property development.”

At yesterday’s full council meeting – the last before the May 4 local elections – outgoing Hawick and Hermitage councillor Ron Smith hailed the release of the funds as “obviously a good news story”.

That was a sentiment echoed by his fellow ward councillor Davie Paterson.

He said the relocation this weekend of the Borders Business Gateway service from Selkirk to Hawick and progress on the town’s flood protection scheme, due for completion in 2022, is tangible evidence that “all is not doom and gloom”.

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont slammed yesterday’s announcement as a missed opportunity, however, saying yesterday: “This extra funding was announced more than six months ago, yet it has taken until the day before it had to be allocated for the SNP-led council to hurriedly spend it.

“Today’s announcement can only be described as a damp squib for businesses.

“Back in September, I called for the £3.6m investment to be used wisely and for Scottish Borders Council to be bold in its plans. More feasibility studies and some secret offices are hardly the ambitious plans Hawick needed.

“What Hawick’s High Street really needs is a co-ordinated plan like the creation of an enterprise zone to attract businesses and investment.

“Setting up an enterprise zone would send out a clear message that Hawick is open for business. Since being set up in 2012, the UK Government’s enterprise zones have created nearly 24,000 jobs.”