A bid to boost cycling tourism in the region and a study into extending the Borders Railway into England are being backed by almost £30m worth of funding as part of the near-£400m Borderlands growth deal signed off today, July 1.
Some £19m of the initiative’s £394.5m kitty is to be spent on a mountain biking innovation centre at Innerleithen billed as the first of its kind in the world, and £10m is earmarked for a feasibility study for an extension of the Edinburgh-Tweedbank track to Carlisle.
UK and Scottish government ministers and the leaders of the five councils making up the Borderlands Partnership have now agreed heads of terms for the inclusive growth deal.
The UK Government is funding the deal to the tune of £265m, with the Scottish Government chipping in £85m and the local authorities adding £44.5m.
The signing of the agreement took place at the Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland at Glentress, underlining the emphasis being put on encouraging cycling tourism.
UK Government Scottish Secretary David Mundell, also MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, said: “It’s fantastic news that the UK Government is to invest up to £265m in the Borderlands deal.
“This is an ambitious approach to cross-border working between governments, local authorities and partners which will boost economic growth by helping existing business, encouraging new ventures and bringing a wealth of improvements to people who live and work in the area and to visitors.
“The Borderlands Deal has made huge progress in the last 18 months.
“The south of Scotland and northernmost parts of England operate as a single economic area, and it is important the border is not allowed to become an obstacle to development.
“To date, the UK Government has committed more than £1.41bn of growth deal investment to support sustainable growth in Scotland and create jobs and opportunities for the future.”
Scottish Government infrastructure secretary Michael Matheson said: “I am delighted we have reached this important milestone in signing heads of terms for the Borderlands deal.
“Successful delivery of the deal will create jobs, protect existing ones and extend the benefits of economic growth to even more communities across Scotland.
“Alongside the establishment of a new enterprise agency for the south of Scotland and the activities of the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, the Scottish Government’s £85m investment will deliver significant and lasting benefits right across the region.
“Our investment is focused on priorities defined by local partners and includes £31m to transform tourism, £15.5m to develop business infrastructure, £20m to enhance quality of place and £13.5m to develop the skills and innovation needed to support the growth of key rural industries.
“The Scottish Government has so far committed more than £1.7bn over the next 10 to 20 years to city region and growth deals and related investments across Scotland.”
Scottish Borders Council leader Shona Haslam said: “The council has worked very hard with its partners over the last two years to persuade both governments about the importance of delivering a major investment through the Borderlands inclusive growth deal.
“It is fantastic today to be able to officially announce that all of the hard work has been successful.
“We have now taken a key step towards realising a cross-border deal that stretches from coast to coast, covering a huge rural area of Scotland and England.
“For the Scottish Borders, the Borderlands inclusive growth deal delivers £19m for the mountain biking innovation centre and £10m to examine the feasibility of extending the Borders Railway.
“These are important, exciting projects which we very much welcome the investment in.
“However, beyond these headline projects, there is potentially much more that the Scottish Borders will benefit from, right across the area, thanks to the work of all the partners.
“Scottish Borders Council’s commitment to pressing for an extension to the Borders Railway from Carlisle to Tweedbank is unwavering, and we are delighted that both governments have now put down a firm commitment, and the required funding, to enable the next stage of that process to take place.
“We look forward to the Governments moving these complex assessments forward as soon as possible.
“The opportunity for work across the Borderlands area to increase tourism will have a significant impact on the economy of the Scottish Borders, which relies on this key sector.
“Just a small share of the potential four million extra tourists will be hugely beneficial to us.
“I am really excited about the prospects for the River Tweed Route cycling and walking project, that will build on the investments that we have already made in the Peebles to Walkerburn multi-use links.
“Investments to improve digital and mobile connectivity and sector specific skills and training will help us to retain our young people and attract more, as well as help support existing and new businesses with the employees they need.
“The commitment from the Governments to invest in the Borderlands Partnership’s Place programme would see funding to deliver a step change in the regeneration of our towns, ensuring that they attract new businesses and residents and additional investment from the private sector to help them thrive.
“I am especially keen that the funding allows us to tackle some of the problem buildings that have been too big to deal with in the past.
“All this is over and above our own ongoing efforts and investment committed to these areas.
“Finally, building on the already-world-class reputation that the Tweed Valley has for mountain biking, the mountain bike innovation centre and bike park will enhance this area’s standing as the place to be for innovative mountain biking businesses who want to develop and test new products and be at the heart of Scotland’s leading cycling destination.”
The deal, also set to see £31m invested in green energy projects, is expected to create 5,500 new jobs, help attract more than four million extra tourists and boost the region’s economy by £1.1bn.
A formal partnership board will now be set up to take the project forward.
The signing-off of the deal has also been welcomed by Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont and Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton.
Mr Lamont said: “This is fantastic news for the Borders. This deal is packed full of projects which will boost the Borders economy.
“For too long, the border at Berwick has been viewed as this line which prevents collaboration. It is great to see this deal ignoring this border and looking at how the whole region can be better served and the economy better supported.
“Every penny of this £395m investment is set to benefit the whole Borderlands region by bringing in thousands of jobs and millions more visitors and improving connectivity.
“I am particularly pleased that the Borders Railway will receive this £10m boost for a full study into how we can bring the line to Hawick, Newcastleton and on to Carlisle.
“Less tangible but equally important is the investment in broadband, tourism, business and energy, which the whole of the Borders is set to benefit from.”
Mrs Hamilton added: “Getting the Borderlands deal over the line has taken a huge amount of work, and I want to thank everyone involved.
“It just shows what can be achieved when Scotland’s two governments work together.
“The Borders and Dumfries and Galloway naturally work in tandem with Northumberland and Cumbria, sharing employment, tourism and much more.
“This investment has the potential to inject economic growth into the Borderlands region, addressing poor rural broadband, promotion of tourism and a feasibility study to extend the Waverley line.
“Extra investment for the Borders Railway extension will benefit communities immensely as people will be connected to Carlisle and Edinburgh.”
Read more on the Borderlands deal at ...