Update to be given on progress of South of Scotland Enterprise

Dumfries and Galloway Council is to be given an update on how work is progressing towards the new South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE).

The new agency will cover Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders but has the flexibility to allow operation out with these geographical boundaries.

The Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee (EEI) will hear on Tuesday the work done through the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill, which is currently with the Scottish parliament.

The committee will also hear of the work of the Interim South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SoSEP) supporting projects across the South of Scotland.

The SOSE Bill was introduced in the Scottish parliament in October last year and, subject to necessary parliamentary process, it is anticipated the new Agency will be operational from April 1 next year.

Stage one of the process, where the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee took evidence on the need for the new body, has now been completed.

The remaining time will be used to bring forward and test new ideas, programmes and projects which will feed into the establishment of SOSE. To ensure progress, £10million is available in 2019/19 from the Scottish Government, with a further £13.3million allocated for 2019/20.

The Council discussed and approved the SoSEP workplan in May this year. The partnership is structured around eight themes:

• Governance and data
• Communities
• Food Production, Forestry and Land Management
• Education and Skills
• Key Sectors
• Business Support
• Infrastructure
• Arts and Culture

Chairman of EEI Archie Dryburgh said: “It is good to hear that some of our local projects are already benefitting from this interim Agency already. Annan Regeneration Project received £250,000 to support the cost of a team to drive forward Annan Action Plan, developing projects to mitigate the impact of job losses in the town following Young’s closure of Pinneys.

“A further £300,000 has also been approved towards the cost of refurbishing Johnstone School Kirkcudbright to create dedicated spaces for businesses, groups, and a Dark Skies Visitor Centre and Planetarium. In addition, £6.6million funding for the two College’s South of Scotland Skills and Learning Network will have a positive impact in the work to develop the network of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Hubs across the South of Scotland, addressing skills gaps.”

Vice-chairman Andrew Wood added: “We are pleased that the RECC agreed with the evidence our Council supplied: that the area faced a significant number of economic, social and geographic challenges which were not being sufficiently addressed through the current economic support mechanisms. The new Agency must now be accountable for its performance and will engage with local communities and stakeholders, which will inform its action plan for future work and development.”