[H]undreds of stakeholders had their say on proposals to transform the Borderlands economy at a special conference in Dumfries on Monday 18 June.
Borderlands partners welcomed more than 370 business representatives, public sector organisations and individuals to the first Borderlands conference.
Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Elaine Murray, said: “I am delighted that so many people attended on the day, this shows what an important project the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal is. One attendee described the conference as an ‘Illuminating and fantastic event’, which reflected the enthusiasm I perceived on the day, that this is a once in a generation opportunity which must be seized.”
Cllr Colin Glover, Leader of Carlisle City Council, added: “This was the first opportunity for interested parties to hear about the themes that are being developed to underpin the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal – and to give their views on the major projects they believe would kickstart transformation. The conference was a great success and we welcome ongoing discussions with anyone that wants to get involved in the development of the Deal.”
Five local authorities from north and south of the border are working in partnership to put together a proposal that should have huge implications for those who live, work and visit the area.
The conference was held at a key time for the partnership, made up of Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council.
Responses from the conference will help the partnership to build a case to present to both the UK and Scottish Governments later this year. Views were sought on the Borderlands’ key themes: Digital; Energy; Destination Borderlands; Rural Productivity; Business Growth; Transport; Innovation and Skills and Quality of Place.
The conference had backing from both governments who have pledged support for a deal.
Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, said: “The Scottish Government has made clear our support for a proposed Borderlands deal in our budget statements. And we look forward to negotiating the detail of that deal when the partners are ready with their proposals. This is a key part of our commitment to 100% coverage of deals across Scotland.
“We want to see an ambitious deal that focuses on driving inclusive growth and the priorities that will make a difference and help the economy thrive. We want a deal that helps address the area’s connectivity challenges, supports growth in sectors particularly important in the Borderlands, and creates more opportunities for all to attract people to the area.
“We are working to tackle the economic challenges in the South of Scotland, having already committed to establishing a South of Scotland enterprise agency, and we want to ensure that priorities align to maximise impact and success.”
Speaking ahead of the conference the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell said: “The Borderlands Growth Deal represents a unique opportunity to provide a real shot in the arm to the economy of our region, a region that faces similar challenges wherever you live or work within it.
“Working with the proposals that have been prepared by local authorities, businesses and individuals, we will spend the summer shaping these in to a coherent deal that will support the economy of the region by encouraging people to invest in new opportunities, by building on our strengths and improving the lives of those who live here.
“In that way, we will bring to the Borderlands the benefits that are now being seen across the UK as investment in City and Growth Deals progresses.”
Those attending quizzed a panel, chaired by the UK Government’s Borderlands champion John Stevenson MP, on how the deal could support inclusivity, tourism projects and benefit small rural communities.