There were a range of other issues that were raised during the consultation that do not relate to the specific areas addressed in prior chapters. These 'other issues' are outlined in this chapter.
The online consultation asked respondents to discuss ways in which the Agency could deliver opportunity and growth in the South of Scotland through:
- Promoting equality for people who share one or more protected characteristics as defined by the Equality Act 2010.
- Combating discrimination.
- Fostering good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
Respondents offered the following suggestions about how the Agency could promote equality, combat discrimination and foster good relations:
- The Agency should be fully inclusive and incorporate the views of those from all backgrounds and experiences regardless of their race, religion, disability, age or employment status.
- The Agency should be fully accessible. This would include providing parking and disabled parking and being considerate of the fact that some may not be able to drive, sit or stand for long periods. Venues, materials and facilities used by the Agency should be accessible and plain language should be used.
- Support for those with Additional Support Needs ( ASN) should be funded.
- The Agency should represent different groups, for example through having a diverse board with members who share a protected characteristic.
- A specific Agency staff role could exist to focus on the area of equalities.
- Equal opportunities and anti-discriminatory policies and practices should be embedded in the work of the Agency.
- The Agency's Board, CEO and staff should receive equalities training to ensure it is at the forefront of their work. In addition, businesses could be offered training in this area.
- Businesses could be monitored to ensure they are promoting equality and combating discrimination.
- The Agency should work with existing local organisations that work in equalities, for example charities with expertise in the area.
9.2 Cooperation with stakeholders and partner agencies to ensure inclusive growth enables positive social and environmental outcomes
The online consultation stated the importance of the Agency working effectively with a wide range of key stakeholders and partner agencies to ensure that inclusive growth also enables positive social and environmental outcomes. Respondents were asked to provide comments on how this should work in practice. It was felt that the Agency should:
- Build a network of stakeholders and consult them when decision-making. Stakeholders should be provided with opportunities to comment on Agency activity.
- Engage with grassroots organisations, communities and residents.
- Organise annual gatherings which bring together stakeholders to focus on inclusive growth for the region.
- Adopt a joined-up approach which facilitates the linking of different agencies and partners.
- Develop a stakeholder strategy including mapping relevant stakeholders.
- Support organisations and enterprises which are working towards achieving positive social and environmental outcomes.
- Establish working groups on key themes to facilitate stakeholder input on the policy and direction of the Agency.
- Involve environmental agencies and the third sector to identify and achieve positive environmental and social outcomes.
9.3 Structure and decision-making of the Agency
Respondents provided comments on how the Agency should be structured and make decisions. Specifically:
- It was felt that decision-making should be made at the most local level possible and the Agency should have a flat organisational structure.
- The Agency should be independent from local and national government and operate as an arm's length body.
- The Agency should be able to make swift decisions with appropriate delegation.
- The Agency should be transparent, and it should be held to account for its decision-making. In addition, it should be able to hold beneficiaries of grants or loans to account.
- The Agency should take risks, be ambitious and try new approaches.
9.4 Other powers of the Agency
9.4.1 Compulsory purchase orders
A few respondents reflected on potential benefits of the Agency having compulsory purchase powers to bring into use properties that are not currently being used or standing empty. It was suggested that the use of these properties could be offered to new businesses for low rent.
A few respondents suggested that the Agency should have a role in speeding up decision-making processes in terms of planning and building regulations approval. This could include the fast-tracking of major projects.
9.5 Data collection and measuring performance
Respondents felt that the effectiveness and performance of the Agency should be measured against defined criteria and that there should be clear evaluation mechanisms in place. Emphasis should be placed on considering how success should be measured, particularly in areas which are harder to quantify such as social impact. To assist in determining the impact of the Agency it was felt that baseline data should be gathered on the present situation in the South of Scotland against which progress could be measured.
Socio-economic and environmental data should be collected by the Agency so it can understand and respond to the needs of the region. The Agency should endeavour to make decisions based on relevant evidence. In addition, it was noted that alternatives to economic growth should be used to measure success, for example social and environmental outcomes, community resilience and sustainability.
9.6 Questions around the set-up of the Agency
9.6.1 The South of Scotland as defined by the Agency
A few respondents questioned the geographical boundaries of the "South of Scotland" as defined by the Agency. On one hand, they suggested that other similar rural communities – amongst others, South Ayrshire, East Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire - could be included within the scope of the Agency. It was felt that these areas face similar problems to Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders and could therefore also benefit from the Agency's activities and its focus on combining inclusive growth, community and skills development. On the other hand, they felt that the current areas of Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders were too big and that there would be problems in joining up the two distinct areas. The analysis of the consultation responses and the engagement events, however, has shown that similar issues were identified as important by respondents across the two areas.
9.6.2 South of Scotland Economic Partnership resources
Twelve out of the 26 consultation events raised questions about the £10m in Scottish Government resources to support the work of the South of Scotland Economic Partnership in the financial year 2018/2019. Respondents wondered specifically how the resources will be distributed, the process for bidding and funding, and whether resources have already been allocated.