Attendees and apologies
- Anne Ashton, Scottish Government
- Chris Brodie, Skills Development Scotland
- Joe Brown, Scottish Government
- Fiona Brown, Transport Scotland
- Joanna Campbell, Dumfries and Galloway College
- Mike Cantlay, Scottish Funding Council and NatureScot
- Elizabeth Corcoran, Skills Development Scotland
- Jenni Craig, Scottish Borders Council
- Derek Crichton, Dumfries and Galloway Council
- Rob Dickson, VisitScotland
- Adrian Gillespie, Scottish Enterprise
- Jenny Gilruth MSP, Scottish Government
- Mairi Gougeon MSP, Scottish Government
- Stuart Graham, Nature Scot
- Jane Grant, Borders College
- Russel Griggs OBE, South of Scotland Enterprise
- Scott Hamilton, Scottish Borders Council
- Karen Jackson, South of Scotland Enterprise
- Ray McCowan, Borders College
- Ivan McKee, Scottish Government
- Mark McMullen, Scottish Enterprise
- Lorna Meahan, Dumfries and Galloway Council
- Jane Morrison-Ross, South of Scotland Enterprise
- Elaine Murray, Dumfries and Galloway Council
- Neil Murray, Scottish Forestry
- Elizabeth Passey, University of Glasgow
- Mark Rowley, Scottish Borders Council
- Douglas Scott, Scottish Borders Council
- Samantha Smith, Scottish Borders Council
- Caroline Stuart, Dumfries and Galloway College
- Seamus Spencer, Scottish Funding Council
- John Swinney MSP, Scottish Government
Items and actions
- 10:30 - 10:40 Welcome and Review of Previous Outcomes
- 10:40 - 11:10 Update from Regional Economic Partnership
- 11:10 - 11:50 National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET)
- 11:50 - 12:30 Transport
- 12:30 - 13:10 Lunch Break
- 13:10 - 13:50 Population
- 13:50 - 14:05 Break
- 14:05 - 14:20 Outcomes
- 14:20 - 14:30 Forward look and close
Start of transcript
Morning, everyone. Welcome to Easterbrook Hall and the Convention of the South of Scotland. It's an absolute pleasure to be here this morning and to have the opportunity to gather face-to-face in slightly remote and distanced format, but it shows what can be done and to meet again in this magnificent hall as part of the Crichton campus. Just obviously for the purposes of today, you'll be familiar with all of the COVID measures that are required and appropriate in relation to wearing face coverings when we're moving about.
There's hand sanitiser around the building and I just would encourage obviously people to take care in their distance with others and their dialogue, but everyone is very familiar with all of this activity. But it is a great pleasure to be here in Dumfries and to be able to have this discussion in person. I'm going to invite Councillor Elaine Murray, the Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, to give a few introductory remarks and to extend some words of welcome. Elaine.
Thanks very much, Deputy First Minister and also members of the convention. I'd like to extend a warm welcome to you on behalf of Dumfries and Galloway Council at this, which is the fifth meeting of the Convention of the South of Scotland. I'm very pleased that we are here together in person. It feels strange. It seems a while since we've actually been able to see each other rather than being online. Obviously we have to observe the appropriate public health measures and I hope you've had the chance to enjoy coming down here. I wish we'd had better weather so you could see the South of Scotland in more glory than possibly you've been able to see it today, but I'm sure you will appreciate that we have a rich, natural environment and vibrant communities which you've been travelling through.
We've made considerable progress in the last two years since the convention was established, setting shared priorities for economic and social prosperity in the South of Scotland. While we all understand the impact that COVID has had on our places, businesses and people, our shared commitment and ambition for the South has only strengthened during this time. The agenda today focuses on the progress that South of Scotland partners have made, continuing to work together to strengthen our regional economy. So I welcome that the agenda today also provides the opportunity to develop a shared focus on areas of strategic importance to our region, being transport and population. These are both vital to our future success. Thank you.
Thanks very much, Elaine and can I just say at the outset, I don't think it's a secret, it's not a secret, Elaine is stepping down as a member of the local authority in May, at the local authority elections. We were just exchanging anecdotes about Elaine's long political involvement, including with Strathclyde Regional Council and South Ayrshire Council and of course, as a very distinguished member of the Scottish Parliament for many, many years. So Elaine, all good wishes to you and thank you for your leadership of the Dumfries and Galloway Council, but also for your initiative to ensure that the Convention of the South of Scotland was able to be established and to have an effect in joining together the policy agenda for the South of Scotland and to ensure that national and local government and our agencies work closely together in every respect. Thank you, Elaine and all good wishes to you.
As we embark on the agenda, Elaine made a comment in her introduction about the beauty and the quality of life of the South of Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway in particular and that is absolutely correct. I suppose those remarks are a vivid reminder to us of what we're all witnessing and absorbing in other parts of the world, which up until a few days ago were areas of natural beauty and had a great quality of life. But they're now on the receiving end of the most appalling aggression by Russia. So to the people of Ukraine, as we engage in our dialogue, in our peaceful dialogue which we have the privilege to undertake every single moment of our lives, we think about the horror that other of our fellow citizens are experiencing in a conflict that none of us thought would ever happen. We hope for a peaceful and early resolution of all of those difficult situations.
As we go through the agenda today, I'll be drawing on contributions from our ministerial colleagues. Jenny Gilruth the Transport Minister is here, Ivan McKee the Business Minister and Mairi Gougeon the Rural Affairs Secretary will be joining us shortly. We're going to change the order of the agenda just a little bit because of some, needless to say, transport issues, so we'll take the population item before we take the transport item. We'll just flip those two round during the day. There are no fire alarms planned for today and if there is any incident, we gather in the car park in front of the Easterbrook Hall. Catering will be provided in the Gilchrist rooms, which I presume are next door. I think just because we're quite distanced and I'm not even sure even my varifocals will manage all of these nameplates, I think we'll just go round the tables to say who's who. So I'm John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery.
Elaine Murray, Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council.
Mark Rowley, Leader of Scottish Borders Council.
Scott Hamilton, local Councillor for Jedburgh and District and economic development portfolio holder at Scottish Borders Council.
Morning, I'm Jenni Craig, I'm Director of Resilient Communities at Scottish Borders Council and I'm standing in for Netta Meadows, Chief Executive, who unfortunately couldn't make it this morning.
Russel Griggs, Chair of South of Scotland Enterprise.
Jane Morrison-Ross, Chief Exec of South of Scotland Enterprise.
Morning, Mike Cantlay, Chair of Scottish Funding Council, Chair of NatureScot.
Beth Corcoran, board member for SDS, standing in for Frank Mitchell.
Good morning, everyone, I'm Caroline Stuart and I'm the new Chair of Dumfries and Galloway College.
Good morning, everybody. With apologies from the VisitScotland Chairman Lord Thurso and Chief Exec Malcolm Roughead, I'm Rob Dickson the Director of Industry and Destination Development at VisitScotland.
Good morning, Adrian Gillespie, Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise.
Good morning, Joanna Campbell, Principal at Dumfries and Galloway College.
Morning, Derek Crichton, Interim Chief Executive at Dumfries and Galloway Council.
Good morning, everyone. Ray McCowan, new Chair of Borders College.
Ivan McKee, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise.
Morning, everyone, Jenny Gilruth, Minister for Transport.
Okay, thanks very much, everybody and you're all very welcome. The purpose and the value of this discussion is that it must be an open dialogue. Please feel free to make your contributions on all the items and we've got a few hours in which we can chew over what are vital issues that affect the South of Scotland. I think there's an update on outcomes from previous meetings that have been circulated, papers 1 and 2. I won't go through those in detail, but the point I would make is that the contents of the agenda of the convention, this is one of the advantages of having the convention, is that it gives us the opportunity to maintain a consistent focus on the agenda that's linking individual meetings and gatherings together.
So if I look back at what the convention has looked at over the course of the last few years in its meetings, it has fundamentally wrestled with questions around the economy, around connections between communities, around the composition of the population and some other issues within the economic discussions. Perhaps around about issues in connection with the natural environment and different aspects of the economy. So the beauty of this discussion is that it's not some kind of gathering just for a one-off discussion; it is an attempt to create a cohesive agenda that draws together all of the different work that is undertaken and recognises.
I think as we all do, some of the challenges that we all face, challenges that localities such as the South of Scotland faces, will not be addressed in one neat little compartment. They will need the input of a variety of different players in this process, which is exactly what we are able to do in this context. So I'll just invite people to make their contributions. I think it's great that the new Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise, Adrian Gillespie, is here. I think despite the presence of the South of Scotland as an agency looking at the economic priorities here, there is a shared endeavour across the whole of the country, particularly in relation to international business activity and the economy. So Adrian, you're very welcome this morning, thank you for being here.
Okay, we'll move on to the substance of the agenda and the first session is going to look at the Regional Economic Partnership and the progress that's been made. This has obviously been a priority taken forward. I see Mairi Gougeon has just arrived with us, morning Mairi. So a priority taken forward by the South of Scotland Enterprise working with partners, so I invite Russel Griggs to set out the developments in the paper and then I'll take some points after that. Russel.
Thanks, Deputy First Minister. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to share this update from the South of Scotland Regional Economic Partnership and our focus since the convention last met in October. Our partnership is a diverse one, with members drawn from across all the population of the South of Scotland, including public, private, third, housing, community and education sectors. That diversity of expertise and insight has been essential in developing a strategy for the region that reflects us all in the South of Scotland. What has been the most coherent driving force for all of us is that we wanted the strategy to be clearly for the South and by the South.
Therefore, when it came down to finalising the Regional Economic Strategy, all the members of the partnership and indeed the majority of those we consulted forgot who they work for but remembered where they lived and loved, if I can put it that way. So I've produced what is one of the most personal strategies I think any of us have been part of. It resonates with anyone who lives in the South of Scotland, that personal bond had also been key in enabling us to identify the actions that we need to take collectively to deliver the green, fair and flourishing region we want to see and live in.
That cohesiveness and collegiateness in the REP is in no small part due to the able chairmanship of Councillor Rowley, who has embedded that culture of participation, inclusion and belonging amongst members. As Mark steps down from this role, I would like to recognise his contribution. He has been instrumental in ensuring we have made the progress we have, including the very positive tears I think we all had in recognising that we have produced something that was in all our hearts. As a paper we have prepared captures, we have made good progress over the past few months. Our focus has been on the delivery plan, setting out what is required to deliver our ambitious strategy.
While our strategy looks 10 years ahead, we have designed our delivery plan as a three-year rolling plan, looking at actions that can be implemented within that timeframe. Therefore, it's not meant to be a list of everything everyone is doing, but is there to set out those collective actions that require us to work effectively in partnership to produce. The plan was launched in December 2021, its successful implementation will depend on the commitment and contribution of all REP members, as well as other organisations operating across the South of Scotland and elsewhere. We are working on detailed project plans, setting out what is required in delivery for each.
We welcome the high level commitment from members of the convention to work with us to deliver our ambitions for the region. Those commitments are key, especially in areas like housing and transport, where without improvements in both of these some of what the RES seeks to achieve will not be possible. That also applies to things like NPF and NPF4, where the special needs and flexibilities of rural communities need to be recognised, to move away from a one size fits all solution we have too often seen in the past. We look forward to continuing that work to turn the principal commitments made by members at the convention and beyond into tangible action. That will require significant change and some of those we will work with and do that.
Over the next few months we will be taking forward a programme of engagement with the national agencies and government departments involved and hope to report back at the next convention that we are all on the same bus, heading to the same positive terminus. We look forward to engaging with the Scottish Government to contribute to delivery of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation. It is clear, having discussed this several times with the Cabinet Secretary and the Minister, that we are aligned and standing shoulder to shoulder, as we put it, looking into the future positively together. We both now need to move at pace to deliver on our collective ambitions.
Therefore, in the light of all that, we ask the convention in the papers that you welcome our progress to date and what we intend to do next, ensure that national agencies and government departments continue to engage positively, tailoring their actions to develop the ambitions of the South of Scotland and the Scottish Government set out in both our strategies. Recognising that there's strong alignment between the RES and NSET in terms of what we want and how we want to get there, call on Scottish Government to recognise the progress and pace of activity in the South of Scotland and to provide appropriate support and resources that will contribute to that delivery. I look forward to the convention's reaction.
Thanks very much, Russel. Can I invite some comments from colleagues or any points? Can I perhaps just raise one issue, Russel, which you indicated in your comments, that this strategy is not fulfilling its purpose if it's just simply a list of what everybody is doing. So I'm interested in what you are seeing emerging from the discussions. When I look at the table just at section 7 of the paper, which looks at the various agencies and what they may potentially contribute towards the themes of skilled and ambitious people, innovative, enterprising, rewarding and fair work, six themes there, there's obviously a lot of potential impact from agencies and organisations on those themes. I'm interested in just how you're drawing out all of those different contributions, initiatives and approaches, that will essentially go beyond the transactional steps and commitments that individual organisations might be taking forward in their general activity.
Okay, I'm going to ask Jane to help. I think as we go into this it's been quite interesting, Jane and I have been going round on our townhall tours of the South of Scotland again, to talk about the Regional Economic Strategy, where it is and also how our own action plan is South of Scotland Enterprise fits into that. I know the councils have been doing the same in terms of their own action plans. What comes clearly through is that we've got some, what I would call, big stuff and some little stuff. So the big stuff really is about housing and about transport. We know now that we're losing business in the South of Scotland because we don't have enough houses for people to stay in. So we now need to think clearly and really forcefully about how we rectify that.
I'll give an example, we were in Coldstream where one of our technology businesses had just invested another £150 million in Berwickshire to expand, then moving it all to Edinburgh because they can't find houses for the 10 or 15 senior executives that they want to employ. There just aren't that amount of available housing. So I think in terms of the projects, that's one that's right up front, to see how we can work through planning and with Scottish Government to look at how we can stretch the views around housing. Jane.
Thanks, Russel. I think what I would say is a lot of the groundwork was done in the run-up to the creation of the RES. So the work the REP did set the groundwork of really strong, stringent collaboration and collaborative planning. There's a really clear vision, there's really clear ambition and where we are now, I suppose, splits almost in two directions. There's the line that many of you have heard me say a number of times on national collaboration but regional tailoring, so that's part of the approach going forward.
Where are there national programmes, national initiatives that we are engaging with that are factored into the planning that we can focus on the needs of the South of Scotland. Then where are the specific initiatives that we need to work collaboratively on for the South that fall outside of that that may now align very well with NSET. That's where more detailed planning is going on, but again it's very collaborative, it's very honest, it's very transparent. It's not always easy but it is producing the right results.
I guess the final thing I would say, what's been really interesting of going around meeting with all the communities is how communities have become a bit disjointed because of Covid. Communities, our small communities in the South of Scotland exist by all the small charitable groups and other things that exist within the communities. They've not been able to speak to each other as they used to do during Covid because they've been confined. We've had a number of communities now to say can you come and help us join up again together, that we've forgotten how to interact in a strange sort of way.
So we've not been meeting in the butchers and the bakers to have those conversations that we always had that brought communities together. You've got to remember our communities are all quite small. So some of that work coming out of the RES now will be about taking the specific things, but seeing how we can get communities to come together to produce their own action plans of what they want to do very locally. Because without that local buy-in and their moving forward locally, we can be the best economic development agency in the world but we're not going to get that buy-in that we need locally, if that answers your question.
I think that's helpful. I think the point that Jane made about the importance of regional tailoring of national approaches and policy thinking is something that I think we will certainly reflect on carefully. Because there will be clear aspirations that we have on national programmes and policy interventions, but which delivered in a particular way may have a disproportionately beneficial effect in the South of Scotland.
I think I would certainly make the offer that the Government would be very happy to engage. We have good clear channels of communication, but the Government would be very happy to engage further on what approaches might be made slightly more sensitive to the circumstances in the South of Scotland and to the particular challenges that are faced. There's obviously some - in the course of our agenda today, if you take the population issue, the population issue is a problem everywhere, but in the working age population will be a more acute problem in the South of Scotland. Therefore, recognising that some of the solutions to that will require very different approaches than would be the case otherwise.
If I can just add on the top of that, if I may, Deputy First Minister, is that as we all know, throughout Scotland we're all experiencing staff shortages at the moment. What's been really interesting in the South of Scotland again is how individual businesses are tackling that and changing their recruitment, the way they recruit. The ones that have done that well are really doing well in recruiting people and that's more about selling their business in totality rather than just saying I need an accounts clerk.
So it's about saying - and we've noticed that in two of our biggest textiles companies in Hawick, who now are going out into the schools to bring classrooms of schools into the building to say this is what our organisation looks like, come and work for us. These are the myths that we want to take away and a lot of young people have myths about businesses locally, about what they do which are not true. So I think a lot of our businesses are repurposing to see how they recruit their staff differently in this environment, where we all know finding staff at reasonable prices is a big challenge.
Okay, any other comments, observations? Elaine, please, yes.
First of all really, to say having been on the reference group, not the reference group but the Regional Economic Partnership, I have to admire, first of all, Councillor Davies and then Councillor Rowley for chairing those meetings, because you've got maybe 40-odd people of very different sectors coming together with different ideas. Sometimes it looked a little bit like herding cats, but they managed to get there and I think some of that was also down to the good work that the reference group has done in meeting on a weekly basis to bring things together.
I think one of the challenges though is for people more generally to see this as a Regional Economic Strategy for all of us. I had one of the MSPs came to me and grumbled that something wasn't in the Regional Economic Strategy and then said SOSE hasn't got this in the Regional Economic Strategy, is it going to be in yours? Whereas actually didn't really understand the whole concept of what we were doing. So I think some of the challenge now is for organisations big and small to see that actually speaking for all of us.
So if you're a community looking, for example, to put together your place plan to apply for Borderlands funding, or if you're a business, actually there's something in there for all of you because it's actually come from all of us. So I think that's maybe the way it needs to be taken forward, that everybody needs to buy-in, whatever size your organisation. There's been somebody speaking for you, whether it's [unclear], third sector or whatever, there have been people speaking for your organisations in the way that this has been brought together. So it's interesting work but that bit of it might be quite difficult actually to be able to tackle that part of the challenge.
I suppose part of the art of this is about ensuring that this is an inclusive process that is adding value to the individual strategies of different organisations. Because the local authority has its statutory roles, but it can be a big player in making other things happen if it's on the same page. So trying to align these different interventions is crucial. Mark, you wanted to come in.
Thank you, Deputy First Minister. It was actually just to pull together on something that you said and something that Elaine said. It has been incredibly collaborative and Minister, you mentioned the table at item 7 in the paper with the national agencies and I want to certainly thank the national agencies that have got representation here today, VisitScotland and Skills Development Scotland have been great collaborators. It's great to see Scottish enterprise represented around the table as well as our education colleagues. But actually I think the more interesting table is annex B, which is the same table but instead of having 11 contributors, it's got 21 not just contributors but sectors and I think that shows the breadth of buy-in.
So this is absolutely the Regional Economic Strategy for the South of Scotland, it is not the Regional Economic Strategy for South of Scotland Enterprise, who have been a major contributor to it, not least doing an awful lot of the admin donkey work with our council officers as well. So they've been the midwives of the strategy as much, but it's up to us to get in and own it. The number of conversations I'm having when I'm out and about, I was welcomed to Borders College's STEM Hub by the new Chair and the Principal a couple of weeks ago and we talked about the Regional Economic Strategy and what bits they could play in it. We really welcome the offer of Scottish Government to look at the strategy and see what else it can do.
I've made the quip before that the alignment between the Regional Economic Strategy and the National Economic Strategy is fantastic and uncanny, but guess what, we published ours first. So that works really well, we haven't bent a regional strategy to fit in with what government wants to do, we're heading in a similar direction and on a similar journey. So anything you can do, Deputy First Minister, to encourage the national agencies to get behind this, I think, would be important. Professor Griggs has talked about this and the strategy talks about this as well, it isn't that list of these are the things we're already doing that align with your strategy; it's right, we've seen you strategy and your action plan, here are some extra things we can do that can help, a few different things we can do. It's that additionality that we're really, really looking for with gatherings like this and all of the other engagements we make.
Thanks, Mark. I'll come Adrian and then to Mike Cantlay. Adrian.
Thanks, Deputy First Minister. Just, I guess, to observe that I have seen some good signs of early collaboration that's going on at a number of levels, I think, between the chief executives of the agencies and South of Scotland agencies, I good relationship been built up there early. But also examples of where we have a national approach through the inward investment plan, for example. We're working closely to tailor the regional strengths and develop regional plans that sit behind that, but also allow us to focus our resources in the places where they're likely to get the best return.
Also around business support, the development of the Business Support Partnership, which is a national approach, but tailoring it, which I know South of Scotland has done in terms of how they deliver in the regional business support. But also some of the additional benefits that can come through that partnership of technological support, intelligence of businesses in the area, developing a national approach to that, but the ability to utilise that locally, I think, is going to be really positive.
Finally, just as the National Strategy for Economic Transformation develops, a big focus on regional productivity and in particular on innovation. Again I think scope there to really understand how there's a fit between anything that we develop nationally and particular strengths or approaches or learnings from the South of Scotland. So there's a number of areas, I think, that I see already, but certainly potential to do more and very much a strong willingness to collaborate around that agenda.
Thanks, Adrian. I think the point you make about the international opportunities I think is really important, because there is a need for us to make sure right across the country we've got a company base and a series of local economies that could be fully engaged in international business activity. I think pulling together just some of those strengths is particularly helpful. Mike.
I was just going to pick up from conversations in previous conventions, where we've talked about the Scottish Funding Council's review of cohesion and sustainability, which has been underway really for two years now in the implementation stage. Just to highlight that one of the core concepts that came out of that was the concept of tertiary pathfinders, which would bring together the key players and FE and HE on a regional basis.
Of course, one of the lead pathfinders is to be the South of Scotland, so it is in a sense a perfect example, I think, of what you're highlighting in terms of the South of Scotland leading in terms of trailblazing and trialling new ideas which will be picked up elsewhere. So South of Scotland and the North East are the two initial tertiary pathfinders that we're taking forward and there is a queue forming around the rest of Scotland from others who want to follow. So South of Scotland will genuinely be leading in that and looking forward to it and you can see colleagues from the colleges and SDS and others all fully involved in that.
There are some really fascinating opportunities to enhance the access to learning as a consequence of how that process is taken forward, which is a particular challenge within the geography of the South of Scotland. Russel, do you want to come in?
Yes, it was just really to build on Mark Rowley's point. I think now what's happening in the South of Scotland, everybody is realising a part of the economy. So the two chief executives of the two health boards are now very much part of this, because a health board has got exactly the same challenges as business has. It's about where do I get my staff from, where are they going to live when they come, how do I transport them, where am I going to get them trained. So I think the way that we've written the strategy allows everybody to become part of it and that was a really key part of what we did, was to make it feel very cohesive. But we're very pleased the way the other organisations now are starting to see that where they may not have thought it before, that they're very much part of the economy with the same challenges that everybody else has.
Thanks, Russel. Rob.
Thanks, Deputy First Minister. I think just building on some of the comments that have been made from a tourism perspective, it's the leadership piece on behalf of the region and the strength of the collaboration which is having the impact. So within VisitScotland we've always had a strong regional focus, but our ability now to focus on the explicit priorities in the strategy and the delivery plan has been made much stronger. That means as we develop our proposals for Scotland, that the presence of the South in those plans is much greater than it's ever been. Two things flow from that, the first, I guess, is our ability to influence regional economic strategies elsewhere in Scotland, because we can see what is happening and how influential that can be.
But perhaps more importantly for businesses in the South is two weeks tomorrow, might be two weeks on Wednesday, in this very building, South of Scotland Destination Alliance, the new DMO for the South, have their annual conference with, I think, about 100 businesses attending. Our ability to influence them and to get them to respond to a regional strategy, because of its presence and because of the leadership it's showing and our ability to then communication with tourism businesses and demonstrate as a national agency what we're doing to support them, has been changed out of all recognition to the conversations we previously had. So I would underline the leadership importance of this and the impact already, a few short months after its publication, that it's having on the ground and beyond the South of Scotland and influencing our work with other regions, because we can see what it's doing.
Thanks, Rob and I suppose out of that there's also, just to take your point there about the DMO that is emerging, there is the opportunity for practitioners to be able to influence what would make a difference to them and to their business prospects, in terms of the actions that could be taken forward within a South of Scotland strategy. So there is an opportunity there to essentially garner the input and the contribution and the muscle of private sector investment, which when you look at the tourism sector, has been a beneficiary of a huge amount of private investment which has transformed the proposition that's available. But if we're listening keenly to what those organisations are saying to us and what they require, then it can help us enormously. Right, okay, any other issues before we move on?
I think the one final point I would make is really to follow up the point that Mark was making, that it is - and this is a point I would make to the Regional Economic Partnership - we really do need to hear if there are aspects of national strategies that are not quite getting it right in terms of their configuration for the South of Scotland. So it's an invitation really for us to hear where would there be a benefit of a greater degree of regional focus or regional discretion, if that would be of assistance. So please feel that's an invitation that's been extended to you to make that point to ministers. Obviously if you're finding it a bit sticky making progress on these things, then you know where I am and I'll try and help you to resolve those things.
Right, okay, that's great. Thank you very much. Thank you, Russel, thank you. It's encouraging to see, again that report back is an indication of the growing momentum, I would describe it as, behind an economic strategy for the South of Scotland and we obviously need to see that making an effect on communities as a consequence. So that's a helpful precursor to the next substantive item on the agenda, which is the National Strategy for Economic Transformation. Ivan McKee, the Minister for Business and many other things which I can't remember in his title, is here. So Ivan will take us through the strategy and then we'll open it up to discussion. Ivan.
Thank you very much, DFM. I'm delighted to be here. Hopefully this technology is going to work, I shall just try, indeed it does, that is wonderful. So I'm going to talk you through the National Strategy for Economic Transformation and actually if it's all right I'll do that on my feet, which is much more comfortable when presenting a PowerPoint. I'll take you through the strategy which, of course, as has been highlighted already, bears an uncanny relationship to the strategy that Jane and Russel and the rest of the team in the South of Scotland have pulled together.
I think to set the backdrop to this, the next 10 years we've identified as the decisive decade. We're at a bit of a juncture here and the decisions we take and the fundamentals really in place at the moment are really going to determine what Scotland's economy looks like as we emerge from Covid, as we deal with Brexit, as we transition to net zero, as we firmly address the fair work agenda and everything that comes with that. As we face into technology change across a whole range of sectors, longer term demographic changes which we've already highlighted and of course, the hugely important tackling poverty agenda, which is central to the Scottish Government's agenda going forward. All of those are linked and NSET, as we've fondly come to refer to it as, is absolutely facing into that space very firmly.
In terms of the vision that's been laid out, it's to build that economy that maximises Scotland's economic, social and environmental wellbeing in the face of those opportunities and challenges that are there. It's all about moving forward, building that stronger economy and building that fairer economy and facing into those net zero challenges. That really is the underpinning of where we've started from. If we look at how this is laid out, the wellbeing economy piece is absolutely key again, economic, social and environmental all closely interlinked.
I read with interest some of the commentary at the weekend which was in the press, which was incredibly far from the mark. I think actually there was probably nothing in the article that was accurate, but the thing that was most inaccurate was trying to draw a distinction between the economic imperatives and growth and the social aspects, which as we see are absolutely fundamentally entwined. If you look at where we've taken that then in terms of working through the ambition, as I said, round about a fairer economy, a wealthier economy and a greener economy, very closely interlinked. That led us into five areas of work that I'm going to talk through each of them in a bit more detail. I can't actually read those but it's not a problem because I can remember all of them and I shall talk to it from memory.
The first one is about skills and the importance of that and it's great that colleagues from SDS are here and we'll get input on that. The second one is round about the importance of entrepreneurship, which is an area that Scotland has not delivered on to the extent that other countries have. We have made progress over the last 10 years, but there is a long way to go to match the business start-up rates and business growth rates that we see elsewhere. We firmly identify that has been hugely important. The next one is round about new markets and the importance of facing into those opportunities that Scotland has and we have many, across a whole range of sectors and understanding how we best maximise those.
The next one is round about productivity and the importance of addressing some of those fundamental challenges. Scotland has made again progress in the productivity agenda, closing the gap with the rest of the UK, but not been able to close the gap with our European competitors. That's something we've done quite a bit of work to understand the rationale and the issues behind that and the drivers behind it and what we do to tackle that. A key part of the is regional productivity and again tying very closely into the work of South of Scotland and other parts of the country. The final one, round about the fair prosperity agenda. That's where we pull together the economic drivers and what the economy can do to transform society in Scotland, both in terms of opportunities for people but in terms of taking forward the fair work agenda as well.
Clearly net zero underpins pretty much all of that, but what is also very, very important and we recognised early on is that culture of delivery is hugely important. Public sector, rightly in many cases, gets criticised for talking the talk but not necessarily walking the walk, particularly in government. We've absolutely taken that on board, we are very focused on mechanisms whereby this isn't something that will gather dust on the shelf, but we'll take forward in partnership with businesses, in partnership with other partners in the public sector and the third sector indeed, to be able to make sure we deliver on this over the coming months and years. All of those five programmes are interconnected. Each one drives and thrives off the others and we absolutely recognise that, but in order to be able to take forward that series of actions, we have passed out into those five aims and areas of focus, if you like.
If you look through each of these in turn, in terms of the new market opportunities, this is all about strengthening Scotland's performance in each of these areas and recognising, as I said, that within each of the regional areas of Scotland there are specific strengths that need to be maximised as well. I think that's a key message. We need to understand what we're good at on the global stage and then work together to exploit the opportunities that arise from that. In terms of the structure of this, it's about identifying the programme, it's about the projects and there are 18 projects through the course of the whole strategy, then something like, I think, 75 actions in total set below that. We've picked out the key actions here to give you a flavour of what is involved in that.
So new market opportunities, it's about understanding what we can do to take forward the investment opportunities that are there. Further increasing our investment, building on our global capital investment plan, to attract investment into Scotland, to enable us to take those opportunities forward. It's about working further to develop a supply chain development programme that builds indigenous businesses in Scotland and the supply chains that exist round about them, so we've got the capability to again exploit those opportunities as they come forward. I think that's a coherent piece of work that allows us to have the right balance of focus, connecting with the regional opportunities and the ability to project that on a global stage.
The next one round about skills and broadening skills, it's about the labour market challenges in general. So a significant piece of that about taking forward existing work and building on top of that. As a key general point about NSET, this isn't about starting with a blank piece of paper; this is very much about identifying analytically what works already, what existing strategies and plans we have in place and how we build on top of those to maximise the performance as a consequence. So much of this is referring to existing work, identifying what we're already doing well and making sure we double down on that to take it forward. So again in the skills space, there is a reference to much of what is happening already and how we take forward some of these specific actions to build on that.
There is a significant piece also, as I said, in that third leg of the project there, round about how we expand and address Scotland's labour market challenges. Some of that round about the population strategy that we're going to hear later on. Some of it round about labour market inactivity and somewhere north of three-quarters of a million people of waging age population in Scotland that aren't in the labour market. Many of those for good reasons, but is there anything we can do to address and shift the dial on those numbers and have more people in the labour market through support that they may require in a whole range of areas. Also to look at what we can do in the context of restrictive immigration challenges, to be able to attract population from the rest of the UK, which is a work stream we're taking forward as well.
The third area is round about productive businesses and regions. The productivity puzzle, the productivity challenge is clearly something that doesn't just affect Scotland; it affects the rest of the UK, indeed most western economies. But in the UK it's particularly bad and Scotland, as I say, has closed the gap with the rest of the UK, but a lot of work still to be done to take that forward. So a piece of work in there about digital investment and connectivity and recognising the importance of that, both in terms of infrastructure but also in terms of bringing businesses, particularly SMEs, up the digital ladder, if you like, to roll out more skills and more capability, more recognition, the importance of digital as a productivity driver. Taking forward the new approaches to looking at how we engage with businesses and others.
Part of that is about business leadership in the private sector but also, frankly, in the public sector and making the public sector leadership more upskilled and able to focus on some of these challenges. It's about doubling down on things like the productivity clubs that SCDI lead for us and making those more widespread and more effective. The third leg of that is round about the regional aspects of this. Working with Regional Economic Partnerships as they evolve, working with agencies, getting in place Regional Economic Strategies and of course we have one here already in the South of Scotland, which is extremely closely aligned to NSET. Rolling that out across the rest of the country and recognising that regional dimension is hugely important to delivering for Scotland as a whole.
The next piece is round about entrepreneurial people and culture. Some of this builds on the work of Mark Logan and the Logan report on technology. There's quite a bit here in terms of scalers, pre-scalers, incubators, accelerators, how we get that ecosystem working most effectively. What else we need to do in that space to make it work and to roll it beyond the technology sector, other sectors that can benefit from that approach. There's significant work in here and it was great to hear Russel talk about business engagement with schools. We recognise that as something that's hugely valuable. We need to do more of it, we need to encourage it to happen proactively at a local level. We need to make starting a business seem a very natural and fulfilling and worthwhile aspiration for young people in schools and colleges and universities. So a significant focus on that.
There's a focus in here also on internationalisation of that, how we do more work to attract entrepreneurs internationally to come and work in Scotland and bring their innovative businesses to Scotland, to be part of our ecosystem. Also about the culture and how we transform our attitude to entrepreneurship and how, perhaps one of the biggest challenges here, how we get government to be able to be more entrepreneurial in how it approaches some of these challenges.
The last one, but as I say absolutely not least, is how we deliver a fairer and more equal society and use the economic levers that are in place to be able to do that. That follows into how we create those opportunities for people for good employment to be in place as a route out of poverty. As I said, very much tied into the wider poverty agenda of the Government. A key part in here we've been very clear and focused on is to address the challenge of low pay, to set an aspiration for everybody to be earning at least the real living wage in Scotland. The percentage not earning the real living wage in Scotland has come down from north of 20 per cent to now around about 14 per cent over the last number of years, but we've got a long way to go.
Much of that is focused in specific sectors and obviously some of those sectors are a key part of the economy in the South of Scotland. So facing into that proactively, working with sectoral and business organisations who by and large are comfortable with that agenda, not least because it allows them to tackle some of the recruitment challenges they're facing. An increase in pay at the lowest level and also at the wider fair work agenda around about security of employment, non-appropriate use of zero hours contracts and many, many other challenges in that space. So that's something we're hugely focused on and I think that of itself is quite transformational.
The culture of delivery again is hugely important because, as I said at the outset, it's easy to write this stuff and not deliver on it. Having mechanisms in place to take that forward in terms of how we focus on deliverable action plans coming out of these actions, how we have a governance mechanism in place to make sure we address, monitor and challenge ourselves on what we're delivering. How we measure success and make sure that the metrics are in place to be able to understand what is happening here and how it shifts the dial. There's a lot of analytical underpinning to this.
The full suite of analytics papers that sit behind this runs to about 200 pages and included in that, as you're aware, are submissions from each of the regions of Scotland and each of Scotland's key sectors, which we've incorporated into the document. So it's very analytically-focused, it's all about making sure that on the key metrics we understand what the problem is, we understand what actions we need to take. Those are reflected in the actions that are here and we're able to make sure that we drive those actions forward and understand what it is we need to measure, to see that we're making a difference.
This is about the governance and delivery mechanism, again keeping this as simple as possible but making sure there's enough bits of the jigsaw there to make sure that it delivers on what it needs to deliver. With project leads from the bottom working up through each of the programmes having its own structure for making sure we're addressing those 18 projects and the 75 or so actions. Then a process of pulling that together and understanding the linkages and identifying any areas that aren't delivering as they should be.
The Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board has been repurposed for the purpose of this exercise and it will become the NSET Delivery Board. Extensive ministerial engagement right through this process, including from the First Minister. But also very importantly engagement with regional partners and sectors and industry leadership groups, third sector, trade unions and others, to make sure that this is, as the Cabinet Secretary has said on many occasions, a national endeavour that everybody as part of Team Scotland is engaged in to make sure we deliver. That is the end of the presentation and I'm looking forward to any comments or questions.
Okay, thanks very much, Ivan. Can I open it up to points, observations from colleagues? Russel.
Thank you. The point that the Minister made around - I saw the article as well around this, that seemed to think that the economy and the social parts of life were somehow diverse and there was a big wall between them, which I found quite strange. I think one of the things we all have to do is make businesses and others understand - and it's basic economics - that if you have good workforces and you have those businesses tied to your communities as part of the social infrastructure, that you've got a much better economy than if you try to put a wall between them.
I have to say I find that article quite strange coming from a business organisation to try and say that there was some divide between what we do economically and what we do socially, which is not and history proves that's not the case. So I agree that the work we've been doing down here on all of that has been very positive and businesses understand that. So I guess my comment would be in support of the ministers. I found that quite strange as well, that people think there's a divide between economics and the social part of your life.
Thanks, Russel. I think part of the - you would hope this would be the case, that there would be joined up and cohesive thinking within government, but maybe it's not always the case. But the strategy that Ivan has just gone through very heavily focuses on the point that you've tackled there, Russel, which is very much at the heart of our approach to Covid recovery. Where to put the Covid recovery measures into a couple of short sentences, we acknowledge that inequality existed before Covid, it got worse during Covid and we have to now tackle it.
Because it is the key in many respects to tackling the impediment that we face on population, size of workforce and other issues, because we have about 800,000 people who are economically disengaged. Even those who are economically engaged are in large measure or substantially, they would benefit from being in more stable employment and better remuneration with greater skill. So the whole of the focus of the Covid recovery strategy is on essentially tackling inequality, but to put it crudely for an economic purpose so that we have better remunerated, better skilled, engaged individuals within our labour market. That very much lies at the heart of the issues that are raised in the strategy. Can I invite some other contributions from colleagues? Yes, Ray.
Thank you, Deputy First Minister. Can I just applaud the Minister's intervention about the commitment to more focus on entrepreneurship going forward and encouraging more young people to establish their own businesses. It doesn't necessarily always need to be a business that's hugely to scale, in many respects it's just about in lieu of an employed position. But one of the things that's always occurred to me is that if you focus on enterprise and entrepreneurship, you automatically subsume the skills of employability. But the focus doesn't actually apply the other way and our whole education system has been largely geared towards employability and employment, rather than that culture of aspiration and ambition towards enterprise and entrepreneurship. I think this is a massive step forward and I really applaud the intervention.
Thanks, Ray. I'll come to Jane and then I'll come to Mike.
Thank you. Again, we very much welcome the NSET. As Mr McKee said, we are very well aligned both with the RES and I think with our objectives as an enterprise agency. We often say we're focused on wellbeing and that's the wellbeing of our communities, our economy and our environment and I think the three are intrinsically linked. As Mr McKee knows, we've also restructured over the last few months and have introduced new capability and focus on digital, on innovation and entrepreneurship, on women in enterprise and on young people in enterprise, including partnerships with Young Entrepreneur Scotland to start that work at school level too. We have, as you know, fair work as one of our conditions of funding and a small team focused on making sure that's a journey rather than a condition. So it's a positive intervention for the businesses that we work with.
Finally, the measurement piece we agree is hugely important. When it comes to our own performance measures, obviously we have some of the traditional ones in place. But we're working hard just now to look at how we can measure and quantify our impact on the wellbeing of our communities and businesses, on social wellbeing, on generational return of some of our investments as well. Russel often uses the Langholm buy-out as one of the examples there. We're also working on a project with Creative Informatics at Edinburgh University at the moment, to develop a new index for measuring wellbeing across the South of Scotland, working with the creative and cultural industries too.
Thanks, Jane. Mike.
I was just going to give an example, wearing my NatureScot hat, of why this strategy is different and it's particularly different and resonates with the South of Scotland and that is the concept of nature. Nature is being recognised in this strategy as an economic driver in its own right as a sector and rightly so. It employs 195,000 people in Scotland, so it's 7.5 per cent of the workforce and that's relevant down here because it's significantly more. So if you look at the presentation, you'll see one of those actions, as an example, is to drive private sector investment into nature-based solutions. You look at that, well I've never seen anything like that in an economic strategy before. I dare say a lot of people would look at that and not necessarily quite register what that means.
But as an example of what that means, if you take peatland restoration, we've talked about that down at this convention before because it's relevant. The Government has pledged £250 million to help restore peatland over the next 10 years across Scotland and that's to do 250,000 hectares of work. Well there's 1.8 million hectares of peatland restoration to do in Scotland, so you can do the maths yourself, it's absolutely colossal in terms of the work that's to be done. As I say, particularly relevant down here and that's one project, peatland. There's the whole spectrum of agriculture reform and forestry and on and on. So this is a massive area of interest. It's rightly recognised in the strategy and will be really important and something that we discuss at every convention going forward at South of Scotland and rightly so.
I think what that point also highlights is that your peatland restoration, for example, is not some sort of isolated, random project. It is absolutely critical to the achievement of the climate change objectives and commitments that we have set out. But it brings with it an economic opportunity for large parts of the country, if handled properly and also an opportunity to activate and to utilise public sector investment, to activate wider private sector investment and other solutions. So there is a way in which these developments can come together for very specific and necessary processes and practices as a consequence. What comes with that, of course, is to move into some of the other challenges that we face here, ensuring that we've got the necessary skills and capacity to enable that to be undertaken within these communities, which again is a further challenge that we face. Okay, Joanna.
Thank you, Deputy First Minister. Just really to add to what colleagues have said already in terms of the National Economic Strategy and certainly welcome the themes that have been outlined this morning by the Minister. Certainly from Dumfries and Galloway College's perspective, we are, I'd like to think, ahead of the curve in terms of what we're doing on skilled workforce. In fact we have created a curriculum offer around some of the themes that we've heard this morning, green energy and digital.
Just to give you an example of where we have been working collaboratively with partners at SDS, at the local authority and also with our colleagues at SOSE, we have created a digital offer for the South of Scotland that encompasses working with DYW, our school-college offer as well and focused on a number of different outcomes. Particularly around data driven innovation and cyber resilience, which is obviously hugely topical at the moment. Really it was just to say that we welcome the themes that have been outlined this morning and very much the direction of travel from Dumfries and Galloway College's perspective. It chimes very well with the work that we're already doing and particularly so as we line up behind the South of Scotland pathfinder that's been mentioned already this morning, thank you.
Thanks, Joanna. Mark, yes.
Thank you, Deputy First Minister. Thank you for that, Mr McKee. I'm going to invoke the spirit of the Deputy First Minister's invitation in the previous paper to look at the slide deck later and mark up the ones where we think it's of particular use to the South of Scotland. But I completely agree on the point that it's not just about economics; it's about our cultural life and our social life and lots of our social enterprises would be shocked if you didn't recognise them as being economic drivers as well as social drivers.
As Mike Cantlay has said, nature and our natural capital need to be in there, as does our cultural life. I really welcome the focus on entrepreneurialism, because I think that's something we perhaps don't recognise as much as we should here, even though we've got a real preponderance of microbusinesses, we just don't quite yet celebrate it in the way that I'd like. There was a lot to take in, but I particularly like that it ended on bringing forward a culture of delivery, because so often these plans and these strategies get produced but I sense from that that there is a real drive to push that forward. So very much welcome, thank you.
Thanks, Mark. I think there's an interesting link also, one of the specific points that struck me in the presentation that Ivan shared with us. It related to the point that you made, Russel, earlier on about what communities have perhaps lost as a consequence of the loss of connection during Covid. Obviously I represent a very similar area to many of the communities in the South of Scotland and I'm struck by many good examples in which communities have found their purpose and their cohesion during Covid. But also there's been a loss of capacity because of the inability of people to gather together and to do the rather routine things that give communities real purpose and focus.
So I think there is an opportunity here which is of particular relevance to communities like the South of Scotland and also to the communities that Mairi Gougeon and I represent in Tayside, around the theme of community wealth building. Because it does relate to some of the business structures, we tend to see business structures only in relation to private companies. Whereas when I think about some of the social enterprises that are active in my constituency and around the country, who provide absolutely pivotal services and also real economic benefit to communities, there's a lot to be nurtured there. So I think ensuring that our thinking is sufficiently broad to include all of these different elements is essential in the process. Any other comments? Ivan, do you want to come back on points?
Thanks very much for all the positive comments. I think some of the themes that have come forward join up really effectively. If you look at this, we're fond of recognising Scotland's technological edge on the global stage in many sectors, but I think where we're positioning ourselves in terms of, as Mike identified, understanding the link between nature, biodiversity and the economy, where we are as a leader and ESG and net zero investment and how we attract that investment. Where we are in understanding the relationship between the social, cultural, economic aspects of society and how those are joined up.
It's quite interesting, I think, that we actually have a narrative there that is genuinely world leading and something that we can really build on. I think apart from everything else we've got in NSET, it gives us the opportunity to exploit some of those what might be called softer aspects, but are increasingly important as global businesses and investors look where to put their money and look for partners that share their values and ecosystems, are well connected and understand those relationships. I think it puts us in a really interesting, fortunate and advantageous position globally there as well as on the technology side.
Okay, thanks very much, Ivan. Obviously this will be - the National Strategy for Economic Transformation is an absolute centrepiece of the Government's programme. It will have, as Ivan set out in the presentation, very clear ministerial leadership and engagement throughout its pursuit. So the opportunities for engagement and collaboration with the South of Scotland are absolutely essential to what's been set out. So we look forward to reviewing that in the sessions to come. As I said, we're going to change the agenda slightly to take the item on population just now and we'll come back to the transport item after we break for lunch. So if I could invite Mairi Gougeon to open up this particular session and then we'll come to the contribution from Mark Rowley. Mairi.
Thanks very much for that and it's great to be with you all today, because essentially ensuring that our population is more balanced and distributed across Scotland so that all our communities can flourish is a key commitment from the Scottish Government. But really to try and address the issue of population decline and ensure that we have a healthy balance population profile. We know that we have to work closely with regional, local and community partners too.
Now, of course, the different issues that contribute to depopulation, there are a whole host of different issues, they're complex and of course there isn't just one magic solution that's going to solve this for everyone. This broad range of factors that need to be considered is well reflected in the paper that's before us today to accompany this discussion and I really want to thank all of those who contributed to that. Now I believe that the paper in today's discussion really is an important step in developing that strong working relationship with partners to support the population and communities of the South of Scotland. Highlighting the interdependencies of regional and national policies is a really important point and one that the Scottish Government recognises and I know that's been highlighted in the discussion we've had earlier this morning too.
Now as many of you will be aware, the Scottish Government has been engaging closely with colleagues in the Highlands and Islands on their population challenges through the Convention of the Highlands and Islands. It's important that we recognise that while that experience, priorities and opportunities aren't exactly the same as the South of Scotland, I think there could still be some helpful lessons that we can learn and take through that in that ongoing work that's continuing with CoHI. So that close engagement on shared visions and priorities really could help to clearly identify the interventions that can be taken forward within current policy now and if not we can explore why not. That shared understanding of what we can all do better with the powers currently at our disposal could also help evidence where there is a requirement for additional or new approaches.
So with that, I'd just like to hand over to Mark, who's going to give an overview of the paper and really look forward to an interesting discussion on this topic, thanks.
Thank you, Minister and it was interesting, I'm sure we have got lots to learn from Highlands and Islands on population. But it's always interested me that it's always when we talk about population that we head to the Highlands and Islands and we actually sometimes, I think, have forgotten about the South. I thought it was interesting that the first line of the paper particularly struck me that we have significant and stark population challenges here and I absolutely think we do. Rural Scotland has got all kinds of problems. You look at our settlement profile, we've only got three or four towns across the South of Scotland with a population of greater than 10,000 people. Most people are living in much smaller settlements than that.
I come across very few of them that wouldn't benefit from a few more people in every town, hamlet and village, even if it's just to keep the local school going, or the local village hall going, or the kirk or the bus service. So we recognise that across the South we need to grow our working population, because of the imbalance between our older and our younger groups. We've got a sense of optimism, hopefully that comes through in the Regional Economic Strategy which focuses on that. We definitely need to get our message out that this is a great place to come and live and work. I took from Mr McKee's presentation a focus on encouraging people from the rest of the UK to move to Scotland, to make a life here and perhaps the South of Scotland is particularly well set to do that, being on the border.
We absolutely note all of the national stuff, Scotland's Future published in March 2021. There are also other important documents in the ether at the moment, like NPF4 and we heard about the National Economic Strategy today. We're very confident that the RES aligns very much with that National Strategy in so many ways. One thing that has become particularly apparent to me during Covid was that as we move to blended working and working from home, the South of Scotland becomes much more attractive. If you're only commuting into the central belt once or twice a week, perhaps you can move further away. If we get our digital strategy right, it becomes much easier to do so. If you've got several jobs in one household, remote working and blended working is going to make the region a better and easier place to locate.
We're very keen to look at the example of the Highlands and Islands. I think it will do us an awful lot of good to do that and also initiatives like the live local, work global, where perhaps government jobs can be devolved. Now that you don't need to move a whole ministry, a whole government department, as the BBC did moving into Salford, that just individual people can live in remote communities. I think we can do quite well there. So we have some asks in the paper, we can move to those when we've had a discussion. We need to recognise the opportunities, we're looking for a commitment for collective action from all of the members of the convention to help with that and I commend the paper to you.
Okay, thanks very much, Mark. Can I open this up to contributions from colleagues on the contents of the paper? Elaine.
One thing which I suppose is a bit of a dilemma, Mark's mentioned the opportunity there is in the South of Scotland to be somewhere where people can move here and work in Glasgow or Edinburgh and there is definitely an opportunity in there. There is a little bit of a problem there though, where our young people who we're also going to try and attract to continue to work here and who are at the beginning of their careers are then in competition for housing with people who are coming in who've got a house to sell in the central belt, have a bigger salary and are able to outbid them in terms of buying properties here.
I think that's something that certainly in terms of the housing strategy and so on, that we would need to bear in mind that we actually want to have, we need to have accommodation here for the young people that we're trying to attract. Or the young people that we're hoping to persuade to stay in the South of Scotland, because they could be - and I hear anecdotally and hear, it's going about here, things about house prices of new houses going up by £20,000, of a studio flat in the centre of Dumfries charging a rent of £500. It wouldn't have been thought of in the centre of Dumfries at one point, so there is a possibility that some of our younger people may be priced out of the rental and housing markets unless we take some sort of action to address that.
Just building on what Elaine said, I think this is a real issue that covers a whole panoply of things, if I could put it that way. If you take some of our challenges we have down here, it you take Gatehouse of Fleet, 30 per cent of the houses in Gatehouse of Fleet are unoccupied for large parts of the year and therefore, you can't use them to bring new employees in. We need more new houses. Langholm has had six new houses built since 1990 [unclear] so there's a need for us to work with developer and others to look at how we put the infrastructure in place that allows us to bring these people in. Mark and I tried to quantify this and we believe that to remain static in the South of Scotland in terms of our demography, just to remain static, not to get better, we have to bring in 800 new working age people every year. If you add the family together, that means we have to create a town about the size for Langholm every year just to remain steady.
So when you start to look at the challenges that Elaine was saying involved and population, you start to get into a whole load of other different conversations about empty houses, what you do with property to redevelop it, how we get our planners to be more flexible, how we get developers and local developers, how we lease farming land. All of that around that, because if we're going to get people to move into this part of the world, then we need places for them to stay. Then we need, moving on to what Jenny's going to talk about later, we then need to get them from place to place. Because as one of the people that we talked to who's been doing this all over the world for years says, there are only two things you need to start a community, people and transport, the rest follows on. So it is about that interconnectivity across this across. So it is about the economy, but it's all about making sure and sorry, I'll stop rambling.
Thanks, Russel. Other contributions? Yes, Rob.
Thank you, Deputy First Minister. I think in my relatively short experience to some of this tourism challenge in the last six months, it's interesting that the skills and workforce piece in almost every conversation in rural Scotland is linked to housing, exactly as it has been this morning. I'm not certain but I think it's likely that the models we've relied on for perhaps the last 20 or 30 years in respect of the housing of young people as they embark on their career, as Councillor Murray described it, are probably not the models that are going to allow us to get the right number of people to the right locations in Scotland to support, at least as far as VisitScotland's concerned, the tourism industry.
We've seen last summer and the summer before during Covid extreme pressures on workforce. We anticipate that that will continue, the numbers in the paper would suggest that is the case. I think probably for the public sector we need to reconsider the models that we have about the employment of young people and work with employers, not just to consider the offer of employment but the offer of accommodation as well.
Now of course tourism, if you look historically at bigger tourism businesses, particularly hotels but bigger establishments as well, they quite frequently offer accommodation to younger people, but that's largely because of the hours worked, et cetera. I suspect that type of model and working with RSLs probably is the key to where we need to get to, if we're going to ensure that we can get the right number of people to the right places, to the right type of business and start them on a career which offers great prospect in rural Scotland through tourism, but presents a number of fundamental challenges at the moment. I think this paper, connecting with some of the housing comments that were made earlier in the conversation, is a challenge to agencies and something certainly in our discussions with SOSE and indeed with HIE is at the forefront of our thinking at the moment.
Thanks, Rob. Jane, yes.
Thank you, Deputy First Minister. Just to come back to Elaine's point for a second, I think it proves how intrinsically linked all of these things are. Population is linked to housing, it's linked to transport, it's linked to skills and fundamentally it's linked to choice. What we all, I think, want to see and are working towards collaboratively is that choice for young people. So if they want to stay and they want to study in the South of Scotland, we increase the access they have to the courses, to apprenticeships, to degrees, so they don't have to travel unless they choose to do so outside of the South to study. Then if they do that, we want them to have the choice to come back, to bring those degrees, those qualifications, the apprenticeships, back to the South of Scotland and use their chosen careers.
I think a lot of us that grew up in remote or rural or island communities often went away to study and then didn't go home, because we couldn't use our qualifications if we did. So we want to build all of those things in, but that again comes back to that housing and it is partly the affordable housing, it's family housing, but it's housing right across the spectrum. Some of the small projects that we've been involved with are things like the Ettrick Valley, where we've supported the local community to refurbish and recover a semi-derelict steading building to create housing for three new families to the village, to keep the local primary school open. The community played a hugely important part of that and I then think it ties also in with community wealth building and community empowerment in how we make the choices about where and how to create that new housing too. So just to highlight the interconnectedness of all of these things, I think, thank you.
I think it's quite interesting, not quite interesting; it's very interesting that we're ironically at a moment - and this is part of the point that Mark raised - where it's not an absolute necessity for you to live within travelling distance to your place of employment, particularly after what we've gone through in the last two years. Technology developments have given us much more scope to operate in that fashion, et cetera. But then even with all that fair wind, you then rub up against the housing challenge.
Listening to the conversation, it seems at every stage in the market, whether you're starting out in your life or even when you're in a family situation, that may well be a challenge. Going back to some of the questions that we've wrestled with about what can we do to productively change the investment policies that are undertaken, that may well be one that we've got to try to identify with those involved in the development community. But of course there’ll be many complex issues associated with all of that with which we've got to wrestle. So again it highlights the importance of having a coherent, cohesive solution to some of these propositions. That might be something that arises, we'll come onto the asks about this issue, but that may be something we need to focus our thinking on as to what can we actively do to change some of the investment priorities and perspectives of other players. Joanna.
Thank you. I was just going to come back to the skills piece that Jane was talking about there. It is very much inextricably linked with other themes that we spoke about this morning. My observation would be having worked in other parts of Scotland and being relatively new to the South of Scotland, it's the piece around choice. So we have young people who are in the senior phase of school that have a very traditional offer if you compare it to other parts of Scotland. So what we've done in Dumfries and Galloway College is we have expanded the range of programmes that are on offer and this year we have actually seen double the number of applicants in our school-college partnership as a result of that.
So young people are genuinely excited about the different types of programmes that are now on offer. But if you take that beyond further education and look at higher education, there are some real pinch points in that. So if you look at STEM subjects, we do not have a comprehensive STEM offering here. In order to be able to do that - and this is why I welcome the work of the South of Scotland pathfinder - then we are going to have to reach out to people who perhaps aren't prevalent and connect or pool our resources together, if you like, to be able to make that offer.
The other point I wanted to make relates to the model of pedagogy that we offer. So we have seen a mixed bag really from our student body in terms of digital learning. So we have some students who are absolutely embracing that and then we have some students who for a whole variety of reasons don't wish to learn in that way. You'd be surprised at where that actually lies. So for example, our health and social care students very much want to learn online, whereas if you take students in practical areas, that's not necessarily the case.
So I think what I'm trying to say, to wrap this up really, is it's about the choice that we offer there. There's demand for the things that perhaps wouldn’t surprise you and low demand for the things that don't. So really that's the points that I wanted to make in relation to skills, thank you.
Thanks, Joanna. I'm interested in your school learning partnership, because this has struck me as being probably one of the greatest innovations in Scottish education in recent years, of the extent to which that has provided a focus for the education of some young people where the traditional curriculum just was not satisfying their needs. So I'm interested in how that has gone and obviously it'll involve a good deal of engagement with the local authority in the development of the opportunities at a school level to do that.
Do you want me to come back on that? Yes, so the traditional offer was really focused around construction, hair and beauty and what we did was we expanded that, through the foundation apprenticeship programme actually. We have encompassed areas such as cybersecurity, we've also expanded the number of hospitality programmes that we've offered as well and really the uptake on that has been very high.
You'll be interested to know that we only have three computer science teachers in the schools of South of Scotland and therefore, there's a real opportunity for both colleges - and this is why we set up our digital skills hub. But there's a real opportunity for both colleges to expand the offer there and that's what we've started to see now. The other thing that I should have mentioned is that we've seen a 20 per cent increase in the number of modern apprentices that have come forward for places in Dumfries and Galloway College and I'm sure it's probably the same in Borders as well.
Is that in the current period, Joanna?
Yes, that's the current period. We've asked for more and I'm pleased to say that SDS have been forthcoming with that.
It's just the recovery in the modern apprenticeship programme post disruption of Covid has been really encouraging, so it's good to see that's reflected in every part of the country. Good, okay, other observations? Yes, Scott.
Thank you very much, Deputy First Minister. I just wanted to make some connection there, I think on page 11 of the report when it talks about wages. Nine per cent more people earn below the living wage in the region versus the Scotland average. Now obviously I think that's quite an important part to highlight, because obviously we spoke previously about the economic strategy and I think all these parts link in together.
So I think my comment on this would be to welcome this obviously, support the initiatives that are contained within that, but very much recognition that the economy is part of the driver for population. I think unless we get the economy side more productive in that response, attracting younger people to stay and work here will always be a challenge and it's certainly referenced there that some of these challenges have been ongoing for at least 10 years. So I think in that respect, Deputy First Minister, I would just simply say that we need to really support the economic side of this aspect and push that forward to make changes here.
Thanks very much, Scott, that's helpful. Okay, Mark, you were going to come back with asks, I think.
Thank you, Deputy First Minister. I was actually going to come back with something first and it's about opportunity, isn't it? Joanna has eloquently talked about the opportunity of access to the right kind of courses, the right kind of education to encourage more of our young people to stay here and develop the right skills and their education. I'm not one of these people that's ever demonised people leaving the area to go and get the education they need and then coming back, but actually there's a problem for a lot of them coming back. Because if the jobs aren't here - which they could be, because of remote working now we've got an opportunity for that - but the homes aren't here it's really tricky.
I've come across example after example and Russel made the example of Gatehouse of Fleet with darkened windows. I was staying and had a lovely working trip to Kirkcudbright a few weeks ago and I was really struck by how many windows were dark at seven o'clock in the evening midweek. That kind of use is perhaps hollowing out some of our settlements. In the tiny village of 30 homes that I live in up in the Lammermuirs, at least 10 of them are on Airbnb. Now that helps the tourism sector and some people might do quite well out of it, but it's really hollowed out a community to the extent that you can't quite get a village hall committee together. If we were to run the village panto ever again, we'd probably have enough people go on the stage but we wouldn't have anyone in the audience. So we do need to think about a different model of creating homes.
Mr Dickson mentioned how do you create the right kind of homes for younger people who work in hospitality, they need to be close to where they're working, they need to be particularly affordable. I'm sure there are opportunities for RSLs to look at that. We were in Innerleithen recently at the mountain biking centre and we heard about a load of students who would dearly love to be living in the Tweed Valley, because rather than studying academically, what they really want to do is do their courses online but get on their bikes at every opportunity. I know that a home that also potentially a workplace for one or two people, it absolutely has to be homes.
Just to wrap up, I'd contrast this discussion with the discussion I ever have if I'm with my colleagues in the South East Scotland City Region Deal. If I'm sat with colleagues from East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian and you talk about wanting more homes and house building they look absolutely horrified, because they're under severe pressure with what they would see as excessive amounts of that. If we could somehow swing a bit of that just a few miles further south, not only would we help solve our problem in the south, but we'd actually help mitigate some of the problems they've got in the Lothians and Edinburgh in terms of overpopulation and house price inflation and rent inflation and that sort of thing. So the asks, what they are in the paper, I'd recommend them to you, but certainly thank you very much for the engagement on the subject today.
Thanks, Mark. There is a very significant issue about that distribution of development and intensity of development around the country, which has significant strategic effect on the country. Because for example, the degree of intensity of development in East Central Scotland inevitably leads to pressure on public services, for which local authorities and government has got to respond. So there are some significant points to press over there. Okay, Mairi, do you want to respond to these things?
Thank you, Deputy First Minister. Just picking up on that point there as well, I think it comes back to what Scott had touched on as well about all these plans linking together and just discussing some of the issues there around housing. I think that's where the draft NPF that we have at the moment is critical in looking at that and trying to address some of these issues, but also making sure that that links in with other strategies that we have too. We have the NSET there, but we'll also be developing a remote and rural housing action plan this year too, which I think will be critical in trying to address some of these issues that we see. Because I think that's one thing that I find, going out and about on visits across Scotland, is that obviously we can't look at population in isolation.
I think it comes back to your point, Jane, about just the interconnectedness of it all and I think you've probably seen all the nodding heads up at this end of the table. It's about transport, it's about our wider connectivity and trying to address those issues in the round as well. So again I would say thank you very much for everyone who contributed to the paper that we have before us today. I think we certainly all have that will to work together to try and identify the solutions to the issues. We certainly intend it will be that meaningful engagement certainly between now and the next convention. Then hopefully we can see real progress on delivering that within that time.
Right, thanks very much, Mairi. We'll take a break there for lunch and we'll reconvene at one o'clock and we'll take the session on transport at one o'clock. While we're doing that, I think our colleagues will be just identifying the actions that are arising out of our conversation which we'll conclude at the end of our session today. I think lunch is next door, but somebody will point us in that direction. Thank you.
Afternoon, everybody, we'll make a start on the final session, which is the discussion on transport. I'll invite Jenny Gilruth, the Transport Minister, to open the discussion and generally invite Fiona Brown from Transport Scotland to talk through the paper. So Jenny, over to you.
Thank you, Deputy First Minister. I really welcome the opportunity to chair the transport discussion as part of my first CoSS meeting this afternoon. I recognise, of course, that transport and connectivity are really key components in terms of how we achieve that inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the region. Just before I was appointed as Transport Minister, there were two key pieces of work nationally which were seeking to look at changing the relationship we have with our cars and driving and also changing the direction for transport investment in Scotland. So we had the route map to 20 per cent car kilometre reduction and also the Strategic Transport Projects Review, which Fiona will come on to speak about in detail in a few moments.
I just want to thank CoSS partners and their contribution to this work to date and encourage you all as well to respond to the consultations which will close in April. The transport paper which Fiona will present today also gives you some information on two other significant Transport Scotland projects, they are the Fair Fares Review and the Transport Governance and Collaboration Review and those projects are being designed with constructive engagement with local authorities. It would be good to hear a bit more feedback on those today. The paper also includes work being progressed by the Regional Transport Partnerships and local authorities, including on active travel, workplace mobility, 20-minute neighbourhoods and improving local bus services, using the powers in the 2019 Transport Act.
Before I pass over to Fiona Brown, just a couple of observations from the conversations we've heard this morning, particularly from Professor Griggs, who spoke to the importance of regional tailoring. I visited this morning Houston's bus depot in Lockerbie, who have benefited from some of the funding that's been brought forward by the ScotZEB funding, which is to decarbonise our bus fleet. So an example of a national policy having an impact regionally. Now I think that's not the end of the story, I think the next part of the story for government is to evaluate the impact of that funding locally and that will be taken forward at the end of that funding stream. But nonetheless an example, I think, of something nationally working at local level and it would be good to hear a bit more about people's views on how we could better ensure that contextualisation between what we do nationally and locally.
Then the second point really is to an inclusive process. I think we need a transport system that works for the folk who live here in the South of Scotland. In the last few weeks in this new job I've been doing a lot of listening and I think there is sometimes a tension there for folk who live in local communities, particularly in rural communities, who don't necessarily see the benefits of some of the investments we're putting in nationally. They need, I think, for government to play more of a key role here and I'm keen to hear today from our local authority partners how that might work.
The third point really is to additionality, how can we provide that additionality between what's happening regionally and nationally. Two questions I would really like people to think about are the aspects of the National Strategy, are there any within that in terms of transport which aren't working. The second point, which the Deputy First Minister made, was around tackling inequality for economic purpose. I want to hear from people today about how we use transport to do that, because I think transport's got a key role to play here in tackling some of the deep-rooted inequalities that we face in Scotland. It's an opportunity as well to change some of these things too. So I'll pause there, I'm going to pass over to Fiona now, who'll talk us through some of the more detailed recommendations in terms of STPR2.
Thank you, Minister. The transport paper today, presented for the session today was quite all-encompassing. It had within the annex projects that have been undertaken regionally and locally and then the bulk of the paper was around the national projects. I'm going to focus on STPR2 in my presentation, I'm not going to try and cover everything in the paper, just given that the recommendations were published in January, as the Minister said, for public consultation. I thought that would be the part of the paper that we'd be most interested in discussing today. So I'm going to present for about 15 minutes and then we've got the discussion time. I'm going to talk about STPR's purpose, about the methodology, touch on some of the recommendations. There are 45, I won't go through them all, but I'll touch on those that I think are of most interest and then the next steps.
So STPR's purpose, STPR2, I suppose the first question is what is STPR and what is STPR1, why is it STPR2? So the first Strategic Transport Projects Review was published in 2009 and it had 29 recommendations. It was very much focused on the parts of the transport network which are the responsibility of Scottish ministers, that being the rail network and the strategic road network. Some of those interventions have been delivered, some are still being progressed and others haven't been. As transport policy progressed in that time, the transport investment started to deviate and it was time to revisit the Strategic Transport Projects Review, hence we're in the second one and that was announced a few years ago now. At the same time we announced that we were doing a national transport strategy, recognising changing priorities for transport in Scotland.
The second Strategic Transport Projects Review very much follows on from the national transport strategy, also takes account of the national planning framework 4 and the climate change plan. It's wider in terms of its scope than the previous one and it's not just the networks responsible for Scottish ministers, but actually makes recommendations for investment by ministers, but on transport that may not be delivered by ministers. So getting much more into the public transport, local transport, active travel space. That isn't showing very well but really the purpose is around giving ministers an evidence-based, objective-led analysis of transport problems in Scotland and preparing a set of recommendations for investment for the next 20 years. It's used the methodology which is based on HM Treasury Green Book and Scottish transport appraisal guidance.
I talked about the national transport strategy, but the national transport strategy is really the transport translation of Scottish Government priorities. So this slide is just really to show actually this is in the context of what we're trying to achieve as government with regard to the climate emergency, raising children out of poverty, a just transition and the National Economic Transformation that I know was discussed this morning. In that sense, our main objective in our strapline is to protect the climate and improve lives. Some of you may know that we published STPR phase 1 in February 2021, so a year ago and that was aligned with the capital spending review and infrastructure investment plan.
We had hoped to finish STPR at that point, but due to Covid the programme was extended, but also the uncertainty we have with regard to future travel demand, it was right to take a pause. So we published phase 1, which was really the five-year aligned with those spending programmes to say these are our transport priorities, but we've now concluded the review for that 20-year horizon. The phase 1 recommendations are embedded within, so there's no need to go back and look at the phase 1 report, that's within the new reports.
So what will STPR2 - I've already touched on it's an objective-led and evidence-based process and within investment decisions, it gives us the basis on which to advise decision-makers on investments and that way it represents the strategic business case. It does not provide perhaps the detail of strategic business case that you might have for individual projects, because we're doing it nationally for all modes. But it gives enough confidence to set that direction for investment to allow those projects to now move onto the next stages and I'll touch on what are those next stages towards the end, what we do with the recommendations. I talked a couple of time about being objective-led and any of you that are familiar with the national transport strategy will recognise these objectives. The addition is the bottom one for STPR, recognising STPR is largely around capital infrastructure investment, we have the addition of increasing safety and resilience of the strategy transport network.
This slide is probably one of the most important in terms of how the recommendations of STPR have been developed and that is they have embedded the hierarchies within the national transport strategy. The first one on the left is the sustainable travel hierarchy and that is that we will prioritise walking, cycling and wheeling over private car use down at the bottom, with public transport and shared transport in between. The sustainable investment hierarchy is we will firstly, aim to reduce the need to travel unsustainably and the Minister talked about the dependence on the car, so we'll do that first before maintaining the assets that we have, improving the assets we have and before then doing targeted infrastructure improvements. So it's those hierarchies that have then guided the recommendations along with the objectives.
A very busy slide, but really just showing what I've talked about already. The top left is really government policy and how that's informed the process, using Scottish transport appraisal guidance to produce recommendations, which we're consulting upon and we'll produce our final report and delivery plan. In doing this and doing any transport appraisal and as Ms Gilruth talked about, being an inclusive government and speaking to people, that we undertook a lot of consultation. Our evidence gathering phase was pre-pandemic, so we got to do a lot of workshops face-to-face. Some metrics there, one that isn't on the screen is that we had just under 14,000 initial ideas for transport and a key part of our engagement was also our regional transport working groups, which we had a joint working group for the South of Scotland with Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders Council.
That was a really important part as we seamlessly transition to do it online through the concluding of the review. This is a map that's included in the report, so now moving on to recommendations, we have 45 recommendations in the report published in January. This is an indication of how they fit spatially across Scotland. I think it's really, really important to mention, going back to the policy I talked about, the objectives that I've talked about, that many of the recommendations apply across all of Scotland. There's less of the interventions that perhaps we would have seen in the STPR, because they're physically about changes to bits of the network. It's much more about realigning investment to our priorities, so the grey circles, if you like, are actually the ones that apply all across Scotland and I'll come back to that point later.
Within the publications we have appraisal summaries for each of the regions and these are just some of the outcomes of that for what we believe the recommendations with provide for the South of Scotland. Contributing to national reduction of CO2 and both in decarbonising the transport network but also in reduction of car dependency and car kilometres. Ms Gilruth mentioned the 20 per cent route map and the target we have to reduce car kilometres by 20 per cent by 2030. That's a commitment within the climate change plan. The recommendations will also improve health and wellbeing and safety and improve journey time and resilience in the transport networks in the region.
I've got a couple of summary slides here but I'm going to touch on some of these recommendations in more detail shortly. So that's some of the recommendations specific to the South of Scotland, but as I've mentioned there are many other recommendations which will be applicable. But I'm sure many in the room will be aware that the Borders rail extension was not a recommendation, so I thought I would touch on that firstly. However, the STPR has reaffirmed the commitment to progress the work to consider that project, the appraisal and feasibility through the Borderlands Growth Deal, reaffirming the commitment to that funding, but it's not one of the 45 national recommendations.
Just another slide with some of the recommendations, but I'll just move on to talk to some of them in more detail. I've got eight that I'll go through just in the interests of time, before going onto the next steps. Firstly, active travel, just in line with the hierarchy. So many recommendations around active travel, but I think these village-town active travel recommendations, we know that one of the biggest barriers to active travel is also the weather, but safe segregated active travel networks. If we think about the 20-minute neighbourhood aspirations that we have and how applicable they are to rural locations, actually segregated cycle routes that can increase that 20-minute neighbourhood, an average cyclist would do around four miles, more proficient or with e-bikes you could do further on that.
So this is around providing those connections for people to get to the service centres that they need to access to be able to use active travel for those everyday journeys. The Government's already got some substantial commitments to active travel, £500 million in this parliamentary period and I know that the South of Scotland has benefited from that this year through the places for everyone, with £7 million for Scottish Borders Council and around £600,000 for Dumfries and Galloway Council and will continue to benefit. So I think just to touch on the STPR recommendations really, the evidence base for that investment and continue to evaluate that along the 20-year horizon, to see where we need to prioritise next.
Another one which is relevant to the area is the impact that the trunk road has on communities and runs through several communities and adverse impact that can have. Just reflecting the shift in policy direction, where previously the road was everything and the protection of that journey time for the road. Of course that is still important, but we recognise the severance that created in communities and the barriers that that sometimes created to active travel. Importance of those places, regeneration and certain locations, so recognising that we'll consider where we can improve where the trunk road is a barrier in those communities.
Recommendation 40 is around access to Stranraer and the ports of Cairnryan. That includes recommendations for safety, resilience and reliability improvements to the A75 and A77 and in turn, supporting those placemaking opportunities that I just discussed with the previous recommendation. That includes, but is not limited to improving junctions, opportunities for widening the carriageways, pinch points and realignment and consideration of bypasses at Springholm and Crocketford and improvements to the A75 at Cuckoo Bridge. This also supports the national planning framework 4, which is national developments designated at Stranraer Gateway and Chapelcross and includes consideration of relocation of Stranraer Station. This recommendation will of course support the port of Cairnryan, the third busiest for freight in Scotland and the busiest for passengers.
Ms Gilruth mentioned her visit to Lockerbie this morning for the ScotZEB fund, so another recommendation around the importance of the need to decarbonise transport, so I'll just flip past that one quickly. Investment in demand response and mobility as a service, we know the challenges around public transport services in rural areas and this is really about being more innovative with the resources that we have and to use those scarce resources in the best possible way. The paper today includes some work that's been done in the region already by the local authorities and RTSs in this space. Just a couple more.
So moving on to freight, we know from recent research that we published that we need to transfer 23 per cent of freight travel by roads onto rail or shipping in order to meet our targets for climate change by 2030. This recommendation is around working with the private sector on that behaviour change. Then the next recommendation is around infrastructure to support that shift for freight.
Then the last recommendation just to touch on today is cross-border. One of the biggest challenges the rail network has is the competition for that space. We talked about freight there, the slower running freight trains, stopping trains, versus your faster running trains. Actually I'm sure many of you here, high speed rail talked about is actually a capacity project. So by providing that additional capacity you can provide for the slower stopping versus the faster stopping trains. The recommendation here is to continue with work with UK Government on that and consider improving capacity on the East Coast Main Line, West Coast Main Line and the Glasgow and South Western Line which will improve both for passengers and freight.
Just a couple more slides. We're at the consultation phase, just some details there, it closes on 15 April. Within that consultation we're obviously looking for views on the recommendations. We're also asking around prioritisation. This is a 20-year plan, it's not a funded plan except the phase 1 recommendations and the commitments we already have for the next five years. But beyond that, we now need to provide ministers advice on profiling these recommendations and preparing that into a delivery plan and getting approval to progress those in that phasing. So we're looking for your feedback on that.
Just another slide of different engagements that we're doing. We're not just sitting, waiting for responses, we're out there promoting the consultation, speaking to some of the harder to reach groups and encouraging that engagement. We'll then take that feedback and as I said, use that to advise on delivery plans and the profiling of these recommendations and publish a final report later in the year. I'll hand back to Ms Gilruth to close up and open the discussion.
So now over to you all. I'm sure you all have some strong views on transport locally and I'm really keen to hear them today. Fiona touched upon, of course, the details of STPR2 and I think that's really timely, given where we are in terms of the consultation. Both the Cabinet Secretary and I, I think, will be meeting with local authorities in the coming weeks. I think we're meeting with Scottish Youth Parliament, that was on your slide as well and with local community groups. So keen to hear from you directly today what your views are on STPR2, but more generally transport challenges that I've mentioned in my opening remarks.
Okay, thanks very much, Jenny. Who's going to open up? Obviously transport's been a major issue of dialogue and discussion with this table over many years. Russel.
Thanks, Deputy First Minister. That was excellent, but I think what wasn't there and Deputy First Minister, if I recall, it was either at one of the last meetings of the South of Scotland Alliance that you were chairing for the first meeting of CoSS and I'm looking to Mr Dickson and Councillor Rowley for this one, we did have a discussion on it. I think where we got to was that the way we run our public transport system in Scotland was not as - and I think using your own words, was perhaps not as coordinated and as good as it could be. I guess within this it's about seeing how we make what we have currently work better. I know that both the Borders and I think Elaine and Dumfries and Galloway, both councils have done an asset survey on what they have in terms of public transport. It's not just from the local bus suppliers, the NHS has their own transport, there's community transport out there.
It's about seeing how it all works much better together, because there's no doubt that if we are going to make all that we've discussed this morning work well, we are going to have to find better ways of getting young people to where they want to go to learn, about getting people to employment. That may mean, or does mean looking at a much more coordinated way of using the transport system that we have, which can then perhaps start to identify the gaps that we need to fill in. So this kind of carries on a discussion we had, was it at the first CoSS, Mark, or was it at the South of Scotland Alliance? I can't remember.
I think it may have been the last South of Scotland Alliance and the interchange at Galashiels.
Yes, okay, so that's my point I make, is can we do something about what we've got before moving on to the new stuff.
I think that one of the points that Fiona made was about the, for example, use of demand responsive transport, for example. I'm not trying to say that all that you're raising, Russel, fits into that. But I think the point you make is a very good one, which I do remember us discussing before, which is that there are, on the one hand, limitations of what we might call the formal public transport infrastructure. Then there's a whole variety of other elements of the transport infrastructure which is perhaps not - most people don't have access to it and it's about trying to explore what is the opportunity for some of that to be undertaken, which is interesting. I think in the question which we wrestle with all the time, which is about the maximisation of the use of our assets, is there not more that can be done in that respect than is the case up until now, but we'll come back to that point in due course. Okay, thanks, Russel. Mark.
Thank you, DFM and thank you for that, Fiona. I'm probably going to ask to be indulged and ask if I can come in twice during this discussion, because quite rightly you reference the extension of the Borders Railway to Carlisle and I'll come back to that, if I can. But can I just ask members of the convention around the room today, did anyone manage to get here by public transport? Because I thought I'd do the exercise last night and if I got the first bus from my local town of Duns, which is a seven-mile walk or cycle to get there today, I could be arriving in about an hour's time, having changed several times. Actually I think the quickest way was to do the last leg on the train from Annan to Dumfries.
So the South of Scotland is different and I think we discussed earlier that we have four settlements of over 10,000 population. So the 20-minute neighbourhood worked brilliantly when I lived in Stockbridge in Edinburgh, I could have everything. I didn't need a car, I never needed a car. If I went on holiday I could hire one when I got there. But living, as we discussed earlier, in one of the most sparsely populated regions of Scotland, the demonisation of the car just doesn't work. What we need to do is get ourselves into a place where we've got the right cars available. So we might not all own our cars, they certainly won't be diesel.
But there could be a vision of a couple of little car club runabouts plugged into solar polar and electrics outside every village hall across the South of Scotland. Because I've got a load of constituents who are running three cars, not because they need three cars most of the time but because they need a second or a third car just occasionally, when someone who's got the work van or the main car is away and they need to do a school run, or go and visit Granny or do the weekly shopping. So I'd like to see for the South of Scotland that hierarchy redeveloped so that we don't say the car is last, we recognise that individual transport somewhere in there has got to be available, but may be available on a very different model to how it is at the moment.
The stuff about creating distinct cycle lanes next to trunk roads isn't particularly relevant, because we don't have that many trunk roads to separate our cycle lanes from and our distances are really significant. So if we're looking at cycling, we need to be looking at investment in e-bikes and getting those into things.
In terms of using our assets, I'm absolutely with Russel that we need to look at how community transport links into public transport, links into national infrastructure. To be really positive here, our budget at Scottish Borders Council just a few days ago, we invested hundreds of thousands of pounds into a demand responsive travel pilot for what is most of Berwickshire. Hands up, it happens to be my ward. It also, according to Transport Scotland's Borders transport corridor study, is one of the most public transport deprived areas certainly in the South of Scotland, but on the Scottish level too. So it was the right place to put it in. One of the reasons we put it in was to be joined up, because we're co-funding with yourselves and Scottish Government a new mainline station at Reston on the East Coast Main Line.
Now the Council's put millions of pounds into national infrastructure and we were very happy to do that to get over the line, because as I said very transport deprived. But there are almost no buses that would be going to that station from most of its hinterland. Disappointingly at the moment there are no Scotrail trains planned to a Scotrail run station, which is disappointing. So we've put the demand responsive thing in, we're working with some community organisations who are looking at e-bikes. We're looking at another one who's piloting a bit of a car club, to get that kind of joined up thing. But if we're going to do that, what we need to do is we need to draw a slightly different hierarchy for the South of Scotland and recognise we're not going to conform to that central belt model or larger town model. It's going to be a bit more higgledy-piggledy and not that neat, inverted pyramid that would be ideal, because some of those choices just aren't available to us.
We've talked about our demographic of an aging population and aging population is not necessarily the ones that you're going to get out walking significant distances or onto bikes. They're going to need something different. So I think if we could rework that, perhaps with a few examples from different geographies, we'd get a better picture of what a transport strategy for the South of Scotland would look like. I hope it's achievable because there are enough people talking about it. If we discovered anything this morning, it's that these issues that we've had paper after paper are not individual issues. Every one of them is linked and they have implications for others. But that's my comment on that and I will make a much briefer comment on my thoughts about the Borders Railway in due course, if I'm indulged.
Do you want to just carry on, Mark and just go onto Borders rail?
Yes, if you like. Here going back to one of Fiona's hierarchies about how transport has to be there to make people healthier and wealthier and save our planet and how it had to take freight off the road and how it was there to reduce inequalities. I think if you look along the length of the extension of the Borders Railway from Tweedbank to Carlisle, that project ticks all of those boxes. You mentioned how projects here have to aspire to be going towards Treasury Green Book standard. Well guess what, extension of the Borders Railway feasibility study has already met that task and Scottish Government and UK Government and five local authorities in partnership working have decided that that's good.
So whilst there is a reference in STPR2 that the extension of the Borders Railway could be seen as a regional priority, I think a 46th recommendation in STPR2 would have been really welcome. Because apart from anything else, this is the one bit of work of those 45 that's fully funded to do the feasibility study and it's had plenty of work done on it at the moment. So if the purpose of STPR2 is not to deliver projects but to deliver a range of business cases to ministers on which they can then decide what the priority for those projects could be, I'd suggest it was over the line already. It would be wrong to exclude it from such a national one.
I've got Borders residents who remind me every time I go to Newcastleton that there is still a couple of school buses in the Scottish Borders that have a sick bucket in them for the tortuous 25 miles to Hawick that the kids have got to do. I haven't heard anybody who I've been speaking to about the drive today that didn't mention timber trucks. This railway would go past Kielder, the biggest forestry resource in Europe, I think. It could do so much and Transport Scotland don't need to fund it because guess what, sat in a room here we managed to get that onto the Borderlands Growth Deal, which both governments and five councils have signed up. So we're actually helping with budget and effort. So that's my appeal, you said you would welcome to hear the unheard voices. I know mine isn't an unheard voice on this, but I did notice conversations with MSPs was on the unheard list as well and their voices are maybe a bit shoutier than mine. But if you'd consider that, I'd be eternally grateful.
Thanks, Mark. Other contributions? Elaine please.
Just to really back up what Mark's been saying on both points. I was slightly interested to see on the improved access to bikes, it says those that could most benefit from the opportunity that cycling provides, including older people, disabled people and individuals with health problems. Actually those are the people who are going to find it most difficult to get on a bike and cycle, particularly there's a suggestion of four miles. Four miles is nothing in the South of Scotland.
People are travelling 16-20 miles, you're going to have to be quite a fit person to get on a bike and cycle, even an e-bike actually, if you travel that way and through the rain and wind. It reminds me of when the new hospital was built at Dumfries, it was built with less car parking than it apparently needed because it was on a cycleway and walkway and it was assumed that people would cycle and walk to work. They didn't, all that happened is that all the cars that people were using filled up the car park and then blocked up the side roads round about. So unless you really get people bought into it, then it's not actually going to work.
Now I'm interested to hear what's happening in Borders. Here, our budget last week, we agreed to fund three places, that's SWestrans, to look at the development of an alternative public transport model which may be partly also around demand responsive transport. Because one of the other anomalies in Dumfries is that it's one of the places which does have some transport and there's a bus which goes quite near my house. Every time I look at it, you'll be lucky if there are two people sitting on that bus, because it doesn't come at the times that people want it to come. It's not suitable for getting people to work and it's only every hour, so it's much easier to hop in their car and go in by car unfortunately.
So it's quite a difficult proposition and I think some of the issues around the 20-minute neighbourhood is also about how do you get those services nearer to the people who live remotely, rather than just getting them - make the 20 minutes expand longer. What can you do in terms of workspace which enables people to be able to get better IT connection, for example. There's a 5G hub here now actually on the Crichton, so that type of thing, bringing that closer to people so that they can actually access that. It's about telecare and a number of other -telehealth care and that sort of thing, a number of other options which actually brings services towards the people rather than just the people to the services.
Can I also say on Borders rail, which obviously is something that exercises us on the Borderlands partnership, it's all the things Mark said, but it's also that link between at least west and east for public transport. Because that's one of the bits that if one part, either the West or the East Coast fails, it's actually quite difficult. There's not an alternative route to the West Coast Main Line, for example, it shuts down and people can't get anywhere, as Councillor Davidson found the other day. He ended up thinking he was coming back to Lockerbie and ending up in Glasgow and having to stay in Glasgow overnight because he couldn't get back down again. So it's actually being able to have an alternative if there are rail failures and so on as well.
So please don't discount the Borders rail. I know in the early days of the parliament when we decided that we were going to invest in that, it was a bit of a step into the dark because we didn't realise how popular it was going to be. It was a lot of money to invest, but I think it's actually paid itself back in spades since then. I think right from the beginning of it I argued for it to go to Carlisle, much to the annoyance, I think, of the rest of some of my ministers at the time for being cheeky enough to say it should go all the way to Carlisle. But I think there is a definite advantage for Scotland, not just the South of Scotland but a definite advantage for Scotland itself in having that additional rail link between the west and the east.
Thanks very much, Elaine. I do remember the parliamentary debates on this question, which suggested that the passenger numbers estimated for the Borders Railway had been cooked up to get the business case to be positive. They've been completely surpassed by reality, it's been quite fascinating to watch that. Right, I'll digress. Derek.
Thank you, Deputy First Minister and certainly we would welcome the ambitions to make Scotland more accessible, given Dumfries and Galloway's unique boundaries with both England and Ireland. So we're certainly pleased to see Chapelcross, Stranraer Gateway and Cairnryan ports highlighted and emphasised indeed in STPR2. We are, I can assure you, promoting the public engagement, because we recognise it's vital that we do get public feedback, public engagement with this and we've certainly embraced that. There'll be a full council discussion on this in March.
Ultimately, as has been said by others, the geography of the South of Scotland means we need a greater degree of realism in terms of our ambitions for active travel. I say that as somebody who does promote active travel and as a council we certainly do, but for the reasons that have been said earlier there is a degree of realism that needs to be brought to it. Nonetheless, I think what's vital is that demand responsive transport has been talked about, we recognise to grow our economies both in tourism, local jobs and closing the poverty gap, that that access to transport, whether it be the railway line that connects Glasgow with Carlisle, could certainly do with speeding up. I think that's a factor. Equally that will integrate to transport as vital, so for the South of Scotland we certainly embrace the opportunity to be part of this engagement, but do acknowledge the unique boundaries and indeed the particular challenges, given the dispersity of our communities. Thank you.
Thanks, Derek. I'll come to Jane and then Russel, thanks.
Thank you, Deputy First Minister. Just to say I'm fully supportive of the comments made so far and Russel and I, as some of you know, are currently partway through the South of Scotland Enterprise roadshows. So we've been from Eyemouth to Stranraer and a number of small communities - don't ask me how many because I've lost count - about 20 in between and we're still continuing. There are some things we've heard from every single community, large or small and that's housing, as we touched upon earlier.
Transport is the other absolutely key one. People are frustrated, they are desperate actually is probably one of the words I would use, to have choice, to have access to equitable public transport. To have the bus routes that will get them to hospital, to have choice for young people to get public transport to colleges. It's absolutely impassioned, the pleas we're hearing as we travel around the South of Scotland, both in the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway. The added element in Dumfries and Galloway is because of the success of the Borders rail line, there is a growing number of voices in Dumfries and Galloway who would like to see an extension of the rail routes throughout here as well.
Thanks, Jane. Russel and then I'll come to Scott.
It's just to really add to what Mark was saying and I won't go over everything that everybody has said. The other thing is that as we move to different forms of transport, what we will all need are more places to plug our cars into and buses and everything else into. About 60 per cent of the cabling in the South of Scotland, I know a conversation we had with National Grid and SPEN will not support fast charge EV points, all they will support are trickle charging. So if we really want to be serious about moving away from vehicles that are powered by combustion, we need to dig up 60 per cent of the cabling in the South of Scotland and put kVA cabling in that will support fast chargers.
We do have some numbers now that we think just to get the hospitality competitive with the hospitality sector in other parts of the UK and indeed internationally, as they go forward where people will want EV points at their hotels when they come to stay overnight, we need about 3000 EV points just to put in the car parks of hotels across the South of Scotland. Most of them don't have three-phase power which is what you need to do that, so it comes back to Mark's point about the structure of what we do in the South of Scotland for all sorts of things - really we're not moaning, it's just how it is - makes it a challenge.
Thanks, Russel. Scott?
Thank you very much, Deputy First Minister. Some of my points there were slightly stolen there, but that's all to the better. I think it shows the emphasis on some of those comments. I think regarding EV charging, it is a vitally made point. Charging for electrical vehicles is vital for the future for the environment, but also for elements of tourism and our economy within the Borders. We've heard a lot of that this morning around economic growth and certainly one of these areas would be focused on that. So I suppose my ask would be where can the Scottish Government or certainly Transport Scotland look to support us in developing a form of network in this region. I think that's vitally important, that we recognise there is need to be work done and how best can we meet that need there.
I think I would also want to touch upon Councillor Rowley's point about the extension to the Borders Railway. That project is very significant for our younger people, for our communities, but also again for the economy of this region. The very fact that it links the capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh, with Carlisle, a northern powerhouse and then onto the other major settlements, is vitally important for cross-border connectivity. That work has already been demonstrated, I think the work to bring the railway certainly to Tweedbank and the numbers which have taken up that service have far exceeded to where we expected, I think demonstrates that that is a national priority. I'm just very saddened that it wasn't one of Transport Scotland's recommendations. I think it perhaps is worth considering a change there.
I think I would just like to conclude on one final point, which is regarding buses. Buses are a traditional mode of transport, certainly across local authorities. We've heard this morning that we are investing in demand responsive transport, which is very important for our communities and actually to meet the need of the communities going forward. I think where I am certainly on this is that rural bus provision is at a crisis point, certainly for younger people. We've talked about wanting to retain them in our region, we want to have them with the ability to travel to work, to play, et cetera. Without a public service bus route, that just simply isn't possible in the South of Scotland. I think in that terms I would ask further where are the elements of support within that that we can develop further ranges of demand responsive transport. Because I think that will be a cornerstone of the South of Scotland in years to come. With that, Deputy First Minister, that's my comments and questions on this.
Thanks very much, Scott. Jenni?
Yes, thank you very much and thanks to Fiona for the presentation as well. I think just building on what's been said already and actually right back to the beginning of the day, what we've touched on is choice and whether that's choice for our young people, whether that's choice for our potential tourists that are coming to the region, if we are to achieve our ambition right across the South, transport as we've heard is absolutely critical to that. At the moment, the choices that are being made, as we've heard, is that our young people are leaving the region.
Wherever I go within Borders and engage with our communities, transport is absolutely up there as the number 1 priority subject that from a community perspective would make the biggest difference and would open up opportunities that our communities just simply don't have at the moment. So I think in terms of just picking up on the points that Scott made about a good quality public transport, that's essential, I think, in terms of a building block that we can then look at how we can build whether it's demand responsive models, the types of clubs that Councillor Rowley had talked about as well. It all needs to hang off that fundamental building block of a really good quality public service.
We've heard about if we think about making choices, it's affordability, accessibility, efficiency. We've heard about the distances that people have to travel and the time that that takes on buses, people just don't make that choice, that's why you see two people on the bus. I think that looking at the South and thinking about our region and how that works is really, really important. We are different, we are different to the other regions within Scotland. I think that collectively we need to think about how we can build on the opportunities and really make that come through. So really welcome this discussion and again not with answers, but I think this conversation's really, really timely and I welcome it, thank you.
Thanks very much, Jenni. Anyone else to contribute before I ask Jenny to respond? Jenny, do you want to come back?
Thank you, Deputy First Minister. I think just to Jenni's final point there, it's not just about the quality of the public transport system that we have, but it's about having a responsive system that listens to people. I think through the last few weeks some people's frustrations are borne out when they feel that the system just doesn't move, it doesn't change, it doesn't listen to them. So we need to do better at that.
To some of the specific points though, on Professor Griggs' points at the start, we need a public transport system which has better coordination. One of the ways in which we do that, I think, is through the Fair Fares Review. So we're looking at how we join up ticketing, for example, right across different transport modes and I think that's hugely important, coordinating that response. But secondly, Scotrail of course will come into public ownership in a few weeks' time now, on 1 April, I hope it's not an omen. But nonetheless, I think it's a really important opportunity for government when Scotrail comes into public hands that we make sure we get that coordination, we build it into the system, it's the responsibility of government to do that.
Likewise on buses, it's not of course dissimilar to the situation we have with the railways. There are a number of ways in which we do support local authorities. So I gave the example of the ScotZEB funding this morning, but also the community bus fund. There was always provision within the 2019 Transport (Scotland) Act which allows for local authorities to have more power in terms of having a better service which better meets the needs of local people. That speaks to the demand response approach and actually that was raised with me when we were at Houston's down in Lockerbie earlier this morning. But I come back to, I guess, Mark's point about the demonisation of the car and I completely understand and I've heard a lot today about the different geography of the South of Scotland and why we need to take notice of that in everything we do nationally.
But it's not about the demonisation of the car, but we do need to get folk out of their cars, we have to do that. So we need to build an investment in our public transport system, we can't shy away from that. You're absolutely right too that that has to include decarbonising and I've given the example of the investment we're giving in terms of the support to bus companies. But equally in terms of our electric vehicles infrastructure with regard to cars, the Cabinet Secretary launched our vision on this a few weeks ago now, which is £60 million of investment the Scottish Government's supporting. I think that speaks to your point, Scott, about where local authority support might be in that space.
There were a couple of points that I'll come back to folk on around about, I think, Reston and the point Mark raised about no Scotrail trains, I don't have - I'm not sighted on the detail of that, Mark, but I'd like to come back to you on it, because I think that's a really fair ask. Around about Borders rail and STPR2 not being included, my understanding - and Fiona will correct me if I'm wrong - is that you're not precluded from bringing this forward in future. I say this taking off my ministerial hat and putting my constituency hat on and knowing that where we got the Levenmouth rail link wasn't through the STPR process; it was through the STAG appraisal process continuously again and again. So it's not that you're precluded from doing that in future, but I accept the local frustration that you're not included in STPR2.
There was also a point Professor Griggs raised around about SPEN and support for charging points. Again I wasn't aware of that but I'd be keen to discuss that in more detail with you, because that's absolutely something we need to work with energy networks on. They should be digging up lots of cabling to get this infrastructure in place, as you spoke to.
Elaine and I think Jenni mentioned some of the challenges around you're lucky if you get two folk on the buses and the challenge around timing, which speaks I think to a demand response approach. I wonder too perhaps and it's maybe something just to consider, how Covid has impacted on patronage. Because we know on the trains that the weekends are now much busier than the week, because folk are deciding they're working from home, so they're just changing their travel patterns. Does that meet out in terms of the experience of people travelling by bus? Does that mean folk are voting with their feet and deciding not to take the bus in the week?
Now I think we need to look at the granular data, I'm looking to Fiona on that, how that bears out. But I know on the trains that's a scenario that we're facing at this moment in time. That has impacted on service provision because folk aren't catching the train, how can you sustain the service? So the two need to meet up and I think there's a job of government here and we've spoken to Scotrail about this and how we encourage a safe return to public transport, so people feel able to do that.
Derek, thank you for promoting public engagement on STPR2. Today's part of that but these sessions are really important to make sure that people feel they're part of our transport priorities moving forward. Jane spoke to public frustrations, that need for change and equitable public transport system. Again I go back to I think the first point I made, which was to Jenni's point, we need to be more responsive, we need to listen and we need to act. I also think there's maybe an offer here in terms of wellbeing. I know from previous conversations, Jane, that we've had with regard to culture, that you're carrying out work on the index. I think there's something here which we could look at with regard to society wellbeing and a public transport system that works for folk and how that plays into that wider aspiration.
But I guess points for me to take away from today are the unique geography of South of Scotland and how our National Strategy and STPR2 interacts with the very different local needs that exist here. Secondly, that it can't be a one size fits all. But thirdly, we have to really be open to that regional tailoring that I mentioned at the beginning. That links, I guess, to one of the points Jenni concluded on, around retention of our young people. So we need to give you the opportunity to tailor this system to best meet the needs of the folk who live here.
Thanks, Jenny. I think in Jenny's response there, I think an indication of the need for us to configure to address the very specific circumstances of the South of Scotland. So thank you for that, Jenny. I think also the other thing is, as we all know with transport initiatives, they all take time. So I'm going to come onto something slightly shorter term though. So there's time for us to have these discussions and to get that medium term planning correct. The one thing I do want though and this really fits into what our actions would be coming out of this conversation, I do want us to put in place some specific work on how do we make sure the existing capacity is used more effectively and in a more connected fashion.
So I think if we could - Jenny mentioned the fact that Scotrail is coming into public ownership, that doesn't change every - doesn't take away every timetabling challenge in the book, but it does create an opportunity to look afresh at some of these questions. So I think what might be quite beneficial is if we could just put in place some discussions that obviously would involve the local authorities, Transport Scotland, the regional SWestrans and - gee whiz, I've been away from this for a long time. South-East Scotland?
SESTran and SWestrans.
Thank you, Fiona. To essentially identify this former challenge and how can we address that and how can we perhaps make early headway on some of the questions around - I'm going to use terminology like demand responsive transport. But what I'm really meaning about that is anyone that's got an appropriate and safe means of communal transport, how can that be commandeered to the central purpose of getting people around the country safely. So I think that feels to me like in the short term something we could make some tangible headway on, where we develop some of the wider priorities. Okay, right, that helpful, thank you. Fiona, did you want to add anything? I should have come to you as well, my apologies.
Thank you, DFM. It was I suppose just - I will do it very briefly but a couple of clarifications, I suppose just confirmation of things. So it was talked about actually often it's a transport problem, but it's accessing services and the route map to reducing car dependency has that built in. So actually it's not just about stopping people using their cars, but actually how can we work better with land use and relocation of services and digital connectivity to make sure services are brought to people.
Just around active travel, there was a point made about certain groups and perhaps active travel's not the most suitable choice for them, but actually in that context it was around improving the places that people live. So within our villages and town centres, so people have much better environments to move around in. On integrated transport, I didn't touch on some of the recommendations around that and around public transport. I understand the local authorities are looking at the powers within the Transport Act and the Minister has touched on the community bus funding and the support we've provided for public transport operators.
We haven't mentioned Under 22s which was launched, which means that bus travel is free for over 40 per cent of the population now. So I think DFM talked about actually how do we take the National Strategy and the national recommendations and work with the regional transport partnerships and the local authorities on those local strategies. So absolutely take that on board, given that we've got the powers and the funding, so how do we [curl] that together. Yes, just to confirm on the Borders rail the commitment is still for the £5 million from the Scottish Government, £5 million from UK Government on the progression of the business case for that through the growth deal. Thank you.
Great, thanks Fiona. If we begin to bring things to a conclusion, I'm not sure if any of my officials can help me out about - is there a slide going to come up?
Okay, if we could gather back round the table please. The first outcome is there, which is the convention welcomes progress in developing the Regional Economic Strategy's delivery plan. Notes the Regional Economic Partnership's plans to work with partners to try and forward the actions and the anticipated alignment between the themes of the Regional Economic Strategy and the National Economic Strategy. Members commit to working with it to ensure that appropriate which help deliver the Regional Economic Strategy are embedded in member organisations' planning processes. The Scottish Government will continue to support the ambitions of partners in the South of Scotland to deliver its vision for a green, fair and flourishing region and we're very open to consider and respond to feedback on how national strategies and programmes can be shaped and tailored to better fit regional need.
Does that capture what we talked about in the room? Happy with that? Great, okay, we'll go onto the second one please. This is on the economic transformation strategy. The convention welcomes the positive alignment between the Regional Economic Strategy and the National Strategy, the shared focus on wellbeing, economic communities and environment. Agreed to reinforce the importance of a culture of delivery tailored to the circumstances of South of Scotland and report on delivery progress at the next convention, which again I think does the trick. Okay, thank you.
The third one on population, the convention accepted the imperative to tackle South of Scotland population challenges which are woven through the Regional Economic Strategy and registered a focus on delivering the key population actions in the strategy's delivery plan under the oversight of the Regional Economic Partnership. The Government will prioritise national actions which will help develop innovative and sustainable solutions to population demography challenges and deliver for the South of Scotland.
This would recognise the key drivers and opportunities for maintaining an increase in young work age people in local places, including housing, transport, skills and choice. This will include further exploratory structures such as the ministerial population taskforce, how national strategies and programmes can be shaped and tailored to better fit regional need. I think crucially within all of these recognising the distinctive identity and requirements of the South of Scotland in all these points.
There's the transport one, thank you very much. The convention notes the work being undertaken nationally which will influence and contribute to transport in the region and the publication of STPR2 recommendations in the draft for consultation. Individual organisations of the convention will respond to government's consultations and transport and relevant organisations will continue to meaningfully engage with Transport Scotland on specific projects. The convention recognised the importance of transport to each of the regions' economy and communities. Individual organisations of the convention will respond to the Government's consultations on transport.
Transport Scotland will continue to meaningfully engage with the region and local organisations on specific projects, including the extension of the Borders Railway. The convention supports national agencies' collaborative working with local and regional transport authorities, particularly in relation to active travel and public transport in the region, recognising the circumstances of the South of Scotland. This should include further exploring how our ambitious national transport strategies and programmes can be shaped and tailored to better fit the South of Scotland's needs and opportunities in how local and regional transport strategies can contribute to national policy aims and objectives.
The transport authorities in the region will work collaboratively to make the most of existing public transport capacity, also consideration and development of more innovative solutions for public transport in the South of Scotland. That last bullet point, I think I would want to add into that the transport authorities in the region will work collaboratively with all relevant partners and the Government to make the most of the existing public transport capacity. Also consideration and development of more innovative solutions. I think as long as we add in those words that I've said there, I think that's what I was talking about. Is that all that's there? Super, thank you. Does that do the trick?
DFM, sorry, it's Fiona, there was a little bit of duplication there, just in the hurry so we'll tidy it up. There was a duplicated sentence.
That's fine, Fiona, thank you. Adrian, do you want to just make the point that you made to me a second ago?
Thanks, yes. Next Monday we have the next cohort of the rural leadership group who'll graduate. I've found with these groups in the past, they always come off this development work really enthusiastic and really positive about make a difference to not just their businesses, but to the communities as well. Through the various cohorts now we have around 300 active members of the rural leadership network. It just occurred to me today that maybe some of the solutions to these could be developed or codeveloped with the rural leadership group. So I'd be very happy to maybe pick that up with Jane and we can then discuss that with the rural leaders that gradate next week and with the wider rural network, about what areas they might be able to pick up and run with. Maybe coming at it from a different approach.
Thanks Adrian, I think that's a very welcome suggestion. I've met from time to time the cohorts of rural leadership graduates. It's a really, very, very good programme that Scottish Enterprise have run on this for many years. There are actually a lot of the very successful new rural businesses that we have are a product of that grouping, there's a lot of innovative thinkers there, so we'll certainly take that forward. Yes, Russel.
I think we would like to have a look at the last point 3 in the transport one to look at. We don't think that the thing about South of Scotland geography is hard enough embedded in that one. I'm happy not to play about with the words just now, but I think if we leave it to officials to figure out how we put that in.
Just give me the point again, Russel.
I doesn't, in our opinion, make the hard enough point about the difference in the South of Scotland geography.
Fine, let's make sure that's adequately set out, that one's been done in a bit of a hurry. But I think we're all very clear that the specific geographic requirements of the South of Scotland need to be explicitly acknowledged within whatever we do in transport. Especially on STPR2, but then also in relation to shorter term work to improve the utilisation of public transport networks. Okay, right, that can be sorted offline by officials. Thank you for that. Right, that brings us to the conclusion of our discussions. Thank you to everybody for taking part. I'll invite Mark to say a few words just to close. Mark.
Thank you, Deputy First Minister and for running ahead of time, which is brilliant. It doesn't often happen in these things, a measure of good chairing. If I can thank everyone who's attended in Dumfries today and just reflect that I think it's worked better than it did when it was online. It's just really nice to have the conversations around the room like the last one that's just been introduced. Hugely beneficial, I can't wait to see you all in the Scottish Borders in six months' time, reflecting that that will be in autumn and I've got to get through May first. So it may not be me that's welcoming you, but there will also be some other faces that are missing. Councillor Elaine Murray, who's been in the convention since the start, will not be here. Nor will her colleague, Councillor Rob Davidson, who's leaving. Nor will my predecessor as leader, Councillor Shona Haslam.
I'd like to thank on behalf of the convention all of them for all of their hard work. I'd like to thank officials in the organisations right the way around the table for what they've done. I'd like to thank you again, Deputy First Minister, for chairing this and pushing us on in these discussions and bringing a great set of ministers. It is a big time commitment, you will have discovered it's a big travel commitment too. So to have Ms Gougeon and Mr McKee and Ms Gilruth here is particularly welcome and I particularly welcome Ms Gilruth's invitation and I took it as an invitation to get back in touch and have further conversations.
I'd like to thank our national agencies who've been here, who have contributed. It would be remiss of me and somebody would kick me if I didn't express a slight amount of regret that there are a few missing, that it would have been lovely to have had round the table. I hope officials can engage with them to increase their enthusiasm levels and maybe they'll contribute to the outcomes that we've got today. So good speed going home, be safe on the roads, avoid those timber transport trucks because they're not very nice to hit. Thank you very much.
Thanks, Mark. Let me very much reinforce the thanks to everybody involved with putting on a gathering of this type. It is important that we have a sustained agenda. There's no point in having a series of random items linked together by the fact that we all happen to appear at the same time to talk about them every so often. It must be a sustained agenda, we're very clear what the challenges are about population, transport, connectivity, housing and all of these. Then respectively in some of these, you sort the economic issues by the by. But thank you to everyone who's been involved.
Thank you, Mark, for your remarks and we'll reconvene on 5 September, somewhere in the Borders no doubt, which will be a pleasure. I agree very much with Mark that it is nice to actually be back in face-to-face dialogue with people. We've all, I think, managed very well on the screens, but it is good to be able to have those more informal conversations. So thank you very much and safe journey home, thank you.
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