Publication - Minutes

Convention of the South of Scotland minutes: October 2021

Published: 3 Nov 2021
Date of meeting: 4 Oct 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the Convention of the South of Scotland held in October 2021.

Published:
3 Nov 2021
Convention of the South of Scotland minutes: October 2021

Attendees and apologies

  • Elaine Acaster, Borders College
  • James Anderson, Scottish Government
  • Jayne Ashley, South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Anne Ashton, Scottish Government 
  • Norma Austin Hart, Third Sector Dumfries and Galloway
  • Tara Bolland, South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Chris Brodie, Skills Development Scotland
  • Joe Brown, Scottish Government
  • Fiona Brown, Transport Scotland
  • Lisa Bullen, Scottish Government
  • Joanna Campbell, Dumfries & Galloway College
  • Mike Cantlay, Scottish Funding Council
  • David Cowan, Scottish Government
  • Angela Cox, Borders College
  • Jenni Craig, Scottish Borders Council
  • Kimberley Daly, Scottish Government
  • Rob Davidson, Dumfries & Galloway Council
  • Anthony Daye, South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Rob Dickson, Visit Scotland
  • Douglas Dickson, Dumfries and Galloway College
  • John Dougan, Forestry and Land Scotland
  • Roddy Fairley, NatureScot
  • George Findlater, Historic Environment Scotland
  • Carron Flockhart, Scottish Government 
  • Phil Ford, Skills Development Scotland 
  • David Ford, SOSE
  • Adrian Gillespie, Scottish Enterprise 
  • Gary Gillespie, Scottish Government
  • Clive Gillman, Creative Scotland
  • Tracey Graham, SOSE
  • Professor Griggs, OBE, South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Stephen Hagan, VisitScotland
  • Karen Hamilton, NHS Borders
  • Shona Haslam, Scottish Borders Council
  • Simon Hodgson, Forestry and Land Scotland
  • Alison Irvine, Transport Scotland 
  • Trevor Jackson, Charlesfield Farms
  • Karen Jackson, South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Robbie Kernahan, NatureScot
  • Garry Legg, SOSE
  • Alan Manthorpe, South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Jane McCormack, Scottish Government
  • Bryan McGrath, South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Bill McMillan, SOSE
  • Morag McNeill, Heriot Watt University
  • Netta Meadows, Scottish Borders Council
  • Lorna Meahan, Dumfries and Galloway Council
  • David Mitchell, Historic Environment Scotland
  • Elaine Morrison, Scottish Enterprise
  • Jane Morrison-Ross, South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Julia Mulloy, SBHA
  • Elaine Murray, Dumfries and Galloway Council
  • Neil Murray, Scottish Forestry
  • Adam, O'Sullivan, SOSE
  • Elizabeth Passey, University of Glasgow
  • Amy Phillips, Transport Scotland
  • Philip Raines, Scottish Government
  • Steve Rogers, Dumfries and Galloway Council
  • Mark Rowley, Scottish Borders Council 
  • Zohaib Salik, Scottish Government
  • Douglas Scott, Scottish Borders Council
  • Gavin Stevenson, Dumfries and Galloway Council
  • John Telfer, Scottish Government
  • Fiona Waldon, Heriot Watt University
  • Paula Ward, VisitScotland
  • Damien Yeates, Skills Development Scotland

Items and actions

Agenda

  • 10:30 to 10:45am: welcome and review of previous outcomes
  • 10:45 to 11:00am: national strategy for economic transformation – SG update
  • 11:00 to11:10am: update from Regional Economic Partnership
  • 11:10 to 11:35am: south of Scotland regional economic strategy
  • 11:35 to 12:30pm: south of Scotland regional economic strategy – delivery plan
  • 12:30 to 12:40pm: comfort break
  • 12:40 to 12:55pm: outcomes
  • 12:55 to 13:00pm: forward look and close

Papers

Papers of the meeting are published separately.

Start of transcript

Kate Forbes: Welcome to all of you on this fine October morning. I don't know if the sun is shining where you are but it's pretty glorious here. So, a fine autumnal morning for a very important meeting which is entirely about supporting the South of Scotland as a region to maximise its potential when it comes to our economy. We've got a packed agenda and a lot of attendees. So I hope we'll have a full and frank discussion of the various points. I think that is what lends it - that's what makes for the best outcomes is being able to have a candid conversation with lots of constructive critiques accompanied by intelligent and practical solutions to some of the challenges that we face.

There have been already some various comments about housekeeping which I won't go into. Please do put your hand up if you want to ask a question when we come to the conversations. I'll be looking at the list of hands on the machine. So the day's structure includes a number of agenda points. I'll be chairing the first few items and then we'll hand over. We'll be looking at the national strategy for economic transformation, an update from the regional economic partnership, the South of Scotland regional economic strategy and importantly because all strategies hang on this, the delivery plan for that.

We will also be live tweeting during the day and there is a Convention hashtag which is @autumnCoSS2021 which you can see there on the screen. So without further ado, the agenda is there before us. I think we should go straight to a review of the previous outcomes. The previous outcomes were included in the papers for today's meeting. So that is in papers one and two. This meeting will also be recorded and transcribed and a link will be circulated prior to the next meeting. But if we could - do we have any slides with the previous outcomes? If not, then I'll just assume that you can all see them in papers one and two and hope there is an agreement on those outcomes.

Now I know that the Scottish Borders Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council had secured a venue of holding an in person event and Borders Council was due to host this meeting. So before we get any further into the agenda, I'd quite like to invite Scottish Borders Council leader Shona Haslam to give some opening remarks on behalf of the regional partners. I think it's absolutely critical that when hosting this meeting, managing this Convention that it truly is a partnership. So I think it's quite important that Shona, as it were, gets the first word to kick off today. So Shona I'll hand over to you if you could unmute and the floor is yours. Thank you.

Shona Haslam: Thank you Cabinet Secretary. Well I'd like to welcome you all to this autumn meeting of the Convention of the South of Scotland. It is unfortunate that we've not been able to meet face to face but I am fervently hoping that the next meeting early next year will be on that basis. Although I think I did say that last time we met as well. So fingers crossed. As you will see from today's agenda we are making a great deal of progress on moving forward our strategic thinking on economic development in the South of Scotland through the completion of the South of Scotland regional economic strategy.

I would really like to thank the working group who has done a huge amount of work in getting this strategy finalised and to the Councils as well for their work on it. It is critical that despite the ongoing economic challenges we face that we make the most of the exciting funding opportunities for economic development and regeneration that are now available to us. We hope this meeting today provides a platform for taking forward our work to the next stage in positively transforming the economy of the South of Scotland. So I'd like to welcome the Cabinet Secretary Kate Forbes to our meeting this morning. I know she had to stand in at the last minute but I'd welcome her to give us an update from the Scottish Government on their work so far. Thank you Cabinet Secretary.

Kate Forbes: Thanks very much Shona, and more than delighted to stand in. The key element that I'd like to update the Convention on is the Scottish Government's COVID recovery strategy. Now as you'll know that has been in train for a number of months. It was one of the commitments made at the election and it's been a great example again of this partnership working where there's been lots of engagement and consultation right across the board.

The COVID recovery strategy, as the name suggests is going to set out collectively how we will ensure that actions at national and local level and indeed of actions of all bodies represented at this Convention are prioritised, coordinated and targeted most effectively to meet the needs of people that have been disproportionally disadvantaged by COVID-19. Now the strategy will be published tomorrow. So this is hot off the press. It's published tomorrow, 5 October, and it follows many, many months of open discussions. So hopefully there will be no huge surprises because we've had discussions involving Scotland's public, private and third sectors to seek their views on Scotland's recovery. There is indeed quite a lot of consensus.

I think all of us are agreed that Scotland needs to emerge from COVID-19 in a more equal, a more inclusive and a more progressive fashion and that people in the communities feel valued. Obviously when it comes to the presentation of this, we're using quite perhaps intangible language, quite political language. But at its heart is ensuring those communities, those demographics that have most been impacted by the pandemic are still able to participate to contribute and to live healthy and secure lives.

Quite clearly that agenda is much bigger than anything government can deliver alone. We cannot deliver the most successful recovery alone and we need to rebuild a stronger society based on a lot of learnings from the last 18 months. During the pandemic we've seen barriers between organisations being dismantled, barriers that perhaps had never been dismantled before and a number of unlikely alliances forming between different organisations to solve very thorny problems because we faced a very, very urgent need. There was an increased willingness and ability to work together because it really mattered. It was truly a case of life and death.

I think the message of the strategy is that we need to bring that same urgency, creativity and flexibility to recovery to address the systemic inequalities that have been made worse by COVID-19. Now during the pandemic, local authorities have been right on the frontline of helping families in need, helping businesses in need. As we emerge it's clear that local authorities are best placed to meet the needs of their local communities when it comes to recovery. Recovery priorities are going to vary by location and local needs. They are going to look different in the centre of Glasgow than they are in some of the towns and villages in the South of Scotland.

We have worked closely with COSLA and SOLACE to engage with them on a regular basis throughout the strategy to make sure that what is being put into the strategy actually makes sense on a local level. Council's individual recovery plans have already signalled thinking and actions to rebuild local economies and to support communities and to focus on priority areas such as more and better jobs, digital inclusion, tackling inequalities and climate change. So there is a lot of read-across already. The purpose of the strategy therefore is not to duplicate work but to try and bring an element of coordination and streamlining our thinking. It will focus on a number of areas that are all linked with helping those that have been most impacted on by COVID.

So, we have I think just a few minutes before we move on to the next agenda item which is the National Strategy for Economic Transformation. I'm going to pause there to see if anybody wants to come in on anything that Shona has said, anything I've said in terms of COVID recovery strategy and anything that you think is pertinent to the outcomes that were agreed at the last meeting. There will of course be more opportunity for a fuller discussion when it comes to economic strategy at the next agenda item. So I'll pause and I don't think there is.

Okay great well I'll take that as an agreement of those first points of discussion, which takes us on to the next agenda item, which specifically relates to the economic strategy, the National Strategy for Economic Transformation, which is a 10 year strategy. This is something that I am leading on in government with the help of Ivan McKee who also joins us this morning. If the COVID recovery strategy feels like a mammoth task which is phenomenally broad with phenomenal depth, then the economic strategy for the next 10 years feels equally mammoth when businesses don't necessarily know what's happening in the next few weeks, let alone in the next 10 years.

So it's been hugely challenging, but I think hugely important. I think it's the first strategy since devolution for the economy which covers that 10 year period and if very few of us could see a pandemic round the corner, five years ago, I wonder how many of us can see where Scotland will be in the next 10 years. If you do have access to a crystal ball then I'd be more than interested in what you can see. But the name in terms of the title, a strategy for economic transformation, is not accidental. The difficulty will be ensuring that the actions and the substance of it backs up the rhetoric of being truly transformational because that's what we need to do.

We have great strengths in Scotland. The fundamentals of the Scottish economy are strong but we also know what some of the structural challenges were pre pandemic and those have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. We want to create - I'm sure we are all agreed that we want to create a society that is thriving across economic, social and environmental dimensions. But at its heart delivers prosperity for all of Scotland's people and all of Scotland's places to ensure that every part of Scotland is both contributing to our economic output and economic activity but is also benefiting from the results of that.

We do continue to face extraordinary challenges and I don't think there's any merit in disregarding or ignoring what some of those challenges are. What we've tried to do during the strategy and Gary will speak to it in more detail just shortly is to really get our heads around what those structural challenges are, what those issues are, rather than just assuming we know what they are, digging deep into the data and doing as much consultation and engagement work as possible. Then ensuring that we have the right policy responses to those challenges. So that we do start to tackle the structural issues with a view to in 10 years' time looking back and being able to say that the actions we took in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic are why the Scottish economy is competing successfully on an international basis. Because that's what we want to do.

It's not about the Highlands competing with the South of Scotland or Glasgow competing with Edinburgh or indeed Scotland competing with England. It is truly about Scotland with its strengths competing on an international basis. I think we can use our recovery as an opportunity to actively shape that future. In so doing, also deal with some of the other things that we're doing, which is about the just transition to net zero, combatting child poverty and making sure that the economy plays its role when it comes to these other dimensions.

So the 10 year economic strategy will hopefully be published over the next few months. We are using the term late Autumn which is quite clearly an elastic political term when - in order to ensure that when it is published it is as informed as possible by the consultation work that we're doing, the engagement work and the data analysis we're doing. We will publish it alongside the new national challenge competition. That's £50 million for projects with the greatest potential to transform Scotland's economy over the next 10 years.

But ultimately the plan I hope will be one that we can all get behind across parties, across society and agreement on what needs to be done to build a sustainable more inclusive and fairer economy in Scotland. Clearly we're not alone in these ambitions. I think all of us on this call is agreed on what the ambitions are when it comes to changing and transforming the Scottish economy. It was great to see such strong alignment between the regional economic strategy for the South of Scotland and our current thinking on the national strategy for economic transformation. It was almost like you'd read our work. We may well stand on the shoulders of giants when we publish our own strategy because you may see a number of ideas that we've nicked. I think it's not - it's not plagiarism, it's just recognising that there's some great work going on when it comes to the South of Scotland regional economic strategy.

But at the heart of both strategies is that similar ambition to be transformational and to be bold. We have got to ensure that it is a national endeavour and it isn't just owned by government. So I want to work directly with each of you to deliver that. The last comment I'll make before handing over to Gary is that no strategy is worth its weight unless it's delivered. Somebody said to me last week, you can draft a great strategy that sits on a shelf or you can deliver a good strategy that actually delivers change. I think that is a helpful reminder on the need for delivery.

So I'll stop talking and I'll hand over to Gary Gillespie who is the Scottish Government's Chief Economist who will take you through the National Strategy for Economic Transformation in a bit more detail and then we will have time for open discussions. So bear that in mind. I'll go looking for some contributors once Gary is finished. Gary, it's all yours.

Gary Gillespie: Okay thank you very much and good morning everyone. So I've got just a few slides which Andrew will load up. What I'll do is I'll just give you a sense of where we are in the process, a little bit about the emerging themes, as Ms Forbes says, very similar actually to the South of Scotland economic strategy. I'll say a little bit about the consultation as well and next steps. So I think - so I should only take maybe five, six minutes just to run through. So, if Andrew, if you just move to the first slide. I'll start with just the initial framing for the document.

So this - I like this slide because it's pictures rather than words but essentially we - as Ms Forbes said, we're on - this is a 10 year strategy for national economic transformation. I suppose in a sense the context for it couldn't be more right if you think about the number of transitions and impacts that the economy is facing at the minute. From COVID recovery which we've just touched on there and the impact COVID recovery has had over the last 18 months and how we live and work and the possibilities that that's brought about. We're obviously dealing post EU exit and there's - obviously there's a lot of

recent press around impacts in terms of shortages and supply chain issues. We've got an imperative to move towards net zero and wider sustainability and that includes nature and biodiversity. We've a strong fair work agenda and we're seeing a change probably in technological use that we haven't seen for a while. Of course we've got long term demographic trends that are still really important for the South of Scotland. They're important across other areas of Scotland as well. So, it feels really imperative that we look at the change.

The initial framing for this document was around the three green circles and I'll come on a little bit more to say where we are now. So our focus is on fair work, jobs, good green new jobs in that context really important. Investing and supporting industries of the future, looking how we can unleash entrepreneurial potential. The entrepreneurial theme is something that's came through really strongly from the advisory council. Not just about entrepreneurs but that entrepreneurial mindset, can do, and I suppose that's reflected in the South of Scotland work as well in terms of how they're doing economic development across the whole region.

Then the third circle is really a strong place based theme both delivered nationally but recognising that we need to be greater than some of our parts. So the contribution from regions is really important. The two cross cutting themes if you look at the other shapes are really about that transition in net zero and biodiversity and the opportunities that - and challenges that provides. But being bold and ambitious in transformation as Ms Forbes has already alighted to. So, I'll - that's the framing and I'll go through quickly now just some of the other slides.

So the advisory council, part of this was taken forward, the strategy was to be advised - was to have input from the advisory council and if you move onto the next slide Andrew I think we've got those. Yeah. So the advisory council was set up, announced at the beginning of July. There's 17 members as part of the council, a mixture from business people, from entrepreneurs, public sector figures, academics et cetera. The council are there both to challenge input critique, but also actually to help us drive forward the advisory council and the work. So the council has met three times and plenary but as I'll say a little bit later, each of the - we're actually getting - the members are actually taking forward work and inputting to work.

We have four subgroups at the minute running. We have Anton Muscatelli chairing a subgroup in innovation and productivity. We have Roz Foyer chairing a subgroup on labour market and skills. We have Jackie Brierton on place particularly focusing on remote and rural and how you drive micro businesses. We have another group looking at entrepreneurship as well. So that's the – that's some of the inputs we're getting from the council members directly and obviously from their own academic and their own networks which they are consulting with as well.

So if you move on again Andrew. Yeah so I think I've probably covered the framing. So I can probably skip. I think the key thing is the bottom bullet really about ensuring we deliver a green economic recovery and that is really central to that part. So if you move on again please?

So I'll maybe just take a second on this. So as Ms Forbes said there's really strong alignment with the South of Scotland both in terms of the ambition, the focus on green recovery, importance of thriving place is really, really central and focus on fairness equality and enhanced wellbeing. I know the six priority themes of the South of Scotland go into a bit more detail around the skills, innovation, culture, thriving and distinct communities. But you'll see when we come onto the emerging priorities from the strategy that there is actually really strong overlap.

So if you go onto the next slide Andrew thanks. So I'll maybe just take a minute now and I'll talk about the emerging strategic priorities that have came out. So we've - so there's five of those there. As I mentioned, the process has been running all summer. You'll see some of the feedback from the consultation shortly. We've been engaging fully. Mr McKee's been engaging with the regional economic partnership, industry leadership group, all of the sectors, businesses. We ran a consultation for over eight weeks with over 260 responses. We've had three advisory council meetings. We've been engaging with COSLA, local authorities, different partners across the piece.

So this is us playing back what's emerging from that feedback and starting to shape into focus. So the first one is wrap around lifelong skill system to equip our population at every stage of life with the skills they need now and in the future. If you think about that in the context of green skills, lifelong learning and how we equip people through all of their life to be able to participate in the economy, it's a really strong - and there's a strong obviously demographics team within there as well because we're under pressure for young people in different parts - or labour for different parts of the economy.

The second emerging theme, not surprisingly, is around the business base but a really strong emphasis on entrepreneurship, a focus on being a really strong business environment for people to start and grow businesses. But also recognising that we have to do more in the space of encouraging business to start up and thrive in Scotland. As I mentioned the entrepreneurial subgroup Mark Logan is leading a piece of work in that looking at across how we can help develop particularly entrepreneurship and that entrepreneurial mindset across our business base and wider. So that's the second theme.

The third theme is really - it's the ballpark is about productivity but it's actually a place based theme as well because it's recognising that to be - as Ms Forbes says, it's not Scotland internationally we have to be competitive and to do that we have to be competitive across all of Scotland. There's a really strong place theme here. In the subgroup that Jackie Brierton is looking, we're really looking at recognising that obviously Scotland has different place based opportunities. There's different opportunities and challenges across Scotland and it's actually - as the South of Scotland I think economic development shows, there's no one plan fits all. There's a recognition of local needs, local circumstances and local opportunities.

So it's that - it's how you maximise that across Scotland and link both the local, national - local ,regional, national together through the strategy. So that's very important. I mentioned also Anton Muscatelli is leading a group on innovation and productivity which is looking at how we can get more from our higher education research where we're world class leading. But also through how we can drive productivity within our business base.

The fourth objective is really the industries of the future and how we maximise the opportunities from low carbon, from the just transition as we move from energy transition building up our supply chains and the opportunities that will come. It sets specifically about a rebalancing of the economy towards those targets and in line with our commitments to net zero. The fifth objective again Ms Forbes has touched on that and it relates - also follows on from the COVID Recovery Strategy which is really about addressing the structural inequalities that are in the economy and how that through the lens of our economic transformation we can improve outcomes for people in places across Scotland and break down those barriers.

So a really strong equality theme, which follows on really from the 2015 economic strategy which brought together both the narrative around competitiveness and addressing inequality and the inclusive growth work which I know fed into a lot of the thinking in the South of Scotland about that need to kind of look at the equity alongside economic performance. So that's really - I suppose in a sense that's the key - that's where we are in terms of the immediate strategic priorities. It'll be really interesting to get your feedback on those. As I said already I think there's a really strong alignment with the South of Scotland emerging themes as well.

I think I've got a couple more slides which I'll quickly go through and then we'll take questions. If you move to the next one Andrew. So Ms Forbes mentioned analysis. So not surprisingly we've been looking again - Mr McKee in particular has been driving a lot of the work around analysis. So we've been looking back over our performance, over the last two decades in terms of growth productivity, comparing ourselves internationally with countries that have changed. Looking at the different trends in sectors, engaging with sectors and asking them where do you think you'll be in 2030? What are the key blockers or enablers that you need to make the transformation required in line with both the immediate challenges but moving towards net zero?

So a lot of analysis, a lot of understanding of trends and separately we'll publish all of the analysis support and the strategy at the end. So just to say it's kind of baked in all the way through the process and it's been really good for challenging both our assumptions and actually really understanding the issues.

So if you go onto the next one Andrew please. So - sorry that's a busy slide. This is just the stakeholder engagement. So we ran a consultation exercise. Over 260 responses from across the private public sector and we're distilling the key themes at the moment into challenges, opportunities, priorities and ideas to transform the economy. So really wide ranging responses and really helpful responses as well. So I'll say a little bit more about that in the next slide.

Kate Forbes: Gary, can I just say you've probably got about a minute left and then we'll need to finish this item, thanks.

Gary Gillespie: Yeah so - so anyway you can kind of see some of the challenges that came up around issues from the wider public sector, around challenges for Scotland, also opportunities, net zero, circular economy etcetera. So I think that probably - I was just wanting to give a sense of that sharing the response and I think the final slide is - if you just click on - so next steps we are - as the Cabinet Secretary said, we are working to a late autumn publication and bringing this altogether into an action delivery plan. So I'll stop there Ms Forbes. Thanks.

Ms Forbes: No problem. Thanks very much Gary. Can I suggest actually because these three agenda items are largely all related to the same points around economic plans that we just progress with the next two agenda items leaving maximum time after Russell Griggs' presentation for a comprehensive conversation on all points if that would suit everybody. Which, if that's okay, or Chair's prerogative, I can see some nodding heads, so I'll take that as a sign that I can proceed.

So that takes us onto the next item where I know that at last Convention Councillor Rowley reported on the progress made in establishing the Regional Economic Partnership and its ambition to develop the South of Scotland's first regional economic strategy. I know that the partnership has now successfully published its strategy and rightfully that's going to be the main focus of our discussion. So I believe that the Councillors Rowley and Davidson are going to begin by updating us on progress to date and how the regional economic partnership has worked together to reach that stage. I think I'm going to introduce Councillor Rowley to speak first from the Scottish Borders Council and then Councillor Davidson from Dumfries and Galloway. So Councillor Rowley if you could unmute. The floor is yours. Thank you.

Mark Rowley: Thank you very much Cabinet Secretary and thank you for your warm words of introduction earlier. I'd like to welcome virtually all of the partners we've got from national agencies to the Scottish Borders and the South of Scotland today. I'm very sorry you couldn't make it in person. Hopefully next time you will. In the meantime Shona and I and probably some others are shamelessly flaunting the great tapestry of Scotland which is behind me and I hope you'll take an opportunity to come down to Galashiels and see that soon.

What I hope you will hear when you look at the strategy and read it and hear more about it is the voice of the people, the communities, the organisations, the enterprises, hundreds of young people and many, many people across the South of Scotland. I'm not competitive of course but we had over 1300 consultation responses to our strategy. So we absolutely hope that it speaks completely of the voice of the South of Scotland and I hope you will hear that throughout the strategy.

Obviously I welcome the opportunity to continue to build the relationship between the South of Scotland and the Convention and the regional economic partnership of which I'm the current Chair. You'll be aware there are 31 members of that partnership. They come from the community. They come from further and higher education. They come from business. They come from enterprise both private and third sector and they come from both of the Councils and our colleagues on Team South of Scotland with whom we work closely at South of Scotland Enterprise.

They have great strength. They have great diversity and I think they have shown incredible commitment and enthusiasm right across the region, coast to coast. The chair of the REP obviously rotates between the two councils. I currently have a - I'll shortly be handing it over to my council - to my colleague D and G Councillor Rob Davidson who will speak in a moment.

The paper before you which I don't need to go into detail updates you on significant progress since we last met. We clearly, as with the Scottish Government strategy wanted to take advantage of the moment. We're in unprecedented times and it's absolutely vital that we do and I think it's really encouraging that already in the brief presentation we've had today, and in Ms Forbes' comments, there are significant similarities coming through between the two strategies.

We would absolutely say that the South of Scotland is absolutely the best place to start or grow a business or to come and build your life and work elsewhere. We absolutely want to take advantage of any funding opportunities that come whether from north of us in Holyrood or south of us in Westminster. We believe that this strategy absolutely puts us in the best position to do that.

Developing the strategy, the partnership emphasises the need for a strategy to bring a really fresh and place based response circumstances that the South of Scotland has found itself in, historically and also has stepped into over the last eighteen months with the challenges of COVID. We believe we've absolutely listened to all of the voices that matter across the South of Scotland and that's why we hope and we're convinced that this strategy absolutely has a real sense of ownership and pride. That's been delivered through the most incredible and collaborative approach. This isn't a strategy that's been delivered by officers across the various organisations and then ticked off by members of the partnership. It's been incredibly collaborative right the way through.

Because of COVID, we've had to work online. That's meant we could meet more often. It meant more of us could meet. It meant many of us were not spending half of our lives trying to get to a meeting in Moffat which was mutually inconvenient for absolutely everybody. So it's actually meant that we've had a great deal more engagement in this than we probably would have done if we'd been doing this in conventional means. There are thousands, probably tens of thousands of hours of work and commitment that have gone into this. Both from our consultancy worked incredibly well especially in the start, the drawing out, the thoughts of people and organisation across the South of Scotland.

The officers of the two councils in South of Scotland for whom I want to single out particular praise. They worked incredibly, incredibly hard. I think the strategy is a tribute to them as well as the members of the partnership. I also want to pay tribute to the huge amount of consultation that's gone into this. We didn't just send it out for consultation. We had a number of standing groups. So our colleagues in the home sector, our registered social landlord partners had their own groups that fed back, councillors had their own groups that fed back, other interest groups, business third sector had their own interest groups that fed back. So there are literally many thousands of conversations which feature in the strategy that you have.

We believe we've done it very quickly. We believe we've done lots of workshops which have drawn everyone in and we believe that sending it back out for consultation when we had an almost completed strategy was well worth it. Remarkably when we sent it out for re-consultation we had relatively few. I think we still had more responses than the government consultation but - not being competitive, but we think that that is an indication that actually in the strategy, we have got it right and that's certainly the feedback we're getting. I hope that that is the feedback we're going to get later from national agencies and Ministers on the call.

The strategy is formally endorsed by both councils and it's endorsed by the Board of South of Scotland Enterprise and we hope that our other partners will take it through their own governance processes. We also hope that many organisations will signal their buy-in to the strategy in different ways. As you've said Ms Forbes, it was launched last Wednesday. It's now in the public domain. We hope partners will help us share it far and wide and I absolutely commend it to you. But I'm now going to hand over to my colleague at Dumfries and Galloway, Councillor Rob Davidson who'll outline some of the next steps.

Thank you.

Rob Davidson: Thanks very much Mark. Good morning colleagues. Mark has covered the REP's work on the production of the strategy and I'd also like to pay tribute to the huge amount of work that the REP and all of those members of the public, communities, third sector, business and other local and national partners have contributed to the consultations on the strategy. I'm certain that those efforts have ensured that it's a strategy that's genuinely for and by the South of Scotland.

Our focus is now on the development of the three year delivery plan and it's our intention that is reviewed on at last an annual basis. We hope that you will hear more about this later on in the agenda. The REP is also now working on a measurement framework for the strategy. This focuses on measuring progress towards the strategy's aims and ambitions and it also embraces environmental and social measures as well as economic measures. Finally the REP has recognised that inclusive growth and equality is at the heart of the development of the South of Scotland regional economic development strategy.

The development of the strategy has been informed by an integrated impact assessment subgroup of the REP which has recommended changes and those were incorporated into the final strategy document. These arrangements will continue to be kept in place by the REP so that we can ensure that inclusion and equalities are taken account of in both the implementation in delivery plan and in future reviews of the strategy itself.

So with that, I'm turning to the recommendations where Convention is invited to consider the paper, to note the contents of the paper and the considerable time and efforts by the REP, together with significant community and stakeholder engagement that's gone into the production of the South of Scotland regional economic strategy. And welcome the effective partnership arrangements that have enabled the regional wide strategy to be developed reflecting local ambitions and opportunities in communities. With that, thank you very much Chair and back to yourself.

Kate Forbes: Thank you both for that and considering competition is the backbone of a thriving economy, I'm delighted to see your competitive spirit Mark and good to hear that comprehensive overview. Now I think because there is a paper, I will just pause for comment here if anybody has got any comments on the paper or on what has been said. Otherwise I'm going to assume that we are all largely agreed. Like I say, we can have a comprehensive conversation after Russell. I don't see any hands. So, thank you Mark and Rob for that, which brings us then on to the next agenda item, which is to invite Russell Griggs, Chair of the South of Scotland Enterprise to introduce the paper. We've got paper four and to pass some opening remarks. Then we'll take advantage of some time to bring in anybody who wants to comment on any of the three agenda items. Russell, the floor is yours, thanks.

Russel Griggs: Thank you Cabinet Secretary and also thank you for those kind words earlier on about the strategy. We are delighted that we are all moving in the same direction. Perhaps standing together rather than standing on each other's shoulders which can be tricky at times will provide that solid strength to ensure we all get to where we want to be. Helping each other and recognising that together we are much stronger. Being giants though is what we all need to be.

I'm delighted though to introduce and you give you an overview of the first ever regional economic strategy for the South of Scotland which sets out all of our ambitions for the region. It's launch marks an important milestone for our region and its people. So it's another huge and positive step forward in this new and exciting chapter for the South of Scotland. It builds as others have said on the establishment of South of Scotland Enterprise and our regional economic partnership as well as the investment in the region to the two [unclear] that the region is currently part of.

As you have heard, we have arrived at our strategy following extensive engagement with those who lived worked and operated across the region. As well as the 1400 people that Mark talked about, critically almost all of those were voices from our young people which is key to me and others as ultimately it is them that the strategy seeks to create an even better future for. Listening and reflecting on what people want for the south has been core to the way we work since the South of Scotland economic partnership was first established four years ago as we worked to establish South of Scotland Enterprise.

So listening to what people say remains key as we look to us all creating the region we want to see. That approach has acted as well to help ground the strategy here in the South. That ensures it is anchored and what the people, businesses, groups and organisations have told us matters most to them and core values they understand, namely shared prosperity, making the most of our potential, thinking and acting differently and pioneering environmental responsibility. It is a strategy which matters because it unites us all around a shared vision of where we, the people of the South of Scotland want to be in 10 years and what is needed to get us all there.

To be a green fair and flourishing region which is bold and focused on what we all desire. It provides us with a guiding light or a southern star for us all to aim towards. It has been widely welcomed as it is written in words that the population of the South of Scotland understand and can empathise with. In all strategies that I've been involved in over the years, this is one not just for me, but for many others has felt the most personal. There has even been the odd tear shed as we felt that sense of belonging to what it was we were creating.

The direction it provides will enable us to work together, much more closely, more efficiently and thus deliver more. Better understand what's needed of us by the people we serve, better coordinate our talent, our capacity and resources and be much more asserted proactive and above all confident in driving the transformation that we all want to see. It will also enable us positive - sorry it will also enable us to positively influence other plans which follow ensuring that they reflect and are responsive to the economic ambitions we have all set ourselves. Our future economic direction is now clear.

For each element of our vision we define outcomes including more people living, working in and visiting our region. Greater equality of opportunity for all, a stronger outward facing regional identity, growing vibrant and connected places and a green economy leader looked on by others as having piloted and pioneered new approaches to land use, natural capital and energy. It's a strategy we thoroughly believe is distinct to and of the South as it was created by the South. I am confident that our key traits will resonate with you for being of and by the South.

It focuses - goes beyond those things found in a traditional economic strategy as we recognise and act upon what we know matters most to our region. Including fair and meaningful work, protecting and enhancing and harnessing and enjoying our abundant natural capital, all our cultural and heritage assets and our vibrant arts sporting and festival backdrop. Building wealth which benefits the local economy, our community is as important as its people. Empowering our communities and reducing poverty and deprivation.

While we set out our strategy, the challenges we must confront to realise our vision many of which will be familiar to you, we have taken the opportunity to highlight what there is much about to be optimistic already. Examples include post COVID, the quality of life on offer in the south is more - is more attractive and in demand than ever before. We are well positioned to be a test bed on many fronts including natural capital. We have a strong third sector and a wealth of experience and knowledge within our resonate retirees. Also establishment of things like the South of Scotland destination lines, the Scotland starts here brand and greater opportunity than ever before through hopefully the cite of culture bid that are enabling us to showcase and raise the profile of the south.

To realise our vision, grasp the opportunities and respond to our challenges, we have developed a strategic framework at the core of the strategy to drive actions and investments in the future. It has six interlinked themes.

Theme one, skills and ambitious people with priorities that enable us to access them with skills, training and employment we need. Attracting and then training more people with a range of ambition and knowledge, preparing for the future of work and building lifelong learning and opportunity into all we do.

Theme two, innovative and enterprising with priorities that embrace research and innovation in all its forms, enhancing business support services, activating networks and business interaction and creating flexible and accessible work spaces.

Rewarding and fair work, with priorities that grow and diversify our economy, attract and secure new investment, improve productivity and competitiveness and secure and improve fair working condition and wages for everyone.

Theme four, cultural and creative excellence with priorities that celebrate and enable creativity, champion a regional identity. Then to invest in a business or economy and boost culture and inherited assets.

Theme five green and sustainable economy with priorities that harness and enhance our natural capital, seize the opportunities of a just transition to net zero and through the efficiency of homes and buildings and support community wealth building and growing regional supply chains.

Finally theme six, thriving and distinctive communities with priorities that revitalise towns and rural communities, create and sustain high quality affordable homes, enhance digital and transport connections and accelerate and empower communities with third sector and social enterprises. We are confident that the framework aligns strongly as we've said with the emerging themes from your own national strategy and that such our efforts in the south as we take action to implement a strategy will ensure we are playing our part in contributing to realise national ambitions too.

We need to ensure that in that national framework, that there is still a space for regions like ours to identify our strengths and opportunities. So my ask of the Convention is my specific ask today is that the Convention of the South of Scotland endorses the strategy and that we all commit to taking the collective action we need to deliver on the ambitions for the region which this strategy defines and I commend it to you all. Thank you Cabinet Secretary.

Kate Forbes: Thank you so much Russell. So we have three items for discussion and I'll be looking for hands up. We're looking for the Convention to agree what Russell Griggs has just outlined in the paper. We're looking for Convention to agree what Mark and Rob outlined in their paper and we're looking for any feedback on the national strategy. If you can cast your minds back, the two items most important probably in the national one is the need for productivity to increase in every region. So it's not national increase at the expense of some areas. And an entrepreneurial mindset which perhaps the South of Scotland displays more than any other part of Scotland. Don't tell my Highland constituents I just said that. So hands up, even if it's just to say you whole heartedly agree with what you have seen. I see a hand going up. So I will invite - I'll invite Morag McNeill please to come in followed by Shona. Morag.

Morag McNeil: Thank you very much. As - I'm here in my capacity as Chair of Heriot Watt University but I also wear another hat which is as Vice Chair of Social Investment Scotland. I was quite interested and surprised I suppose that in terms of the advisory council for the national strategy, that there wasn't what I could see as real representation from the third sector in that. Where the third sector is clearly a driver for many of the priorities including entrepreneurship, upskilling, lifelong learning and fair prosperity. I'm really pleased to see that we have that representation for the regional strategy. But I was just interested why it wasn't there in the advisory council for the national strategy.

Kate Forbes: Thanks very much Morag. We have extensively engaged beyond the advisory council. So the advisory - you're always going to face the challenge of keeping it small enough and lean enough to mean you can actually have conversations. Realising that you can't have every sector, organisation represented on it. But we have more than compensated for that by ensuring

extensive engagement. The consultation which Gary said had about - over 200 responses, is just one very small part of the consultation. We've been sitting down face to face with the third sector and there's also thematic groups.

So there's quite an infrastructure which does take into account third sector organisations. Happy to share more detail with you on that but point taken, there's a number of different areas, sectors, demographics that have criticised the advisory council for not representing their interests in an advisory council you are trying to manage both. So happy to share some more information with you on that. I'll go to Shona and ask if you could mute yourself once you're finished. Shona.

Shona Haslam: Thank you Kate, and yeah I picked up on that as well Morag and also in terms of social enterprise as well. I know that that's kind of encapsulated within third sector but social enterprise is such a massive contributor to our economy and economic growth, I think that's also important.

The thing I wanted to mention though was just to congratulate the team on the involvement of young people within the economic strategy development. We have a big issue in the South of Scotland in terms of demographic in an aging population. To have young people involved in this strategy for economic growth has been really, really important, encouraging them to live work and play in the South of Scotland I think has been really important.

Also the opportunities that COVID brings for that in terms of a lot more home working and people can work remotely a lot easier. So I just wanted to commend the team on their involvement of young people within the strategy. So thank you for that.

Kate Forbes: Thanks very much Shona. Any other comments? We've got about five minutes left if any other - comments on anything. No? Can I look to some nodding heads then to agree the objectives in each of the papers? I see somebody has just put their hand up. So I will - no? Nobody has put their hand up. Okay I take that as an agreement of the papers. Wonderful. Great. Okay well we've made back some time and it is now my delight to hand over to Ivan McKee and Mairi Gougeon to lead the next part, which is perhaps the most important part of all, which is the delivery plan. So Ivan and Marie.

Mairi Gougeon: Thanks very much for that Kate. Just to follow on from thediscussion there, just to say thank you to Russell Griggs for articulating the strategic vision and the drive captured in the first regional economic strategy for the South of Scotland. I think what struck me listening to that was just what we were talking about there, the importance of the collaboration, the inclusivity of this. Even the point that you'd made there about the language that was used and it was written in a way that people understand which I think is really critical.

So by addressing the region's challenges as well as opportunities, it really offers a challenging but energising vision. So about being green fair and flourishing by 2031. I'm sure that this is a vision that we can all endorse and support and of course we support the overall aim for the strategy to be transformational which mirrors the ambition of our national strategy for economic transformation. Now the pandemic which we're all now beginning to emerge from has emphasised the value of people and organisations working together to achieve a shared goal and really focused our thinking on how in recovering from the pandemic we can improve economic prosperity in a fair way which benefits every group in our society as well as protecting and safeguarding an environment for future generations.

The strategy's interlinked themes and priorities establish a clear framework for agencies and organisations to work together towards the shared goal of driving that inclusive economic growth and maximising the economic potential in the South of Scotland and its contribution to our national vision. But I think this - it was Kate you made this point earlier as well, about the success of the strategy. Ultimately that's judged by how well we collectively deliver on the aspirations that it sets out. The final paper of the day provides us with an update on the work underway to develop a delivery plan which will sit alongside the strategy and which will define the what and the how in terms of specific opportunities and actions.

The paper will be introduced by Shona and Elaine Murray from - so Shona from Scottish Borders and Elaine Murray from Dumfries and Galloway Council. After that I look forward to the - another stimulating conversation and that will be guided by Ivan McKee. So I will hand over to Elaine and Shona.

Elaine Murray: Thank you Cabinet Secretary and good morning everyone. When we first met at the Convention of the South of Scotland, we made a commitment to deliver our collective ambition for the South of Scotland. Today we are discussing the opportunities the new strategy provides to set that ambition. In the South of Scotland, we are proud of our bold new economic strategy but collective action, alignment of activity and clarity of purpose will be key to its success and vital to the future prosperity of the South of Scotland.

So now we want to hear from our national agencies how they can ensure that the ambition and vision in the strategy will become a reality within their own plans, and to hear how they will work with local partners on the delivery of the strategy for the South of Scotland. We should also today confirm the commitment of the Convention to look for future opportunities for action that can contribute to the delivery of the ambition for the region and look to future meetings of the Convention to consider these because this is just the beginning. This is a living strategy, not a document, which will sit on a shelf. But it will evolve and develop over the years and we are looking forward to that process. I'll now hand over to my colleague Shona Haslam from Scottish Borders Council.

Shona Haslam: Thank you Elaine. The Convention gives us a fantastic opportunity to influence and work with national partners to contribute to the South of Scotland economic ambitions and is greatly valued by all of us. This gathering is crucial to developing a consistent understanding of need and alignment of activity in the South of Scotland with the region's own ambitions for its long term economic and social recovery. It is important therefore that we take that opportunity through Convention to understand the contribution and future opportunities from national agencies to help deliver that strategy.

The Convention also provides a route to have constructive conversations on how our regional needs and ambitions can influence and support national policy and programs and reflect rural development opportunities. If we are jointing successful, the south contribution to Scotland's economic transformation will grow. Thank you colleagues.

Ivan McKee: Thank you very much for that. I'm delighted to be here this morning. So thanks very much for the invitation. I think we now move on to I think what's probably the most important part. The vision statement and the strategy has been outlined and pays testament to the amount of work that's gone into that and the amount of engagement that's happened as part of that process. But of course the strategy is nothing unless it is taken forward with the delivery plan and is measured and monitored and we achieve what's required as a consequence and an outcome from that. So I think this is absolutely the most important part where the rubber hits the road.

So very keen to hear back from the agencies in terms of how they see their role in taking forward the delivery plan and pulling that together and executing on it. Obviously with one eye on the national strategy, very keen to understand in more specific details where South of Scotland sees its opportunities to compete on that global stage and how the national strategy and the national agencies can take that forward to international audiences and attract the investment business and the opportunities into the South of Scotland.

So I think what I'll do. I've got a list of agencies that are going to contribute. I think we want to keep that to three minutes each so we make sure we get through everybody in the time and allow some time for a discussion following on from that. So without further ado, I'd like to hand over to SDS and I think Damien is going to talk us through SDS' input.

Damien Yeates: Cabinet Secretary thanks very much for the opportunity to speak. I just want to endorse the economic plan. The timing is impeccable in terms of the post COVID opportunities but the alignment within the national strategy for economic transformation and the authentic nature of the plan I think really resonates well with what's required to a very locally responsive approach. So from an SDS perspective we endorse the plan and we will work very, very tirelessly to ensure that programs and funding that we have wrap around that local responsiveness.

So in respect of the overall plan, I think it puts people - crucially people and skills at the heart of the plan. It puts green growth and transformation impact of digital at the heart of the plan and it sets out a really ambitious program for growth which will hopefully deliver on the wellbeing and inclusive benefits for everybody. We've had a wonderful opportunity to be involved. We've been fully engaged through the education and skills strategic coordination group. We've been able to build on what was the regional skills investment plan before.

So Cabinet Secretary, going forward we've put our shoulders to the wheel in terms of ensuring that we've got the evidence and the outcomes that will drive the future investment and skills. I think it's worth recognising that we're sitting in a really difficult environment in terms of funding and every pound of investment has to deliver against this regional plan. We need to really look ahead in the sense of Gary's signal that lifelong learning and the near 153,000 workers working in the region, the requirement for them to upskill and re-skill on a constant basis. So within a very tight funding envelope we're seeing increasing demands both for academic pathways, work base pathways, rapid re-training for local workers, but also that upskilling of the 153,000 workers in the economy at the minute.

Crucially we want more of the 15,000 young people who are in schools - secondary schools across the region to anchor themselves in the region and contribute to the future economy. So in terms of responsiveness, apprenticeships we're already on the ground looking at innovations, soon to announce some really interesting innovations to ensure microbusinesses can benefit from apprenticeships. We're also live in the ground now working with partners on the responsiveness to what our crucial and acute skills shortage is in respect of some of the key sectors.

But I think importantly we're keeping an eye to those underlying challenges around the working age population. Over the last 10 years, the working age population shrank by six per cent. Out to 2043 the working age population is projected to work - or to fall by a further 12.5 per cent and so from that point of view, it's really, really important that we mobilise around attracting more working age families to come to the region, to drive the economy and that we work very closely and listen to young people and put in place the right type of investment and skills provision that will anchor them around the economy.

So a big congratulations to all the partners. Thanks very much for the opportunity to be involved. I can give you a guarantee that SDS will do everything that we can to ensure that the authentic nature of this plan is delivered with local responsive solutions.

Ivan McKee: Thank you very much Damien. I'm recognising the absolutely core role of skills as part of this plan. In a similar vein can I now hand over to Mike Cantlay from Scottish Funding Council.

Mike Cantlay: Yes okay thank you. Well I'm wearing two hats and I've asked Robbie Kernahan, Director at NatureScot to do the other half which will come up a little later. So on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council, it's great to see the strategy identifying skilled and ambitious people as its first theme. This theme talks to the heart of SFC's mission and yes what we do isn't based in institutions but what we're ultimately investing in is skilled and ambitious people. Our colleges and universities in the South of Scotland already play and will continue to play a critical role in ensuring that they support both learners and employers by addressing skills gaps and shortages, through provision of upskilling and reskilling opportunities as Damien has just mentioned.

I've talked at previous Conventions about the SFC review furtherance and sustainability and ministers will reply to the review in just the next few weeks. But a significant proposal is that we will lead a small number of tertiary provision path finders where we can build on the strong foundations of existing partnerships to secure more coherent provision that meets the needs of learners and employers and whilst balancing of course regional and national needs.

So looking towards these I've recently myself had the pleasure of visiting the Dumfries and Galloway College Board and just last week the Crichton campus leadership group. So SFC's focus is very much on the South of Scotland as we look forward to working closely with regions, colleges, universities, local partners, employers and our government colleagues at SDS and of course the Enterprise agency. With COP only a few weeks away, it goes without saying that there will be synergies between our own strategy in the green and sustainable economy theme. Universities and colleges are hugely important institutions, vital to the achievement of the green recovery in achieving a just transition.

So our review recognises the need for both the development of new green jobs and new companies and we intend to centre our knowledge exchange and innovation support on the top priorities of a green recovery, wellbeing economy and just transition to a net zero carbon society. Of course given our footprint in the innovation ecosystem, SFC sees strong synergies with the innovative and enterprising theme in the strategy, both colleges and universities directly support companies in the public sector with expertise, unique facilities and specialised training to enable innovation and encourage investments. We've set out a number of recommendations in our review that will bring greater coherence to our investments and the innovation landscape. We look forward to working with institutions and partners in the South of Scotland to implement those recommendations.

Just finally as anchor institutions in the regional economies, colleges and universities have a fundamental role to play in supporting thriving and distinct communities. A key element of this is the property that our institutions occupy and we will publish our medium term college of states strategy in the coming months. Of course we are grateful to the investment from South of Scotland Economic Partnership in the new learning and skills hub at - hubs I should say at both regional colleges. One of its early and significant investments underlying the importance of education in driving economic growth. So there's plenty more but I think these are the key elements from Scottish Funding Council for now.

Ivan McKee: Thank you very much Mike. I'd now like ask Visit Scotland, Rob Dickson to give us a perspective. Clearly tourism sector is a sector I have responsibility for, it's hugely important to the South of Scotland. So Rob.

Rob Dickson: Thank you Minister. Good morning everyone. It's great to have this opportunity to set out Visit Scotland's commitment in the South of Scotland and of course it's not a new commitment. We've worked with South of Scotland Economic Partnership and subsequently SOSE. We've worked with colleagues to develop the new South of Scotland Destination Alliance and we believe that its arrival is a critical strategic development for the south. That destination marketing organisation is a new partner for us and along with the councils and agency I think we're more confident than ever that we can make a significant difference to the tourism landscape in the south.

The intent that the regional economic strategy should shape the future economic direction in the South of Scotland by tackling the key issues and challenges to make the most of the opportunities in the south. I think focus on the long term outcomes with a rolling delivery plan is a very, very strong proposition, one that we at Visit Scotland are entirely supportive of. We think it's a helpful and sensible approach. Given that we already have a regional structure and the Regional Leadership Director Paula Ward is on the call, we've been able to work very closely within team South of Scotland to develop the strategy, to develop our commitment to the strategy and the support for the delivery plan.

Perhaps what's my own favourite sentence of the document and I should probably declare some self-interest has arisen to the south, but the strategy challenges us all to be more confident about the future, to aim higher, to be more open to change, building on what we know makes the South of Scotland special and unique. We at Visit Scotland will do everything we can to respond to that pretty stern challenge that's provided within the strategy.

It follows that our commitment is therefore wide ranging. It covers contributions in respect of each theme within the strategy. It amounts to over 20 strategic actions and many, many more detailed local actions. I think by way of illustration, there are four strategic commitments worth highlighting from Visit Scotland this morning. The first is our commitment to the development of a responsible tourism, development of marketing strategy owned by the new South of Scotland Destination Alliance but integrated with our own international and national marketing approach. That will require genuine collaborative effort in its production. But it will maximise the opportunity for the south in all aspects of our marketing and we're very confident it'll make a difference to all tourism businesses in the south.

Linked to that new strategy will be the provision of industry advice and support to tourism and businesses in the south that's designed to improve their digital offer to build on the marketing strategy and ensure there's a direct link for each individual business. That advice and support will flow from our consumer insight program and it'll create ongoing content marketing opportunities through our owned and paid campaigns. So South of Scotland businesses will be part of a series of films they will feature within them the benefit of the strategy to businesses will not be left to chance. It'll be planned in from the outset.

We also want to use our resources to identify and develop new strategic opportunities. By way of an early example, we're a strategic partner in the development, the new long distance cycle challenge route, Scotland starts here coast to coast. That should launch next year and go from Portpatrick to Eyemouth, an exciting new opportunity and innovation. Finally, there's the opportunity presented to drive stronger returns from new openings, festivals, events. Of course the cycling world championships in 2023 is probably currently the highest profile opportunity. But more can and will be made for example of Scotland's UNESCO trail which will be launched next week in which Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere feature.

This year alone, the South has opened and developed the Trimontium Museum, Dark Art Distillery, Great Tapestry of Scotland, Dark Planetarium, Galloway Hoard, the Enduro World Series in Innerleithen just this past weekend and Raiders Gravel in short. There's much to work with and much more that'll be supported through our national and regional resources. I hope that gives a flavour of what our contribution will be. It's clearly rooted in the south but linked explicitly to our shared regional and national objectives. I'm very happy to answer any questions that might be or points that might be - although if they are difficult I may plead a new starter's exemption and ask Paula to help me out. Thanks very much Minister.

Ivan McKee: Thank you very much Rob, and rarely a week goes by and I don't learn of another asset that the South of Scotland has to offer in the tourism sector, which is hugely encouraging, not only to attract tourists but also to attract people to come and live and work and study in the region as well. I want to hand over to Adrian Gillespie from Scottish Enterprise now recognising of course that as a national agency SE also has a significant role to play in the delivery of the regional strategy. Adrian.

Adrian Gillespie: Thank you very much Minister and good morning everyone. I should start by introducing myself as I've just joined Scottish Enterprise recently and it's a great pleasure to be part of the Convention and to be working with you all. I look forward to working with you very closely over the years ahead. Just to start by adding my very strong endorsement to the regional strategy. In terms of your context of national economic transformation I think if there's - to say will be critical, will be driving up participation in the economy. I don't say that in the economic definition of the word but just in terms of engagement of everybody in the success and the future of the economy and for people within companies to be able to use their talent, their skills and for that participation to be strongly encouraged.

I think that the process that's been followed, the very participative engaged process that's been followed, well actually have gone a long way to just driving up that enthusiasm and participation for the economic future. So I think that's been a very important piece of work that I think we can take lessons from around the country. Scottish Enterprise has been a very active and enthusiastic member of the regional economic partnership and whilst recognising the South of Scotland's lead role in terms of developing the economy here, we will be a very supportive and strong partner.

I had a number of meetings just in the first few weeks I've been back at Scottish Enterprise with Jane and Russel. They've been getting me back up to speed and I've got a really strong sense of - a very strong partnership working between Scottish Enterprise, South of Scotland Enterprise and indeed Highlands and Islands Enterprise. So I think we start in a very good enthusiastic place.

A few keys areas which I think Scottish Enterprise can really do to support the development of the strategy. Under the innovation and entrepreneurship theme, I think there's a number of connections that we can make into other parts of Scotland and to the economy that can help to join up some of the innovation and entrepreneurship systems across the country and get the mutual benefit and learning from those really healthy partnerships that have grown up across the country. In terms of the national programs in areas like the journey to net zero and areas like health and health technologies and in areas like

manufacturing I think there's a lot of again shared insight learning and programs that we can work very successfully together on.

In the rewarding and fair work scheme, we're working very closely in terms of inwards investment working with South of Scotland Enterprise to make sure that we've got a very clear joined up approach to inward investment for the south and work very closely to deliver that. So I'm really enthusiasm about that and looking forward to take that work forward. Also networks and contacts that we have throughout the world for example through the GlobalScot network I think could be another network that can really get behind the strategy.

I think in particular the journey to net zero and the economic opportunities that exist there, a lot of activity going on there, a lot of support that we can bring through the - for example the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service and connections into the new National Manufacturing Institute of Scotland for example that could be very beneficial. Finally in terms of key themes, provision of business support, there's a lot of work that's going into that at the moment and Scottish Enterprise is leading through the business support partnership and working with all partners to make sure we've got really clear, very well defined and very easy to access support mechanisms to allow businesses to be supported and to get their journey through growth to be clearly and effectively supported.

So again, working very closely with South of Scotland and partners in terms of refining and making that system much more effective and joined up. So many opportunities I think that are immediate. Many will grow over the months and years ahead. But I think the key message is just how enthusiastic we are to really get behind the strategy and the partnership and to play our full role in delivering in it, Minister, thank you.

Ivan McKee: Thank you very much Adrian. It really gives clarity as to how SC and SDI on international stage can engage. I think it's really important in the regional as well as the national strategies to be - we don't have to be good at everything but what we are good at, we need to be genuinely able to compete on a global stage on it and SC and SDI gives the region the opportunity to move on to that global stage. Handing over now to Alison Irvine from Transport Scotland clearly connectivity hugely important to the success of the south and also to have met net zero aspirations. Alison.

Alison Irvine: Thanks Minister and a good morning everyone. So I just want to start by echoing many of the comments that have already been made this morning about welcoming the regional strategy and I think it's fairly obvious that the regional characteristics and strengths come through in that strategy which is no mean feat. Unsurprisingly also welcome the recognition of the role of transport and so particularly in theme six for thriving and distinct communities. Transport is obviously the way in which that kind of physical connectivity be providing people access to jobs, services, bringing tourists and business into this - into the area, which is fundamentally important. It's really important that that speaks to the heart of the priorities and outcomes in our national transport strategy. That’s around reducing inequalities, taking climate action, helping to deliver inclusive economic growth and improving our health and wellbeing.

So engagement has been at the heart of the work of Transport Scotland over the last few years and developing the strategy. We are committed to continuing the engagement with those of you in the South of Scotland. Particularly welcomed the recent meeting that we had with the team at the end of July where they talked us through that strategy. We talked about ways in which we can align current work streams and potentially use the South of Scotland as a test bed for some of our potential pilots. I think that discussion focused on three areas that I'll just outline just now.

So first of all, on the second strategic transport project's review, which is currently ongoing and will conclude later this year, a lot of regional engagement on that. A commitment here today to seek to work with you on any specific recommendations that emerge from the STPR for the South of Scotland including investigating pathways to deliver those.

Another area which we've talked about is around governance and accountability within the transport sector which isn't perhaps the most exciting of topics but actually gets to the fundamental heart of how we make things work for our people and our communities at a local and a regional and a national level. There's been some particularly good work that we're keen to build on with SWESTRANS and Dumfries and Galloway Council looking at the provisions that have been made within the Transport Act. We are happy to, and indeed will continue to work with SWESTRANS on that and the delivery of our new public transport model and advice and support as required.

Then finally which speaks to the heart of our net zero commitment is on the development of the rural application of the concept of 20 minute neighbourhoods tied to our commitment to reduce car kilometres by 20 per cent by 2030. So, I think it's important that we are able to establish that kind of neighbourhood in that rural context. Perhaps being more thought of in urban contexts but just as relevant in rural areas in terms of providing access to good services, NHS, Post Offices, education et cetera that we've talked about. That's an area that we would be quite keen to develop further as part of the delivery of that strategy.

No doubt there will be other things that will come up and that open door approach that we've taken from a Transport Scotland perspective will remain and we welcome any further contributions as we look to work together over the coming months and years. I'll hand back to you now Mr McKee, thanks.

Ivan McKee: Thank you very much Alison, and I think that point about - as a demonstrated economy and particularly in South of Scotland is a hugely important area of opportunity we can continue to work together on. I'd like to hand over to Robbie Kernahan from NatureScot now please.

Robbie Kernahan: Good morning all. Delighted to be here this morning and obviously NatureScot welcomes the new strategy and whole heartedly that its delivery should be shared by us all. I think we here at NatureScot will certainly do our bit. But what form does that take? I think not surprising for me, I mean the causes of the climate emergency and biodiversity loss rooted in exploitation of nature. But investment in nature is essential if we are to secure that resilient economic recovery. I think for me certainly that's what green recovery must mean. We're all getting used to the rhetoric perhaps about natural capital and perhaps to a lesser extent nature based solutions.

But what we can do? I think NatureScot can make these real. We can help embed a natural capital approach that identifies the priorities and the places and the ways in which investing in nature in the South of Scotland can provide the widest benefit for the outcomes and themes identified in the strategy. So delighted this morning to commit our contributions to the strategy. We will deliver with many of the partners' help. Our action plans for nature based skills, that's essential if South of Scotland wants to capitalise on the rapid growth already apparent in nature based jobs.

We'll also help government and other teams support for agriculture and land use and deliver those to farmers in ways which are easier to adopt. Agriculture and forestry in the South of Scotland is so important and I think we do need to add to that enviable record by becoming world leaders in carbon sequestration and building natural capital playing to the strengths of the South of Scotland.

Linked to that, we will help government's program for people in action. It's difficult not to underestimate the opportunities in investing in massive scale restoration for Scotland, to rebuild long term carbon stores. That work must grow to probably 10 times its current scale and has the potential to win significant private investment and of course has the capacity to generate significant jobs in business growth. Southern Scotland is well positioned and is already actually a national leader in some of that work.

The fourth point I would make is again about that point about green investment from private capital because that's going to be hugely important if we can reduce the risk and find ways to make financial returns, then we can remove some of the barriers that currently exist and prevent investment in nature. We are working already with a range of partners exploring the opportunities to bring the rhetoric of green investment into reality. But releasing some of that capital might require changes but by many of us to enable that blended finance of nature based enterprise. So how can we use public funds to crowd fund further private investment? I think that's going to be crucial.

Lastly, again, happy to commit ourselves to continue to develop ways in which we can all better account for natural capital - measures that - for natural capital essential if we're to develop sensible investment plans that are ready to respond to the opportunities in South of Scotland. We're already working with South Scotland Enterprise and others such as the Tweed Forum and the Biosphere to do that. By involving natural capital from the outset we can make much, much better decisions about where investment goes in the South of Scotland. So I think that's all from me, Mr McKee. Delighted to be here and delighted to support and endorse the strategy. Thank you.

Ivan McKee: Thank you very much Robbie. Some absolutely critical points in there and certainly as you are at the juncture of the environmental biodiversity and climate change challenge and economic opportunities arise from that and that need for investment is hugely recognised by Scottish Government through the green investment portfolio and elsewhere. So really valuable contribution. In a similar vein, I'd like to hand over I think the double act, Scottish Forestry and Forestry Land Scotland Neil and John to talk us through another sector that's absolutely essential to the economy and also to biodiversity and climate change challenges too.

Neil Murray: Okay good morning all and thank you Minister for the invitation to speak. Like others, we welcome the regional economic strategy. You're quite right it is a double act between myself and John to cover the forestry sector. Scottish Forestry we believe can make a valuable contribution to all six of the key themes identified within the regional economic strategy. Whilst I won't have time to cover all those I'll give some examples of where we can make a valuable contribution.

So under theme two, innovation enterprise, Scottish Forestry support businesses to obtain new machinery and equipment for woodland creation and also small scale equipment for sensitive sites. We also promote innovation in farming and farm woodlands and agroforestry. We support and advise businesses and start-ups to understand the opportunities that exist in the growing forestry sector and this is linked with contributions we can make to other key themes. For example, the increased public sector investment in forest management and woodland creation will build capacity and resilience within the sector which covers theme three. This also in turn will support vocational training opportunities covered in theme one. We're all supporting and promoting a joined up approach to the investment in business and infrastructure to woodland owners. That covers theme four.

Scottish Forestry will also make a substantial contribution and support to theme three - six sorry, the sustainable and green economy. We directly promote and support and fund woodland creation as an important action to support the transition to net zero. We also support native woodland management and the creation of new native woodlands. We promote the use of wood products as alternatives to more carbon intensive construction materials and we're moving forward in decarbonising our own business through investment in green technology vehicles and waste minimisation. So these are some of the little examples that were doing within Scottish Forestry and how it can contribute to the regional economic strategy. So I'll hand over now to John to touch on the Forestry and Land Scotland's contributions.

Ivan McKee: Thanks.

John Dougan: Thanks Neil. Just picking up obviously as most people will be aware, Forestry and Land Scotland is a very significant public land manager within the region and obviously as a result we do contribute to many of these areas that are within the delivery plan, which, as a local person myself, I really hope will help us move forward as a region. I just wanted to pick out a few areas where I think we make our contribution to some of the specific themes.

So thinking about skilled and ambitious people, obviously we already offer a lot of employment opportunities within the sector and within Forestry and Land Scotland. But we're specifically taking forward a number of modern apprenticeships at present and we're also looking at an undergraduate programme along similar lines. They are very much about developing quality career opportunities within the forestry sector which are green jobs and really are embedded in this region and the contribution it can make to being sustainable and building a good economy. Which again is another of the themes that we make a very significant contribution towards.

We already produce about a million tonnes of timber sustainably each year from the National Forest Estate. That served to support several thousand local jobs, right through the supply chain. We have a really good product there in terms of a green product that helps both generate economic activity but helps obviously other more carbon intensive materials as Neil has already said. Also I think it's important to recognise that it's a sector which has got strong roots in the area and has seen progressive and ongoing investment from private businesses. So that really to me just sends that message that there's a really great opportunity for us to grow and expand that moving forward.

Obviously in the National Forest Estate, we support a lot of appropriate renewable energy developments as well, and as Neil said as well, we're very focused on just because we're already, if you like, a green sector doesn't mean we haven't got opportunities to decarbonise what we're doing more and to look at our opportunities to maximise carbon sequestration.

Then I think another element which we're a very, very good player in is in the cultural and creative excellence area, particularly around professional inequality environment, for both local people and visitors to the region. Several of the activities we're involved in have already been mentioned today through colleagues and VisitScotland for example. But just to specifically pick out, we are taking forward a very significant project through the Borderlands Inclusive

Growth Deal around 7 Stanes mountain biking. But also separately we're currently undertaking a very major re-investment project within the region. One of the key - a keystone visit and attraction sites which is Glentress near Peebles.

So that's a very quick run through and a snapshot of some of the things that we can help contribute towards but we really feel that there's a great opportunity for us to be involved in delivery plan and we think that forestry has got a huge amount to offer for the region. It's one of the USP's of the region. So thank you, and I'll pass back to you Minister, thank you.

Ivan McKee: Thank you very much John and Neil. I'd like to hand over to Clive Gillman now from Creative Scotland. Another sector that's got really deep roots in the region and also as an economic engine and attractor of talent and population to the region I think has got a key role to play as well. Clive.

Clive Gillman: Yes thanks Minister and I think good afternoon. I think we've crossed the median. Yeah, I just wanted to introduce Creative Scotland. We're the development body for the art screening creative industry and its across Scotland. Obviously as we know creative industries is one of the growth sectors that we have in Scotland. It's one of the areas that's perhaps been amongst the hardest hit in terms of COVID but also has contained some high degrees of resilience in terms of COVID.

So we actually are working with quite a complex sector. I think it's quite hard to get to grips with it which is why I really endorse - and I think I'd go as far as to say that the plan is quite visionary in the sense that it is trying to look at how we develop an effective understanding of this sector and the bridge between the cultural sector and the creative industry sector to ensure that we can begin to develop an economic growth and approach to economic growth that recognises that you cannot undertake inclusive growth without social development, cultural development and economic development all at the same time.

We've got a long history of working in the south, going back to the place partnership program that we initiated on a national basis in Dumfries and Galloway in 2011 and in Scottish Borders the year after. Both those projects led to significant interventions of things like the DG Unlimited and the Creative Arts Business Network in the Borders. Both of which continue to work to this day and we continue to support them. More recently supporting projects like the culture collective program, one of which is based in the Stove network in Dumfries and the other one which is based in Alchemy in Hawick.

So we're continuing to support grass roots on the ground creative industries and cultural development within the south. That's something that we will continue to do. But obviously in order to do that properly and recognise all of the potential that does exist in the South of Scotland, we need to understand what's going on and what's going on on the ground. This is a sector that is massively made up of micros, of freelancers, of things that are sometimes pejoratively called lifestyle businesses but which are incredibly important within a rural economy. People who are embedded in their local communities servicing the visitor economy but also producing things that have got international scope and we see that across Scotland.

So one of the things that is really important to us that I think is outlined in the plan is trying to get a better understanding of what's going on. We did some bits of work in relation to the SOSEP culture and creative industries theme group to begin this journey. But I think in order to make meaningful interventions, we need to be working in strong partnership which we will continue to do to try and better understand what all those probably thousands of creative and cultural businesses are doing on the ground, what their aspirations are, what their motivations are and what we can do to bring public sector intervention to produce public benefit for the region.

At the moment, we are working quite closely on a number of aspects of what's going on within the south. But I'm conscious that at the moment, we're not necessarily engaged with the Borderlands Growth Deal. We are involved in quite a lot of the growth deals that are happening up and down the country and it would be a positive move to be engaged with that, I think at a deeper level. Especially if there are aspirations that link together, the visitor economy and the culture and creative industries that exist.

So on the whole we've got a good strong history of working in partnership with the region. We will continue that and I think this document in setting out that the recognition I think of that triple bottom line idea that cultural growth, economic growth and social growth all need to go hand in hand, we're absolutely excited to be continuing that work and certainly endorse the plan. So thank you.

Ivan McKee: Thank you very much Clive and finally David Mitchell Historic Environment Scotland. David.

David Mitchell: Thank you. I won't infer anything from being at the end of the queue this morning.

Ivan McKee: Keep the best to last David.

David Mitchell: Keep the best to last, thank you very much. So I wanted to touch just briefly on some of the obvious stuff that you'll be aware of in relation to our organisation and then maybe just mention a few things that you probably are not aware of and things where we think we can assist here.

So, you might be aware that Scottish Ministers have 54 properties in care across the area covered South of Scotland and we also employ in the region of 100 plus staff in various locations. These assets very much underpin the heritage tourism offer in Scotland. But increasingly we are viewing these much more as sustainable assets that can deliver a great deal more particularly for rural communities where the employment generated through tourism and other aspects of state care are cut through.

In general terms I think expertise and advice is something that we've already started to have some discussions with partners in South of Scotland. We have a very strong interest in traditional skills and traditional materials working in partnership with our colleagues at SDS and others. The transition to low carbon for us has certainly been seen as our sector as an opportunity for the heritage sector to come of age and contribute in a way that perhaps we haven't in the past. I often say to people we have 4,500 years of R and D on the traditional forms of construction and traditional materials. In that one specifically there's some really interesting. We heard a little bit about timber production but I'm sure many of you know that you have some of the best building stone in the world across the South of Scotland. It would be much more preferable for us as an organisation and as a country that we weren't shipping high carbon materials from the far reaches of the planet when we have fantastic materials at our own hand.

Similarly reading into innovation, some years ago now, three or four years ago now, we opened the Engine Shed in Stirling which is intended to present a different perspective on what the historic environment can do for Scotland. So based there we have digital innovation teams who work across the world doing quite fantastic stuff and science and digital innovation. We've already had some initial discussions with partners in the south about how that national centre can support activity in other areas of Scotland and that's an area that we are very keen.

The obvious one perhaps is a role in distributing funding and I had a colleague check and there's been about 3.5 million investment in the past few years in the area covered by South of Scotland and that we'll obviously seek to continue that and that'll leave us much bigger sums, as you understand from people from Heritage Lottery et cetera.

So that's all I wanted to say and really just to drop in some little kernels of potential perhaps that build upon the assets that we manage and operate across the South of Scotland. Thank you.

Ivan McKee: Thank you very much David. Really valuable contributions and not only is it clear that everybody is aligned up and understanding how they can contribute to the strategy, everyone is also extremely good at keeping to time. So that had a real potential for going off the rails. Everybody was very, very good. Thank you for that. Much appreciated. We've now got about 15 minutes or so and I'm really keen to get input from around the virtual table if you like.

Any comments on anything you've heard. Any other comments on things that you think are areas for cooperation to support the strategy. Very importantly how we see the pulling together of the delivery plan and the monitoring and executing of that on an ongoing basis would be really, really helpful. So I'm

looking for hands, virtual hands in the air. I believe that Deputy First Minister is with us. John.

John Swinney: Morning Ivan. Thanks very much and good morning colleagues. Sorry for being late in joining this morning. I had a chance to listen to the presentations there and the various contributions, all of which I think are very helpful and a really encouraging indication of what needs to happen here which is the supportive arrange of agencies behind the direction that has been set.

I suppose the one question that I have in my mind having listened to all of that and it might be that it's best that this is responded to either by the local authorities or South of Scotland Enterprise. But it's just about how we can be absolutely confident about the alignment and the coherence of different interventions to try to make sure that the clear goodwill commitment and purposeful support that we've heard can be used to deliver what's a very ambitious strategy, but one which needs to be really turned into practical reality. So that - I'm very supportive of what I've heard but I'd be keen to be assured that there is that - those mechanisms in place to guarantee coherence. Thanks Ivan.

Ivan McKee: Thank you DFM, absolutely correct assessment I think of where we are, that delivery phase is hugely important. How do we actually make it happen? Is there anyone else want to come in at this stage? Okay, right, we have another. Norma.

Norma Austin Hart: Thank you very much Mr McKee. It was - my name is Norma Austin Hart. I am Chief Executive of Third Sector Dumfries and Galloway and I'm out of breath because I just had to go and answer the door. Nobody else here. I wanted - it was very interesting to hear the contributions of many of the national agencies and intermediaries that we have in Scotland who will be helping us in the South of Scotland on this delivery plan. However I was disappointed not to hear anything from a national or indeed a regional third sector or social enterprise organisation.

I just wanted - I felt it was important to say at this point that the third sector in the South of Scotland is made up of well over 2,500 organisations. It employs in the order of 7,000 people. It will play a key role in the delivery of this plan. It's not a simple structure to deal with. Everyone around the table knows that it's a complex environment and it's not easy to communicate with sometimes. I speak from day to day experience of that. It's not easy to analyse always what it produces and delivers. It's not easy to coordinate but none of that means that we should not try.

I have to say there's been a significant effort in the regional economic partnership by all the partners to include and involve the community and third sector in the development of the regional economic strategy. So I think there is reason to be hopeful that we will have a say. But just a wee bit disappointed not to hear the third sector voice notwithstanding. Thank you.

Ivan McKee: Thank you Norma for those points and I'm absolutely sure that those will be taken on board, and I'm sure there'll be conversations happening to make sure that engagement is to the level it absolutely should be. Mark. Mark Rowley.

Mark Rowley: Thank you Mr McKee. Can I welcome the comments of the Deputy First Minister. I think John made a very good point. I absolutely want to thank on behalf of the regional economic partnership all of the contributions we've had from the national agencies. They were warm. They were enthusiastic. They were endorsing, they're great. What I think we will do is once we have our delivery plan is come knocking at your doors again and ask you to move beyond good intentions and actually look at what you can do in that delivery plan to bring specific actions forward.

Visit Scotland and a couple of other agencies mentioned some of the very specific activities they're going to take to on the ground over the next couple of years. So I just want to echo what Mr Swinney said and make sure that warm and enthusiastic endorsement of a strategy moves forward very quickly into enthusiastic involvement in the delivery plan which will be with you very shortly. So just to say thank you for that intervention.

Ivan McKee: Thank you very much Mark and Elaine.

Elaine Murray: Thank you. Thank you, can I just first of all say in response to the Deputy First Minister's point that we will be developing mechanisms to record delivery as part of the delivery plan. So I would hope that the national delivery would be included in the way in which we report that. I'd also make a plea which I've made before actually is that when we report on national delivery it's not just at a South of Scotland level or even at a local authority level that we'd actually break down that to areas within our local authorities because I think it's quite important that local people see this delivering locally. So I would like us to analyse that in terms of for example in Dumfries and Galloway, the people would be able to see the strategy delivering in their locality for everybody.

To go on to my own point, I'm really pleased to hear from the national agencies about how they intend to work with us in order to deliver and if - can I single out to thank Transport Scotland for working with SWESTRANS on a new public transport model. But I would say to everybody that our physical connectivity is poor in the South of Scotland particularly East, West. It's not particularly great in North, South, but it's particularly bad East West. If we want people to be able to come here with us for tourism for hospitality to take advantage of the 7 Stanes project and the mountain biking people still need to be able to get here.

So there is an issue to address physical connectivity as well. I just put that out as a plea that in order to be able to maximise - even if we're working from 20 minute neighbourhoods or people that are living in the South of Scotland working in the cities and so on, that we do still need to improve our physical connectivity. That's a very strong view of people particularly the local authority in Dumfries and Galloways that we do need action on that. Thanks.

Ivan McKee: Yeah Councillor Morag that's absolutely correct and very valid points. I see Russel wants to come in.

Russel Griggs: Yeah it's just taking up the DFM's point. So I can assure him that one of the things that Team South of Scotland has done which has been working since the beginning of COVID is made sure that that coherence is inbuilt now into the system. So we look hard at what each of us are doing to try and make sure that we're not duplicating and that we work together all the time in doing that. But on the other side what I would say is one of the things we're also looking at is clutter. We do have across the South of Scotland a number of areas, lots of bodies doing roughly the same thing.

So it's about to say which of the ones that we - that add the most value if I could put it that way and see how there's - Norma Austin Hart has put it very happily sometimes. Mergers and acquisitions can take place across that to perhaps reduce the clutter. Because the clutter is one of the things that we have to be careful about that we don't - but that we make sure that everybody is contributing wisely if I can put it that way Ivan.

Ivan McKee: Yeah I think that's a valid point and I know that there'll be challenges in that process but I think if everybody approaches that in the right spirit as team of South of Scotland I think you can make progress there because at the end of the day, the delivery has got to be as streamlined as possible. I don't know if there's anyone else wants to come in?

I shall in a minute hand back to Miss Gougeon to wrap up this part of the session but just before we close just to say we are hugely keen myself and Kate Forbes that we have as much engagement with the regional level players in this as possible in pulling together the national economic strategy. I know we've had several good discussions in that vein and we are very keen that there is alignment and we are learning and as Russel said standing shoulder to shoulder if not on top of each other's shoulders to deliver something that's coherent and makes sure that all parts of the country in the South of Scotland in particular are able to contribute and play to their strengths with locally nationally and on the international stage as well. So without further ado Mairi back to you.

Mairi Gougeon: Thanks very much for that Ivan. I just wanted to pick up. I think it was some points that were raised earlier in the chat about attracting working age population and just - I think it was Russel who'd put in the figures about, you know you would have to - you need to attract about 800 people a year. Just to let you know that there's a few pieces of work that are currently underway in relation to that. There's a ministerial population task force which is - which has been reconvened and will be meeting again this week and we're also looking to develop rural migration pilot proposals as well. But no doubt we'll be liaising with you further on some of that work.

Yeah it's been really - it's been a really great discussion today and yeah to hear from all the national agencies and their endorsement and enthusiasm to really get behind the delivery of the strategy. Because I think that's a point that everybody has emphasised throughout their contributions today that it's all very well having the strategy but it is critical now that we look to deliver that. So just to summarise some of the outcomes that we'd be looking for support from the Convention for today that we - that Convention endorses the REP's approach to developing the strategic development plan.

The REP as owners of the delivery plan will provide the strategic leadership and oversight of the delivery of the strategy. It's been great to hear the endorsement of this by the national agencies and the commitments made and the proposals for areas of collaboration on that. The agencies have committed to continuing discussions with REP to inform development of the delivery plan and the specific areas that the different agencies have outlined today for collaboration that will be picked up in the meeting notes after today too.

Then the final outcome that Convention agrees to seek updates from the REP and agencies at future meetings about the additional actions that'll be taken to deliver on the ambitions for the South of Scotland. If there's no further comments to make on that I think we're five minutes ahead of schedule at the moment and we'll pause for a short comfort break.

[Break]

John Swinney: Good afternoon colleagues, this is John Swinney here. Just before we get started again could I just get some clarity from my own officials if they've got draft outcomes that can be put up on screen?

Laura-Anne Brown: Mr Swinney, yes we do.

John Swinney: We do, great stuff, okay I see them - I see there's a message in the chat bar. Thank you for that. Okay we'll just get started just in a couple of minutes. Thank you.

John Swinney: Okay colleagues if I could welcome you back and we'll just move into the last part of the Convention. My apologies that I've not been able to be with you for the whole time but I did appreciate the conversation we've just had in relation to the delivery plan. So if I can invite - there's I think three particular outcomes to be considered and I think what we're going to do at this stage is look at that material but then there will be an opportunity offline to just work with the partners to finalise any remaining points. So can I ask for those outcomes to be put up please?

Right so there's outcome number one, the update for the regional economic partnership. Any comments and observations on that? Are we all comfortable with its contents? I see various thumbs up in a curious fashion so there you are, you learn something new about MS Teams every day. Right, that seems to be generally okay.

Okay we'll move onto number two please. This is focused on the regional economic strategy. Generally a positive reaction there from colleagues to the regional economic strategy and what it says as a direction that would be important to follow for all partners. So again I see the stream of thumbs up coming along. So that looks okay. Could we have the third one please?

Shona Haslam: DFM, can I just ask a question on that last one please, sorry?

John Swinney: You can. Is that Shona? It is…

Shona Haslam: Yeah…

John Swinney: …Shona, yes

Shona Haslam: sorry. I just wanted to check. So it does say they'll discuss the strategic regional linkages with the national strategic group. Can I just - can we get clarity on how that will happen at some point in the future? Not today but just how that will happen.

John Swinney: I think what - well actually what might be the best thing to do, Shona, might be for us to consider inviting some of the members of the - the team working on the national strategy to be engaged in further discussions with the Convention. But Ivan do you want to come in there?

Ivan McKee: Yeah just one specific on that. I think on an ongoing basis as we move through delivery there'll be a need for great cooperation and Ms Forbes is working through the details on how we align across the country to make sure all agencies and sectors and regions are involved in that delivery process. So there will be ongoing alignment there. One thing that we are working on and we've already had a first draft back which is hugely helpful is to ask each region and also sectors to be putting a couple of pages worth of their perspective into – as an annex to the national strategy to make sure we've got alignment there and those themes run seamlessly through from the national strategy through the annex and into the regional strategies.

So that work is ongoing but as I say in the delivery phase of this there'll be I'm sure a lot of engagement happening on an ongoing basis.

John Swinney: Okay well let's take that point away Shona and make sure that there's a good clear route whereby that dialogue and alignment can take place because it rather gets to the heart of a lot of what I was trying to say earlier on as well about how we bring that together. Joe Brown wants to come in. Joe.

Joe Brown: Thanks DFM. I'm really just going to build on that and suggest that we already have an established senior officers group that helps prepare for these meetings. I'd be very happy to take this issue away, engage with them and then we can report back when we're circulating the final outcomes if everyone is comfortable with that approach.

John Swinney: That's helpful Joe, thank you very much for that and we'll just make sure that that's incorporated into the actions that are taken forward. That's grand thank you. If we could move onto outcome number three then please. Right, a few more words here so we'll take our time here.

I think this outcome, I think begins to address the points that I was raising in the conversation because it's essentially acknowledging the oversight role of the regional economic partnership but the necessity of relying on individual organisations to fulfil the commitments that they're making which it's entirely reasonable. So okay, any points on that? I think there seems to be general contentment with that. Okay so we'll take those outcomes away. There's obviously a space for there to be some follow up discussion later on in relation to the contents of these just to make sure they're absolutely crystal clear and they cover all the ground that's been discussed at the Convention this morning and this afternoon. So thank you for your contributions there.

That's grand. That essentially brings us to the close of the session. I'm going to invite Councillor Elaine Murray, the leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council to say a few words in drawing things to a close. Elaine.

Elaine Murray: Thank you Deputy First Minister and members of the Convention. I'd like to thank everyone for their contribution to this fourth meeting of the Convention of the South of Scotland on behalf of Dumfries and Galloway Council. I very much welcome the progress we have made together in the South of Scotland with regional - our new regional strategy and our focus on economic recovery. This is firmly anchored in our shared ambition for communities and place which is increasingly becoming more important. The support of national agencies and government to realise our ambitions is essential and the debate and discussion today has been a very positive step towards this.

While we continue to meet virtually I hope that circumstances allow for our next meeting to be in person when it is safe for the Convention to gather in our beautiful region and experience first-hand our rich natural environment and vibrant communities. But as Shona said at the beginning we said all this last time. So here's hoping that maybe eventually we'll be able to get back together in the South of Scotland. But thank you very much for your remote attendance today. Thank you.

John Swinney: Thanks Elaine and I echo your remarks. It would be very nice to have the opportunity to engage face to face and to be out and about somewhere in the South of Scotland. The next scheduled meeting of the Convention is on 28 February 2022. So hopefully by then we'll be in a situation where we can gather in that context. So we look forward to doing that. But can I just thank everybody for their participation this morning and this afternoon. To all of the agencies who have set out their thoughts and their perspective and to the range of voices that we've heard. It's important in a discussion of this nature that we hear all of the voices of - that have got a contribution to make to the recovery which we're all focused on.

Can I particularly thank Scottish Borders Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council for their leadership and anchoring of the process and reassure you of the ongoing commitment of the government to make sure that we are engaged actively and purposefully with you on this agenda. So thank you all very much. I don't need to say safe journeys because you're all probably still in your house. But thank you very much and we'll catch up you with you, if not before, but in February 2022. Okay thank you very much and I'll close this meeting. Thank you.

MEETING CLOSED

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