Convention of the South of Scotland minutes: September 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 11 September 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Mark Biggs, Heriot-Watt University

  • Ian Bray, NatureScot

  • Joanna Campbell, Dumfries and Galloway College
  • Mike Cantlay, Scottish Funding Council
  • Barbara Chalmers, Stranraer Development Trust
  • Garry Clark, Federation of Small Businesses
  • Elizabeth Corcoran, Skills Development Scotland
  • John Curry, Scottish Borders Council
  • Rob Dickson, VisitScotland
  • Archie Dryburgh, Dumfries and Galloway Council
  • Helen Forsyth, South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Scott Hamilton, Scottish Borders Council
  • Colin Hossack, Forestry and Land Scotland
  • Euan Jardine, Scottish Borders Council
  • Ross Johnston, Scottish Government
  • Gail Macgregor, Dumfries and Galloway Council
  • Màiri McAllan, Scottish Government
  • Lorna Meahan, Dumfries and Galloway Council
  • Jane Morrison-Ross, South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Sean Neill, Scottish Government
  • James Oliver, Hampden Group
  • David Robertson, Scottish Borders Council
  • Shona Robison, Scottish Government
  • Pete Smith, Borders College
  • Pat Snowdon, Scottish Forestry
  • Martin Valenti, South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Judith Young, Scottish Government

Items and actions


  • 10:00-10:10   Welcome and review of outcomes from previous CoSS

  • 10:10-10:30   Update from the Regional Economic Partnership

  • 10:30-10:45   Scottish Government Overview

  • 10:45-10:55   Video Showcase: Opportunity and ambition in the South of Scotland

  • 10:55-12:50   Place Based Case Studies and Discussion :  Stranraer, Dumfries and Galloway and Tweedbank, Scottish Borders

  • 11:45-12:00   Comfort break

  • 12:50-13:30   Lunch

  • 13:30-14:30   Case Study and Discussion: Our Natural Economy – A Regional View

  • 14:30-14:45   Comfort break

  • 14:45-15:00   Outcomes

  • 15:00-15:20   Forward Look / Future Topics

  • 15:20-15:30   Close  

Start of Transcript

Euan Jardine

Good morning, everyone. On behalf of Scottish Borders Council, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition and all members of the Convention to this eight meeting of the Convention of the South of Scotland. I am particularly pleased to welcome you to Scotland's happiest town, Galashiels, today. This is a place where opportunities are being transformed as a result of joint investment in the Borders Railway connection to the Edinburgh city centre. It's also good to be here in the Scottish Borders campus, college campus, an innovative co-location between Borders College and Heriot-Watt University, which is connecting local learning to global ambition.

Both of these investments illustrate the themes of the Convention today, to showcase the need for national and regional collaboration to realise our full potential. We have made considerable progress since the Convention was established, setting shared ambitions for economic and social prosperity in the South of Scotland and deepening our partnership working and we look forward to working with you, Deputy First Minister, to continue to ensure these are achieved. I welcome the focus for the Convention today and how we continue to maximise gateways of opportunity in the South of Scotland and how the assets of the South and particularly our natural economy can contribute to Scotland's just transition to a net zero economy. It's great to see again the range of contributors participating today and I look forward to the discussion today. Thank you.

Shona Robison

Thanks very much, Euan and it's great to be here in Galashiels. Thanks very much for your opening remarks and a big thanks to Scottish Borders Council and of course Borders College for hosting the meeting today in this fantastic venue. Welcome to the eighth meeting of the Convention of the South of Scotland. I'm delighted to be here to chair today's session, it's my first meeting in the chair and as Deputy First Minister, but I had the pleasure of being here last March with John Swinney and I absolutely realise the value this forum holds for all the organisations around the table. The one thing that struck me was the positivity and constructive nature of the discussion. There were difficult, challenging issues that we discussed, but we were able to do that in a way that got to the heart of the matter and began to look at solutions. So that's exactly what we want to do.

I'm joined by my colleague, Màiri McAllan, who's the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition. It's her first time in attendance at the Convention and we both very much look forward to gaining more insight into the economic and social priorities in the South of Scotland. Throughout the course of the day we're going to hear about the activities and work already underway, the significant opportunities that there are for the areas, as well as the current challenges and I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into that.

But I've got a few housekeeping details just to run through. There's no fire alarm planned for today, so in the event of the alarm going off you should make your way to the fire exit in the corner of the room on the right, which is there. Catering for the breaks and lunch will be provided in the same area that you had coffee, hopefully you all got coffee, outside the door of the main room. The Convention is being livestreamed and recorded to transcribe and a link to the publication of the transcript will be circulated prior to the next meeting.

For those of you who, I was going to say are on Twitter but I should have said on X, there is live tweeting or posting from the Convention hashtag, which is #autumncoss2023. You have the agenda in front of you on the screen, so I'm not going to run through the detail of that. What I would do though is to invite you to note the papers of the previous outcomes that are included, papers 1 and 2. Actually quite a substantial level of detail there of the outcomes and the follow-up to them, so you might want to, if you've not already, want to have a look through those.

If people are happy for us to move on to the first substantive item, which is the update from the Regional Economic Partnership. So, first of all, I want to thank the representatives of the REP for their comprehensive paper, paper 3. I'm sure that the partnership has already been strengthened as a result of it being refreshed and the membership expanded, which I do think brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. It's clear to me that the REP is continuing its valuable work for the South and I'm pleased with the REP's commitment to review and refresh its delivery priorities. I welcome the focus on the three big challenges facing the region: housing, transport and skills.

In particular, I very much welcome the commitment of partners to ensure that the threads of net zero, community wealth building and attracting investment are woven into all discussions. Engagement with stakeholders and communities of course is at the heart of the REP's activities and I look forward to updates on the South of Scotland Responsible Tourism Strategy, as well as priorities of the Regional Land Use Framework supporting regional economic partnerships to deliver the shared ambitions of NSET and the Regional Economic Strategy, is at the core of our policy to strengthen regional autonomy. With that in mind, I want to invite Councillor Gail Macgregor, who of course is the Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, to present the paper and the specific request it makes of Convention members, so Gail, over to you.

Gail Macgregor

Thank you, Deputy First Minister and Councillor Jardine and I would also like to extend a very warm welcome to the Convention of the South of Scotland. This is also my first meeting, so new territory for me and hopefully the update will be of use to you. I'm introducing this on behalf of the partnership Chair, Professor Russel Griggs, who unfortunately can't be here with us today. The update presented today is focused on the recent activity of the Regional Economic Partnership and the strong focus on our shared ambition for the economic prosperity for our local businesses and communities.

Since the last Convention, the partnership has given attention to progression of the delivery plan and stocktake a refresh of this, with the benefit of the contribution of new members of the partnership and an assessment of our progress so far. In that time, the partnership has had the opportunity to hold its first ever in-person meetings, bringing together all of our membership and that has really consolidated the shared views across sectors and identified the strategic areas we need to focus on to unlock the potential in the South of Scotland over the next two years. The areas identified by the partnership which are focusing our attention on are housing, skills and transport. Convention members will recognise the importance of these issues and that the housing area reflects the discussions at the last Convention and how important this is to supporting growth in our local economy.

I have to commend Professor Griggs for ably chairing our housing subgroups and a number of groups that have developed from them as well. There is an active commitment by all partners to contribute to the work across these areas and I welcome the support of Scottish Government in helping us unlock potential and address barriers as we progress with this work. There's also been good progress led through the partnership on aspects of developing a regional tourism strategy and land use planning and a keen focus on continuing to see progress and increasing the pace of activity on these and other areas of shared delivery. I commend the report to you and thank you.

Shona Robison

Thanks very much, Gail and I should say Gail and I worked very closely together with her COSLA hat on. It was a very constructive relationship and I look forward to continuing that constructive relationship through this forum, because I think it's very, very important that we do so. Thanks, Gail, for your introduction of the paper and a reminder of some of the key issues. We've got just short of 15 minutes to open up for discussion, before we move on to the next item. Please just indicate in the normal way and maybe just say who you are before you give your thoughts and I will try and catch your eye. Anybody want to come in on this? I know we are going to get into some of the detail of these issues, but just if anybody wants to come in on this paper specifically. Don't feel you have to.

Right, okay, so I think I'm taking from that that we are content with what we have heard around paper 3 and we note the contents of it. I should say that at the end of the meeting - and I'm sure those of you that were here at the last CoSS will know this, but we will produce a summary of proposed outcomes. So don't worry if you're making contributions throughout the day that your point hasn't been captured. It will be captured and we will agree the set of outcomes at the end. I thought that was quite a good format actually, it worked well.

In that case, I'm going to move on to the next item, which is really getting into the Programme for Government and policy prospectus. I just want to say a few words, just to give a bit of context to the discussion and then I'll open up for contributions and comments.

Just to take you back to April, when the First Minister set out his three key missions that really define the government's work, that of equality, opportunity and community and through those key missions the focus on tackling poverty and protecting people from harm, the ambition to build a green, fair and growing economy and to prioritise our public services, ensuring that they are effective and efficient. Now we know that these missions can't be achieved by Scottish Government action alone, it can only be done through partnership with, of course importantly, local government and other public sector bodies represented round the table today. Each mission connects and when delivered together they'll make, we believe, a real and positive difference to people's lives.

Then we move on to the Programme for Government published last week, which really gives further detail on how these missions will be taken forward over the remainder of the parliamentary term. Specific measures include expanding access to funded childcare and paying social care workers in a direct care role and frontline staff providing funded early learning and childcare in the private, voluntary and independent sector, at least £12 an hour from next April. We'll put an urgent and ambitious response to the climate crisis at the very heart of government and make the most of the opportunities of a just transition through launching a green industrial strategy, as well as speeding up renewable energy projects with a new deal for the onshore wind industry, particularly in relation to section 36 determinations.

Regional empowerment and growth will be supported by acting on the recommendations of the regional economic policy review and working with local government and other partners to develop Scotland's network of regional economic partnerships, supporting our rural and island businesses, including tourism and communities in particular. We'll also bring forward a new £15 million package to make the most of Scotland's entrepreneurial talent, a key focus of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation. The reform and modernisation of public services will be taken forward, which is my key role in government, helping to tackle the aftermath of the pandemic and supporting the recovery of key public services, including our NHS and education services.

I want to just say a word about our plans for a rural delivery plan. The First Minister's policy prospectus also committed the Scottish Government to publishing a plan setting out how all parts of the Scottish Government are delivering for Scotland's rural and island communities, so we will publish a Rural Delivery Plan by the end of this parliament. We know that there's an incredible opportunity across rural Scotland to build stronger communities and a stronger rural economy. We know that our rural economy is a major source of growth, so we need to act now if we want to seize those economic opportunities and the community benefits from the just transition to net zero and to ensure that our precious natural resources are managed in a sustainable way to benefit all of Scotland, something that we will of course discuss in some detail today.

But we really can't ignore - and I know you wouldn't expect us to - the fact that remote, rural and island communities also face significant challenges, some of which we've just heard about, such as access to reliable digital infrastructure, the availability of affordable local housing, access to public transport and demographic challenges. The Rural Delivery Plan is an opportunity, led by me, to really probe across government and indeed beyond government the actions that we require to take that impact rural, island and coastal communities, placing a new focus identifying gaps in investment and reprioritising resources to address these gaps. The plan will cover a range of key areas, such as agriculture, marine, land reform, islands transport, housing, social justice, repopulation, digital connectivity and of course economic development.

We won't be waiting until the end of parliament to work on this, to produce the plan. The work has started. The plan will essentially be the pulling together of what else needs to happen, but we would expect progress to be happening at the same time. In that spirit, we do know there's a lot already underway across rural Scotland, activity that all of you here are central to. The plan is really an opportunity for us to draw all of that together and to demonstrate the breadth of work supporting our rural communities, but also to signal what else needs to happen. I've convened a ministerial working group alongside the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, to drive forward the development of the plan and to make sure that we support and have buy-in right across the Scottish Government and making it a key priority going forward. I'm happy later to answer any questions that you might have about this.

I want to just touch on the delivery of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation, which is key and underpins all of our work on the economy. It's a 10-year programme and it's continuing with a sharp focus on the policies and actions with the greatest potential to grow and to change Scotland's economy, expand the tax space to fund excellent public services and importantly, to make people's lives better. The actions set out in the strategy are key contributors, not just to our vision for a fairer, greener and growing economy, but also to the equality mission to tackle poverty and protect people from harm.

Building on international best practice and working with partners we're developing very much a rural lens approach to the delivery of NSET, ensuring that rural interests are fully represented in our plans. Key to driving transformation in the economy is of course harnessing the skills, the knowledge and experience of partners across all sectors and all communities, again many of which are in the room today. Part of that also includes the establishment of the New Deal for Business Group, which affirms our commitment to forging stronger relationships between government, business and other partners, with a fresh focus on co-designing policies at an early enough stage that will have a positive long-term impact on Scotland's businesses across our country.

Rural and island communities are, I believe, driving many of the changes that we want to see across Scotland and we're investing in our communities to allow them to address local challenges and to realise those opportunities. We've funded over 380 community-led projects across rural Scotland over the last financial year, which I think are delivering against local actions towards net zero and the just transition goals and helping to address rural poverty.

Finally, just a word on the New Deal for Local Government, which I know many of you will be interested in. We are very much committed to forging a stronger partnership between local and national government to achieve better outcomes for communities across our country. On 30 June, myself and the First Minister signed the Verity House Agreement, which is part of the New Deal for Local Government. We signed it alongside the COSLA presidential team and political group leaders and the Minister for Local Government. It really marks the beginning of a new way of working together and sets out the principles that we'll follow to tackle poverty, transform the economy and provide high quality public services.

I guess it goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway, that the public finances are stretched, things are tough and the outlook remains very challenging indeed. That makes it more important that we work very closely together and we are looking at some of the quite practical but quite challenging issues around a new fiscal framework with local government and accountabilities and monitoring framework to underpin the Verity House Agreement and looking at how much more flexibility can be given to local government, because we know that that is one of the key asks. That work is ongoing and I think it will produce some very important ways forward that help us to navigate some of those choppy waters that we're in at the moment and that will remain with us for some time.

I'm going to stop there because I realise I've probably gone on far too long, but I wanted to give you a flavour of what has been happening. I think many of the issues that I've just talked about will be explored in greater detail throughout the day and I look forward to hearing from you on how we can work together around some of those issues to support your ambitions for the South of Scotland. I will stop there and will take any contributions on what I've said, or anything else for that matter. Just indicate if you would like to come in. Yes, Helen.

Helen Forsyth

Good morning, Deputy First Minister, thank you. I suppose I wanted to emphasise some of the words that you've used that I think are really powerful for us at SOSE, which is looking through a rural lens and co-designing of policies. I really welcome the work that's been going on with COSLA and the Verity House Agreement. I think it's about, for us, what we are experiencing as we go into our - well our fourth year, I think it is now, is just how each area that we work in is different and that there are issues to be considered, so it isn't one size fits all. Some of the challenges are things that we can address ourselves, some of them are about the need for inward investment from elsewhere, but there are other issues.

You talked about stretched resources, there are other issues for us about barriers because of the way things have been done in the past. So for us it's really important that we have that co-designing with you and that there is that flexibility that allows us to reflect that we are different from other bits of the country. Not necessarily all bits, but there is some uniqueness in some of the areas. I suppose I just wanted to welcome that but say yes, I think that's going to be part of our discussion that we need to be having. Thank you.

Shona Robison

Thanks, Helen. Yes, would you like to - yes, Joanna. Sorry, my eyesight's not as it used to be. Sorry, on you go.

Joanna Campbell

Sorry, the name thing's probably at the wrong angle. Just to say, Deputy First Minister, I'm going to speak on behalf of my college but also more generally about the colleges that are operating in the South of Scotland. We are in a really interesting time, we've got a lot of reform in the post-16 educational landscape and I think colleges are really central to delivering on the ambitions of NSET, particularly around green skills and the Programme for Government's ambition around rural skills and the expansion of childcare. The two colleges in the South of Scotland have led with other education partners on three pathfinder programmes and we've been very successful in doing that. We've really used these pathfinder programmes to coalesce around a number of themes to plan skills delivery.

Actually I think the point that I would like to make is that I think that has given us a really great insight into how we take forward the recommendations from the skills delivery landscape review. But also to make the point that this is actually a very challenging time fiscally for colleges. You will no doubt be aware of the Audit Scotland report that came out on Friday and colleges are currently facing roughly about 70% of costs going on staff. Whilst we are very much poised to be able to support the Programme for Government specifically around green skills and the rural skills, we do so at a time where it's very challenging fiscally for us. Thank you.

Shona Robison

Thanks, Joanna. I'll come back on some of these points in a moment. Who now? Yes, sorry, Jane.

Jane Morrison-Ross

Good morning. Thank you and I'm very much in agreement with the remarks our Vice-Chair has made this morning. I think also just to emphasise that we are here to work collaboratively and to offer any support we can to the input of that delivery plan. For us it's really important that we also look at the opportunity side of things and remember that rural economies, rural communities have a huge amount to offer as well and do make incredibly valuable contributions to the work that's going on. We are a renewable energy powerhouse, I have to say that every time or our colleague, Paul Wheelhouse, gives me a row. We are the key dairy producer in Scotland, with 80% of dairy being produced in the South of Scotland, eggs are similar, before we even move on to some of our emerging industries, precision manufacturing, life sciences, carbon capture and hydrogen, which is following closely behind and we're hugely excited about.

We are also a region of firsts and I think it's really important that that innovation is captured in that Rural Delivery Plan going forward. We were lucky to have the Cabinet Secretary join us at the launch of our net zero investment guide, a first for any region of Scotland, along with our net zero roadmap and a number of other things we've been working on very much collaboratively and with input from our enterprising and innovative communities across the South of Scotland.

We are also a region of SMEs and microbusinesses, but that makes us a region of entrepreneurs and we have a lot of targeted interventions and programmes in both Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders underway just now, looking at how we harness those and how we focus some of the national initiatives in a way that's regionally targeted and will deliver in harness the power of those rural entrepreneurs as we move forward. In essence, we are a region of untapped resources that has a huge amount to contribute to the wellbeing economy, to the tax base, to the overall strategy and national ambition for Scotland. Thank you.

Shona Robison

Thanks very much, Jane. Yes, Mark.

Mark Biggs

Thanks very much, Deputy First Minister. For those that don't know who I am, I am the Vice-Principal and Provost of Heriot-Watt University. It is the first time that I've been at this forum and I'm very much looking forward to being part of the Convention moving forward. It's fair to say that I think that Heriot-Watt has launched a renewed focus actually on the South of Scotland going forward. That's reflected actually in my presence here today and indeed as some colleagues around the table here will know, I'm reaching out to them or have reached out to them and looking forward to that engagement as we move forward. Very much welcome the papers that have been presented here today and just picking up particularly on the Programme for Government, as well as the rural paper as well. Certainly, Heriot-Watt sees itself playing a very significant role in supporting the delivery in both of these respective papers.

Just to mention a few very specific examples around, for example, the Green Industrial Strategy. I don't know whether the Deputy First Minister knows or not, but we are the home of the £25 million-plus investment by the government in relation to industrial decarbonisation, research and innovation centre, for example. We're also the home of a recently launched net zero global research institute of Heriot-Watt University where we'll be investing many, many millions of pounds as an institution into bringing together all of our net zero-related research and enterprise-related activities and skills development as well. We very much will look forward to working with government and authors around this table here in that space moving forward.

One of the things that I just wanted to mention was around our expertise in robotics and artificial intelligence and this is particularly relevant, I think, to agritech and of course it was just mentioned I think, the Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council mentioned and indeed I think it was also mentioned by somebody else a moment ago, about how important the rural economy is here and how significant in scale it is. We definitely want to play a role in supporting that sector as well.

Of course we are home of the National Robotarium, which is once again a £25 million government investment into robotics and artificial intelligence. It is specifically set up to provide an interface between the world-class research we do in that space and industry and the public more generally. So once again would like to offer that up as a contribution to delivery of the Programme for Government and other initiatives that are outlined in the papers here. Thank you.

Shona Robison

Thanks, Mark and it's good to see you at your first, but not the last Convention meeting. I think you have a lot to bring to the table, you've mentioned some and I'll reflect back when I do some concluding remarks. But yes, it's very good that you're here, thank you. Yes, Scott.

Scott Hamilton

Thank you very much, Deputy First Minister. It was very encouraging to hear a number of your comments there. I think particularly when we look at the South of Scotland, as we've heard here this morning, we're facing a number of unique challenges and the only way we're going to get round those challenges is unique opportunities to overcome them. So I really want to welcome the Rural Delivery Plan and link it to the New Deal for Business, because that will be absolutely crucial to deliver growth here in the South of Scotland. I suppose working alongside that is the flexibility given to local councils. My colleague here, my boss, was also one of the signatures on that agreement when it came to local councils so I'm certainly not going to disagree with it. I really think we have a great opportunity here to work together to overcome, as I say, these challenges in the South.

Shona Robison

Thank you very much, Scott. Anyone else? Sorry, Euan, yes.

Euan Jardine

Thank you, Deputy First Minister. Just looking through obviously what you've got there for the Scottish Government proposal. You've got develop a gender strategy for agriculture and fund practical training opportunities for women, new entrants and young farmers. I believe we are in an ideal position in the South of Scotland to actually help with that. I don't know if you watch Countryfile.

Shona Robison


Euan Jardine

Sammi Kinghorn is on there. She's a world-class athlete, she's from the Scottish Borders. She's there - if you were watching it yesterday, she was on a rural farm with young women. It would be really ideal for us in the South of Scotland for that opportunity. I know the likes of Borders College are actually sometimes reducing courses because there's not the funding for it, but I think there's a chance for them to expand further. I think even Dumfries and Galloway are going down. If we can establish something for young women to get into that landscape, I think that would be something really launchpad style in this area that they can then roll out to the rest of the country. So really be encouraged if you could take that forward, thank you.

Shona Robison

We'll make sure that we grasp that as one of the outcomes to explore further. Yes, Jane, back to you.

Jane Morrison-Ross

Very briefly, Councillor, just to add to that, Scottish Borders College have a really innovative partnership in place with SRUC, looking at the fourth industrial revolution. We launched last week a new strategic partnership with SRUC to look at rural entrepreneurship and accelerator hub at the Barony campus. We think that, coupled with partnerships with the colleges and universities, would be an excellent testbed or Petri dish for an initiative of that nature. I'd certainly be hugely supportive of that.

Shona Robison

Thanks, Jane. Mike and then Archie.

Mike Cantlay

Two things. First is a personal thing in that I need to tell you I'm a Braw Lad and Euan will understand that and Scott and others. You need to be born in Galashiels to be a Braw Lad and I was born in the Cottage Hospital, which I think is just about there, isn't it? It's just over there. So there you are, I've made it down the street.

The second point, I was letting my colleagues basically bolster what I was about to say, which is the pathfinder down here, the regional pathfinder in particular is an important piece of work but it is a trailblazer for Scotland. You've heard that just over the last few minutes in terms of the local and we're about to look at some of the local examples, Tweedbank, Stranraer, et cetera. But national, which is just popping up in conversation, be it Heriot-Watt or be it SRUC, but it could have been University of Glasgow, or it could have been University of the West of Scotland or it could have been the Open University and so on. There's something very special in terms of the regional pathfinder work which will be exploited across the whole of Scotland, that was my point, thanks.

Shona Robison

I would always have described you as a Braw Lad. Archie.

Archie Dryburgh

Thanks, Deputy First Minister. Councillor Archie Dryburgh from Dumfries and Galloway. Also I welcome these papers coming forward. I do have some concerns, especially about the energy production and the infrastructure that's actually in place at the moment. I do know that there is some work that the Scottish Government are taking forward for things like local infrastructure from PV farms and the three different levels of that infrastructure in place. So I do welcome this because every house needs a good foundation and for example, if we're starting to build a house we need that foundation in place. I think the colleges are doing a great job of looking at all the opportunities that can come with everything within the papers.

Energy production is my background because I worked at Chapelcross for 27 years and obviously nuclear power is coming forward leaps and bounds, with fusion reactors and things like that and the opportunity for that. I know that energy is a UK Government portfolio and planning of course is a Scottish portfolio. I think we need to look at this in a much broader sense in energy, PV, hydrogen, all the rest of the things that are happening in support with South of Scotland Enterprise agency and the Borderlands project as well. It's a big piece of work, I wish you well taking it forward, but there are some issues there that we really need to make sure holistically we review these and make sure they tap in, especially for the rural areas where PV fields, for instance, could actually energise a full village.

Shona Robison

Thanks, Archie, for that. You make some important points. Is there anyone else wanting to come in at this stage? Can I just reflect then on a few of the comments made. I think, Helen, you really captured some of the opportunities here around the flexibility and the need to recognise local needs and doing things in a way that makes sense for South of Scotland. Within that there are differences, within the region. Inward investment absolutely and of course Scotland does very well with its inward investment, second only to London in terms of inward investment success. But we need to make sure that that's spread across the whole of Scotland in terms of the benefits, so we need to think about that.

The points, Joanna, you made about colleges and the opportunities here, not least around childcare expansion and the point, of course, that you have to build up the infrastructure and you have to build up skills and workforce. That's why we've taken an approach that is a sensible timeframe through pathfinders and building up and then expanding. The Withers review is obviously really, really important around how do we make the skills landscape work for the needs of now and into the future. Clearly big opportunities there to get that right for the needs that we will have going forward. I think it is an exciting opportunity, it's a very solid piece of work and government is looking at that obviously in terms of the next steps.

The Audit Scotland report, I recognise the challenges and I think it's a reflection really of what I said earlier, that public finances across the board are very stretched. So we have to absolutely look at how we do things differently and I guess looking at the Withers review, it was very much a challenge to us to do things differently around the skills landscape.

Jane mentioned the opportunities around a rural economy powerhouse and you talked about some of the region's expertise around dairy production, egg production. I guess I would just flag maybe making sure that when the new Agriculture Bill is introduced, that will pave the way for the new agriculture framework. We need to get that right to make sure that a framework which is quite old in the way it is established at the moment, going forward the needs of agriculture will be quite different. Now there's clearly a debate to be had about what that looks like, but it's I think a real opportunity for the South of Scotland.

The points Mark made around some of the big opportunities and things that are happening in the here and now within our universities are very exciting, whether that's on the work that you're doing on industrial decarbonisation, robotics, AI, all big here and now and into the future areas of global reach in terms of that research. But also some of the solution and problem solving that we need, whether it's how do we decarbonise our buildings in a way that it levers in the private sector funding that we need, but also has a clear route map of how we do that. Doing that in a rural setting, of course, is going to be even more challenging, but a great opportunity to test some of that out.

Scott, your comments around linking up the Rural Delivery Plan with the New Deal for Business and the local government Verity House Agreement is very important. I think having that helicopter view, if you like, of how do we make the most out of all of those opportunities going forward, is important.

The farming, the new entrants point, Euan, I've already said we should absolutely capture, because that could be really quite an important opportunity. We know looking at the needs of agriculture for the future that we need young people to make that active choice. We know that for many farming communities that young people are not necessarily wanting to follow in the family business, so we need to look at how can the needs of agriculture be met going into the future. So that is definitely something we will capture.

The point about regional pathfinder that Mike made and the importance, absolutely. The accelerator hub, the point Jane made, absolutely critical as well. Just finally, on Archie's point about the energy production and the opportunities that we have around renewables, around hydrogen, the Borderlands project, we do have huge opportunities here. But we need to make sure that we coordinate, that we can find the routes forward, get the lever and the resources that we need to make these things happen at pace. The sense I get here is that there's an appetite to look at how the South of Scotland can play its part in a leadership role here, so really keen to look at the opportunities.

Thanks for that chance to hear from you what you think about Programme for Government and what has landed with you in terms of opportunities to take some of that and make it happen here in the South of Scotland. I think there are some offers there that we would definitely want to work on and take forward with you in partnership, so thanks for that. We're going to move on, which is just more or less on schedule, to a video showcase. Helen is going to introduce this item and tell us a bit of the background to the video, so Helen, over to you.

Helen Forsyth

Thank you very much, Deputy First Minister. This is my third Convention, so I'm just getting into the swing of it, I think. In this case, I'm representing Russel, which is an impossible act to follow, just to note. However, I'm going to do my best. This video is partly what we wanted to do today, which was to give us an opportunity to look at how we unlock all the potential that many of us have felt for many years about creating this into a really green, really fair, flourishing region. It's the central vision of our Regional Economic Strategy. But there are challenges, as I said and you've said and we want to try to tackle them together.

I've spent a big proportion of my career in the South of Scotland, working in housing, actually in renewable energy, developing a community windfarm and also on placemaking, which is particularly relevant to this video. But there's so much more that we want to work on in terms of resources, the diversity of those communities and what we've encountered, which is the resilience of our people. I'm going to introduce the video.

I want to highlight that later in the session we're going to be looking at two specific areas around placemaking and I think Mike already mentioned them, Stranraer and Tweedbank, both very different but with massive potential. This video, when you see the pictures, many of them will be of those two areas and I wanted to highlight that for you. So without more ado, I'm going to look at Abby, who is going to start the video for us. Thank you very much.

[Video plays]

Shona Robison

I really like that, that's really good, very positive, very strong. Where is that being promoted? Online? Social media?

Helen Forsyth

We've literally just developed it for today.

Shona Robison

Okay, so what are the plans for it, do you think?

Helen Forsyth

I'm going to ask Jane if we've thought that through yet, but I think we're quite excited about it as a piece of opportunity for investors to be encouraged. Jane? It's on our inward investment site.

Shona Robison

Well I would certainly encourage that to be promoted wide and far, it's very powerful. It shows some really iconic areas, beautiful landscape, but importantly about the messaging of what the opportunities are. Really, really good, well produced, so well done.

Helen Forsyth

I can't take any credit for that, it's the team.

Shona Robison

There's always a team. Well done, team. Okay, thanks for that. I'm going to now move on to the first big substantive item of the day, which is the place-based case studies and discussion. Thanks, first of all, to everyone involved in producing the work on the paper for this item, paper 6. We are going to hear, first of all, from Councillor Hamilton, who will then introduce others. I think Barbara from the Stranraer Development Trust and then John Curry from Scottish Borders Council and then Garry from the Federation of Small Businesses, who are all going to do presentations. Then after that we'll have a discussion, so there'll be some scene setting presentations essentially. Scott, over to you firstly.

Scott Hamilton

Thank you very much, Deputy First Minister and how do you follow that video? I think that probably did a far better job than whatever I could to introduce this topic. But as Helen and that video have shown us, the South of Scotland is a region of unparalleled natural resource and it's certainly a unique place. Two of these places, Stranraer and Tweedbank, demonstrate the challenges but also the opportunities that exist across the South. We believe through a place-based approach that is tailored to local circumstances that has been referenced in the case studies paper here today we can unlock the economic potential of each place and the wider region. Unlocking this potential requires a different approach in the South. We don't want to dwell on the scale of the challenge but it is important to note that we in Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway have the lowest hourly earnings in Scotland and the GVA levels are among the lowest in the UK.

We have given a lot of consideration to the actions that have already been undertaken by partners across the South of Scotland to address this challenge and leverage the opportunities outlined. Part of the solution, we believe, is to create a more pragmatic, responsive approach to business case development, funding an investment to reflect the unique characteristics of Scotland's rural region here. This will ultimately lead to accelerated growth. We also would welcome the opportunity to discuss how we can agree to greater collaboration between national, regional, local agencies and authorities to prioritise the interventions which will lead to more empowerment of our local partners.

Before discussing this further, I'd like to invite Barbara Chalmers from the Stranraer Development Trust to present the work that they have been doing in developing their plan, which has been supported via the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, as part of a network of nine places across the South of Scotland. Barbara will then hand on to John Curry from Scottish Borders Council and Garry Clark from the Federation of Small Businesses, who will talk about the business and development opportunities we saw in the video there at Tweedbank. So Barbara, over to you.

Barbara Chalmers

Thank you. Good morning, everybody and thanks so much for hosting me today. I've had a four-hour journey to get here so I was so glad that I just made it on time. All Rise on the Tide, I've got some printed copies of it, just a dozen today. It's a limited edition, so I'd welcome anyone who's interested taking one away and it's on the website also. We called it All Rise on the Tide because right from the start when I was engaging with people it was really important that everybody I spoke to wants everybody to be able to benefit from this plan, not just one sector of the population.

We tried framing the messages from the get-go with people to understand this isn't going to be an overnight transformation, this is a long-term game and that's why we were using the metaphor, you know the kids are planting seeds here they will reap in the next generation and this is Nikki, who's one of the local people we've been working with. We were also keen to remind people that we're in a good place and I think Stranraer has been in decline for a long time. I'm from there, so I went to school there, I was brought up there on a farm, interesting to listen to that about agriculture because there were three of my family all farming and nobody is now.

It's a wonderful place and it has been in decline, but we were focusing very much on the positives when we were talking to local people. There it is, strategically placed, it's very close to Ireland, Scotland - well it's in Scotland - England, we're right on the border there so it's in a very good place. Can you indulge me and show me who's been to Stranraer, because it's always good to know who I'm talking to. Thank you very much. It would have been better to go, hands up anybody who hasn't and why not? You will know it's got the iconic Mull of Galloway in the most southerly point of Scotland. It's sited on Loch Ryan and that's our view of Ailsa Craig and Arran. It's a little historic market town, an old borough and it has a marina on the front, it's sitting on the lochside.

The ferries left 10 years ago but we still have this pretty beautiful train that comes all the way down the pier to these wonderful sunsets, it's a lovely wee town. In recent times we've been doing more events to bring people in, so the Skiffie World Championships was hosted there in 2018 that we're hoping will come back to us, bringing people from all over the world. The Oyster Festival, it's got the only native oyster bed left in Scotland and so we have an oyster festival every year and it's this weekend, so if you haven't been to Stranraer go this weekend. I'll be volunteering so you might get a free oyster.

It's also hosted projects like this, it's one of the Dandelion projects, the Culture Collective. We're seeing these projects, you'll I'm sure know, all over Scotland. It's one of the two remaining, I think there were 14 projects. It's all about growing, food knowledge, food poverty, how we manage our way out of that. We're also now part of the Biosphere and so we had a meeting last week with the Biosphere team, just in town looking at the Unexpected Garden that's in a wasteland turned green and looking at a sanctuary that the council's developing. We are really fortunate because there are very significant pipeline projects that were on the go before this place plan started to be drafted. But it's kind of wonderful because it makes people think that our planning and talking has unleashed all of this, but in fact the council's been working very hard for a long time.

The George Hotel, which is a diminishing, faded hotel, crumbling away in the middle of town, is being transformed to be a creative hub with bunkhouse. We've got the coast-to-coast cycle route now starts in Stranraer, so it's perfect for that and it'll have this kind of courtyard caving and climbing centre. There's a new water sports centre, these have both got funding and a marine expansion project and there's a potential for a marine research centre on the loch. The place plan process itself, I came in last October and we set up a town team and it's given us representation from the five key community organisations. I have to say some of them were sitting round the table for the first time, because you know how easily communities become fractured. Sometimes it's brothers that hate each other, these kinds of things that we all know, but it was bringing everybody together around one vision to create one plan.

We had representation from active travel, performance, community building, recycling, the college sector, youth, they're all in there. We started off by having a partners huddle, so it was to get together all the organisations to then identify other people. We did a bit of stakeholder mapping to see how far we could reach in the period that we had. My task was to create a place plan by 31 March, which I did and we did an extensive engagement over that period. Also closing the cycle at the end, because we've gone on to have that, we did a consultation so it could be registered as a local place plan. That's the range of events that we carried out over the period. I'm a service designer so one of the key things for me is actually depth conversations. They're not so interesting because it's not a platform, you don't see it happening, it's a bit of a hidden thing, but you get much more interesting information like that.

You get very specific points of view that people wouldn't share in public, very rich stuff, so I did a whole host of those, as well as then the things when I was out there at primary school, at parents nights, at secondary school. I did all the assemblies, I did the pupil council, the college students association. Special interest groups, the creative community, because we're now going to have Stranraer's first art centre there's a lot of work going on to trail that and to develop links with the artists. Also with additional support, adults with additional support needs, mental health groups and so on. I did a drop-in at the Ryan Centre there, the leisure centre. It gets about 4,000 people going through every week, so I had a stall there and I was just then annoying people, asking them questions and getting them to join in the chat. It's a very broad demographic that use the centre.

Similarly, in the town centre, that was also interesting because there are people - Stranraer's the hub for the Rhins of Galloway, that whole peninsula. You get quite a lot of throughput at the weekends, people coming from neighbouring towns and villages, so getting their views. We also did a series of public meetings. We held these once a month and they were not grandstanding opportunities, which disappointed some people who'd come with files they'd had since 1973. But they weren't getting the opportunity to flick through those old press cuttings and bring up old thorny issues, because we were facilitating fresh conversations and being very clear about that.

All the issues that we gathered we then filtered through these conversations. As you can see with the red and green hearts, we were getting people to start to vote and think about that, how they could choose between things. We ran a partners co-lab and we used that to then further from this huge funnel of issues, ideas, solutions, we started to funnel down priorities. Over the period we had a reach of just under 3,000 and the population's just over 10,000, so we felt pretty pleased with the results that we had.

In terms of outcomes, it was such broad conversations and we covered everything. We weren't just asking them about place in terms of physical geography, it was what is your life like? A lot of the issues at the beginning were around poverty, funeral poverty, fuel poverty, food poverty, of course we were going through last winter. Then we'd get into things about work and opportunity, play and creativity, environment and climate and pride and citizenship. That was a pretty big one actually because there's lots of - ours has, every town has, lots of vacant and derelict spaces that need addressing. There were issues about democracy and how we do that and we bought a new platform to help with that, which I'll come back to.

We ran this priorities ballot and we asked people just to tick all the things that they liked, but then we made them make choices, so they had to actually start to filter down. I think it helps people understand that you can't have everything and you have to make choices. Even though we were talking about Borderlands' potential £3 million coming, which for some is their biggest lottery win, in capital terms it's just not really, so it's trying to also frame that for people's understanding.

The six priorities that emerged were a wellbeing hub in the most impoverished part of town, an outdoor nursery on the Sanctuary that the council's developing, a bit of a makeover for that town centre. Some use of the East Pier, we're not being overly ambitious but it needs to be sorted. A wet weather escape, given our weather, somewhat changeable. Some look at the town centre about mixed use, bringing back town centre living and looking at the enterprise there. Then we did an exercise to map those priorities to the place on that little map, so people get to stick up their posters and think about what might happen where.

We came up with four quarters, so we have the waterfront which stretches from the East Pier and covers - goes to the water sports centre, across the marina and this potential marine research centre. We have uptown, which is our groovy name for the cultural quarter, which will be the George Hotel as the sort of anchor there, with the museums currently being renovated and the millennium centre, the performance venue and community centre and the library's just round the corner. Then enterprise zone, so that straddles really from the town's small town centre, where there's quite a lot of vacancies going on and out to the industrial estate where there's a lot of ambitious expansion planned around the net zero reuse centre.

Then the Sanctuary, which we're calling Stanctuary because it's formed along the Black Stank burn in the town and we like that name because it's a reflection of something of a murky past, so we're calling it the Stanctuary. That's a plan for a nursery which would also enable parents to get back out to work. We held a summit in June and we launched the place plan. We had a town team film, so they were talking about it. We'd carried out a monthlong consultation and we invited people to rank their six priorities.

By this point we'd also done a fundraising to set up a digital platform, because lots of people were saying I've got three kids and two jobs and I'm not going out to a community council meeting that takes two hours on a Monday night. I don't have time. Lots of people just said I'd rather just vote on my phone, so we developed a platform to do that. We went out to consultation and we got 600 responses to that final ranking survey. We were really pleased to see - there's the pie chart, I don't expect you to be able to read that but the pie chart's aged 14 to 24, not 14; 15 to 24, 25 to 34 and so on. You can see it's pretty even and even the little brown strand at the top, that's 75 years and older and that was one per cent. That was inviting them to use digital, it was pretty good and we got a good spread across the Rhins.

The big issue that came up from that remains, it was at the start of the consultation, it is the East Pier. There's a council report from 2018 that showed then that it was an estimated £40 million for remedial works there, it's a bit of a mess. But people are realistic about it, it's like can we just make it a useable space, make it clear and we could have it as an events space. Because you've got this potential of a train coming straight into an events space, that's pretty special. Once ranked, that's how the priorities ran. People weren't - all the numbers have gone back to one, that's one to six. The East Pier was definitely top there and then wet weather escapes.

I know also that that one comes up a lot, people want a bowling alley for the town and that just keeps coming back up and until we build one, that will continue to keep coming back up. Then for me, I guess, the insights, I would say place planning is already working because in the process of this, SOSE seeded my post in Stranraer Development Trust, SOSE and the council and the Development Trust and some community reps all formed a steering group that helped guide me. We had the town team of all these community partners. We were having fresh conversations with different people round the table, it wasn't the usual suspects, that's what I kept hearing, we're forming new connections.

There's a definite appetite for change and I think there is a lot of consultation fatigue and that's not new, that's not unique to Stranraer. A lot of people feel it's a lot of people like us that go round asking them questions and they never know what happens and nothing ever changes. But I think despite that, people can see that Stranraer's maybe at a tipping point and with these other pipeline projects there it's a really great time. I think we were keen to try and keep that momentum up and get some quick wins. Some of those town makeover things that you can maybe splash some paint here and there can actually really make it begin to look different and model change, show what you can do.

There's a funding gap, so I suppose I think as these things are pushed towards the community as there's more community-led looked for, there's a need to build skills and capacity in the communities because there isn't that there. You need roles to deliver change, wherever these sit. There was a question that came up in the 2018 reports, the Scottish Government did promise £6 million when the ferries left, which is now 10 years ago and people haven't forgotten that. So they are looking and they think that what was missing was a vehicle for change and they hope that this place plan is the document that can open up those conversations and help facilitate that. In the same way, we've already begun to talk to Stena who hold the lease on the pier, just about how we might go forward in the future.

That's all my slides and that's the website, There is a version of the plan on there that's flick-through, it's on Issuu so it's very flickable. There's also an enormous set of appendices because I didn't want - people took time and gave thoughtfully and generously, so I wanted to make sure that all the things that came through were actually recognised and captured in there. When I was speaking with the - we've also had tremendous support, I would say, from the council and SOSE and we've had meetings with their chief execs in town too. Mostly I think it's just I would be devastated if that just got filed, I think that's the thing. If we're asking people to come out and join in conversations and they do that and they do it consecutively as the thing's going through a process of development, we need to honour that. That would be my ask.

Shona Robison

Thanks very much, Barbara. That's some amount of work that's gone into that, quite inspiring. I'm really quite struck by the last point you made about people need to feel that something happens as a result in terms of quick wins. Obviously not all of it will be able to happen overnight, but I think some progress being important. But it's quite a novel way, I quite like the digital element to it, because not everybody's able to take part in traditional consultation methods. I think that way you've got a buy-in from the community that helps to overcome any disagreement around what are the priorities. It's a real sense of these are the things that will make the biggest difference.

Barbara Chalmers

I think it's just giving people as many opportunities to engage in whatever way suits them. If you don't do digital that's fine, you can come and talk and if you do - and you can go into the library and get the plan and somebody would brief the library staff so they could help people do their voting online and so on.

Shona Robison

Well done and we will - I'll make sure that the right people in Scottish Government are looking at this in some detail.

Barbara Chalmers

Thank you.

Shona Robison

I think we're moving on now to John.

John Curry

Yes, thanks and good morning. I've got a slide deck as well. This is talking about a site we control at Tweedbank, that's just a couple of miles from here, between Galashiels and Melrose. This is really an expansion project that sits at the end of the Tweedbank railway, Tweedbank terminus at the end of Borders Railway. This is a project that we've been working on for a number of years, since about 2017 when the council purchased the site. It's a greenfield site, it's surrounded by the River Tweed, which you can wrapping round the site with Tweedbank to the south there. Really what this project's looking to do is integrate economic opportunity with environmental action and delivering community benefit, aligning with some of the focuses of the Regional Economic Partnership and the Regional Economic Strategy, as well as NSET, looking at housing, transport, skills and business.

These are the eight key outcomes that we're looking to deliver against and they're aligned to the council plan's key priorities. You can see those columns down the left-hand side of the screen. Contributing towards net zero, respecting and enhancing the landscape, supporting opportunities, stimulating business growth and job creation, well connected and encouraging active travel with integrated communities as well as a coherent and inclusive accessible place, using the combined power of local communities as well as institutions like ourselves and other partners who are involved in the project as well.

It's delivering a number of components, so one of the first things which Garry will speak about in a moment is business, business infrastructure and how we support business in growth but also those new businesses coming in. I think we talked earlier on about small SMEs that work around the region and the entrepreneurial mindset that exists in the region, so we need to create an environment for those businesses to establish themselves and flourish and thrive. This site here orientated around the railway station, but also more widely into the site itself can realise those opportunities for businesses. So we're really working on developing that out and that building there, the black building there, you saw on the video and you see there, is the first phase of that business infrastructure being developed.

We also want to use this project as an exemplar for how development should be undertaken in future in the Scottish Borders. That's about how it contributes towards net zero and there are different opportunities there. Looking at the energy opportunities, making sure we've got a fabric first approach to how we build our buildings, developing a decarbonised heat and energy network that's phased that helps, that grows with the development but also gives opportunity for the wider community that already exists.

Alongside - you might recall the first slide was a big greenfield site - how we protect and enhance nature and the biodiversity that exists on that site as well. Trying to blend those two things around building construction, creating a community which also protects and retains what we already have in terms of its natural wealth. But alongside that, using those opportunities to create green skills and opportunities for people to develop in their careers and in their education as well.

Looking to deliver 300 to 400 homes. You'll recall at the last Convention of the South of Scotland we spoke about housing and the challenge that exists for housing in the South of Scotland. This is one of those projects where we are looking to support that through working with the private sector to develop that out and capitalise on the opportunity the project has through the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, which is one of seven key priority projects delivering housing and business infrastructure and bringing forward a business case to support an infrastructure first approach to enabling that development to take place.

We realise that those homes, 300 to 400 is quite small-scale in comparison to the rest of houses in the city region deal project, but a region this size with this geographic spread and diversity is quite a big development. Blended that with the business aspects, it's a real opportunity for the Scottish Borders. Alongside that is working with communities, so existing Tweedbank doesn't have a huge heart. It's got very few amenities, it's got a community centre and a small shop and a restaurant which has just changed hands recently, but not very much else beyond that. So how we work with community to create more of a community heart that connects with the existing community, not just with infrastructure but also physically connects to the community as well.

So we've been working with the community to identify their priorities and they're really about a neighbourhood that supports people's wellbeing and provides more access to leisure facilities. There's some fortune there, we've got a really good sports facility at Tweedbank, so how can we build on that and offer a wider range there. Alongside that, providing an older people and dementia care village which is in development at the moment, we're hoping to start that probably next year on-site, which sits in the heart of the site and actually as a catalyst for development as well.

Alongside that there was the infrastructure and we've just started, starting this week actually, we've done some enabling works, but this week we're starting the first phase of the access road into the site. That sweeps round past the black business building that we saw earlier on and provides access into the first two phases of the development site, which can then unlock opportunities for business development and housing as well. That's the first phase of work that we're hoping to pick up there, but actually develop that further through creating that link road, you can see that orange dotted line there, which connects right through and back round the site with a crossing over the railway back into the Tweedbank as well.

Alongside that, enhancing the active travel network. There's already an active travel network that connects Melrose to Galashiels, but it's enhancing that. But also aligning that project with the other projects that we're working through like the Destination Tweed project, which is a real economic opportunity that we're working with a number of partners on which will also run that route as well. So it's trying to align projects with one another to deliver those economic outcomes.

Really the key thing that we're trying to do is set a standard for the type of development that we want to see in the Scottish Borders moving forward that contributes to net zero ambitions, community wealth building, green economy and delivering thriving places that tackle poverty and inequality, as well as helping reduce the risk around market confidence and some of the challenges we spoke about last time. We're really keen to promote to this site and really excited to be working on it. I think it’s a huge opportunity, it has been one that's been kind of burning in the background for some time with some real action moving forward. I'll maybe hand over to Garry who can pick up on some of the business aspects.

Shona Robison

Thanks, John. Over to you, Garry.

Garry Clark

Thanks very much, Chair and thanks, John, for introducing that. Absolutely, I think Tweedbank is an amazing site. It clearly is very much a centre of transport, you've got the terminus or the current terminus of the Borders Railway, you've got great road links, great public transport links to the area. The vision that's in place for the site is really one that's extremely positive in terms of bringing together residential social care as well as various levels of business opportunity to the area. I think it's very welcome that Scottish Borders Council have got such a flexible attitude and approach towards how business can be integrated into the site.

We partnered with Scottish Borders Council, South of Scotland Enterprise, local Chamber of Commerce and others a few weeks ago to bring a number of local businesses together actually on the site to speak about the site, to speak about the potential for growth and development there. Some really amazing ideas and I think a lot of those will certainly be taken forward. There's a great opportunity for different types of businesses to be integrated in the site. It's already been mentioned that the Borders is a place, or the South of Scotland in general is a place for smaller businesses and small businesses create about 50% of the private sector jobs across the Borders.

It's important that this kind of development is a natural home to different types of small businesses, whether that be office-based businesses, whether it be light industrial type businesses, whether it be shared space where people perhaps working from home. We know that round about, for example Federation of Small Businesses, around about 50 per cent of our members don't operate from premises. They operate either from home or from public spaces or from vehicles, so shared space could well be part of this development as well. There's scope to connect it with some of the great local resources, like Borders College, Heriot-Watt University, like South of Scotland Enterprise Business Gateway and have that direct connectivity between smaller businesses and the support mechanisms that exist locally.

It's important as well that the development is there to help businesses to grow, because as has already been touched upon there's a need to ensure business growth productivity gains, et cetera, locally. So by enabling that space for businesses to grow into and not have to move elsewhere to find a home, I think that's very positive in terms of infrastructure development in the Borders. At the meeting that the council put together we also had input from, for example, Fife Council as part of their industrial innovation investment, i3 project they've been developing, new small industrial units across Fife over recent years. As they've moved from one project to the other, those projects have become greener and greener and greener as they've gone on, as the technology develops and as the scope to ensure that these developments are as green as possible begins to take shape.

I think there are a lot of learnings there from other aspects of that that's obviously happening somewhere else in the city deal with Scottish Government investment, but how can this particular aspect of city deal investment be taken forward and learn the lessons that have already been experienced by Fife Council and others. So yes, I think there's huge, huge potential here. It's certainly something that we see a great future for. I think there's great flexibility been shown so far by Scottish Borders Council and the other partners involved in this development and it's very much a place-based development that plays to, as has already been mentioned, South of Scotland's priorities of housing, transport and skills, as well as the Scottish Government's priorities of equality, opportunity and community. It all comes together in this site with the range of development from residential social care through to that business, homes for business if you like, right in the heart of the Borders.

Shona Robison

Thanks very much. Really, really exciting, all of it. Just a couple of comments from me before we open up. I think just overall, first of all, really, really pleased to see that the role of the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, the way it's playing through into some of these key development, so the regeneration of Stranraer and the role that the Edinburgh and South East Scotland Deal is playing and the fantastic regeneration of Tweedbank that we've just seen. Very excited to see how that develops and you're obviously thinking ahead beyond that in terms of the Fife model, of how can you take that model and perhaps spread that out beyond.

Clearly its links to the railway is a major advantage, but nevertheless if the demand is there for that type of development, mixed development, I think that could be very exciting. I think in general it says to me that the growth deals have been really a core part of our work to grow regional economies and enable us to align all the different resources behind some big, shared ambitions and being able to have interventions and developments that are game changing in nature. I think the two we've heard of today really show that incredibly well.

I think having said all of that, we need to make sure that we're looking at all of our other resources as well and making sure they align. The work that South of Scotland Enterprise is doing, the place programme, Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, but also beyond that things like the town centre regeneration funding, the keyworker housing that we've established £25 million to essentially support keyworker housing in rural areas in particular. Now we need to look at how all those different - and there'll be others beyond the ones I've just mentioned, how you could perhaps bring some of that to bear and different strands as well as that core growth deal activity.

There's obviously more to do and I'm keen that we use this forum to identify what that is and how we can work together to drive that forward and use our resources in that imaginative collective way and how we unlock some of that potential. I'm keen to hear really from around the room people's views on that and building on some of the great work that has already been done. So I want to use the remainder of the time, which is just over half an hour, to do that. Let me get back to writing names down of people who want to come in.

Màiri McAllan

DFM, I could come in on some of those points.

Shona Robison

Yes, that would be great, thanks.

Màiri McAllan

Thanks, DFM and hi everybody, it's lovely to be here. That was really great to hear about all of that work. I think, Barbara, the preparation that was put into that is just amazing, particularly if you manage to stop the folks going through their papers from 1974. I think I'm going to have to take tips from you on how to just shut that down at the very beginning. But I think I'm very conscious in the climate brief that it's a great deal of change and it's over a short period of time. So often that can mean that whilst you want to do that really meaningful community engagement, you're under real time pressure. But it looks to me like you've really built in - well you've gotten social licence basically for all of the proposals, which is really excellent.

Likewise I'm sure a huge amount of that's gone into the Tweedbank development as well. I'm really pleased to see how centred climate and nature is on both of them, being that it's one of the principle public policy objectives for the country just now. I suppose just on the transport aspects of it, on Tweedbank, obviously already positioned strategically for the Borders Railway and no doubt that's been a big factor in it having been selected as the area. I know that the bid for the extension of the Borders Railway is ongoing and my officials are keeping me up-to-date on it. Not part of STPR2, so obviously already been considered and not been part of that, but I think that recent proposals have been put into officials in Transport Scotland and that they're going to consider them and come back to partners who put them to us, so we will do that as quickly as we can.

On Stranraer, Barbara, obviously the A75 and developments and improvements there will be one of your key considerations. There is development ongoing there, you'll know it was backed in STPR2 and in the union connectivity review and therefore we've been working very closely with UK Government Department for Transport on a proposal. Some time restraints have been put on that which have made the proposal that we put forward not feasible in some ways, but very reluctant to allow it to become a bone of contention, very much more keen that both governments have accepted that it's a very important thing to do and let's work together to do it. So the Minister for Transport is meeting her counterpart, I think, either next week or the week after, just to see how we can take the plans that have already been developed for the A75 and the funding that has been earmarked, how we can bring those two together. Hopefully, we'll have an update for you shortly.

Shona Robison

Thank you, Màiri, that was really helpful. Sorry, I'm just trying to write and speak at the same time. You'd have thought I'd have mastered that task by now. Right, who else would like to come in? I'm particularly keen to hear any thoughts on how we as the Scottish Government and other partners can help to perhaps align some of the various pockets of funding that are around different parts of government and agencies, to perhaps bring a place-based sense to that. What can we pull in of - so I'm thinking town centre regeneration, Stranraer, some of that mixed living. bringing people back into living in town centres is something being looked at in many cities and towns across Scotland So that jumped out at me as being something that merits further investigation, bringing empty homes and empty properties back into use, converting properties.

Then there's the keyworker housing, what might that do. Also keen to think - the housing development, I'm not sure what the balance is in terms of affordable housing within that, but there is clearly a desire to ensure that through whether there's the purchasing of existing properties, the building of new ones, the conversion to housing, we need to look at how we make sense of all of that in terms of whether it's new developments or existing towns that really require to have that dual aspect of town centre regeneration but affordable housing at the same time, so some thoughts on that. Anybody want to come in? Yes.

John Curry

I'll just come back on some of those points, I think. I think that's a really useful challenge for us, Deputy First Minister. Because that's one of the challenges I think we've got, is not just about how we align the pocket of funding that's available, but actually the agility of how we can secure that funding and doing it in a way that enables and empowers trust in the partners to deliver what we say we're going to deliver, without perhaps some of the moves that we have to make to try and access that funding in the first place. So I think something around agility and working on partnership maybe through a taskforce or something may be a way to try and unlock those opportunities so we can actually focus on delivering, rather than the process of getting to the point of delivering is probably the biggest opportunity, I think.

Shona Robison

To be honest, John, I think there's also a challenge for Scottish Government to take a place-based approach, that we do have a myriad of funding pots spread over many, many directorates and agencies. I think we need to test out a bit more, if we're taking a place-based approach to Stranraer, Tweedbank, what does that look like in terms of helping to make more sense of what can be brought to the table by which area of government or agency.

Because it goes back to that point about if we're going to make better use of the resources we have and align them in a more effective way, then we really do need to do that in a way that helps to make something bigger than the sum of the parts, if you like and use those funds in a more strategic way to make big things happen and transformational things happen. So I think there is a challenge and if we can maybe take that away for us as part of an action point, I think that would be quite helpful and to test the theory of it really to show it can be done. Yes.

Barbara Chalmers

Just on that, one of the things that seems to come up often is the capital and revenue splits and I'm sure that's not the first time you've heard that. But it almost seems to be that if you're looking for capital money you can't find it, the things that you're looking at are only revenue and vice versa. I think that can be quite a challenge. In a community like Stranraer it's even having the capacity for people to apply, keeping a track of what funds are going past and being able to deal with those.

Shona Robison

I think you make a good point and that bit about making it easier, it comes back to the place-based approach. So rather than a small group of very hardworking people jumping through 250 hoops, for example, can we bring a sense of well, what can be brought to the table in a strategic use of funds, rather than let's see who pitches up to apply for them. I think part of the reform work that I'm keen to take forward is looking at a more strategic use of resources and try to bring some sense of all those pockets of not just ones we hold but potentially the others hold as well, to focus on what can be done here that makes - and at pace. Rather than trying to navigate all of these really quite tricky hurdles that sometimes are there, not through any badness but they just are, so I think that's something we can - so I've got Gail and then Mark.

Gail Macgregor

Yes, just very briefly, Deputy First Minister, thank you. It's maybe to give a bit of context to the national discussions that are ongoing at the moment and the Deputy First Minister mentioned that I have a national role now. Within that we meet regularly with the town centre action plan forum, New Deal for Business Group. I co-chair the high level planning group and these very conversations, in fact you and I met fairly recently as well, it's trying to simplify the landscape and declutter it.

I think in conjunction with partners and certainly David Cowan, who is head of regeneration at Scottish Government, my COSLA officers and various other partners are trying to look at that declutter and enabling us to put those pockets of funding together. I see David's nodding because it's been a frustration to us all. I think that that's the true spirit of the partnership that is actually working between Scottish Government and local government and will continue to work. But what's really important as Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council is that I hear from you as to what the individual blockers are and then I can feed them in through my own council and through the national role. But there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to address the very issues that you've raised. Hopefully, it'll get better.

Shona Robison

Thanks, Gail. I really like decluttering, that's music to my ears. Absolutely and I'm really glad to hear that some of the detail of those discussions are already happening. Mark.

Mark Biggs

Thanks very much, Deputy First Minister. The first thing I wanted to say just more generally is what we've just heard this morning I think is very uplifting, it's very powerful and I just wanted to say that first before I get into the detail. It's amazing work that you've achieved and you should be very proud of that. I would love to see Heriot-Watt playing more of a role actually in both of these bodies of work moving forward.

Just picking up on the funding point, I absolutely agree, of course, that being able to coordinate different pots of money across government and so forth is really quite crucial. Of course this is not unique actually to the Scottish Government or indeed even to this country as a whole. Certainly, my experience around the world is there are often these challenges of coordinating government funding, but I think what I also wanted to say is that through - as long as we can get that sort of coordination going at a local level, this provides us a foundation which we can then start to build on. If you like, it's an enabler that we can then start to build on to pull in on other pots of funding throughout time that actually makes this whole thing sustainable. Because of course all these pots of funds are actually only there for a certain period of time and we've got to build a sustainable model moving forward.

Of course in the research and enterprise space, let's just pick up on a specific example, I think in the proposal for Tweedbank there is an innovation centre and having some sort of baseline funding for that, I think, is crucial. But then we can start to pull in funding from other agencies and indeed from industry and so forth and actually start to grow that activity there locally. Of course actually having housing there is really important in terms of housing the researchers and enterprise staff, engineers, technicians, et cetera, as well. I think it's a mixed model actually very much, in my view and I just want to emphasise the second bit, because I think we can play a role actually in that second part of the model.

Just coming back to a couple of other specific comments around the proposals here, it was wonderful to note, of course, Heriot-Watt being mentioned in the Solway coast and marine project. Of course that is drawing on our outstanding world-class experience actually and expertise in oysters and coastal - understanding of coasts and the marine environment and so forth and draws on the work of our Lyell Centre and our work actually in Orkney, by the way. So a really good example of how Heriot-Watt is engaging. But of course it does leave me with the question what more can we do? Just an offer to engage with you in detail actually on what more we can actually offer into both of those projects is really what I wanted to end off with, Deputy First Minister, thank you.

Shona Robison

Thanks, Mark. That's a very, very good offer and your point about the role of public funding being that enabler to pull in private investment and that de-risking, it's worked very well. The example I give often is around EV charging, the initial phases of that were really very much funded through public sector investment, but that then encouraged and enabled private investment to come in on the back of that. So we need to again think of those strategic uses of the money that we do have and how we build that sustainable model that you refer to. Hopefully, some further good discussions can be picked up between yourself and others on some of the areas that Heriot-Watt can help with. I've got Helen, then David, Jane and then Scott. Helen.

Helen Forsyth

Thank you. I'm really heartened by the kind of discussions that are going on about bringing funding together and Councillor Macgregor's points about what they're doing nationally. I used to sit on the Scottish committee for the big lottery for seven years, so I have a real sense of how do you strategically fund rather than just fund anything that comes through your door. Because what then happens is those communities with the best capacity get the most money and we recognised that we had to spend money on cold spots to enable people to know how to fund. That was a bit of really important learning.

But what I was going to say is two points really and the first one was that just to expand that thing about how do you bring funding together. It felt to me that some of the criteria that we need to have for all our funding isn't just about financial success, but also about health and wellbeing. The example I would give is when the Borders Railway was first posited, there was an awful lot of lack of confidence that it could actually deliver and it was going to be hugely expensive. It took off in a way that we could never have imagined, my god, we didn't have enough carriages and everybody was using it and suddenly people were moving into the Borders that hadn't been there.

So sometimes actually having a think about are there criteria that could go across funds, that are about the health and wellbeing and the economic health of an area and the wellbeing that Barbara's been describing, in terms of I think she talked about civic pride and democracy being really important to people. How do we add those into our criteria? So I think that's something to consider, not just a traditional gross value added green book approach, but a much more flexible thinking about it, because actually it does pay off and that's what something like the Borders Railway showed us.

The second thing was about funds from elsewhere, which has been mentioned. There is quite a lot of money that comes into the region through people like the Lottery or the Robertson Trust, who spend quite a lot of money in the Borders, but also the other big funders and lots of money coming from windfarms. I know that's very dear to my dear friend and colleague, Russel, that we get a lot of money coming in, but it isn't always being used as strategically and as effectively as it could be. I know that on a personal level, having supported a community windfarm.

I'm not quite sure that the money we're giving to the local community is actually even being used, because they're not sure what to do with it. They're a bit protective of it but is there a possibility that we could work with them in a positive way to benefit them for the wider area. So I suppose for me there's a number of things around how do we not just look at Scottish Government funds, but how do we create a group of intelligent funders and say to them let's work together in a much more productive way. I think that's something that probably has to come nationally, but can also be then taken regionally. Anyway, just a thought.

Shona Robison

I think that's a very good thought that we definitely will also capture. It's definitely not just Scottish Government resources, I emphasise, it is about all of those resources. I think if there was an offer around what is a strategic use of resources that people could see a very clear, sustainable benefit from, then it's a different conversation than a we want to get our hands on your money conversation. So it's a way that is raised and a good way to have a conversation with what are those collective resources and how can we bring them to bear in a more strategic way, definitely one to pick up on. David.

David Robertson

Thanks, Deputy First Minister. A really encouraging conversation, I think and coming back to Councillor Macgregor's points, that willingness to look at reducing ring fencing nationally through the Verity House Agreement, hugely beneficial. Using money in a strategic way and applying that locally to what works, what outcome are we delivering from that funding really should be our focus in using that funding in a strategic way through a place-based approach, I think, is absolutely something that would be welcome in the Scottish Borders.

I think we also have to look though at some of the underlying issues in our communities. The capacity of communities is a key challenge for us sometimes and the capacity of the local economy to respond to some of the things that we're trying to do. For example, through the construction section is a major challenge when we're looking at funding and the costs of projects in rural areas. Sometimes I think that that capacity is the thing that's holding us back, so we really do need to look at this in a strategic way, as you've outlined. I suppose finally, just to say that flexibility around the business case approach, what matters to local communities and that trust that we need to build across local partnerships and agencies is also really, really crucial, so thank you.

Shona Robison

Thanks, David. Your point about construction costs is one we discussed at some length the last time we met. It is an issue everywhere but I am aware it's particularly challenging here. That makes it all the more important, I think, around that strategic working together, what are the assets, where are the gaps. There are obviously some big opportunities there as well for local businesses. Okay, so I've got Jane and then Scott and then Archie.

Jane Morrison-Ross

Thank you. Again completely in agreement and very much welcome the decluttering. It's really important that we get better at accessing those funds, national and from UK Government. I think we historically have not perhaps secured the share of those that we need. I think it's also really important and Helen touched on this, to recognise that jobs creation, GVA are important, but we need to address the additional performance measures, outcome measures as well from accessing this type of funding. So wellbeing return, social return, generational return, pride, I think Stranraer highlighted that beautifully. There is a huge buzz when you go to Stranraer now, it feels as though there is a community that knows they are on the cusp of really great regeneration.

I was there two weeks ago, I think and work out of there regularly now, but the change in Stranraer is phenomenal. Just to recognise the absolute brilliance of both the projects that have been presented here today, really key examples of what happens when you bring community and environment into that economic development picture as well. The collaboration is also key and I think that's been highlighted really well by both of those. That collaboration will be equally important in how we access and measure the outcomes of any success in securing that funding. I think, finally, there are very strong partnerships across the South of Scotland and it's really important that those partnerships are trusted to deliver on the outcomes for projects of this scale and nature as well.

Shona Robison

Yes and your last point is we're not starting from scratch here. A lot of good work has done the solid foundations and this is about us looking at how we can turbocharge some of that work that's already going on. A really important point you made there, Jane. I've got Scott and then Archie.

Scott Hamilton

Thank you very much, Deputy First Minister. I'm not going to waste time by saying I agree with everything because I absolutely do, because we really have had a good discussion here this morning about some of these topics. I think when we're all agreeing about something it clearly identifies that there is a problem and if we're having this agreement looking to fix that problem, I think it's really positive and really good for the region. I just want to touch upon transport because I do believe that is one of the biggest issues that we do face in the South of Scotland. I think, Barbara, did you say this morning it was a four-hour car journey for yourself?

Barbara Chalmers


Scott Hamilton

Yes, so four hours just to come here and we're so close yet so far half the time, which I think is really important when we take the South of Scotland in context. You mentioned about the Borders Railway, obviously we were disappointed that it wasn't included in STPR2, but obviously if we can work together on that because that development at Tweedbank, whilst I can't say it was all about the railway, certainly the railway is a huge factor and bringing that economic potential to the Scottish Borders. So the extension of that railway has a great opportunity, not just for the Borders but for that region as a whole.

So really, if I can press home anything, I think we are really willing to work with the government on any topic, but particularly when it comes to transport. The point the Chief Executive made regarding flexibility when it comes to business case development, that is really important. This is a unique area, we've heard it so many times this morning, you're going to find unique solutions. It's not always going to be a tick box exercise, it is going to have to be thinking outside the box, so any commitment there would be very much appreciated.

Shona Robison

Thank you very much, Scott. I've got Archie, then I've got Rob.

Archie Dryburgh

Thanks very much, Deputy First Minister. I'm pleased to say that the Stranraer place-based plan was in our committee last week and was supported by all elected members. We had the appendices which Barbara talked about, which took a bit of reading but it was great to see so many things happening. I think we're all of the same opinion, it is a cluttered landscape for grants and things like that. Whether that's capital or revenue costs, there's a whole range of issues that we need to think about. I think community wealth, health and environmental building is something that we need to consider as a whole and we've got coming up the circular economy bill very shortly and that's about making our own places more pertinent in jobs, in health, in wealth and all sorts of things.

One of the areas where I find we may need to do some work, however and you mentioned it yourself in town centres, is the amount of pension schemes that own buildings within town centres and you find it very difficult to get into that. We do know in Dumfries a lot of the middle-aged to older aged persons wanted to live in the town centre above the shops, make it an experience for them to actually live there. Because a lot of those buildings are owned by pension schemes, then that's an issue we need to address, I think, in the future. If you look at the Midsteeple Quarter, for instance, the good work that they're actually doing and a lot of support from them.

I think importantly, however, when it comes to grants and things like that, the amount of work that our council officers and time that they need to spend on that different grant thing, we need to see if we can bring somehow - come together with the South of Scotland's spur on it, if I can say that word, just to achieve within each of those systems. Is there something that could just be like North of Scotland, Central Belt, South of Scotland, here's your funding, to make it as simple as possible. However, it is public funding at the end of the day and we have to make sure we do things right. I would suggest something along those lines to have North, Central and South.

Shona Robison

Thanks very much, Archie. Finally, Rob.

Rob Dickson

Thank you very much, DFM. Rob Dickson, I'm Director of Industry and Destination Development at VisitScotland. I think the importance of the framework that now exists in the South of Scotland on a regional basis can't be underestimated in all the points that are being made here and I want to build on what Mark and David said just to exemplify one example, but point to some others, I hope, within tourism as to where this work is so important. The Regional Economic Strategy in the South of Scotland is very clear in terms of the ambition that organisations have for the South. Therefore, it makes it much easier when talking to private sector businesses in particular, but also those existing businesses you want to develop in the South of Scotland, as to where they should focus. When you add in the layer of what we've heard about from Stranraer and Tweedbank, that sense of place is brought to life.

The recent investment by SCHLOSS Roxburghe just near Kelso is an international standard investment. It may have come about, but it came about more easily because of the clarity of what they saw as the ambition for the South of Scotland and where they saw tourism sitting in the South of Scotland. I think that exemplifies what the potential is if we build correctly on the platform that the Regional Economic Strategy provides. I hesitate to be overly ambitious in the short term because of the challenges that you've highlighted, Deputy First Minister, about funding, but I would want us to be ambitious in continuing to develop plans as to where we see the visitor economy. Selfishly that's the bit that we're interested in contributing in three, five, seven years and I'm absolutely certain that the kinds of proposals that are outlined for Tweedbank and Stranraer will allow us to have more productive place-based conversations about where tourism can benefit than would otherwise be the case.

The final point I'd make is in looking at how public funds are spent, our ability to be confident around delivery, because organisations like Heriot-Watt are ambitious about what they can bring to the future, or the council are committed to developing the local economy to give it the capacity that it needs backed by SOSE, means that if you're a private sector investor and you're looking to develop that product and business, then you're more confident that it will happen. But it flows unquestionably from the strategic framework and the platform that's provided in the Regional Economic Strategy and the clarity that that provides. The platform that we can build on means that securing the funding and delivering the projects becomes an awful lot easier. I highlight the SCHLOSS Roxburghe example as one which I think is of an international standard.

Shona Robison

I think that's an excellent example of the progress that's been made. Whether that would have happened five years ago, I guess we could debate, but I think it is absolutely down to the confidence that an investor has to bring that investment. Hopefully that domino effect of people and other businesses seeing that as a very sure bet, if you like, is a really great example and we should be talking about it as often as we can. So thank you for that.

I'm conscious of time and I just wanted to make sure I run through some actions and outcomes. Just jump in if you feel I've missed anything critical here. We had a more strategic use of funds and what we mean by that is all sources of funding, public, private, community, et cetera, to look at a more place-based approach to levering in funding to achieve sustainable models going forward. That was that point that a number of people made.

I think linking to Rob's point though that there is a strategic framework there in terms of the priorities for the economic strategy, that's very clear. So we're not trying to reinvent anything in terms of that, but it is about bringing that sense of place to that platform and making sure that we have more flexibility in some of the decision-making around funds that perhaps look at criteria beyond GVA. So it's a sort of GVA-plus in terms of the flexibility on the business case and outcomes, but bearing in mind there has to be a deliverability there, so whatever is taken forward has to be deliverable.

Then there's the building on the strong partnerships. The assets are already there, it's about helping to deliver and aligning to make sure we get maximum delivery through those strong partnerships and assets. There's then not missing the point about some of the need to keep a focus on transport priorities that can be one of the impediments and we need to work together to resolve. Màiri mentioned coming back to you with an update of some of those Scottish Government, UK Government discussions that are going on. Now that was my very quick attempt at pulling out the outcomes from while you were feeding in. Have I missed anything? Yes, Mark.

Mark Biggs

Thanks, Deputy First Minister. Something that wasn't mentioned in the conversation but is in the papers and I just wanted to highlight, it was around the internet, digital connectivity. Because physically connectivity is clearly quite crucial, but so is the digital connectivity and I just wanted to highlight that, thank you.

Shona Robison

You're very right to do so, Mark, because that underpins so much of the work that we've been talking about. The people who may well move into the 300 to 400 homes in Tweedbank will expect a level of connectivity, as will those that will build their businesses within the innovation area, the innovation zone, they will expect a level of connectivity. So it's really important and maybe we were taking that for granted, but we shouldn't do so, that that is one of the key outcomes to make sure that all of the work that we're talking about, Stranraer similarly, many of the - whether it's from the consultation, ability to consult on what should happen. But then delivering some of those changes and encouraging businesses and people to come and live within Stranraer, again all of this, it's a bit of the glue so we should absolutely note it as a key action point going forward. Anything else that I have not covered in my summary? Or are people content that - sorry, go on.

Mark Biggs

Sorry to come back in again, I just want to pick up on the point around GVA-plus. Of course the UN's SDGs are actually at the heart of the Scottish Government's economic transformation programme and I just wonder whether we should be thinking more about the SDGs. There is, of course - community is a very, very important part of the SDGs, just as one example, so using them as a lens maybe might help us actually accessing or opening up that funding landscape. Thank you.

Shona Robison

Yes, I think your point about sustainable development goals is an important one and it might - rather than trying to invent something new, it is about looking at the wider picture. Clearly there will always need to be criteria and there will always need to be outcomes, but it is that point that was made, I think, in relation to Borders rail link that if you had done it on what you thought the analysis was of the business case and the value for money test, I think there were a number of challenges put to decision-makers at that point about no one's going to use it. Therefore, you can do all the analysis and you can do the projections, but actually sometimes you also have to take a bit of a risk on something that you believe will make a difference that is - and lo and behold the difference has been greater than was envisaged at the time. These things always need to be taken in the round, I think, but you make an important point about the SDGs.

Okay, are we content then for those to have been captured? I'm conscious that I am now standing between you and your lunch, I don't want to do that for too long. Just on lunch, lunch will be 40 minutes, so quite a quick lunch served on the landing outside here, outside the main room. If you could be back with us at one o'clock that would be very much appreciated, thank you very much.


Shona Robison

Hello, everyone, if you just come to order please. I hope you all had a nice lunch, thank you to those who prepared it for us. It was well needed, I think. I hope no one could hear my tummy rumbling but that has all been sorted now, so thank you to those who prepared it. We're going to kick off this afternoon with an important discussion on our natural capital and to kick us off - it's paper 7. To kick us off I'm going to ask Dr Martin Valenti, who is the Energy Transition and Green Enterprise Director at South of Scotland Enterprise, to introduce this paper. Then we have Ian Bray of NatureScot and then James Oliver from Hampden Capital, after which we will hear from Màiri McAllan and then we'll have a discussion. So over to you, Martin.

Martin Valenti

Thank you very much, Deputy First Minister. Like yourself, this is my first appearance and invitation here and hopefully it won't be my last. I tend to sit at these events next to my Chief Executive who can give me friendly nudges when I get a bit too carried away, because full transparency, I'm a bit unusual in that I see opportunities where many, many people just see problems. I think that's an attitude we've heard a lot today, we've heard a lot of people socialising their passion for transition and our economy to be the net zero economy. I'm especially keen that that happens first in the South of Scotland and with all of the help of the committee and the conference, Convention partners here, I'm fairly sure we can do that.

I've previously worked in the environment sector for a long time, in fact over 40 years. Yes, I know what you're thinking, he doesn't look old enough, but for over 40 years I've been working, kicking the tyres on why is it businesses don't see the economic opportunity from the environment? Why is the environment seen as some ad hoc, wouldn't it be nice to do environment project over here when we're really driving our economy? I used to think surely it's the same thing. I can't imagine any successful business, proper successful business, that can make an economic success by not taking full advantage of what our natural environment has to offer us. Apart from all of the wellbeing features of the environment, it's a fantastic space for development.

Again I'm not an expert on natural capital, I'm surrounded with them today, in front of me, behind me and beside me, so you'll hear more from my colleagues. But I just wanted to set the scene about the ambition for the South of Scotland. We know more, we are very clear about the nature and climate crisis but it doesn't scare us. It makes us fired up and motivated and I can't imagine a more excitable time to be working in the environment. This is the time for huge leaps forward, to make sure that we get the right sort of economic framework that's going to drive environmental outcomes, because I've been too long looking at the problem, looking to see which sector isn't doing enough and if only the bankers would do more. Well actually I think it's time we stopped looking to see who to blame for climate change and start finding who to partner with to solve the problems.

Scotland can and will be the world leader on this, there's no doubt in my mind, I'm fairly sure you can see that by now. The big challenge that we have in front of us, we're just about to have our next climate change action plan, I think maybe November, sometime fairly soon. It needs to also drive the investor to look at Scotland as well, this is the place where I'm going to go and invest in to make sure that the massive transition that we want to see happen will happen. You're going to hear from Ian Bray, a colleague I've known for a long time, speaking about some of the numbers about how more beneficial it is to use nature to cut emissions than it is for sometimes using kit. I think we'll also hear from the gentleman to my right, James Oliver from Hampden Group, but I won't say too much about them for the moment.

But suffice to say, this is a nature and climate crisis but it is also the economic opportunity of our time. I think an organisation that sees the environment as an enabler for an economy really is ahead of the game. What we can't do in Scotland is think like HMV in a Spotify world and I'll explain what I mean by that. We can't anymore sit to see - look at the environment as a fragmented space. People used to have a business plan, they needed to have an environment plan, I'm thinking it's the same thing. Do away with those plans, have one plan, have a plan that drives the environment and societal benefits from your economy. Thankfully, we now see lots and lots of that in the South of Scotland, in fact almost every day Jane and I are around meeting with lots of businesses and my colleagues and we see it all the time.

Cabinet Secretary, Màiri McAllan, you were with us just a couple of weeks back and you saw - I think you said yourself you felt this vibe in the room for a bunch of businesses. All SMEs incidentally who are sleeves rolled up and determined to get involved in this to make a big success for it. Without further ado, I'm going to ask my colleague, Ian Bray from NatureScot, to explain a bit about the national picture for natural capture and then maybe he'll focus a bit on the South of Scotland. Ian, thank you.

Ian Bray

Thanks, Martin. Martin's right about why are we doing this, the climate change crisis, report after report tells us that we need to increase the scale and the pace of the change if we are going to keep to a 1.5 degree climate warming. The view of the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, summed it up of doing everything everywhere, all at once. It's not optional, in fact we need in terms of pace and scale to be working about five times as fast as we have been if we are going to get to that 1.5. If we think about the scale of that, the Green Finance Institute has estimated that there's a finance gap of around £20 billion from nature in Scotland up to 2023, so in the next 10 years we need to find about £20 billion.

I guess nature is sometimes overlooked, the benefits it provides. When we're actually thinking about decision-making, it isn't always we think about nature as providing that. An actual capital approach allows nature to be taken into account when you make those decisions, they're not all made about finance and social people. Going back to that funding gap, that £20 billion, the Programme for Government just from last week, even the First Minister's foreword in that recognises the public sector investment alone will not be enough to respond to the challenges of the climate change emergency. We are going to have to work together to find investors, private investors, an investor panel, how to attract large quantities of finance into this sector.

Martin said there's something about what are we doing and James, I won't steal your thunder around part of that, but NatureScot have been working with a range of private financiers to bring about £20 billion worth of investment into Scotland. We're also, with Scottish Government, operating the FIRNS - Finance Investment Ready Nature Scotland scheme, to support land managers, bodies, to develop nature projects to a point that they become suitable for private investment and some of those in are Southern Scotland. We're also developing a landscape tool to allow you to do natural capital assessments. In fact if you need a tool, there are many, many tools out there, there are probably more springing up as we speak. But we need a Scottish specific tool that deals with the situations and the finances that we have.

Finally, I guess I would suggest that sometimes people think that nature and the investments we could make are expensive, but nature-based investments don't need to be expensive. In fact peatland restoration, hedgerows, woodland planting, regenerative farming are all pretty low cost. Estimated much more abatement costs for the Climate Change Committee suggest that the removal of one tonne of carbon from the atmosphere costs about £20 of peatland restoration, about £100 for transport and about £200 for domestic heat, so these things are relatively cheap in comparison to the other things, going back to we have to do everything everywhere, all of the time. Really a natural capital approach allows us to invest in the right things at the right time at the right pace. I think I'll leave it there, thank you. I'll pass over to James, who will tell you a little bit about the thunder I wasn't going to steal.

James Oliver

Ian, thank you. Gosh, apologies. Thank you very much for having me here today, I've met a few of you and the ones I haven't met, I'll explain who I am and what I'm not, which is important. I am very tired so apologies if I look terrible. I'm not a professional speechwriter, so it's almost certainly going to be garbled and you'll have questions and it'll be a little bit confusing. But I have a vision and I want to sort of share that with you. I've got a theme which is around risk, shock and action and I've got five main points, so who the hell I am and why am I here and is it relevant that I'm here at all.

What we actually do, those are two different things, by the way, which is pretty important. Then I've got a point on the size of the issue, which I think might be looking in a different way potentially. Then an equation which I'll discuss with you and then something specific for the South of Scotland around the Wild Heart expansion project, because we're doing a lot with SOSE but I want to focus in on one thing. You can - I don't know if you can interrupt, but feel free to because I might meander, so bring me back on.

Who am I in relation to the Borders? I've been living in the Borders for 25 years. I have an eco-reserve farm at the end of the Ettrick Valley, which I've helped replant with half a million broadleaf trees, which is good. I'm part of the community company down there which I love and I'm a bit of a daydreamer, but I like daydreaming and I was discussing with Judith earlier on that if you don't have any then there's a problem. Now what is that in relation to what the hell we do? I'm part of a family office, I'm very privileged to be part of a family office and it's a little bit different, we have 1,100 businesses mainly all in finance, in Lloyds of London mainly, so we supply about £6.8 billion a year to that market to manage risk, which is one of my themes. This is a big risk.

We've also got a number of businesses in Scotland, we have a private bank called Hampden and Co, we're a shareholder in that and we're very keen to make sure that the money that that bank provides to its clients, of which there are 5,000, 2,500 in Scotland, goes towards ethically orientated and specifically environmental money for its own clients and/or other people that want to be. As shareholders of that we can influence that decision and we are, which is good because it carries my name on it so I sort of have to do. But the reason we got involved in this is around risk and shock. Two years before COP26 - this might sound a bit of a tangential story but I'm going to go with it - Christiana Figueres's big brother, Nicholas and I had a meeting in Portugal. We were talking about the death of the oceans and its impact on society, but also impact on us and our ability to breathe.

Martin knows this story and for some reason I'm a geek with numbers so I will be asking some questions about numbers. One of the most terrifying statistics that came out was about our destruction of our natural habitat and what that means to not only wildlife but our ability to breathe, which is quite key. One out of every two breaths comes from the sea and if we start destructing it at the rate we're going to do and as we are, our lungs won't be able to adapt quickly enough. That's motivated me to try and do something about it and running - being part of the - well we're the biggest financier of the biggest risk market in the world, so we're quite involved in mitigating risk.

We spend quite a lot of time working with SAMS, the Scottish aquamarine institute up in Dunstaffnage, to look at a new way of multitrophic organic sea farms to enable the sea to be preserved and at the same time reemploy people in the local fishing community, of which I think there are 3,300 people, into a new type of farming. It was really interesting, they liked that and got thrown into it. Then COP came along, which was extremely exciting and Martin's team and Francesca's team asked me to head one of the ideas factories for COP around ocean. I sat in on the land-based one which is why I'm here today, to find out what projects we are developing, financing and delivering quickly. It was lovely talking shop and infuriated me because actually we weren't really doing anything at all at scale and it was an embarrassment. COP26 a few months away, what are we going to do?

So I wrote a letter of complaint - which is not terribly good because I'm not very subtle - to Francesca, who responded and we've had a number of meetings about what we could do together to do things differently, which is where we're at now, to try and do things differently, which is around the risk element. Because if we don't do anything it will be too late and then there'll be a terrible shock. The shock for me was personal, I can give you a little bit of history. The reason it's personal to me is I got involved in farming 20-odd years ago in the Ettrick Valley because my daughter, who's now 25, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on the day I went to the farm and it was a hell of a shock. Sorry, bit weird, sorry. I wanted to do something about it, so within that - I'm tired, I'll pull myself together. It was a bad shock and we're going to have another shock if we're not careful.

In order to get away from that shock we need to understand the numbers and the size of the problem. The size of the problem in the South of Scotland, I believe, is around about - I'm just talking not biodiversity, I'm talking carbon, it was around about four million tonnes. How can you translate that into a financial programme to do stuff that you guys could do but might need help and where you need help is oddballs like me and others going how do we get behind this? Because the risk for us is doing nothing, so as a financial institution I'm not allowed to do that, we actually cannot do that, we've got to deploy our money to do things. So we've come up with a bit of a plan and a mechanism, mainly with our own clients but recently I've been getting to know more of you all, who have policy and levers.

Which is useful to actually try and reimagine how you could create a natural capital asset, either with individuals or with a government or a blend and my one is a blend at a large scale around reestablishing a Scotland-wide native forestry programme, which is very simple but actually needs to start somewhere. In order to do that, we've pulled a number of partners together who spent the weekend with me discussing the next steps. If our size of the issue in the Borders is four million tonnes, what does that equate to in terms of a brand new planting philosophy? It's roughly 12,000 hectares of native broadleaves, 350 tonnes per hectare and you can work it out from there, which is quite a lot of trees but not beyond the scope of imagination, it's about 20 million.

That will get us to a net zero position in terms of that, let alone any biodiversity uplift. How do you afford to do it? Which is where we can potentially come in and assist and we want to assist for the reasons of shock and our overall risk appetite. When I wrote to Francesca and said we can do it ourselves, we'll just do it with our clients, we've got 40, we'll just do it, but that's not a good enough reason because then - not that you'll have fiefdoms and green barons but you could, so we want to avoid that. Let's make sure it's a much more open discussion around how we engage with the public, so you have a public-led mission, not a private-led mission, because private-led missions go down alleys and no one likes them.

We're trying to be a bit of a catalyst and we've had some relatively rubbishy press about it, but I don't actually mind because I've had much worse press if you knew me from other places. But we're trying to work it out pretty quickly, so go where's the area, for us this is the equation, where's the area, what's the cost, what are the logistics behind it? There are logistics issues, lots of them, because there's only one real seed bank in the South of Scotland. We don't have anything on the west, that's a problem and how quickly can we get on and do it? This morning, I was supposed to be in three places at once but I managed two, which is unusual. We were discussing those next steps with part of Pat's team as well about how can we ensure that we show a project starting that can be visible to everybody.

I quite like the idea of visibility and transparency on it and we've seen in the last week that the big carbon buyers are deserting the market to a certain degree through lack of quality and lack of transparency on where these projects are. Shell pulled out £100 million, I know they're going back in a different way, but it's creating a little bit of a wedge and it's a discussion point that's not very nice. It should be hopeful. If we can do something really good, let's shout about it. It doesn't matter who came up with the idea, let's just get on and do it. We're looking specifically at the moment, we've got seven projects that we're working on in tandem with NatureScot and one of them's in the Borders. It's a big one, it's the Wild Heart expansion programme, which SOSE are getting behind.

That is in conjunction with Borders Forest Trust, which is a charity that I've worked with for 17 years and the Tweed Forum, to look at how we could in one go create a position and project that brings us to net zero, just on one element, let alone other carbon capture mechanisms or green hydrogen, just one project. If we can stack a few of them together, brilliant, because then the South of Scotland could be an amazing place for other investors to come in. When I say other investors, I mean things like Corporation of the City of London and the Greater London Authority need to offset their carbon footprint somewhere. If you can create a model, we can do our own one, we can create a model for someone else to invest in it.

Where we're at, at the moment, is we've got an MOU and a collaboration of relatively likeminded companies and organisations who've done this in other parts of the world. We're working with the Palladian Group who do this across the tropics, we're working with Respere across all the national parks in the UK and we're also working with Crown Estates, which is wonderful, the European forestry programme and us specifically on [WHEP], which I think is good. We've identified one council, sitting round here, one farmer, so we're not trying to blow everybody over, we just want to be able to do it in a way that's manageable, which is useful.

One public utility, three estates and one corridor, nature-based corridor, to ensure that fairly quickly we get to 30,000 acres of plantable ground, which is roughly 11,500 hectares. We're hoping that it will be signed off by Martin at the end of today, yes? Is that right, Martin? Or support because we want public, we can't do all this privately. We can do it all privately but it should be public, to enable us to be able to get the first trees in the ground come next planting season, not this one, so next October, because there are a lot of logistics issues around that. We've got the funding in place and the offtake agreement to allow that to happen, which I know there'll be a debate about, offtakes and who and why and the codes around them.

We've been doing a couple of workshops with Community Land Scotland to make sure that we understand and bed in the community aspects and make sure they can change, because every single day that I'm doing this it's changing and I think it's quite important that we're super flexible about it. If we can do that, then that is the first one and then we'll do the same in the Western Isles, the same on some public land, the same in Loch Lomond National Park which also we're discussing at the moment. We're also looking at Northumberland with Borderlands, which will spill over into this area, I hope and then North Yorkshire, which is an irrelevance for here and I was only told about it two hours ago, which is wonderful.

The Wild Heart expansion programme, we were in Carrifran yesterday, I hope everyone's been to Carrifran. Everyone know about Carrifran? Anyone not know about Carrifran? 1,300-hectare native broadleaf planting, it's 20 years old this year, three-quarters of a million trees and there's a one-kilometre corridor to the next three-quarters of a million trees and no one's joined them together. That three-quarters of a million trees is now me and it's like how do we either purchase the land or give the farmer the money to enable him to start linking these corridors together in a bigger programme? The WHEP programme overall though is 160,000 acres across this region, which will take a long time.

But if we can make the mistakes and the financial mistakes and get all the learnings ourselves for the core part, at the same time as creating a mechanism for carbon offset, that's a really good place to start. Okay, so my final point was about action, that is an action plan. We're pretty determined, I'm sort of doing it - this sounds terribly capitalist but I'm doing it for free, in that this is what I'm really, really keen on doing. You'd be surprised how dull insurance in the City of London can be compared to something like this. The partners we've brought in, they're doing the same thing, they're really keen to get big, interesting, quality, tangible projects up and running and Scotland's a fabulous place to do it.

Okay, so I think that's all I've got to say to begin with, if that made - did that make sense. I wasn't entirely sure why I was here, I thought maybe I was getting a grilling, as I said to Rob and I didn't really get any emails because I've got a very tough inbox. I'm very happy to discuss, if that helps.

Màiri McAllan

Thank you. James, thank you so much, we're really pleased that you made it as well, because it sounds like you've got a huge amount to do. Tired or otherwise, that was very helpful so thank you. Thanks also to Martin and Ian for their presentations as well. We're going to open up, as we did before, for some comments on what we've heard, any questions potentially for some of our speakers. I suppose just for my part to start with, I think that conversation followed really nicely from the South of Scotland video that was shown earlier and I've got to say that really pulled at my heart strings. I don't know if it's because I just see it and see home, but also I think that you've drawn out the opportunities that are so obvious to all of us who are from the South of Scotland. You've drawn them out really well and I think it does present a very attractive picture indeed.

I said earlier in response to Barbara that tackling the twin crises is right up there amongst the foremost priorities of the government, probably alongside tackling child poverty, some of our most key - the things we're most keenly focused on. I think that there is the value in and of itself of doing it, which speaks for itself and is enough to pursue it in and of itself, but there are so many co-benefits to pursuing all that we need to do to tackle the climate and nature emergencies. We've heard from some of them today, our physical and mental wellbeing, public health and also that really key economic opportunity which has been drawn out quite a bit. I certainly think that the South of Scotland is exceptionally well placed to seize those opportunities.

In this role and in my previous role as Environment Minister, it was very clear to me that so much of what we had to do to tackle the climate and nature emergencies was going to happen in rural Scotland. Be that energy generation, forestation, peatland restoration, restoration of our marine environment, that's not going to happen in our cities to a large extent, it's going to happen here. So I suppose the question for us and as people have been reflecting on today, is how we make sure that we seize that opportunity and that when we do it, we do it I think in a way that benefits our communities and builds that sustainable and inclusive economic growth that we all want to see in our region.

With that, I will ask if anybody wants to come in for some comments. We have about half an hour, which seems like a very short amount of time to discuss such an important and lofty issue, but please do feel free to come in with comments, any questions, suggestions, ideas, very happy to hear them, thank you. I'll come to Martin and then we'll go to you, Archie, thank you.

Martin Valenti

Thank you, Cabinet Secretary. Deputy First Minister, you mentioned earlier something that I'd written down about Scotland came second in that EY attractiveness index. I just wonder if models like this, if we can develop and grab them in Scotland - hold your ears a minute, James - if we can abuse and use and shape and develop this type of ideology, this type of proper real investment, I think within five years' time we'll be top of that list. Because I think a lot of investors now, including the pension funds we spoke about earlier and other funds, are looking to do the right thing in the right place for the right reason. I think if Scotland's ahead of the curve - and I believe we are, thanks to NatureScot and Hampden and the partnerships that we're evolving, but I'm just wondering if that's maybe another open goal for Scotland.

Shona Robison

I think you're right and I think we should be as ambitious as we possibly can. I think there's something about the mixture of, I guess, political will, policy will, willing investors. The bit that, James, I was really impressed with you is you're putting meat on the bones of the how, the model, because whether it's using natural capital solutions or some of our challenges with heating buildings that we're wrestling with, the how, it's that bit that's the really tricky bit. Because trying to create a clear route of what do you do in what sequence, how do investors get certainty around, I guess, they're getting what they need out of their investment and de-risking.

So it's about trying to align all of that and I know that certainly the financial sector and the big players that we've been talking to and the investor panel are really, really keen and Scotland is seen as a place to do business around this, because there's a willingness and openness to want to do it. So I think we're really keen and probably beyond today as well, to pick your brains and the brains of your fellow travellers around using your skills of the how and do you bridge the willingness and the public's policy and political will with the investors, how does that come together in the middle. That's the bit that I think the expertise that you have and others have is going to be really, really helpful. Sorry.

Màiri McAllan

No, thank you, DFM, I think that's really helpful. I suppose just on that point, I think we often think to ourselves what is government's role in all of this? The Deputy First Minister mentioned the political support which we have brought to climate emergency since we declared it in 2019 and the parliament set the cross-party targets thereafter. But I think after that we've sort of agonised a little bit about what else do we need to do. It's usually regulation and public funding, but if I take something like peatland restoration, we have put £250 million over 10 years behind peatland restoration in Scotland.

Our officials and NatureScot are working really hard on how to scale that up, but still you come across problems that slow it down and it just doesn't always respond as quickly as it needs to, to the emergency situation we're in. So I suppose again minds like your own about how we take what government can do, that public funding, political support and then make it a reality and make it work quickly enough on the ground. But any other comments absolutely welcome, please. Archie, of course.

Archie Dryburgh

Thanks very much, Cabinet Minister. I spent Saturday with a bunch of army cadets and veterans on the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve in Langholm, cutting down Sitka spruce from the actual - and the cadets loved it and the veterans loved it because they were out. Couldn't see 20 feet in front of us, but we loved it and we were all lost all over the place. At 2:55, when we were finishing, the mist started to lift and the difference was amazing. I'm just wondering if, James, you've discussed anything at all with the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, because that's community owned. It was bought from the Buccleuch estate and a very, very important project within the ward I represent. I'm just wondering if you've had any discussions with them.

James Oliver

Well right now I'm supposed to be with them, so they're in Moffat with the other guys at the moment. It's an interesting one, the whole bit around people and action, I feel is a capping as opposed to an opportunity, which makes it very hard for inward private investment. Reasons being initially it was quite an attractive thing to get involved in, because you are doing something to stabilise your own offsetting platform. But it's not accretive, you're not adding anything in. I think Tarras Valley is very interesting, I wonder where it can go. I think there are a lot of other community programmes that could start to develop now that aren't based on more restoration, can be based on much wider scale land use change, which is a very tricky thing for a lot of landowners and farmers to want to be able to do. But if they can see the financial benefits of doing so, great.

That slightly goes back to your points, Ministers, around what is the role of government in this and what things are causing problems. Grants cause problems because they stifle internal rate of return. Internal rate of return's a horrible thing in relation to investors, but it actually means that some risk - we're in a fortunate position that they don't really care about it, but some pension funds who do want to be able to be active in this space over a 25 to 50-year period need to understand that mechanism a little bit and how that stacks up to ensure that they can deploy through their own risk profile.

I think in order to be able to do that it needs vision so that these projects that we're talking about are part of a much bigger vision, so they can see where they benefit beyond just going we're getting 3.5 per cent back or we get a 10 per cent IRR. That's terrible, it's how they buy into the vision. Currently, because I talk to a lot of people about this all over the world, we have a landscape proposition which is quite interesting, but we don't actually have a Scottish financial position across it.

We actually need your help to enable a few others to get in there behind the vision to do that. It doesn't have to be the whole lot because it can't be the whole lot, there's not enough money up here. But I definitely think we need that thread all the way through, so maybe at a later stage we can discuss how it works, but I do believe that government can have a role in the vision and a role in the transparency and quality element. There are little bits around woodland carbon codes and how we change these and regulations, they're all changeable but they have to come under a vision and the vision can't come from someone like me. It can but no one's going to pay any attention, apart from in here today, but generally they won't.

Màiri McAllan

I'm sure they would, but we absolutely take the point and I think we can take that as an action for Scottish Government to take that away certainly. Okay, thank you very much. Jane, I have you next and then Scott please.

Jane Morrison-Ross

Thank you. I'm really loving hearing about this today, I have heard about it before happily, but we have a number of communities that are talking to us just now because they're concerned about the cumulative impact of monoculture planting, Sitka spruce, et cetera. Those communities feel powerless and they don't have control over the environment. Some of them, one particular I was telling James I'm going to see tomorrow with a number of colleagues from organisations around this table, currently there are five sites around their village that are being earmarked for planting. The village feels powerless, they feel they have no voice, nobody's listening to them. Nobody has the data about that cumulative impact of monoculture planting.

We really, really want to tackle biodiversity across the South of Scotland, there are some fantastic initiatives like this one which will go so far to help, but we're missing an opportunity. I was talking to a colleague from SEPA last week who gave me his vision for riparian planting across the South of Scotland, for planting the course of the Destination Tweed for joining up some of our rivers, broadleaf planting on the banks, joining up with this kind of initiative. If we're talking about ambition and ambition to tackle and do things differently, then this is exactly the kind of thing that we want to see. But let's take it a step further, let's make it bigger, let's lower the rate that we are allowing that monoculture approach and let's up the target for broadleaf and put the communities at the heart of it, like this project is doing as well.

Màiri McAllan

Thank you, Jane. Another really well made point. I think especially when we're in the South of Scotland we've got historic issues with forestry that wasn't always pursued in the right way and for the right reasons. Of course we're seeking to tackle that very much now. Also the point about community engagement and I think again as with much in the net zero, I think as was aptly put by Ian and paraphrasing Guterres, everything everywhere, all at once, that puts a lot of pressure on communities. Of course our climate targets are underpinned by a commitment to just transition and it's largely what I was saying to Barbara earlier, the speed with which we have to change puts pressure on the ability to engage with communities, but we just have to see it as two things that must run side by side. I suppose any insights on how best we do that and make sure you have social licence for everything that's done is very welcome as well. I'll come to Scott please.

Scott Hamilton

Thank you very much. Really welcome the conversation so far. I suppose my thoughts on this is that we have a skills gap in the South of Scotland when it comes to taking advantage of what the new economy will look like, so the sustainability, environmentalism. We do not have the output that we want to be at to be able to do that and I'm really glad we've got our partners here today from Borders College and also Heriot-Watt and bring them into the conversation, because I think that's definitely where we could play a part in developing that. I think we're maybe moving at a pace that we're not quite there yet and just in terms of what we have, so that probably leads to a little bit of concern. I think from my perspective certainly, when you look at the development of farmland that then goes into tree planting, et cetera, I think there's positivity there.

But we've also got to remember that that might be a farmer's land but it's actually our land and I think we get a wee bit forgetful that actually this is our region of Scotland, so if there is benefit to be made we should be trying to capture it here as well. We've heard I think this morning about windfarms, which of course bring in a lot of investment into an area, there's a lot of community payback there, but there are some communities that simply don't have the capacity to deal with it. So it's how do we actually turn tree planting investment into this net zero and really turn it into job creators, opportunity and growth for the region. I think there's maybe a little bit of work around the skills but I know the REP is picking that up. But I think definitely in terms of capturing the benefits, we need to be maybe doing something as a convention here to try and see that happen across the South of Scotland.

Màiri McAllan

Thank you, Scott. I don't know whether anyone from South of Scotland wants to say anything about the linkup with SRUC, if you wish to. I think your point, Scott, about benefits, I certainly even see from a constituency perspective the disparity in capacity among community councils, for example, who are all dealing with different levels of funding from windfarms around us, so I think that is a point really well made. I'll come to Pat up at the top left please.

Pat Snowdon

Thank you, Cabinet Secretary. Just one or two comments about the role of government. I work for Scottish Forestry, I run the economics and woodland carbon code team so I'm speaking in that capacity. The first one is providing research and evidence, we've been doing this on natural capital for a couple of decades at least and I think that is a key step. Until you can actually tell people what trees are worth for flood alleviation, for example, it's difficult to make these arguments that it's worth investing in them for that purpose. This also leads on to the issue about company reporting. The taskforce on nature-based financial disclosures is going to launch later this month and this is going to be a mechanism whereby companies will be looking at their dependencies on the environment and their impacts on it.

It's a crucial point because it's looking at risks, which is very much the language that companies think about. This has already happened on the climate change side, but if it were to progress more widely and to nature that would be a really positive step forward, because companies would have clear line of sight as to why they should be investing in these things. The other thing for the woodland carbon code and we've had various companies say this to us, is that they trusted the code because the government was behind it. It was originally launched by the Forestry Commission back in 2011 and now Scottish Forestry runs it on behalf of the UK. I think that element of trust is really important and a lot of these nature markets aren't going to work if people don't have trust in them.

Your point on grants, James, is interesting because we have seen in the last year or two reduced grant claims for woodland creation because of carbon funding, which is exactly what you should expect to happen. You need carbon funding to show that actually the material facts are in these projects going ahead and if grant funding is getting in the way, I agree with you that that would be an issue. One final point about the types of woodland creation, with the woodland carbon code it's tended to be native woodlands and mixed woodlands, the majority of them. There is a reason for that, because the commercial woodlands that harvest timber actually take most of the carbon out of the site, you can only claim about a third of the amount of carbon. It's quite interesting how the carbon market is having some influence on the types of woodlands that are planted. Thank you.

Màiri McAllan

Thanks, Pat, thanks very much. You're absolutely right to mention the carbon codes which as you say, the government-backed ones do drive quite a lot of confidence in them. I always think of our woodland carbon code as being very well developed and providing that confidence. Peatland carbon codes coming in the aftermath, hopefully emulating the success of woodland at some point. Then I always think well marine's not even in the greenhouse gas inventory yet, so we're much further behind that in something that can drive investments there. Ross.

Ross Johnston

Thanks, hi, I'm  Ross Johnston, I'm Head of Natural Capital Policy in the agricultural rural economy directorate at Scottish Government. I just wanted to reflect on the general message about shared learning that's been made already and put maybe some opportunities which we can build into the actions later on. First is to mention we have an existing partnership programme looking at delivering the Scottish vision of market development, which is about responsible investment, about being values-led, complying with our policy goals and being high integrity, so avoiding the greenwashing that we've seen and continue to see in the press. We have an existing partnership programme and SOSE are active members in that and Jane, who's here, is on many of our discussions.

We're trying to build links with partners but we do need to extend that, so we've got a couple of commitments made recently. One is in the Programme for Government, the commitment to develop a nature market framework, or publish proposals for a nature market framework. This is to provide more detail on the vision we set out and how we want people to behave in order to deliver that vision, building on the interim principles which were published last year which set out the start of that, some of the principles that we hope people will follow in order to deliver the vision we've set. The other, I suppose, more practical step is that Ian mentioned the FIRNS grants, so that's about investment readiness, about looking at projects that are moving us towards getting the right kind of investment into the right kind of projects, with the right kind of engagement and benefits for communities and trying to learn about all those different aspects.

There'll be an announcement later this month, there'll be around 30 projects supported across Scotland, which is just additional activity which we try and learn from. When it comes to thinking about building that community of all the relevant stakeholders and investors, building on James' discussion, we hope that the FIRNS project will build a community of interest representing all the relevant stakeholders and all those who want to contribute. That we can put that in place to make sure we don't miss the opportunities to share learning from the projects and make better progress towards the action that Scottish Government set out.

Màiri McAllan

Thank you, Ross. A really helpful overview and I think you're right about particularly that last point, about sharing what we've done, sharing what's gone well and also sharing what hasn't worked. Because I think we'd all agree we don't have a great deal of time to sit in silos and to not share our experience in all of that. You're absolutely right to mention the interim principles. I think fair to say that we developed them in Scottish Government with two objectives.

First to say we absolutely welcome this, we recognise the finance gap, we want to close it and we can't do it alone in the public sector. But equally we recognise it's happening very quickly and we want to make sure that there is a framework around it, to make sure that it's working in the right way and that we don't allow changes that have happened in the past to be repeated, where communities have been left behind and ultimately that's an unsustainable way of driving change. I think we've been successful so far but again any views around the room of how well or otherwise the interim principles for investment are working is very welcome. Any other views that would like to be shared? Do come in.

John Curry

Thank you. Just picking up on the point you were picking up on before, James and actually also going back to the place-based conversation we were having this morning about Stranraer and Tweedbank. You were at the net zero starts here launch a couple of weeks ago and one of the pitches we put forward from Scottish Borders Council is what can we do to enable and there's quite a few things we can do to enable. One of those things is bring communities with us on this part of the - on the journey and through the villages which we've got, but equally SOSE and Dumfries and Galloway and a whole bunch of other people around the table and those who aren't here as well. So I guess building up on what you're doing at the moment, what else can we do to help strengthen that work that you're doing with Hampden Group and the wider partners.

Then where can we use that as a test for change for elsewhere in Scotland and into Northumberland and those other areas you were talking about before. I guess it's a challenge back to you, as to what else do you need from us and how can we help work with you on that in the future.

James Oliver

Thanks, John. We were debating it this morning actually, because it's a weird little group of people that are coalescing around this, working all over the world and have different ideas. I think if you could have some other convention fairly shortly around global community engagement programmes and rules and ethics, I think we'd find we would learn a lot very fast. We don't need all of them but I think we would be able to get a community standard that's beyond just a Scotland-based community standard. I think that would feed very quickly into the circular conversation around skills. You mentioned it then - and I can't see your name, sorry - Scott.

Learn from the skills building programme in universities in Canada around forestry and what that means in a societal position for when kids leave school and they go and become foresters for a few weeks. There's bonding, there's community, what that does to workforce, what that does to quality of jobs and change. We wrote a paper on it actually, unsurprisingly because we've got nothing else to do, to work out how many jobs you could create by doing these sorts of elements, whether it be new foresters, management, fencers, the whole logistics chain. How many you would need, how long they would need to be employed for, can they be generational jobs. I think we could learn a lot if we look at those other communities' programmes fast and delighted to try and help and see if we can do that.

Màiri McAllan

Thank you. I think the DFM and I would be very keen to see that as well if that's something that could be shared with us please, because it's really vital. You mentioned COP26, of course central government and local government have a voice on COP27 and at COP28 that's just coming up. I think there is a lot of interest in what Scotland's doing in a number of ways, so the more that we're able to share it with partners across the world is certainly something that we're very, very keen to do. I have Gail and then Euan please.

Gail Macgregor

Thanks, Cab Sec. James, a really exciting project and I love it. I'm like Jane, I'm really enthusiastic about things like this and how we can assist as a local authority. We will try and do our best going forward. I suppose for me - and this may be more a question for government and UK Government as well - you do what you do, we have the massive carbon offset of that and actually just the entire benefit for the region. I say this as a beef and sheep farmer that's done a carbon audit on their farm for four years and changed the way we do our business.

How do we get the benefit from what you're doing if the big polluters don't change their behaviour and the way that they manage their businesses? I think this is maybe more of an issue for government and UK Government, that if we have big polluting companies that are still making the same amount of cement and doing nothing to change how they operate their business, then we just become a sink for poor actions elsewhere in the UK. Can we have a list of businesses that are reputable - not reputable, but trying to become more green that could use that offset, rather than the big polluters who have no intention of changing their behaviour?

Màiri McAllan

James, if you wish to come in please do.

James Oliver

Is that okay? I actually think the useful thing about Scotland's position and for COP28 is that this actually is a land of opportunity for these elements. The big polluters are all going to have to change. You have giant ones and then you have more regional-based ones, so I understand cement and concrete is grim. But you want to knock off the top ones first, I would suggest and they are being hampered through their investor base, next generation of investors going not touching it, certain industries, no way. We've seen it at a very, very small scale in the Edinburgh Festival, Baillie Gifford and their 5.5 per cent in fossil fuels, which is actually considerably lower than a lot of asset managers essentially hounded out.

But from where we're positioned, which is right at the heart of financial elements, you can say no to certain aspects and people do say no. Oddly, tangential but close, the NRA, for instance, horrible   political organisation in the US, is banned in the UK market from being able to have its insurance policies underwritten here because they don't want it. It's ugly, it's grim, go. I think if we can outline the opportunity which is much more inspiring than the downside, you'll find that others will want to. Some you will have to tackle head-on, so the Shells of the world, sin industry, where can they atone for some of that, we need to be able to accommodate some of that.

I think land-based things probably but sea-based ones, where they've had a direct, real direct impact, maybe we should and look for opportunities or projects for them to be able to go you need to put in half a billion here to restore coastal communities and work out the financial penalty for them if they don't. That's where we come in, we can work it out, your premium on your insurance is billions, so half a billion is nothing, but it is for here. So I think actually I wouldn't worry about that, I think the markets will sort that out.

Gail Macgregor

That's really good to hear and that needs to be the messaging that gets out with the messaging around this project. We need people to understand the complexities of the issue, but what the penalties will be if they don't change their behaviour. We can help with messaging.

Màiri McAllan

Thank you, I think that's a really good offer there. Something that we'll certainly want to take up. Can I come to Euan next please.

Euan Jardine

Thank you. A really interesting discussion and it's basically just following on from what actually has just been said. We talk about we've got the deals, we've got the city deal and actually one of the major parts of the city deal is data-driven innovation. To get this we need that data to drive innovation, so I wonder if there's a way for that collaboration to see how we can draw money from the city deal to actually enhance the data-driven innovation here, the DDI. Is that something that we maybe pursue? Jane, do you know?

Màiri McAllan

Please do come in, Jane.

Jane Morrison-Ross

We've got a second meeting with DDI for the net zero part of DDI that Martin's joining, to see how we can join up and use some of that excellent suggestion. Thank you.

Euan Jardine

You're always a step ahead, Jane, I like it.

Màiri McAllan

Thanks, everyone. Pat, I'll come back up to you and then James, did you have your hand up there? You did not, okay.

Pat Snowdon

Thank you. Just in response to Gail's points, I don't want to go on about acronyms but it is a world of acronyms. There are some big global initiatives, there's the Science-Based Targets initiative, the SBTi and the Voluntary Carbon Markets Initiative, the VCMI, which the UK has a strong role in these. But they are trying to address this issue about the integrity of buyers and showing some evidence that they're following a mitigation hierarchy, whereby they reduce their emissions first before they try and offset them.

The first one is more about the science behind that and showing - it varies for sectors because some sectors will find it more difficult than others, but whereby companies would show they have a plan, they're actually looking at what's possible and addressing that. Then the VCMI is actually a process whereby they could be accredited as being gold, silver, bronze, is what they're talking about at the moment. It's a bit complex, to be honest, it may need to be simplified, but I think these initiatives are worth bearing in mind because they are trying to address the issue.

Màiri McAllan

Pat, just on that point, on the UK Forestry Standard, that's ever changing, if I remember my forestry policy correctly, to reflect how commercial or otherwise certain investments are and to make sure that there's always additionality in what is being supported with public funds. There were changes recently, I think.

Pat Snowdon  

Yes, well there's been a consultation and talk about the changes and I'm not quite sure whether the public situation has got an announcement about those. But the actual buyer integrity side is more something for the VCMI, I think, to deal with. The UK Forestry Standard, as you know, Cabinet Secretary, is really about forestry management and ensuring that woodlands are properly managed and that you've got a diversity of woodlands. We've moved on from the monoculture days of the past, but all these things need to work together.

Màiri McAllan 

Thank you, Pat. Can I invite any last comments? I'll come to Martin and then to Matt.

Martin Valenti 

Thank you, Cabinet Secretary. I think it was really important that we encouraged James, who was in 20 places I think at one time, to be here because we feel that it's really important that people see the reality of the concepts of natural capital. You could have a similar roundtable like this about circular economy, but I would say investors don't buy prospects, they buy - they buy prospects, not concepts.

I think feeling what James feels when he looks at these opportunities, the challenges, the risks, the fear and all the rest of it, I think it's important for us to recognise it, but also there's something about the visibility and the transparency. When we do good - and we have done good stuff for Scotland - we need to not hide it. I think I was quite frustrated at COP26 when we weren't really invited but we still fought our way there and made a big impact, but there was something about greenwash holds people back, fear paralyses people, hope mobilises people. We ran a series of events focusing on hope. We had an event called COPtimism which trended that day on Twitter and we wanted to show the world that whilst this is a really, really tough time, we need to be on our toes, not on our knees.

We need to be looking at opportunities and not just listing who's to blame and where all the problems are. Doing good is good for business, if we believe that fact, there's been an explosion of B Corp businesses lately because businesses who maybe James finances in some way, are saying I'm not going to get away with it anymore. Back to your point, Gail, people - you can't hide from this. I think when we get good opportunities to showcase and talk up Scotland, we need to do it. We need to do it because the hush-wash for me is just as bad as greenwash. That's just a plea for us all, if we think this is an opportunity and we do and we know it's a risk and we do, what are we going to do about that? For me it's about act, act, act, act, act and just keep going and I think that's the message from me, thank you.

Màiri McAllan 

Martin, thanks, I think that's a really helpful input, because undoubtedly we're not doing this in a vacuum. We're doing it on the backdrop of people and communities and people who are already currently rooted in certain workplaces that are going to be subject to change. Change is frightening for people and change at pace is even more frightening, so I think it comes back to Gail's point about the importance of communicating exactly what's happening. Because there will always be actors who will seek to simplify and to, I suppose, put fear into a vacuum, which is always unhelpful. Mark, sorry, I didn't have my glasses on when I said Matt before. Mark, coming to you.

Mark Biggs 

Thanks very much, Cabinet Secretary. I was just wanting to come back to the paper and what James was describing is, I sense - by the way, I didn't understand very much of it at all, James, so that's not your fault, it's me. But my sense is that you're picking up on what sounds like a relatively well established approach of growing trees to take carbon out of the atmosphere, but there is an innovation element there as well. This is one example of that innovation that fits within - I'm guessing, within the - and sorry, I'm just looking for the phrase in the paper here that I've now lost - natural capital innovation zone. So I was just wondering, are we agreeing as a group that we should establish this innovation, natural capital innovation zone, of which what James has talked about is one very good early on example of that innovation?

Now the reason I pose that, firstly it's in the paper and it's asking us to sign up to it, so I just want to know whether we are actually really being asked to sign up to it. But the second this is, of course, if we tell the population as a whole that we're just about to establish an innovation zone, even if it's an informal thing, of course people may start to think we're the guinea pigs now, coming back to that public engagement thing and so forth. There's actually, I suppose, a cautionary note that I'm throwing in here around whether this is the right language, or whether we should be careful about the language, the way that we roll this language out. Sorry, just to draw back to the paper, unless I'm reading the wrong paper, because I'd not heard that phrase uttered at all in the conversations to this point and I was wondering whether I was missing something here.

Màiri McAllan 

No, you're quite right, Mark and to bring us back to the call to actions, which we are asked to approve as the group, I'll come over to James on that if he wants to give input.

James Oliver 

Thank you. I think actually what we're doing isn't new. It's building on woodland carbon code's best practices, just trying to do it on a much bigger scale so that you can show an opportunity to investors. They're not interested in £1 million, they want to deploy hundreds of millions of pounds and those are the sorts of scales and we do have that here. The innovation opportunity as opposed to zone, possibly, can come in the up and down stream elements, so new ways for education or the logistics of tree planting itself and the seed stock, through to the logistics of harvesting.

Then the onward cycle, what does that mean? Is it better furniture making like they do in Finland, or on the Burnham Beeches down near Oxford where they make better musical instruments? What is that opportunity zone from natural capital? That's an investable area and I think that could be quite an interesting thing to explore, but we're just building on something that's old, it's just people haven't noticed it's old.

Màiri McAllan 

Thank you, James. Mark, do come in and then I might ask some of the authors maybe to speak to that particular question.

Mark Biggs 

Yes, thank you very much, Cabinet Secretary. I had picked up then that you were taking, if you like, an old approach, but I think actually the scaling itself is actually innovative, is my sense. I get that sense from what's been said around the room here. Here's an opportunity for me to plug a little bit about where Heriot-Watt might be able to help here, is that we are the owners of Panmure House, which is the last home of Adam Smith. We are appointing a whole bunch of senior academic staff, professors from around the world in sustainable finance, green finance, et cetera. It's just up the road actually from the parliament house, it is used for meetings actually of MSPs and government officials. We'd be delighted, if it was helpful, to convene a meeting around this particular space there and bring our experts in finance here into play, if that was helpful. Thank you.

Màiri McAllan 

Absolutely, Mark, thank you. I'll take that down as an action and I'll come to Martin, South of Scotland, thank you.

Martin Valenti 

Thank you. The paper, you're right, there is a call to action on that and the call to action is the call that happened in previous meetings, was about is natural capital real, are we going to go after it, is it important for us. I think we've heard today with no exception it's seriously important, we're taking it seriously but we're not going to sit back and wait to see who else is doing it. You mentioned guinea pig, I think leadership's a better way to phrase it. We have to move into the unknown, that is the nature of it and James maybe has infected me with that type of approach, is that I can't - we can't sit back and wait.

We have a nature and climate crisis that requires an emergency response. That emergency response can either be on your knees looking to see who to blame, wrong, or on your toes, getting in front of the problem, running towards the issues rather than run away from them. I think that's what we've done in Scotland time and time again and we need to do it even more and we need to run faster but together. The natural capital investment zone, innovation zone, gives us an identity, I would say, as a region. When you're looking at the north-east it's maybe oil and gas which we know is going to be transitioning. There are other areas of Scotland that have got fantastic identities, the identity that we really want to claim with all of your support and approval is this is the home of natural capital.

The South of Scotland is the place where it all starts and finishes and we've got not guinea pigs but we've got fantastic people like James, willing to put his money where his mouth is and his heart is clearly. Working with NatureScot to make sure that we don't get it wrong. Working with SEPA and anyone else who thinks they've got something to offer for the thing, so South of Scotland Enterprise is open for discussions and negotiations. But the one thing I wanted to make sure, hopefully Jane won't nudge me, is we know this isn't easy. If it was easy people would have done it years and years ago. This is challenging, this is complex, but we are not - and this is a Glasgow word - feart. We are not afraid of the challenge head of us, we know it has to happen and be ready to work with our partners to make sure it happens here.

Màiri McAllan 

Thank you, Martin, very much. I think that's a wonderful pitch on which to close this part of the conversation. Thank you, you drew out the other point, this is about a distinctive South of Scotland offer, responding to a shared national, international challenge. I think that's something that certainly resonates with us. I don't think there are any more comments to come in, so with that I might just run through some of what I think were the issues that we've covered, but I am conscious of time and I don't want to eat in too much to your comfort break. But we heard about the need to - I think first of all from Archie, about linking up the existing nature protection objectives and operations that are happening across the region. We heard of the need for financial incentives to drive change, be that for example a farmer looking to do land use change. Probably the Agriculture Bill is one of the key ways to do that. Or indeed change in terms of attracting investment into new ventures.

We discussed the government's role in providing a very clear vision and to make sure that we're developing investment strategies that have nature running through them like a thread. We covered that quite thoroughly and I think that's very important. We touched on the need for regional skills development, which can be shown to respond to the skills needs, both now and in the future, which I think is really important, again it's almost climate-proofing our skills development. We talked about the need for really thorough and meaningful community engagement and empowerment, I would say. I think that there's something for us all to work on there and challenge ourselves so that as the change becomes more embedded and gathers pace, our community empowerment and our community engagement is keeping up with that in a meaningful way.

We talked about the need to look beyond Scotland, as we always must, in terms of skills development, exchange of ideas, opportunities, risks, making sure we don't repeat what countries around the world who are facing the same things as us have perhaps tried and not managed. James is going to share the Hampden report with us that was produced, on that note. We discussed the need for messaging to be shared, to explain how the parts are coming together so that a certain sector doesn't feel under attack, where they might see in their view another group getting away with not having to act. Finally, we have the very welcome offer from Heriot-Watt of a meeting at Panmure House and you utilising your convening power in that regard on some of the big financing questions that we've posed today. So thank you very much everybody, if I have missed anything do let me know, otherwise the authors of the report are looking for the backing of those recommendations. Thank you.

Shona Robison 

Thank you very much, that was a very, very useful and interesting discussion. I can just see so many opportunities for South of Scotland to lead the way here. I think we talked earlier on about the assets and the partnerships, but also the people in this room are - the enthusiasm is quite infectious actually and I think it is going to leave me with that lasting impression of this is definitely an area of Scotland that can absolutely lead the way and we want to help you do that. Coffee, we will finish at 3:00, we will have 15 minutes for coffee because the good people who are going to work on the outcomes to be able to put a list up in front of us need 15 minutes to do that. You will have your coffee break of 15 minutes, we will come back and we will still finish at 3:00 because I will make sure we do. Okay, so enjoy your coffee and we'll see you in 15 minutes, which takes us to 25 past.


Shona Robison 

Thank you for your patience, we're just a few minutes over. Our good backup teams who have supported us throughout the day - and thank you to you all for the marvellous job you have done - have managed to produce all of the outcomes from all of the discussion today. What we're going to do is to go through them and they'll come up on the screen and we'll work through them so that you can read as they scroll up or down. Then I'm going to ask that you are happy with them and you will have the opportunity, if you want, to feed back beyond the meeting if there's anything further that you think should be acknowledged. What I'm going to suggest is that we start to go through them, starting from the top, clearly the importance of the refreshed membership of the REP and the proposal to focus on the three big challenges of housing, transport and skills over the coming years and working with partners to focus on the South of Scotland economy.

The commitment from Scottish Government to deliver the Rural Delivery Plan by the end of this parliament and the ambition of that plan and supporting us in the development of that. Making sure the South of Scotland is very much featured in that delivery plan and importantly that point about playing to the strengths. It was Euan's point of attracting new entrants to farming, particularly women and girls and diverse energy infrastructure planning, so we've now captured that point. Again the importance of the Verity House Agreement and NSET working for South of Scotland. The point about a more flexible place-proofed policymaking and funding packages, a point made by a number of people.

The final point about the wider benefits of infrastructure, transport and digital are the two that were flagged today and the importance to this area. The discussion we've just had, very, very good that it was, is confirming support for those huge opportunities provided by natural capital in the South of Scotland and positioning South of Scotland as a natural capital innovation zone, which I guess gives it an identity that you can build around. It's something that is eye-catching and something that you can use as a way of describing what it is you're trying to achieve and I like that. Then of course what follows is that pipeline of opportunities that will identify the nature-based solutions and to make sure that that is going to deliver both for the environment, but also of course for the economy.

Effective community engagement empowerment, that point was made about this isn't about doing things to communities, it's about working with communities to make good things happen. We're going to take up the offer of having discussions on green finance. I should say we already have been, of course, but I think any further opportunities to do that are absolutely welcome and partners such as Heriot-Watt - and thank you for your presence around the table today, I think it's been really, really good - will be important in taking that forward. Okay, so any glaring omissions? Yes, Mark.

Mark Biggs 

Thank you, Deputy First Minister. I'm not sure whether this is an outcome or not, but I wonder whether it's worthwhile recording the success, I think, of those gateway proposals to date, whether we should acknowledge that explicitly, question for me. I thought they were hugely inspiring, uplifting examples of how communities can work together to tackle some very serious problems, so I just wonder whether we should reflect that actually in our commentary. Thank you.

Shona Robison 

Very happy for that to be added in. I'm getting nods across the room so we'll make sure that is added into the final outcomes, which will all be distributed to you, so you'll get a copy. Yes.

David Robertson 

Thanks, Deputy First Minister. I just wondered about the farming, the women being underrepresented in farming, that's quite specific. That was absolutely the conversation, but is that the intent of the meeting, or is it underrepresented in terms of the rural economy and a wider piece of work around women and girls being underrepresented in traditional areas of the rural economy, rather than just farming? I just wondered whether this was outwith the…

Shona Robison 

I would be content if we wanted farming and the wider rural economy, if that could be added in. That what we're saying is it's not just about women and girls into one specific aspect of the sector; it's about all of the opportunities and both current and future economic opportunities. I think we can add that in, it's actually a very good point, David. Anybody else? Okay, so with those amendments we'll get the outcomes written up, we'll get them circulated and it will give us a really good note of what we've all collectively committed to going forward.

The next question is really what next? We have a look forward to the future topics and agenda items that we would want to capture for the meeting in February, 26 February to be precise. I would like to take soundings today and of course you can follow up beyond today, but if there are any suggestions we would want to perhaps try and flush those out a bit so that there's time then to work on them to make sure that all the background work can be done well in advance. Any suggestions? Yes, Jane.

Jane Morrison-Ross 

I'm really keen to see one specifically on forestry and the wider impacts of forestry and perhaps something around the data. The whole picture, I don't want to use the phrase holistic but I'm going to, a holistic view of forestry, economic community innovation, et cetera.

Shona Robison 

Would you see that building on some of the things we were touching on?

Jane Morrison-Ross 


Shona Robison 

So going in a bit deeper dive into that, okay. Yes, Pete.

Pete Smith 

Thank you, Deputy First Minister. I hope everybody's enjoyed their time at the college today, it's been a pleasure having you. It will come as no surprise to hear that I would like a focus on skills and strategic skills planning for the South of Scotland. I think everything we've talked about today will rely on skills development for the South of Scotland, everything from our discussions on natural capital to our place building to just transition, absolutely everything.

I think it's worth noting that right at the beginning of the day we talked about some of the pathfinder projects and the collaboration that we have with SRUC and that actually speaks very well of the collaboration that has gone on in skills planning and can also fit really well with what we're talking about with natural capital, with forestry skills, et cetera. But I don't think we're smart enough about it, I don't think we are clever enough yet to be able to define what we want at a more granular level. We know an awful lot about the skills that we want for the region in the next 10 years, but we don't know how we can target those yet. So I think I would really welcome that kind of discussion to enable that smarter use of public funding and smarter planning.

Shona Robison 

Thanks, Pete and we could overlay that obviously with the direction of travel of Withers, the Withers review and what that might look like translated into a South of Scotland context, so good suggestion. Rob.

Rob Dickson 

Thank you, Deputy First Minister. It'll surprise nobody that I'm going to ask if tourism could be the focus in February. Many of you will be aware that we're working on a responsible tourism strategy for the South of Scotland. Colleagues finished a marathon session of 26 roadshows last week concluding in Stranraer, with I'm told an astonishing 3,500 bits of data and response already. We should be well down the track of having the draft strategy developed and available for February. I'm not quite sure just exactly where it will be, but I think it would be timely to consider tourism. It's not something that the Convention's looked at. It's touched on it previously but it's not looked in detail on it.

It might be opportune to link it to an update on the South of Scotland Cycling Strategy, which was connected a year ago and it would be timely to look at the follow-up from the UCI Cycling World Championships in February, just to look at the plan going forward. The officer group that's been looking at that has done some good work and I think we can probably link the tourism bit and the cycling bit. I'll hesitate to go too far and say that might link to some of the forestry conversation as well, but we can work that out between now and then perhaps.

Shona Robison 

Sounds quite good timing from what you're saying in terms of where things are at. Helen, do you want to…

Helen Forsyth 

Yes, just one final thing for a future agenda is issues of transport, because I know there's a number of us in our papers today about the assessment meeting rural needs. Clearly it's on the agenda, we appreciate that, but we probably need to delve into it. It's quite complex and it could do with a bit of really quality attention, I think. I think we're very supportive of tourism at the next one, but perhaps a future agenda, thank you.

Shona Robison 

Thanks. Gail.

Gail Macgregor

Thank you, DFM. Yes, tourism absolutely, I think it's essential. Transport and infrastructure, I would use them both together. David and I have had lengthy conversations about electric vehicle charging points, strategies and various other levers that are going to get us to a just transition to net zero. I don't think we've had enough of a sharp focus on transport and infrastructure, so I'd very much appreciate that.

Shona Robison 

Thanks, Gail, that's helpful. Anybody else? It looks like quite a few really positive suggestions to craft a pretty full agenda for the meeting at the end of February. I think what we'd ask those who are going to work on this is just to maybe make sense of where things are at at the right point, because whatever we wouldn't cover at the end of February, we could cover at the one after that, so we wouldn't lose the suggestion. That is very helpful, thank you very much. We'll pass that to the senior officers group as normal to take forward. As I've already said, we are due to come back together Monday 26 February and the meeting's going to be hosted by Dumfries and Galloway Council and further details of venue, et cetera, will be shared as soon as possible.

Really ahead of schedule actually, wow. Just to say thank you and just to say a personal thought from me. I go out and about in Scotland to a lot of events and a lot of meetings and a lot of roundtables and conferences and I have to say this is one of the best, most productive, most ideas-focused, buzz in the room meeting that I've been at in a long time. I think you've got huge assets here of a can-do mentality. I don't think it's any secret to say sometimes Màiri and I are in another place up the road where it doesn't always feel like that. So it's really nice to get out and about when you actually see things that are happening that are so positive.

What I give as my commitment is that if there are things we can do to help you get on with the job of doing that, if there are barriers that we can help remove, things we can help do, then please, you have very much allies in both of us here to help make that happen, because we can see the potential here hugely. So thank you for being here today and again thank you to everybody behind the scenes who have made everything run so smoothly. I look forward to seeing you all again at the end of February, with a lot of work in between clearly. Thank you very much, thank you.

Meeting Closed

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Convention of the South of Scotland

CoSS Secretariat
Strategic Engagement and Co-Ordination Unit
5 Atlantic Quay
150 Broomielaw
G2 8LU

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