Between March and June 2018, the Scottish Government ran a consultation process about the planned Enterprise Agency for the South of Scotland ("the Agency"). The online consultation consisted of one closed and 20 open-text questions and was supplemented by 26 engagement events at different locations throughout the South of Scotland. The engagement events were organised and publicised by the Southern Uplands Partnership.
There were a total of 268 responses to the online consultation. 153 responses were from individuals and 115 responses from organisations.
This report presents the analysis of the 268 responses to the online consultation and summary notes of the 26 engagement events which the Southern Uplands Partnership provided.
The central messages of the respondents are summarised below. The key messages were raised by respondents and event discussions across both Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders, indicating that there is shared need across both local authority areas and a clear rationale for the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency.
Ambitions for the South of Scotland
87% of respondents agreed with the Scottish Government's outlined ambition for the South of Scotland. In the open-text comments respondents highlighted the importance of inclusive growth and increased productivity, good employment opportunity and wages, the importance of sustainable approaches and the need to diversify the economy. In addition, the need for economic regeneration and infrastructure development. The East-West road and rail network in particular was emphasised.
The economic context of the South of Scotland
Respondents outlined a wide range of economic challenges that they would like to see the Agency address, including: low productivity in the South of Scotland; Brexit and the loss of European funding; the demographic challenge of an ageing population and young people leaving the area; as well as the lack of affordable housing, further and higher education opportunities and a skilled workforce.
Respondents highlighted a range of economic strengths in the South of Scotland that they would like the Agency to build upon, including: the quality of life in the South of Scotland; its history, cultural heritage and natural capital; and a range of sectors that are important to the South of Scotland, including primary industries, the creative sector and the tourism industry.
Potential activities for the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency
What currently works well in the South of Scotland
Respondents highlighted that the South of Scotland has a vibrant community sector that provides important services and activities for local communities. In addition, the current level of partnership working, and the support provided by different agencies, were highlighted as areas that currently work well.
Activities related to the aim of driving forward the economy
Respondents emphasised the need to better market the South of Scotland to attract new sectors, investment and tourists to the area. The importance of the Agency supporting and working together with local businesses was highlighted.
Activities related to the aim of growing and sustaining communities
Respondents suggested that the Agency should help communities to grow their capacity and provide funding and support to community groups and social enterprises.
Activities related to the aim of capitalising on people and resources
Respondents suggested that the Agency should develop more value-added operations through local processing and investment in research and innovation. The need to further develop the education and skills sector was highlighted as well as the need to capitalise on the skills and experience of older and local people.
Respondents emphasised the need for the Agency to cooperate with other agencies and institutions and local authorities (both Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders, and other neighbouring Scottish local authorities) as well as England and Northern Ireland.
Location and Board of the Agency
Respondents suggested that accessibility was the key criteria for choosing a location for the Agency but the importance of digital and face-to-face delivery was also highlighted.
It was suggested that the Board of the Agency should be made up of a diverse group of individuals. Respondents in particular highlighted the importance of involving local representatives, individuals from the private sector and young people.
A large majority of respondents highlighted the importance of keeping young people in the area and suggested various ways of doing so, ranging from creating education and training as well as employability and job opportunities.