South of Scotland Enterprise Agency: consultation report
Analysis report on the consultation process for creating the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency. The report analyses both online responses and opinions expressed at the 26 engagement events held across Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders.
Ambitions for the South of Scotland
The consultation document outlined the Scottish Government's ambition for the South of Scotland:
- Businesses with increased productivity that are ambitious for the future, investing in innovations, and offering good employment opportunities with higher wages.
- A skilled workforce, with the skills needed now and the ability to develop the skills needed in the future.
- More opportunities for young people so that they stay in the South of Scotland.
- Communities better equipped to play a greater role in the economic, social and environmental success of the South of Scotland.
- Identifying and tackling the barriers to inclusive growth.
The consultation asked respondents to indicate whether they agreed or disagreed with the outlined ambition.
Figure 4 shows that a large majority (87%) of respondents to the online consultation agreed with the Scottish Government's outlined ambition for the South of Scotland. Only a few respondents (7%) indicated that they did not agree with the Scottish Government's outlined ambition.
Figure 4 Respondents' answers as to whether they agree with the outlined ambition for the South of Scotland
A large majority of respondents agreed with the Scottish Government's outlined ambition for the South of Scotland
This was followed by three open-text questions, asking respondents whether they agree with the outlined ambition, what they would like to see for the South of Scotland, and their ambitions for the future economic success of the South of Scotland.
In response to the open-text questions, respondents raised the following issues:
- South of Scotland's economy
- Economic regeneration and infrastructure development
- Better joined-up working
- Vibrant communities
- Education and skills development
- Focus on sustainability
- Focus on young people
Each of these points is analysed in more detail below.
3.1 South of Scotland's economy
Many respondents to the online consultation and 12 out of 26 consultation events outlined their ambition for South of Scotland's economy which they would like to see characterised by:
- Inclusive growth and increased productivity: Respondents highlighted their ambition for the South of Scotland to have an economy that is growing, socially inclusive and tackles inequality, supplemented by a job market providing equal opportunities for all. In addition, there was an ambition for increased productivity across the South of Scotland with a rise in the Gross Value Added per worker in the South of Scotland.
- Good employment opportunities and wages: Many respondents to the online consultation and participants at 12 consultation events highlighted the need to overcome the current low-wage economy in the South of Scotland and develop high-skilled and well-paid employment opportunities in the South of Scotland. An increase in the wage levels was regarded as a first step in attracting professionals to the South of Scotland and encouraging young people to stay in the area (a point further discussed in Chapter 8).
- Diversification of the local economy: Besides raising the importance of the traditional sectors in the South of Scotland, respondents highlighted the need for the South of Scotland's economy to be diversified. The over-reliance on a few sectors, particularly agriculture, but also large employers was seen as making the South of Scotland prone to risks and economic shocks.
- Business landscape: Respondents highlighted their ambition for the South of Scotland to have a thriving local business base. In particular, it was felt that the agency's focus should be on supporting businesses that are indigenous to the South of Scotland. A few felt that this should take precedence over the ambition to attract investment and businesses from outside the area.
- Circular economy: Some respondents outlined their vision for a circular economy in the South of Scotland. This included the suggestion that local businesses and public-sector organisations develop local supply chains. The circular economy was presented as a being more sustainable than traditional models of economic growth.
3.2 Economic regeneration and infrastructure development
In addition to outlining their general ambition for the South of Scotland's economy, many respondents made comments regarding the need for economic regeneration and investment in the South of Scotland.
- Respondents highlighted their ambition for the South of
Scotland to be an attractive place to live and visit but also
work and invest, and for the profile of the South of Scotland to
be raised accordingly. In particular, they highlighted the need
for the South of Scotland to:
- Attract investment and businesses: This was seen as a means to ensure economic growth and create good employment opportunities (see above) and as attracting new sectors to the South of Scotland (see Section 5.2).
- Attract professionals and a skilled workforce: Attracting professionals and widening the talent pool was seen as crucial for the South of Scotland's economy.
- Respondents suggested that the
transport infrastructure in the South of Scotland should
be better developed. In particular, respondents proposed
- The public transport timetables, i.e. train and bus schedules and the frequency with which they run, should be developed to fit around commuting patterns.
- The Borders Railway should be extended further south to Carlisle, with stops in between being considered.
- The railway line between Dumfries and Stranraer should be reopened.
- Many respondents suggested that the East-West road network, particularly the A7, A68, A75, A76 and A77, could be further improved, with potholes being filled and dual carriageways being developed for the whole length of these roads.
- Respondents also suggested that the role and potential of ports and harbours should be considered by the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, particularly the port in Stranraer, and Annan and Eyemouth harbours.
- Respondents highlighted the importance of transport infrastructure for other areas of development in the South of Scotland. It was felt that a better developed transport system in the South of Scotland had the potential to reduce social isolation, increase tourism, attract investment and business (see above), and encourage young people to remain in the area (see Chapter 8).
- Respondents highlighted that they would like to see the digital infrastructure improved, i.e. faster broadband speeds and improved mobile coverage.
- Respondents outlined their ambition for thriving town centres, suggesting that town centres and decaying buildings should be regenerated. They outlined their vision for town centres to have a range of shops and cafes but also post offices and banks.
3.3 Better joined up working
Many respondents to the online consultation and participants at 16 of the 26 consultation events suggested that they would like to see a South of Scotland that is characterised by meaningful cooperation between different stakeholders and better joined-up working. This included cooperation across:
- Different sectors, including:
- - The private, public and third sectors.
- - Different sectors of the rural economy such as forestry and farming.
- - Sectors that can support the tourism industry such as the food and drinks industry and the creative sector.
- - It was also suggested that developments across the South of Scotland should strike a balance between environmental, economic and social concerns.
- Different organisations: There was a perception that there are currently many organisations doing different things. The view was that their activities should be better joined up and that there should be an integrated approach to policy making, for example, a coordinated approach to tackling poverty and inequality in the South of Scotland. Respondents also suggested that local agencies and central government, as well as local authorities and social enterprises, should work together more closely.
3.4 Vibrant communities
A few respondents outlined their ambition for the South of Scotland to be characterised by vibrant communities. This included communities being well-equipped to take an active part in the development of the South of Scotland and for citizens across the South of Scotland to have equal opportunities and the possibility of leading a healthy lifestyle.
3.5 Education and skills development
Some respondents highlighted that they would like education provision in the South of Scotland – ranging from school to college and higher education – to be extended and improved. In addition, it was felt that there should be a focus on employability and entrepreneurship.
3.6 Focus on sustainability
Many respondents said that they would like to see a South of Scotland that has a focus on sustainable development approaches. They outlined a focus on:
- Environmental sustainability, with a focus on a sustainable use of natural resources including land use ( e.g. multi-use forestry), renewable energy or the development of a smart energy system.
- However, a few respondents questioned the merit of wind farms, as it was felt that they compromised the natural landscape of the South of Scotland and therefore have a detrimental effect on tourism.
- Economic sustainability, including a focus on:
- - Sustainable business growth
- - Low-carbon economy, including an infrastructure allowing people to have a low carbon footprint but also the creation of a low carbon economy as set out in the Scottish Government Climate Change Plan.
3.7 Focus on young people
Respondents outlined that they would like the South of Scotland to better invest in its young people. The ambitions here ranged from providing young people with better education and job opportunities to retaining and attracting more young people to the South of Scotland. All of these points are further discussed in Chapter 8.
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