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.

Location and Board of the Agency

The online consultation detailed the importance of the Agency being accessible to businesses and communities across the South of Scotland and asked respondents to reflect on how the Agency could ensure that its services were accessible. The following examples were provided:

  • The Agency could have minimal physical presence with its services delivered digitally across the area.
  • There could be a single central headquarters from which all services could be provided.
  • The Agency could take the form of a hub and spoke model – with its larger headquarters complemented by smaller offices in locations across the area.
  • Locations could depend on the activities being provided.
  • The Agency could be entirely co-located with other public-sector organisations.

In addition, the consultation asked respondents to reflect on what sort of people they felt should be on the Board of the Agency and describe the types of skills and expertise that they should have.

This chapter outlines respondents' views on where the Agency should be located to be accessible to businesses and communities. It then explores views around the types of people that were identified as being suited to a role on the Board of the Agency.

7.1 The location of the Agency

A large majority of respondents and most of the events reflected on the location of the Agency, including the criteria which should be used to decide on its location and preferences around how it could be located to ensure its accessibility.

7.1.1 Criteria

Respondents felt that the following criteria were important in deciding the location of the agency:

  • Accessibility: Respondents described potential difficulties in having to travel across the South of Scotland to access the Agency. It was felt that offices should be spread across the region and located in areas which have available parking and are easily accessible by public transport. In addition, accessibility could be delivered through online resources and effective telephone and email communication.
  • Areas of need and potential impact: The Agency should be based in areas with high social and economic need or where it is anticipated the Agency would have the greatest impact on communities and businesses.
  • Digital delivery: The digital delivery of services was seen as desirable to help communication with the Agency considering the size of the covered geographical area. Digital delivery would include a user-friendly website, the use of social media and video calling (Skype and FaceTime). However, it was felt that issues with internet connectivity in some areas should be taken into account when planning for the digital delivery of services.
  • Face to face delivery: Respondents discussed the desirability of being able to arrange face-to-face meetings with Agency staff. This was seen to be needed alongside the digital delivery of services. It was felt that face-to-face contact would help to build relationships and help Agency staff to understand local businesses and communities. Respondents suggested that Agency staff should be willing and able to visit local businesses and communities through outreach activities.

In addition, it was felt that communities should be consulted and the Agency's location should be cost-effective.

7.1.2 Place

Respondents considered a variety of ways in which the Agency could be located including:

  • Being co-located with other public-sector organisations: Respondents felt that the Agency being co-located with other public-sector organisations could have the benefits of being cost-effective as well as improving networking and collaboration. However, co-location was questioned by those who felt it to be important for the Agency to be seen as independent and representative of new ways of thinking.
  • A hub and spoke model: It was felt that this model would improve access to the Agency across the region and increase its visibility, including in rural areas. Offices could provide services which are specific to the local area to build on its strengths and tackle challenges.
  • A single central headquarters or two major hubs: Respondents felt that if the Agency has a single central headquarters it could compromise its inclusiveness and responsiveness to local needs. It was felt that a hub would be needed in both the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway to increase accessibility.
  • Minimal physical presence with its services delivered digitally: The Agency having minimal physical presence was seen to require less resources and represent the embracing of technology. In addition, it was felt that digital delivery would ensure access to the Agency across a large geographical area. However, it was noted that digital connectivity is poor in many parts of the South of Scotland and so digital delivery could exclude some businesses and communities.
  • The location would depend on the activities being provided: It was felt that the location of the Agency could depend on the types of activities that it was undertaking.
  • Potential locations: Respondents provided several specific locations which they felt would be appropriate for an office – the suggested locations included: Dumfries, Galashiels, Gretna, Hawick, Langholm, Lockerbie, Melrose, Moffat, Peebles and Selkirk. In addition, it was felt that the Agency should be located in town centres to increase its visibility and allow for access by public transport.

7.2 Board of the Agency

A large majority of respondents, and 9 out of 26 consultation events, discussed the Board of the Agency including who should be on the Board and what types of skills would be desirable in Board members.

7.2.1 Diverse or representative make-up of the Board

Respondents felt that the Board should be made up of a diverse group of individuals including:

  • Representatives from the third sector and social enterprise
  • Members of various ages
  • People with disabilities
  • Individuals from a range of professional backgrounds and sectors
  • Unemployed people
  • Representatives from educational institutions
  • Those who are local and live in different parts the region

A few respondents emphasised that there should be a gender balance on the Board with an adequate representation of women in senior posts.

7.2.2 Local representatives

It was felt that local people should be members of the Board of the Agency. This could include local business people, those who are passionate about their local area, community leaders, those who understand local challenges, trade union representatives and local educators.

However, it was also felt that the Agency could benefit from having Board members from outwith the area to encourage transparency, partnership working and learning about best practice from other areas.

7.2.3 Private sector

Board members from the private sector were seen to be beneficial for the Agency. Specifically:

  • Those who have experience running and growing successful businesses
  • Small business owners or representatives
  • Those with rural business experience
  • Representatives from a variety of key sectors

In addition to private sector members, it was felt that Board membership should include people from the third sector and the public sector.

7.2.4 Young people

Respondents felt that young people should be represented on the Board to provide them with a voice in decision-making, with young people informing how the Agency creates opportunities for this group. Young people should be involved in a way that is meaningful rather than tokenistic. The inclusion of young people was seen to be important in addressing the challenge of retaining and attracting young people to the region.

7.2.5 Skills people want to see in members of the Board

A range of knowledge, experience and skills were seen to be desirable among Board members including:

  • Communication and listening skills
  • Being approachable
  • Strategic thinking
  • Energy, passion and motivation to make a difference
  • Local knowledge
  • Experience in social enterprise development
  • Innovative thinking
  • Experience in setting up and growing businesses
  • Environmental expertise
  • Creativity
  • Leadership skills


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