The new South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) covers Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders, but has the flexibility to allow operation out with these geographical boundaries.
The Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure (EEI) Committee will hear a report (14 May) on the progress of the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill, which is currently with the Scottish parliament. The committee will also hear of the work of the Interim South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SoSEP) supporting projects across the South of Scotland.
SOSE offers a once in a generation opportunity for economic development investment and action. The SOSE Bill was introduced in the Scottish parliament in October 2018.
Subject to necessary parliamentary process, it is anticipated the new Agency will be operational from 1 April 2020. Stage one of the process, where the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee (RECC) took evidence on the need for the new body, has now been completed.
Due to the time required to set up the new Agency, the Scottish Government set up SoSEP as an interim solution to ensure that the South of Scotland benefits from a new approach to economic development as soon as possible. This is of benefit to partners as it allows time to bring forward and test new ideas, programmes and projects which will feed into the establishment of SOSE. To ensure progress, £10M is available in 2019/19 from the Scottish Government, with a further £13.3M allocated for 2019/20.
The Council discussed and approved the SoSEP workplan in May this year. The partnership is structured around eight themes:
• Governance and data
• Food Production, Forestry and Land Management
• Education and Skills
• Key Sectors
• Business Support
• Arts and Culture
Chair of EEI, Archie Dryburgh said: “It is good to hear that some of our local projects are already benefitting from this interim Agency already. Annan Regeneration Project received £250k to support the cost of a team to drive forward Annan Action Plan, developing projects to mitigate the impact of job losses in the town following Young’s closure of Pinneys. £300k has also been approved towards the cost of refurbishing Johnstone School Kirkcudbright to create dedicated spaces for businesses, groups, and a Dark Skies Visitor Centre and Planetarium. In addition, £6.6M funding for the two College’s South of Scotland Skills and Learning Network will have a positive impact in the work to develop the network of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Hubs across the South of Scotland, addressing skills gaps.
Vice Chair, Andrew Wood commented: “We are pleased that the RECC agreed with the evidence our Council supplied: that the area faced a significant number of economic, social and geographic challenges which were not being sufficiently addressed through the current economic support mechanisms. The new Agency must now be accountable for its performance and will engage with local communities and stakeholders, which will inform its action plan for future work and development.”