South of Scotland Enterprise Agency to be created

The river Nith, Dumfries
The river Nith, Dumfries

A new enterprise agency is to be created to address the economic needs of communities in the South of Scotland.

The proposal is included in the final report from the Enterprise and Skills Review published today which Holyrood leaders said contains measures to” support business, ensure young people have access to the right skills, and create growth across the Scottish economy”.

The steps to be taken include improved access to innovation, enterprise and international support and streamlined skills provision.

Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Keith Brown launched the report while meeting with Kite Power Systems – a company that has secured £7 million of equity funding for its innovative approach to harnessing wind energy.

He said: “This report shows how we can transform the performance of our economy and enable more businesses to deliver strong, vibrant and inclusive growth at scale.

“From better co-ordination of our international activity to ensuring young people are equipped with the skills they need to succeed, this review has delivered a package of reforms that will drive change across the country.

“We have recognised the importance of providing dedicated support to the South of Scotland in the same way we currently do for the Highlands and Islands. A new agency will be established to meet the distinctive economic needs of communities in the South of Scotland.

“We are putting a greater urgency behind our innovation action plan and joining up the efforts of our skills agencies to help learners and businesses get the training they need. Businesses will benefit from streamlined innovation support through a new digital access point, building on the recent success that has seen Scotland move into the top group of EU nations as regards innovation performance.

“The fundamentals of Scotland’s economy are strong and – as this report confirms – we are doing all that we can to build upon these further.”

Liz Cameron
Liz Cameron

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce welcomed today’s report but called for close scrutiny of the new agency structure’s achievements over the coming years to ensure quick and effective progress.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “It is vital that the services that businesses receive from Scotland’s public sector are constantly evolving to meet their needs and to help business, and our economy, to grow.

“At a time when the Scottish economy is significantly underperforming that of the UK as a whole, this review has been timely, and this latest set of actions give us much more detail about how the new proposed structure will interface with businesses in practice.

“We welcome the creation of a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, focused on the particular opportunities, challenges and needs of businesses in Dumfries & Galloway and in the Scottish Borders. We also welcome the strong role envisioned for the Scottish Chambers of Commerce network in terms of building the exporting potential of Scotland’s businesses – which will be an even stronger priority in the post-Brexit landscape.

“What we need to see now is exactly how the private sector can have a role to provide the leadership and guidance necessary to make these new structures work. The new framework must deliver real change for the better in a very short timescale and this must be monitored on a regular basis to ensure that there is material progress in supporting Scotland’s businesses and growing our economy.”

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