South Scotland MSP Emma Harper recently met with representatives from Visit South West Scotland who, while welcoming the establishment of the new South Scotland Enterprise Agency, expressed their concerns over the operational requirements for businesses and local groups to access funding and support from the agency.

Currently businesses and local groups who are looking for funding and other practical support from the new agency must show that their application is to the benefit of the entirety of South Scotland – a pan South Scotland approach. However, those who Ms Harper has engaged with believe this pan-South Scotland approach may be inhibitive as many community projects in Dumfries and Galloway may not directly benefit communities with other distinct needs in areas such as in the Scottish Borders.

Following these concerns, Ms Harper raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament with Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Tourism. In response, Mr Ewing recognised the concerns has organised a meeting between Ms Harper and the interim Chief Executive of the new agency – Nick Halfhide – to discuss this matter further as it is an operational issue which can be changed without the need to change the law.

Commenting, Ms Harper said:

“The establishment of the new South Scotland Enterprise Agency will undoubtably benefit Dumfries and Galloway and wider South Scotland by working to improve economic growth through attracting people, business and organisations to the area. It will also work to improve infrastructure and connectivity. However, we must ensure that the correct operational arrangements are in place to support our businesses and communities.

“When I met with representatives from Visit South West Scotland I was made aware of the current pan South Scotland approach to accessing support – both financial and practical. I heard how this may be a barrier to some Dumfries and Galloway businesses and groups and therefore raised the issue with the Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP.

“I am pleased Mr Ewing recognised these concerns and has now arranged a meeting between me and the new interim Chief Executive of the Agency – Nick Halfhide – as it is an operational issue which can be altered without a legislative change.

“I will keep all updated on progress on this issue and would welcome any constituent or business getting in touch with me at any time.”

VisitSouthWestScotland Chair, Ian McAndrew, said;

“While any money at all to support tourism across the whole of the South of Scotland is hugely important to the industry as it is the region’s biggest employer, it is equally if not more important, to ensure that the local destination marketing organisations are also adequately and permanently funded so that they can work towards not only bringing in visitors and tourism income to the region but also stabilising and increasing job opportunities throughout Dumfries & Galloway for the good of all”.

Cabinet Secretary for tourism, Fergus Ewing said:

“£1 million has been given to VisitScotland with a further £1.5 million for forestry infrastructure as well as £85m to the Borderlands Growth project. I understand the Chair of South of Scotland Enterprise has met with the chair of VisitSouthWestScotland and as funding is an operational matter I will ask the interim CEO Nick Halfhide to meet with Emma Harper MSP to discuss future support for tourism projects”.