New southern Scotland enterprise agency rubber-stamped by MSPs
Southern Scotland will get its own enterprise agency after MSPs passed the legislation needed to establish the body.
Fom 2020 the new public body, called South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), will operate in a similar way to Highlands and Islands Enterprise, but serve the local authoriity areas of Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.
All parties backed the bill at its final stage.
Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said the new agency would bring a "fresh and different approach" to the area.
"We have been given the green light to press ahead with ambitious plans to create an enterprise agency that is tailored specifically to capitalise on the tremendous untapped potential in the area, driving inclusive and sustainable growth whilst taking into account the area’s distinct economic circumstances.
“Importantly the new agency will be an exemplar in delivering real progress on fair work practices, tackling issues like the gender pay gap and ageism in the workplace, as well as promoting the Living Wage."
The agency was also in the manifesto of the Scottish Conservatives. Galloway MSP Finlay Carson, shadow minister for natural environment and digital economy said he hoped the legislation was the "dawn of a new era" for Dumfries and Galloway.
"For far too long, the south of Scotland has suffered from a lack of focus and investment, which has resulted in many people—in particular young people—moving away, and potential investors being put off by the lack of adequate infrastructure," he said.
South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth said: "We have a vibrant and ambitious social enterprise base that is already making a difference to communities, but it is desperate to do more and to access the same support that is offered to other businesses to help to achieve that growth. We also have excellent local colleges and a university campus with the potential to expand so that they can deliver more of the skills that our communities need."
A Scottish Green amendment to prevent the new agency from backing arms manufacturers was defeated by all other parties. Rural communities spokesman John Finnie said: "The Scottish Government’s enterprise agencies have a sorry history when it comes to funding arms companies. Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise have both pumped millions of pounds into the industry, and provide other support such as account management services.
“It’s shameful that multinational companies like Raytheon, a company that makes billions of pounds annually in profits, for providing weaponry to human rights abusers is given public money."