New south of Scotland enterprise agency to be created
A new enterprise agency is to be created to "meet the economic needs of communities" in the south of Scotland.
The move is part of the final report from the Scottish government's enterprise and skills review containing a range of measures to help business.
Economy Secretary Keith Brown said it showed how to "transform the performance" of the economy.
He said it recognised the need for dedicated support to southern Scotland as already offered in the Highlands.
Mr Brown launched the report while meeting Dumfries and Galloway business Kite Power Systems.
The company has secured £7m of equity funding for its innovative approach to harnessing wind energy.
He said the report contained measures to "enable more businesses to deliver strong, vibrant and inclusive growth at scale".
In addition to the new enterprise agency the final report also includes:
- a more "coherent, collaborative and streamlined system" of business support
- piloting a £500,000 College Innovation Fund
- a review of the learner journey for 15-24 year olds
- boosting trade and investment in Scotland by better co-ordinating international activity
- a strategic board to be set up in autumn 2017, guiding overall direction of the enterprise and skills agencies
"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," said Mr Brown.
"A new agency will be established to meet the distinctive economic needs of communities in the south of Scotland.
"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."
'Dither and delay'
However, south of Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth criticised the three-year timescale for getting the new organisation fully set up.
"A proposal was put to the government that would have seen a new agency up and running within months using the local councils under current laws," he said.
"Clearly the government's obsession with centralisations means they want to control everything including this new agency.
"The document they have published simply cuts and pastes the one the two councils produced in relation to the boundaries of the new body and what its aims should be.
"But the Scottish government hasn't proposed anything itself other than dither and delay."
Dumfriesshire Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell MSP said the announcement had his "wholehearted support".
"This is a Conservative manifesto commitment that is set to be delivered," he said.
"There is no doubt that the extra Conservative representation following the 2016 Scottish Parliament election reinforced the need for the Scottish government to take the economic priorities of the south of Scotland more seriously."
Susan Love of the Federation of Small Businesses said the Scottish government deserved credit for pursuing reform.
"While the review process was difficult and sometimes fraught- it looks to us like there's much to be applauded," she said.
"These good ideas now need careful and swift implementation."
Scottish Borders Council's Mark Rowley said it was "delighted" the needs of the area had been recognised.
"The south of Scotland faces particular challenges such as an ageing population, traditionally lower wages and digital connectivity issues," he said.
"The introduction of the south of Scotland enterprise agency means we can tackle these challenges differently, with the new organisation bringing a fresh approach to deliver the best outcome for businesses, learners, communities and individuals."