South Scotland

New south of Scotland enterprise agency moves closer

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Image caption The new agency will aim to help boost business across southern Scotland

MSPs have backed the principle of a new enterprise agency being set up for the south of Scotland.

They unanimously supported the legislation needed to create such a body but called for improvements.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing described the approval of the general principles of the bill to set up the agency as a "significant day".

He told MSPs the Scottish government wanted a body to drive growth, boost competitiveness and tackle inequality.

Labour's Colin Smyth claimed the proposals would currently leave the new body "serving ministers in Edinburgh and not responsible to local people".

'Accountable to communities'

He added: "That's not acceptable to me and it is not acceptable to the people of the south of Scotland.

"As the bill progresses I will table a number of amendments including one to make it a legal requirement for the agency to consult and report on performance with local people.

"This must be an agency rooted in the south and accountable to communities in the south of Scotland."

He was speaking during the debate on the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill.

'Dedicated vehicle'

Mr Ewing said it set out the "overarching strategic aim of the body to further the economic and social development and improve the amenity and environment".

Conservative MSP Edward Mountain, the convener of Holyrood's rural environment and connectivity committee agreed action was needed to boost the economy in the area.

The new enterprise body will cover both the Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders council areas.

Fellow Conservative Finlay Carson said: "The region needs a dedicated vehicle that will help to transform growth and help to provide more opportunities."

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