MSPs back priniciples of new South of Scotland enterprise agency

Holyrood has backed the principle of a new enterprise agency being set up for the south of Scotland.

But while MSPs unanimously supported the legislations needed to create such a body, they called for improvements to be made.

Labour’s Colin Smyth said the proposals would currently leave the new body “serving ministers in Edinburgh and not responsible to local people”.

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 spoke during a debate on the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill, with Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing hailing the approval of its general principles as a “significant day” for the area.

He told MSPs: “Our vision is for a body that will drive inclusive growth, increase competitiveness and tackle inequality within the south of Scotland.”

He added that the Bill 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.”