UK and Scottish Government ministers joined the leaders of five councils in the Borders to sign heads of terms for a £394.5 million cross-border economic deal.
The formal agreement is a major step towards signing a full deal to fund proposals including a feasibility study into extending the Borders railway line from Tweedbank to Carlisle.
Further plans, all subject to business case approval, include upgrading Carlisle station, developing a mountain bike innovation centre in the Borders and creating a dairy innovation centre in Dumfries and Galloway.
The growth deal is the first cross-border deal of its kind, bringing together five cross-border local authorities – Dumfries and Galloway Council, Scottish Borders Council, Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council, and Northumberland County Council.
The UK Government is investing up to £265 million, £200 million of which is going south of the border, while the Scottish Government has pledged £85 million and the five local authorities will contribute a total of £44.5 million.
The SNP has criticised the UK Government for failing to match its investment in Scotland.
South Scotland MSP Emma Harper said: “This is a very welcome step in unlocking the potential of the south of Scotland – to create new jobs and grow the local economy.
“But it’s hard not to feel let down by the UK Government, who are once again selling Scotland short by £20 million.”
She said the Scottish Government has committed £400 million more to city region growth deals in Scotland than the UK Government.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who was joined by Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry to sign the Borderlands deal heads of terms at the Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland at Glentress in the Scottish Borders, said: “It’s fantastic news that the UK Government is to invest up to £265 million in the Borderlands Deal.
“This is an ambitious approach to cross-border working between Governments, local authorities and partners which will boost economic growth by helping existing business, encouraging new ventures and bringing a wealth of improvements to people who live and work in the area and to visitors.”
He added: “The south of Scotland and northern-most parts of England operate as a single economic area and it is important the border is not allowed to become an obstacle to development.
“To date the UK Government has committed more than £1.41 billion of Growth Deal investment to support sustainable growth in Scotland and create jobs and opportunities for the future.”
Scottish Infrastructure Secretary Michael Matheson also attended the signing.
He said: “I am delighted we have reached this important milestone in signing heads of terms for the Borderlands Deal.
“Successful delivery of the deal will create jobs, protect existing ones and extend the benefits of economic growth to even more communities across Scotland.”
He added: “The Scottish Government has so far committed more than £1.7 billion over the next 10 to 20 years to City Region and Growth Deals and related investments across Scotland.”