Speaking at the launch of an Interim Report by the Borders Working Party in Galashiels last week Lord Macdonald said:
'The government is determined to do all it can to help the people of the Borders regenerate the local economy. I firmly believe that only a partnership approach to the current difficulties can succeed.
'That is why I welcome the publication of the interim report which identifies a number of short-term employment opportunities, as well as several medium to long-term initiatives which will help revitalise the Borders economy.'
The provision of over 650 jobs by March 2000 resulting from two employment schemes implemented by Scottish Borders Enterprise;
Construction of a call centre initially providing in the region of 50 jobs;
Establishment of a network of research/innovation companies;
Provision of small start-up and incubator units throughout the Borders;
Creation of up to 500 jobs through the implementation of revised tourism strategy for the Borders;
Plans for the conversion of Ettrick Mill for commercial use.
'In addition to these initiatives I know that many people in the Borders attach considerable importance to re-opening the Waverley rail line from the Central Borders to Edinburgh. That is why The Scottish Office is providing funding to enable a full feasibility study to go ahead. This will allow an informed debate on whether or not to proceed with plans to reinstate the line.'
Drew Tulley, convenor of Scottish Borders Council said:
'We were pleased with the announcement by Lord Macdonald that the government would set up the Borders working party on the economy. We have high expectations that the process will conclude with a long-term commitment by this government to provide the people of the Scottish Borders with additional resources.
'I have been keeping pace with the progress of the Borders working party, and acknowledge the genuine concern shown by the secretary of state and his ministerial team to support the efforts of the council and its partners. A tide of goodwill is beginning to flow, at long last, from St Andrews House towards the Scottish Borders, and we must have faith that it will open up new trading opportunities. I look forward to studying the interim report in close detail and would say `so far, so good.'
Tony Taylor, chairman of Scottish Borders Enterprise, welcomed the report, saying:
'The findings of the working group largely confirm the robustness of the programmes and projects contained in the action plan submitted by Scottish Borders Enterprise to The Scottish Office and Scottish Enterprise in the late summer of this year. With the help of Scottish Enterprise we now require to address the financial demands of the report in order to deliver the main elements identified. I now look forward to receiving the final report.'
Arthur Squair chairman of Scottish Borders Tourist Board said:
'I welcome the recognition that tourism has received in this interim report and hope that through the implementation of the tourism strategy, quality sustainable jobs will be created which will bring lasting benefit to the Borders. I believe that tourism is one of the sectors in the Borders with real potential for growth.'
1. The government announced a package of measures for the Borders in July 1998, including the allocation of£1m to Scottish Borders Enterprise (SBE) and the establishment of a Rural Inward Investment Unit in Locate in Scotland.
2. The final report of the BWP will be published early in 1999.