Our Borderlands - Our Future : Final Report - Scottish Affairs Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

The south of Scotland

1.  We are sympathetic to the calls we heard from the south of Scotland for more job creation schemes in the area. We urge both the Scottish and UK Governments to locate public sector jobs beyond London and Edinburgh, and recommend that both Governments provided a detailed breakdown of the location of public sector jobs, and their future plans for further relocation, to our successor Committee. This work should run in tandem with UK Government support for communications and transport infrastructure development in the region. (Paragraph 24)

2.  We recommend that the UK Government take seriously Michael Moore's reminder that its responsibility does not stop at the Border. It should demonstrate this by lending its full support, through expertise, ministerial participation and financial resource where possible, to employment initiatives in the south of Scotland, such as the Borders Employability Forum. (Paragraph 25)

3.  While we recognise the concerns of employers in the south of Scotland, particularly those running small businesses and micro-businesses, of the potential costs of the living wage, we see no justification for not paying workers a living wage in the UK in 21st century. We have addressed the issue of fair wages in our inquiries into zero hours contracts and into compliance with the minimum wage in Scotland. At the very minimum, the UK and Scottish Governments should ensure that all public sector employees in the south of Scotland are paid the living wage. (Paragraph 29)

4.  We recognise the work being done in the area to provide training opportunities for young people. To effectively combat youth unemployment the UK Government, which is responsible for employment policy, and the Scottish Government, which is responsible for higher education, training and skills development, should produce a joint strategy specifically to tackle youth unemployment and underemployment in the region. (Paragraph 37)

5.  We look forward to the re-opening of the Borders Railway link between Edinburgh and Galashiels. We urge the UK Government to work with the Scottish Government and with key agencies on both sides of the border to extend the Borders Railway southwards from Galashiels, to Hawick and on to Carlisle. (Paragraph 41)

6.  We recommend that the UK Government produce a clear strategic plan which sets out key principles for joint working with the Scottish Government in relation to transport infrastructure issues. We also recommend that both Governments take steps to monitor the efficacy of the collaboration between the Highways Agency and Transport Scotland on cross-border sections of major road infrastructure. Performance measures should be put in place for both organisations in respect of this. (Paragraph 43)

7.  We are concerned about the lack of transparency and accountability in relation to the rollout of superfast broadband. We agree that the Scottish Government is best placed to oversee the rollout on the ground, but this is a reserved area of policy, and does not absolve the UK Government of the responsibility for ensuring targets are met in terms of timetable and delivery. (Paragraph 53)

8.  Access to superfast broadband is not a luxury add-on for rural communities, but a key part of the infrastructure required for those communities to thrive and develop. We note the evidence in relation to the link between a lack of infrastructure and youth migration, and while this is a complex issue, it also serves as a stark reminder of the significant and damaging potential consequences for rural communities when the rollout of crucial infrastructure programmes is delayed. (Paragraph 54)

9.  We welcome the recent deal between the UK Government and the four major mobile networks in the UK. Given that vast swathes of the south of Scotland do not have adequate mobile phone coverage, we seek assurances from the UK Government that it will prioritise this area in the implementation of this agreement. We also recommend that it works closely with the mobile phone providers and emergency service providers to evaluate the options with respect to using the emergency service communications infrastructure to, temporarily at least, improve coverage in the south of Scotland. (Paragraph 59)

10.  We are also persuaded that the UK Government should tighten the regulations which require operators to extend coverage to remote rural areas, although this will only have an impact if simultaneous steps are also taken to improve the infrastructure. We recommend that the UK Government consult on the current guidelines and report progress on this to our successor Committee early in the new Parliament.
(Paragraph 60)

11.  We accept that, since devolution, there are some areas of legitimate policy divergence, for example, in terms of health and education policy, north and south of the Scotland-England border. However, this should not impinge on the access of residents living on both sides of the border to essential services. We recommend that the UK Government work closely with the Scottish Government and local authorities on both the English and Scottish side of the border to provide adequate access to essential public services, and for the social and economic benefit of the region as a whole. (Paragraph 63)

12.  The specific challenges faced in the south of Scotland require effective collaboration and joint strategies between the different levels of Government in both Scotland and the UK. The UK and Scottish Governments need to find new ways of working together, and with local government, to deliver for the people of Scotland. This is arguably one of the least developed areas in the post-devolution landscape and should be a major area of work in the context of the implementation of the Smith Agreement during the course of the next Parliament. (Paragraph 64)

Cross-border working

13.  We welcome the creation of the Borderlands Initiative as a first step in effective cross-border and collaborative working, and recognise its role in delivering major benefits for this economic region. However, this potential will only be delivered if both the UK and Scottish Governments provide the vital political support and leadership required to deliver tangible benefits. We recommend that an inter-ministerial forum is set up to work alongside the Borderlands Initiative. (Paragraph 77)

14.  As we have repeatedly stated, collaboration and co-operation is key - not only across the border, but at all levels of government - including at local and community level. To avoid duplication of effort and the spreading of resources too thinly, community-level involvement and decision making should be underpinned by a regional framework of the type offered by the Borderlands Initiative. We recommend that the Borderlands Initiative work closely with community councils to develop a clear strategy in relation to how all levels of government should work together to deliver for the benefit of the people of the south of Scotland. (Paragraph 83)

Economic development and enterprise

15.  We believe that the restructuring of Scottish Enterprise, and the centralising impetus behind that restructuring, has had a negative impact on the economic development and enterprise culture in the south of Scotland - not least because of the subsequent decline in both the visibility of the region and of services tailored to the specific economic challenges it faces. (Paragraph 101)

16.  We are not convinced that the efforts and resources required to restructure Scottish Enterprise yet again are justifiable, but urge the UK Government to work closely with the Scottish Government to identify how the negative consequences of the initial restructuring for the south of Scotland should be remedied, and to identify how a re-focusing of existing resources may best address the specific needs of the south of Scotland. We also recommend that there should be more collaboration and formal joint working between Scottish Enterprise and bodies operating across the south of Scotland, such as the South of Scotland Alliance. (Paragraph 102)

17.  We note the success of Highlands and Islands Enterprise in invigorating the economy of the Highlands and Islands and in promoting the distinctive identity of that area of Scotland, and in particular, we recognise the value of its social remit. We see no reason why Scottish Enterprise could not work with other bodies to promote such a social remit, and we recommend that it does so. The success of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise is as much about culture, energy, commitment and leadership as it is about structures. We are confident that the south of Scotland can achieve similar success. (Paragraph 103)

European Union structural funding

18.  We recommend that the NUTS 2 boundaries in the south of Scotland should be redrawn to ensure greater structural funding for the region. We are satisfied that this can be achieved without compromising other existing administrative boundaries, and without causing a reduction in the likely overall levels of funding which would be allocated to Scotland. This could result in significant sums of additional funding being allocated to the south of Scotland. (Paragraph 112)

  1. We urge the UK Government to work with the Scottish Government and local authorities to redraw the NUTS 2 boundaries in Scotland in order to create a NUTS 2 region for the south of Scotland that does not incorporate the Central Belt. We also expect the UK Government to facilitate this at an EU level. (Paragraph 113)

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Prepared 26 March 2015