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

3  Cross-border working

65. As illustrated above, many of the challenges faced in the south of Scotland are also issues in the north of England. While these require co-operation between the UK and Scottish Governments in establishing and maintaining effective infrastructure, co-operation at local government and community level is also crucial in delivering many essential services at local level.

66. Within the south of Scotland, various organisations exist to facilitate co-operation between local authorities and communities and to foster social and economic development in the area. Examples include the Southern Uplands Partnership, a group consisting of individuals, government bodies, agencies and councils working "to keep the communities and countryside of the south of Scotland alive and healthy;"[98] the Tweed Forum, a group of organisations and individuals with an interest in the sustainable management of the Tweed catchment;[99] and the South of Scotland Alliance, a collaboration between Scottish Borders Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council working on business development in the region.[100]

67. Until recently, however, no mechanism existed specifically to facilitate such co-operation across the Scotland-England border. As noted above, areas of the north of England are very much part of the social and economic fabric for those living in the south of Scotland. Both Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council therefore identified significant scope for "enhanced co-operation" across the border. Both Councils suggested that the Borderlands Initiative was the most appropriate vehicle for this.[101]

The Borderlands Initiative

68. The Borderlands Initiative was created by Scottish Borders Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council with Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council and Northumberland County Council. The initiative was launched by the Scottish Government in August 2013, a month after the publication of the Borderlands report authored by academics at Northumbria University.[102] This paper recommended joint working between local authorities on either side of the Scotland-England border in order to exploit and develop mutual economic and social links. The SNP group on Scottish Borders Council urged the UK Government to work with the Scottish Government on the suggestion initially put forward by the Association of North East Councils in the Borderlands report,[103] which identifies possibilities for the north east and Cumbria to engage with the Scottish Government and other Scottish interests. It also sees opportunities "for the North East, Cumbria and Scotland to develop a common 'voice' and influence the UK Government."[104]

69. The first Borderlands Initiative summit took place in April 2014. The cross-border meeting saw senior members of the five Councils discuss improved transport and communications links, economic growth and employment in the border regions of Scotland and England.[105] The Borderlands Initiative summit also developed a plan to take forward economic opportunities.[106]

70. A second Borderlands Initiative summit was hosted by Carlisle City Council in November 2014. The meeting considered how work has progressed on taking forward "key economic opportunities" in areas including: tourism, energy, forestry, education and training, improved transport and communications links.[107] Scottish Borders Council identified that these early meetings had demonstrated that there were "potential benefits in working across the Anglo-Scottish boundary."[108] To date, the Borderlands Initiative has yet to publish a strategy or development plan.


71. Although still relatively new, we identified widespread support and optimism in relation to the benefits that the Borderlands Initiative could potentially deliver. Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce identified that the south of Scotland suffered from a lack of a profile akin to that of the Highlands or the Lake District, "to the detriment of both inward investment and tourism."[109] They suggested that joint working and lobbying under the Borderlands banner "may well be a mechanism […] which could help focus attention on the region."[110] Joan McAlpine MSP suggested that the Initiative could "raise the ambition for the region and…raise the profile of the area".[111]

72. However, some witnesses expressed concern that the Borderlands Initiative may be simply duplicating the efforts of a plethora of other organisations operating in the region. Scottish Land and Estates noted that it may be beneficial to increase the funding of existing working partnerships rather than to create another 'body'.[112] In order to maximise "best value for each public pound spent",[113] SLE suggested the initiative should build on the work of bodies such as the Southern Upland Partnership, the Tweed Forum, and Destination Dumfries & Galloway.[114]

73. Brian Richardson, Chief Executive of Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce, explained the potential value for money of such an initiative in terms of securing additional funding for the area. He cited a previous experience of an integrated development operations programme between Cleveland and Durham. He explained: "there were 16 designated integrated development operations programmes, of which we were one. We were successful in bidding for £400 million. Well over half of it we would not have managed to acquire had we not been an integrated unit. The process was massively beneficial."[115]

74. The notion that the Borderlands Initiative would lead to a duplication of effort was rejected by Janice Rose, Economic and Inclusion Policy Manager of Northumberland County Council. She argued, "we need to recognise that geographies naturally have to overlap…this will reduce duplication rather than add to it because it will give us that focus to pitch for what those communities need."[116] Gavin Yuill, Director of the Yuill Community Trust, agreed that the initiative could foster greater collaboration and co-production in the south of Scotland, potentially resulting in local authorities having a greater impetus to adopt beneficial policies for development, if guidance "above local authorities… across the Borderlands area existed",[117] for example, in terms of social housing.


75. Jane Meek, Head of Economic Development at Carlisle City Council, stated that the next stage for the Borderlands Initiative was to identify areas where the authorities involved can get some "quick wins", but also to set out what support was required from the UK and Scottish Governments. She explained: "we want to be able to go to Parliament, to Westminster or the Scottish Parliament, and say, 'These are our asks and these will be the outputs that we will get by having these asks'."[118]

76. Michael Moore identified that support from both the UK and Scottish Governments was vital to enable the initiative to deliver on its potential. He described an "intergovernmental focus" as the key to advancing the Borderlands Initiative's agenda.[119] He suggested the creation of "a forum around which Ministers from north and south of the border can add their input to the Borderlands Initiative too."[120]

77. 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.

Strengthening Local Government

78. One of the themes of the Committee's work during this Parliament has been to promote the devolution of further powers to communities within Scotland. For example, in our Report on the Scotland Bill, published in 2012, we recommended that the process of devolution should lead to further decentralisation within Scotland, to local authorities and communities, in part to counteract what many have described as a 'centralising' tendency in Edinburgh.[121] The central thrust of our Report on the Crown Estate in Scotland[122] was that powers and responsibilities should be devolved to Edinburgh, and then beyond, to the most appropriate level.

We are pleased that these recommendations are being progressed, and will be implemented as part of the Smith agreement.[123]

79. Indeed, Michael Moore described the Borderlands Initiative as a countervailing force against centralisation in Scotland:

    Looking at the Scottish Government there is a worrying trend, as I see it, to centralise services in the Central Belt. This is a set of policies now that go back a number of years…We as a region have to make alternative arrangements to get round some of these challenges and the different perspectives that Governments take of us and our needs.[124]

Indeed, this Report provides a stark illustration of how that centralising tendency has impacted on communities in the south of Scotland in practice.

80. In 2013, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) set up the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy to identify a route map "to deliver the full benefits of a shift in power towards local democracy for people in Scotland".[125] In its submission to that Commission, Scottish Borders Council stated that decisions about local issues and services were "not made locally enough", and argued that local authorities needed "much greater control of finance and resources."[126]

81. However, Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce were wary of an enhanced role for Community Councils as they had been proven generally unable to deal with the complex issues of development and open to intimidation by pressure groups. The Chamber did feel, however, that "there may well be opportunities for the third sector as delivery mechanisms."[127] Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce was concerned about any proliferation of agencies operating in an area that could lead to a more complex landscape for business, and to conflicting decisions.[128]

82. Scottish Land and Estates felt that, if further devolution at a local level were to take place, it was "vital to ensure that there remains linkage with all groups and stakeholders to allow for transfer of knowledge and expertise." They cautioned that any increase in community empowerment should be embedded within an effective community planning framework, but felt that "increased involvement in decision making and service delivery by all members of the community would undoubtedly be beneficial and help ensure more effective use of public resources."[129]

83. 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.

98   Southern Uplands Partnership, The Southern Uplands Partnership, accessed 9 March 2015 Back

99   Tweed Forum, About Tweed Forum, accessed 9 March 2015 Back

100   South of Scotland Alliance, South of Scotland Rural Regional Economic Development Programme, (June 2014), Back

101   Dumfries and Galloway Council, (BOR0006), para 2.15 ; Scottish Borders Council, (BOR0003), para 11 Back

102   Northumbria University, Borderlands: Can the North East and Cumbria benefit from greater Scottish autonomy?, July 2013 Back

103   SNP group, Scottish Borders Council, (BOR0004), para 7 Back

104   Northumbria University, Borderlands: Can the North East and Cumbria benefit from greater Scottish autonomy?, July 2013, p 35 Back

105   Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Carlisle City, Cumbria and Northumberland Back

106   First Scotland-England cross-border summit staged, BBC News Scotland, 4 April 2014 Back

107   Second Borderlands summit staged, BBC News Scotland, accessed 22 January 2015 Back

108   Scottish Borders Council, (BOR0003), para 4 Back

109   Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce, (BOR0002), para 2.3 Back

110   Ibid., para 2.3 Back

111   Joan McAlpine MSP, (BOR0020), para 2.1.2 Back

112   Scottish Land and Estates, (BOR0012), para c Back

113   Ibid., para c Back

114   Ibid., para a Back

115   Q68 Back

116   Q23 [Janice Rose] Back

117   Q114 [Gavin Yuill] Back

118   Q19 Back

119   Q42 Back

120   Q41 Back

121   Scottish Affairs Committee, Fourth Report of the Session 2010-2012, The Scotland Bill, HC 775-I, para 7 Back

122   Scottish Affairs Committee, Seventh Report of the Session 2010-12, The Crown Estate in Scotland, HC 1117 Back

123   Paragraph 32 of the Smith Commission report stated that "Responsibility for the management of the Crown Estate's economic assets in Scotland, and the revenue generated from these assets, will be transferred to the Scottish Parliament." The Smith Commission, Report of the Smith Commission for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament, para 32 ) Back

124   Q35 Back

125   CoSLA, Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy accessed 21 January 2015, Back

126   Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy, Scottish Borders Council submission Back

127   Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce, (BOR0005), para h Back

128   Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce, (BOR0002), para 3.12 Back

129   Scottish Land and Estates, (BOR0012), para h Back

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Prepared 26 March 2015