Former cabinet minister presents blueprint to save declining town centres in the Borders
Alan Ferguson • Published 27 Sep 2012 07:30 0 Comments
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Jim Mather, former SNP MSP and cabinet secretary for enterprise, tourism and energy.
A FORMER cabinet minister wants the Borders to follow his blueprint to beat business bankruptcy and bolster employment.
Ex-enterprise minister Jim Mather made his detailed presentation to the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce at the Tontine Hotel, Peebles.
The model involves a 'collaborative conversation', which involves persistent, on-going participation between different industries in the private sector, council, media, community groups and every other fragment of society.
It would see these sectors working together closely to pass on information, advice, help or any benefits which previous circumstances would have been infeasible. It would have every sector serving the other in ways that are only mutually beneficial.
He went on to explain that competition, especially in the tendering process when more often than not, the cheapest bidder wins, is never the answer. A successful and resilient business model needed to adopt the two-legged walk of increasing competitiveness and collaboration.
Mr Mather said: "I started this in Argyll and Bute - but it's incomplete.
"The reason for that is because I'm a politician and because certain people didn't come out to play. But for the Borders, the Chamber can fix that - you can get them all to play."
He told the Peeblesshire News it could be a massive new beginning for the Borders - and an opportunity to resuscitate some trust between the private and public sectors.
And he believes it will be a massive shot in the arm for local employment - with the model working perfectly for a town like Peebles.
He continued: "We come together in common cause and set goal that we all buy into and constantly keep in touch with the people that are our constituents, our customers, suppliers and our employees - the people that are really close to us. And we seek out all those who could and would help us, that would benefit from our success and maintain that conversation.
"If you keep doing that, you're a moving target, and anyone trying to copy what you're doing here is going to be 18 months out of date because you've developed and moved on."
In July the Peeblesshire News reported on how the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce were fighting to establish a union of business organisations to act as one voice for the private sector.
Bruce Simpson, director of the SBCC, said: "Jim's model slots in with what we're doing at the Chamber, with the business forum - bringing people together to create one voice for businesses in the Borders.
"We were all very taken with that he said. He gave an extremely well referenced talk. So next step is to get more people on board - we're wanting to get Jim back when we can get a wider spectrum of organisations in attendance."
And he told the Peeblesshire News that the Chamber could facilitate such a movement.
Bruce said: "It was good to see Jim's approach to the one voice, working together approach it is different - it was a bit of a revelation to hear collaboration other than communication."
He added: "At the end of the day, we're not going to get very far if we don't work together. This is a step in the right direction."
This article appeared in Peeblesshire News 21 Sep 12
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