THE Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the publication of the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee Report entitled Our Borderlands, Our Future.

Jack Clark, convener of SBCC, said: “The committee is to be congratulated on compiling this comprehensive report which focuses on the current and future economic and social needs of the south of Scotland.

"The evidence they heard from a wide range of organisations based in the region, including SBCC, has produced a detailed, balanced and sensible set of findings which we hope both Westminster and Holyrood governments will act upon without delay.

“In particular, the Chamber of Commerce supports the committee’s recommendations on communications and transport infrastructure.

" Both broadband and mobile phone network connections are absolutely vital to sustaining local businesses in rural areas such as ours, allowing them to flourish and create jobs.

" We support the Committee’s call for both governments to pull together to ensure the correct framework is in place to encourage the providers to roll out their programme of improvements and thus attract further inward investment in the area and business start-ups. The south of Scotland deserves superfast broadband and state-of-the-art mobile coverage just as much as any part of the country. The committee is dead right on this.

“Also welcome is the committee’s call for the extension of the Borders railway to Hawick and, eventually, Carlisle. Nobody pretends this will be easy or cheap but if we are serious about stimulating the Borders’ economy for the long-term benefit of generations to come, then it must be looked at seriously. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” “Cross-border trading is of great importance to businesses in the south of Scotland. Much of our commercial activity takes place with our nearest neighbours in the north of England, from Northumberland and the Newcastle area to Cumbria and Carlisle. This is perhaps especially true of the tourism and agriculture sectors. The committee’s recognition that cross-border collaborative bodies, such as the Borderlands Initiative and the South of Scotland Alliance, can provide a boost to job creation and business activity is helpful – and SBCC supports their call for this activity to be backed up by the establishment of joint Westminster and Holyrood ministerial forums.” NUTS 2 and Scottish Enterprise “In our evidence to the Committee, SBCC called for the re-drawing of the EU’s NUTS 2 boundaries in order to create a separate entity for the south of Scotland that does not tie the region in with Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Central Belt which produces skewed findings on which funding decisions are made. A restructuring to create a south of Scotland NUTS area would directly lead to greater structural funding for our region – such as already exists for the Highlands & Islands. We very much welcome the committee’s recommendation that Westminster, Holyrood and local authorities should work together to take up this cause.

“As for Scottish Enterprise, we agree with the committee that the current centralised structure has had a negative effect on the economic development and enterprise culture in the south of Scotland. Looking to the success of Highlands & Islands Enterprise, SBCC called for the establishment of a separate South of Scotland Enterprise – and we still do. The committee, however, has stopped short of backing that call, instead recommending that existing Scottish Enterprise resources should take better account of the specific needs of the south of Scotland and are re-focused to better address those needs head-on. We support this wholeheartedly.” “All in all, the committee has done an excellent job and has put forward a package of recommendations which, if implemented, would bring far-reaching and long-term economic and social benefits to the region. It is now for the UK and Scottish Governments, along with local authorities and other bodies, to work together to bring these improvements about. As the 2015 General Election campaign gets underway in earnest, we call on all south of Scotland candidates to lend their support to the Committee’s finding.”