Economic recovery tops the agenda at Convention of the South of Scotland (COSS)

The second Convention of the South of Scotland will be held virtually today (Monday 28 September) and will be chaired by Deputy First Minister, John Swinney.

The Convention brings together national, regional and local partners to strengthen driving inclusive economic growth and agreeing action required to address the priorities of the area.
Top of today’s agenda, the focus will be on how the coronavirus crisis impacted the South of Scotland. Deliberations will concentrate on recovery measures currently being taken, and consideration of suggestions as to how this can be supported by the Convention. The topics for discussion are:

• economic recovery
• community wealth building
• tourism
• skills

The Scottish Government’s first and foremost priority in the economic crisis has been to protect jobs and businesses. It has provided over £2.3 billion support in recent months, and the coronavirus (COVID-19) Business support fund has awarded grants to businesses that needed support across Scotland to a total of over £1,014M.

Team South of Scotland (SOSE, Dumfries & Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council) collectively administered £87.7M of those funds to businesses and organisations across the region, as part of a partnership response with Scottish Government.

Speaking ahead of the Convention, Mr Swinney said:

“We have established South of Scotland Enterprise to maximise the region’s economic potential and achieve the best possible outcomes for local people. SOSE will play a vital role in facilitating economic recovery and renewal for the region and their support is needed more than ever.
“There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted many across Scotland, including our rural areas which are particularly reliant on sectors hardest hit by the pandemic’s disruptive effects. COSS will provide a valuable opportunity for us to set out how we will work together to ensure a strong and sustainable economic recovery for the region, with a focus on creating and protecting jobs.”

Councillor Shona Haslam, Leader of Scottish Borders Council, said:

“The Convention of the South of Scotland gives Scottish Borders Council the opportunity to discuss with our partners including the Scottish Government the specific challenges we are facing in the Borders at this most challenging time.

“The impact of Coronavirus is going to be with us for a considerable period, and so the Convention meeting will allow us to work together to come up with a plan to maximise the opportunities to help regenerate our local economies and communities.”

Professor Russel Griggs OBE, Chair of SOSE said:

“The COSS gives us an opportunity to bolster the Team South of Scotland efforts by developing new and strengthened relationships with Scottish Government and national agencies, around a collective focus of helping to unlock the region’s full economic potential, and to break down barriers to investment.

“The first meeting of COSS helped cement relationships and prove how quickly plans can be agreed and implemented when we work together. Right now, more than ever before, we need this vital forum for the exchange of ideas on priorities and how to tackle key regional issues in the South of Scotland.

“As we all continue to map our route through the coronavirus pandemic, it’s imperative that we continue to build on what are now strong, effective working relationships, and we demonstrate an unshakeable focus on boosting the economy in the South of Scotland over the coming weeks and months ahead. I believe the Convention is an opportunity for real change in the South.”

Depute Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Rob Davidson added:

“I am very pleased that the Convention is going ahead. Since lockdown began in the spring our Council has been working with our colleagues in Scottish Borders and South of Scotland Enterprise to develop a Team South of Scotland approach to mitigating the economic crisis of lockdown and, latterly, to prepare for economic recovery.

“We have widened that approach out to the new Regional Economic Partnership, and the Convention meeting allows us to broaden those discussions further still and to interact directly with the Scottish Government on the challenges and opportunities facing our region. The COVID pandemic presents us with unprecedented circumstances in which it is vital that we work together with a clear focus on economic and social recovery, inclusive growth and empowering our communities.”