South of Scotland Regional Economic Strategy (update)

In a first for the region the South of Scotland not only has its own newly formed (April 2020) enterprise agency - South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) - but it has now published (Aug 2021) its first Regional Economic Strategy, designed to provide the framework for development initiatives across the South of Scotland for at least the next 10 years.

A Delivery Plan covering the first few years of implementation of the strategy has also now been published (Dec 2021) - guiding the allocation of development resources to seeding and incentivising the ambitious changes detailed in the strategy - not least to make the South fairer, greener and flourishing.

The plan and strategy focus on creating ".... a region of opportunity and innovation - where natural capital drives green growth, ambition and quality of life rivals the best in the UK, communities are empowered, and cultural identity is cherished, ....."

The strategy and delivery plan is spearheaded by the two South of Scotland Councils - Scottish Borders Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council - and by SOSE, with the support of the Scottish Government and its various agencies through the Convention of the South of Scotland.

Development funding streams are in part derived from the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Deal and the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal. And oversight of the implementation of the strategy is provided by the South of Scotland Regional Economic Partnership (SoSREP) (established Sep 2020), a body of 32 members drawing together representatives from public, private and third sectors - of which Crick is a member.

Some key features of the Delivery Plan are its emphasis on a just transition to net zero, recognition of the predominently rural geography and settlement of the region, and the high natural and cultural capital of the region that together support regional tourism. Additionally it recognises that active and ambitious communities across the region are seeking to have a bigger say in how their communities grow and thrive. The strategy puts emphasis on creating and exploiting the opportunities to both live and work in the high quality and connected environment being created in the South of Scotland.

But this is not a focus on small-scale - far from it. The South of Scotland lies within a stone's throw of the major economic centres of the north of England and central Scotland - of the NE (Newcastle) and NW (Carlisle) of England, and the Central Belt of Scotland (Glasgow and Edinburgh) - such that the South of Scotland can not only support and share in the economic wealth of these centres, but also scale-up local businesses where local conditions are favourable. For example, advantages may be found in resource availability, workforce and costs advantages, and through recognised centres of excellence.

Particular advantages exist in natural resource industries - agri-business, forest products, marine industries, food processing, renewable energy; in creative industries - film and media, smart digital technologies, textiles, design and prototyping, performing arts; in high- and low- tech manufacturing - working with locally available materials, and applying smart design, technologies and specialist skills; and in tourism related industries - mountain biking, heritage and cultural tourism, outdoor eventing, arts and crafts, museums, story-telling and digital design, presentation and production.