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Job Losses (Dumfries and Galloway)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:21 pm on 16th June 1999.

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Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 5:21 pm, 16th June 1999

I will outline, briefly, some of the things the Government can do to turn the situation round.

In agriculture, there are still great delays in lifting the beef export ban. I think that there is a hold-up among the civil servants in Brussels and with the scientific veterinary committee. The Government should put a political bomb up their backside and get them moving.

We need to encourage growth in small businesses. The factors that affect small businesses in rural areas are different from those that affect small businesses elsewhere. We need a special unit-something like the Small Business Administration in the United States-to consider this issue, so that we can achieve the same kind of success here as they have had in the US.

We need greater certainty of funding for our tourist boards. Tourism is the second biggest industry in Dumfries and Galloway and it is ridiculous that the local tourist board nearly went bust last year. We must not let that happen again.

We need to encourage the growth of electronic commerce. The great thing about economic commerce is that although it is growing throughout the world, it is something in which rural areas can compete with the rest of the country on nearly equal terms. We need to assist that process and to consider, for example, whether we can encourage British Telecommunications and other providers to make local calls free, as they are in the United States.

As has already been said, we need to encourage the south of Scotland university project. The Government should encourage it in the same way, and with the same amount of money, as it encouraged the University of the Highlands and Islands. A centre of academic excellence in the region will encourage businesses to gravitate to, or stay within, it.