Scottish Borders

Finance and Public Services and Communities – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 2nd December 2004.

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Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party 2:00 pm, 2nd December 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive what measures it has taken to sustain and invigorate Borders communities. (S2O-4408)

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

A wide range of Executive policies are in place and are making a real difference, for example investment in affordable housing, funding to support community transport projects, significant economic development investment, and 175 jobs in the Scottish Public Pensions Agency.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I note what the minister says, but does he agree that central to sustaining and invigorating Borders communities is the local primary school? Given that, Borders-wide, schools such as Burnmouth, Hutton, Fountainhall and many others are going to close, that cannot be said to be supporting sustainability or invigorating communities. Will the Minister for Communities liaise with the Minister for Education and Young People to consider providing targeted funding to local authorities such as Scottish Borders Council to enable schools to remain open in the wider interests of the social and economic well-being of often fragile communities?

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I will raise the matter with the Minister for Education and Young People, who heard the member directly, so I am sure that he will get back to her. Obviously, I was not expecting an education question. When I was talking about the Scottish Public Pensions Agency, it sprung to mind that Christine Grahame attacked that movement of jobs to the Borders, saying that it was little more than "cynical political manoeuvring". I hope that she is now willing to retract that and accept the analysis of Scottish Enterprise Borders, which estimates the annual economic impact of that move at £6.13 million and 289 full-time-equivalent jobs.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

The minister may be aware of my opposition to the proposal of the Conservative-led council in the Borders to close schools. Does he acknowledge the work of Lauderdale Development Trust and the community of Walkerburn, which are working hard to develop their areas? Will he ensure that the local funding structures, through the enterprise company, the council and Communities Scotland, are properly co-ordinated to offer support to communities such as Lauderdale and Walkerburn?

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I am pleased that Scottish Enterprise Borders has put funding into those communities. I strongly support that and I will see what further work can be done.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative

It would not be appropriate to comment on education issues during this section of question time, so instead I will ask the minister about community planning and the co-ordination of activities to sustain communities. Scottish Water already imposes significant development constraints in the Borders and now the Scottish Environment Protection Agency has adopted a negative attitude towards soakaways in the building of individual houses. What discussions has the Executive had with SEPA about that restriction on housebuilding in the Borders and other parts of rural Scotland?

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I am not aware of any discussions on the issue, but I will investigate the matter and write to the member.