The cabinet secretary met the leaders of the borderlands authorities on 30 October to discuss their ambitions for a growth deal. He reiterated our strong support for a borderlands deal and his desire to see it taken forward. They agreed to meet again to discuss the next steps when the cabinet secretary has had a chance to consider the detail of the proposal.
The five local authorities that are involved in the borderlands deal deserve great credit for developing their growth deal proposals. They were given a deadline of September to submit those proposals, with the promise that they would be considered as part of the United Kingdom budget, but, sadly, the budget did not propose any funding.
I urge the Scottish Government not to make the same mistake. I ask it to consider those plans and set out a clear funding commitment in the budget when it is published in December.
The member will appreciate that the budget is a matter for the finance secretary, who is sitting in front of me. In order to avoid any death stares from Mr Mackay, I will not give any figures today. [
.] I got one anyway—it was a nice smile.
We understand the need for local partners to have as much certainty as early as possible. We continue to push the UK Government not only to deal with the Borderlands but to cover 100 per cent of Scotland with growth deals. I assure the member that the cabinet secretary will push hard, as he has done with the Tay cities deal, to get a decision from the UK ministers.
David Mundell has been talking up a borderlands growth deal for years but the UK budget failed to deliver any money at all. Does the minister agree that that reflects very badly on Mr Mundell’s influence within the UK cabinet? Can he assure us that he will demand that any money that is allocated by the Scottish Government is matched in full by the UK Government?
I declare an interest as a representative of South Scotland.
We have made clear our commitment to securing a deal for the borderlands. We are working hard to deliver that deal as quickly as possible and recognise the need to invest in the right things that support inclusive growth. Colin Smyth and Joan McAlpine are right to be keen to see this progress, but it is incumbent on the UK Government to demonstrate that it is able to match our commitment to move forward at pace.
There have been encouraging signals from individual UK ministers about delivering 100 per cent coverage of Scotland with growth deals, but, as yet, a formal UK Government commitment to that goal has not been forthcoming. As I said, the Scottish Government wants to achieve 100 per cent coverage, and we stand ready to make that happen along with UK Government colleagues.
I was pleased that the Chancellor of the Exchequer mentioned the borderlands growth deal in his autumn statement. This week I met borderlands champion John Stevenson MP to discuss the deal. Many people in my constituency believe that there should be more cross-border co-operation, especially concerning infrastructure projects such as the extension of the Borders railway. Does the minister agree that this growth deal provides a perfect opportunity to develop cross-border connectivity, and will he ensure that the Scottish Government works with the UK Government to deliver for the people of the borderlands?
I certainly welcome the latter-day conversion of the Conservatives to supporting the extension of the Borders railway. [
.] Members across this chamber will remember opposition from those on the Conservative benches in past times.
On the point that Rachael Hamilton makes about cross-border collaboration, of course we recognise that there are opportunities to collaborate on developing a growth deal for the borderlands and we want to see a successful outcome for local authorities on both sides of the border. It takes commitment from both sides to achieve that. The Scottish Government has made clear its commitment to all previous growth deals and has committed to match UK Government funding, so it would be good if Rachael Hamilton and her colleagues could press UK ministers to come forward with commitments on funding as soon as possible.