Borderlands Growth Deal (Funding and Priorities)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 18th February 2021.

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Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

4. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the funding progress and priorities for the Borderlands Growth Deal. (S5O-05020)

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government’s significant investment in the Borderlands Growth Deal, which will amount to up to £85 million over 10 years, will support a range of projects that will drive economic growth across the area. The projects that are supported will focus on themes such as improving the quality of place, boosting tourism, delivering business infrastructure, driving innovation, improving connectivity and creating the skills that are needed by industry.

We hope to sign the full deal in the next few weeks, and we are working with local authority partners and the United Kingdom Government towards that milestone.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

Concerns have been raised by local authority members in the north of England that the £65 million of funding from the UK Government is not new money but is money that is being moved from other Government portfolios. We know that the Scottish Government has committed £20 million more than the UK Government to the deal. Can the cabinet secretary provide an assurance that all the money that the Scottish Government has pledged for the borderlands, including for the Stranraer waterfront, is new money, and can he comment on whether the UK Government is truly committed to the project?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

We are fully committed to the Borderlands Growth Deal, in support of which we have pledged £85 million overall. All that funding is additional spend in the region that comes from my portfolio; it has not been taken from any other portfolio area.

I am aware of the concerns that Emma Harper mentioned, but I note that in the press release that it issued back in 2019, when it announced its support for the deal, the UK Government confirmed that the £65 million that had been allocated for the Scottish element of the deal was new money. I fully expect that commitment to remain in place and to be honoured.

The specific projects that will be supported as part of the Scottish aspect of the Borderlands Growth Deal cover a range of areas, a number of which I mentioned in my earlier response. I hope that we will be in a position to move on from signing heads of terms to the final deal in the weeks ahead. The £16 million that we have earmarked for supporting redevelopment of Stranraer marina is within the overall proposal at the moment, and I hope that the local authority will develop the full business case for that, to ensure that it can be included in the final deal and that the Scottish Government’s investment of £16 million can be used to deliver the redevelopment project.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

Having been involved in the first borderlands initiative almost eight years ago, I welcome the fact that the deal will be signed in the next few weeks. Given the importance of the projects that have been brought together—thanks to the hard work of councils in South Scotland and the north of England—will the cabinet secretary consider providing early funding if any of the projects can be accelerated? Will he actively encourage the addition of new projects to the deal or, indeed, a borderlands 2 deal? We need to step up our investment if we are to kick-start the South Scotland economy following the pandemic.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

The borderlands partners are working hard to finalise the business cases that they need to bring together for signing the full deal. I recognise that we need to invest in the borderlands in order to deliver the inclusive economic growth that all of us, including Colin Smyth, are looking for.

The Scottish Government has committed to investing £20 million in the fund, in addition to what has been provided by the UK Government, in order to take forward a range of projects that will make a real difference to local communities, whether through building capacity for the economy, or improving tourism or transport infrastructure. All that will play an important part in the success of the deal.

The funding that we can provide is dependent on the work that is done by local authorities in developing the business case for each project. We are working hard with them to ensure that that is progressed.