The Scottish Government has announced the formation of a new partnership body to oversee regeneration, enterprise and economic development in the south of Scotland.

The South of Scotland Economic Partnership will be in place by the end of the year, bringing together representatives from the public and private sectors. The partnership is an interim body intended to lay the ground work for a fully formed South of Scotland Enterprise Agency. The Scottish Government announced its desire to form an enterprise agency for the area earlier this year, however, due to new legislation being required, this will not be operational till 2020.

The planned enterprise agency for the South aims to replicate the success of Highlands and Islands Enterprise in fostering economic growth and regeneration in rural areas. This is supported by research from Scotland’s Rural College’s Rural Policy Centre, which has highlighted the need for a renewed focus on rural development issues at a national level.

Councillor Mark Rowley, Chair of the South of Scotland Alliance, welcomed the move stating;

“The opportunity to establish a new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency is a once in a generation opportunity that has the potential to improve the level of investment in economic growth, enterprise, skills and innovation across the South of Scotland.

“While this will not be fully operational until April 2020 as new legislation is required, the establishment of the partnership in the interim will ensure that the south of Scotland benefits from a new approach to economic development as soon as possible and also enables us to carry out some early projects and develop a clear economic plan for the south of Scotland.”

The formation of a dedicated enterprise agency for the south of Scotland was part of SURF’s 2016 manifesto. SURF has been involved in discussions over the past year with Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Business, Innovation, and Energy, and colleagues from Dumfries & Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council regarding the possible regeneration functions of the new agency.