Activities Update

Activities take to the fore for the Borders Chamber of Commerce.

The Borders Chamber of Commerce has reiterated its call to industry that the Borders is well and truly “open for business” and as far as the Chamber is concerned, Berwick-on-Tweed forms an integral part.

Board Meeting with Cllr Stuart Bell

At the last Board meeting, Directors were informed by Cllr Stuart Bell, Chairman of the Council’s Economic Development Committee, that the Council had recently announced a new Business Loan Scheme. This scheme is aimed at small businesses who require financial support. Affordable loan support of up to £10,000 can be considered to help businesses grow and support existing jobs. He added that “match funding” loans of up to £50,000 are also available to provide “gap funding” under the South of Scotland Loan Scheme.

One particularly topical subject was also discussed – the revitalisation of Borders high streets and reference was made to the recent report showing a decline in high street footfall. Cllr Bell added that improving retail turnover and performance was one the Council’s key economic objectives. In a recent meeting with community leaders in Hawick and Eyemouth (both recently identified by the Scottish Agricultural College’s “Rural Scotland in Focus 2012” as being amongst the 20 most vulnerable towns in Scotland); Scottish Government Minister Alec Neil, had discussed how Scottish Borders Council and the Scottish Government could to work together to stimulate town regeneration as well as high street revitalisation.

In thanking Cllr Bell for being keen to talk to the Chamber, James Aitken, Convener of the Borders Chamber said, that the close relationship between the Council and the Chamber was beneficial to every business in the Borders and that it was imperative that this dialogue and discussion was maintained.

He added that over the last 12 months the Borders had seen many new developments including the Borders first crematorium, with a second on the way; Eyemouth Harbour which can now receive cruise ships; the 3G sports arena; the Abbotsford House visitor centre; our first palliative care unit; the proposed purpose-built mountain bike chairlift at Innerleithen; the Bill McLaren rugby museum and the return of our railway. Once again, the Chamber reiterated its full support for the new Borders Railway and looked forward to seeing an extension from Tweedbank to Hawick and eventually to Carlisle.

“The Borders,” he added “is definitely open for business!”

Open Meeting with Scottish Government Minister Fergus Ewing MSP

Chamber of Commerce Directors in the Scottish Borders recently facilitated a meeting with Scottish Government Minister Fergus Ewing MSP during his recent visit to the Region. The Chamber has long held the view that it has an important role to play in engaging with its members within the private sector and then engage with public sector stakeholders, (VisitScotland, Scottish Borders Council etc) and support the debate surrounding the future Strategy and plans for Tourism within the region.

Fresh from visits to the Glentress Peel Centre together with the site of the proposed MTB “up-lift” at Innerleithen the Minister for Tourism, Culture & Enterprise met with invited Stakeholders and Tourism & Enterprise businesses from Peebles & The Tweed Valley Tourist Consortia. An honest debate took place surrounding the current strategies for Tourism within the Scottish Borders region.  The debate proposed that we had reached a point and time for Positive Change. There has been much recent activity in the region with the appointment of Paula McDonald, Area Director, VisitScotland together with new Council officials including Stuart Bell who holds the Economic Development portfolio within Scottish Borders Council.

James Aitken, Convener of the Borders Chamber of Commerce said, “The Board feels strongly that achieving our growth ambitions will rely on the industry working together to deliver one common goal with strong leadership at business, local and national level’.

Future engagement / meetings are planned to support the increasing importance of tourism to the Scottish Borders and the best ways of engaging all interested parties and stakeholders.

Border Tourist Board AGM
Board Director Bruce Simpson attended the AGM of the Borders Tourist Board which just happened to be held at the same time as the Chamber’s meeting with Scottish Government Minister Fergus Ewing MSP. “This meeting was not what I expected it to be”, said Mr Simpson, ”I was pleasantly surprised by a full house of about 70 people and an open discussion almost entirely aimed at Borders marketing. It was also pleasing to see that the organisation is changing its name in order to avoid being labelled as a VisitScotland alternative. Through their membership of the Borders Tourism Partnership which also includes VisitScotland and the Borders Chamber, the ideas emanating from the members at this meeting can now be aired more fully – this co-operation and open discussion is good for Borders tourism.”

Mr Simpson hoped that a closer liaison could be developed with the organisation and that all parties involved in tourism in the Borders could “pool” their ideas and speak with one Regional voice – strength through unity being one of the aims of the Borders Chamber of Commerce.

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