THE agency responsible for driving forward the region's economy has finally appointed a new boss.

We revealed last year how the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency had failed to find a new chief executive - despite a lengthy recruitment process.

But this week it has been announced that a Scottish Natural Heritage director will step into the role - on an interim basis.

Nick Halfhide, who is the director of Sustainable Growth at SNH, will take on his new position from February 3.

And he will remain in post until a permanent chief executive can be found.

Mr Halfhide told us: "I am delighted for this opportunity to serve the people and businesses of Dumfries and Galloway, and the Borders.

"I am determined to build a new development agency that listens and responds to what the communities in the South of Scotland need."

The South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, which was rubber-stamped early last year, will be responsible for driving ahead the economy of Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders.

And it is hoped will bring benefits similar to those the Highlands and Islands Agency has created for northern parts of the country.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: "Today’s announcement marks an important step in our commitment to delivering the new enterprise agency for the south of Scotland.

“With his understanding of Scotland’s rural economy as well as his organisational and leadership experience, Nick Halfhide brings the right mixture of skills to the role of interim chief executive.

"Nick will help to ensure the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency is effective from the outset and able to deliver on our ambitions for the future of the south of Scotland.”

The South of Scotland Partnership was founded almost three years ago to lay the foundations for the new Agency.

Under the guidance of Professor Russel Griggs and Scottish Borders Council's Rob Dickson, the Partnership has identified and supported projects such as the new textiles school in Hawick, the Trimontium Museum in Melrose, and digital learning across Borders College's campuses.

Professor Griggs has welcomed this week's announcement.

He said: "I want to welcome Nick to this key leadership role as we continue to progress our ambitious aims for the South of Scotland.

"With a strong track record in building teams and engaging with communities, Nick has the skill and knowledge we need now to turn the new agency into reality.

"I look forward to working with Nick to build a capable and responsive organisation, providing the support that businesses and communities across the south of Scotland so richly deserve.”