Rachael Hamilton is Conservative MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire

£345m Growth Deal to bring boost to Borderlands

Last week I welcomed the announcement of £260 million from the UK Government and £85 million from the Scottish Government for the Borderlands Growth Deal. This is another Scottish Conservative manifesto commitment delivered and my thanks goes to the hard work of the teams involved in getting the deal to this stage.

Special mention must go to the Borderlands Partnership, which brings together five local authorities, of Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council with the aim of promoting inclusive growth.

We know that here in the Borders we have our own unique challenges and that is why I am looking forward to the deal coming to fruition. We can then roll up our sleeves and get on with transforming the Borders economy.

The integral economic and social links between Northumberland and the Borders are vitally important, and this deal will go some way to solidify these further.

Interestingly, 14 million people live within two hours drive of the Borderlands region, and we need to tap into this. That is why I support a feasibility study into the extension of the Borders Railway to Carlisle and I got the chance to raise this at Holyrood last week. We need to see the SNP Government picking up the pace when it comes to carrying out this study into the Waverley extension.

We can use this deal as an opportunity to attract new businesses and people into the Borders is integral to the success and sustainability of our economy, and the package of proposed projects within the elementary stages of the Borderlands deal will aim to deliver just that.

Unfortunately, what was very telling when I raised the Borderlands deal in First Minister’s Questions was the narrow-mindedness of Nicola Sturgeon. She answered my question as if Northumberland and Cumbria were a mere ‘add on’ in the deal and it was all about Scotland. The deal is precisely designed to enhance cross border collaboration and connectivity because regardless of whether you live north or south of the Border. In fact, 1,670 of our fellow Borderers commute over the Border every day and more needs to be done to improve our road network to ensure the efficient movement of goods and people across the Borderlands region. It is telling of the SNP Government that they have been slow off the mark to upgrade the A1, A68 and A7. In the eyes of the SNP, these routes are a road to nowhere as they do not fully appreciate, nor recognise the vital importance it plays in connecting us to our biggest exporter, which is England.

I look forward to great things emerging from the deal as it progresses and comes to fruition. The time has come to put the Borders firmly on the map.