Response 56870018

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What we want for the South of Scotland

1. Do you agree with our ambition outlined?

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No
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Please explain your answer.
the South of Scotland is overlooked in policy development, where the population and economy of the Central Belt and the glamour of the Highlands cast it into the shade.

2. What would you like to see for the South of Scotland?

What would you like to see for the South of Scotland?
The area has particular strengths in the primary sectors, and has one of the greatest concentrations of commercial forestry in the UK - a sector that is rapidly developing advanced technology. This provides an opportunity for the development of ancillary businesses where capabilities developed in servicing this established market should allow companies leverage to apply their skills more widely.

Ambitions for the new South of Scotland Enterprise

3. What are your ambitions for the future economic success of the South of Scotland?

What are your ambitions for the future economic success of
Build on the strengths of land-based industries. The area is lacking a substantial HE / FE presence, which can be crucial in encouraging economic development. The tie-up between Crichton and Glasgow University has failed and the area needs an indigenous HE presence that is committed to local industry. A tech-facing HE establishment promoting and researching technologically advanced land-use would have a strong hinterland and access to a wide range of businesses.

The economic context of the South of Scotland

4. What are the strengths you would like to see the Agency build on?

What are the strengths you would like to see the Agency
I strongly agree with the points made in this section. Germany and Northern Italy show us that small and middle-sized businesses can be the backbone of an economy - in the UK we tend to develop policy around a model of much larger businesses, especially in finance and professional services. Perhaps the greatest strength of the South is the relationships between businesses. People are committed to the area and I suggest that part of the new agency's role should be to encourage this sense of place and the development of shared value.

5. What are the economic challenges you would like to see the Agency address?

What are the economic challenges you would like to see the
If small businesses are to compete and remain sustainable they need to have a very strong, advanced skills base. This requires skilled people and this in turn requires both immigration and access to appropriate training. This, again, implies a need for a high-quality, tech-facing HE institution that is committed to the South. One challenge is likely to be related to policy - please don't over-promote manufacturing. It is important and seductive, but tourism, professional and technical services are also important. Another policy-related issue is that South Scotland has strong links with Northern England - arguably South Scotland, Cumbria and Northumbria constitute a natural region. Cross-border collaboration will create shared value.

Potential Activities for the South of Scotland Enterprise

6. What currently works well in the South of Scotland?

What currently works well in the South of Scotland?
Again, a very good range of points. One of the most technologically advanced sectors in the area is forestry, which increasingly uses remote sensing and digital integration between wood processing and forest management. As a result there is an increasing number of digitally expert operatives with capabilities that fit them for a wide range of roles in other sectors. A really important asset is the quality of the environment I am sure many respondents can say more about this than I can. But sustainable development with a long-term perspective is needed.

7. What would you add or take away from the potential activities that the Agency could carry out across the three areas:

a) drive forward the economy?
I would (a) open a new university with a focus on technical skills and research in land-use, agriculture and food-processing, forestry, marine and maritime. (b) concentrate hospital healthcare in a single large site, so that capabilities can be developed and sustained, and also make such a hospital a national centre of excellence in specific categories. Why? Because these are skills-based, would bring high-quality well paid jobs and would generate satellite service businesses. I would also make the region intensely digital - not through incremental development but make a determined push quickly to make it among the most connected regions in Europe. Agricultural grants are a major input but I question whether they do more than support the lifestyles of a relatively small group. I believe they are necessary but should be related to value-added and outputs rather than input-focused as at present.
b) sustain communities?
Far too much public resources are spent on community development that is unsustainable because it generates inadequate resources of its own and fails when the public purse is inevitably withdrawn. My approach would be to use social enterprise to maintain and develop key social infrastructure such as early care, schools, local transport and key facilities in rural communities. These are areas where long-term public funding is assured and secure relationships can be thus be developed. A rising tide raises all boats and policies that support economic activity in all sectors will underpin the sustainability of communities in the area.
c) capitalise on people and resources?
How to turn a commodity-based economy into a value added economy is the key question the agency will face. Food from a pristine landscape deserves to be more than a commodity - it should be marketed collaboratively and processed locally. Timber does not need to be transported out of the region to be processed and then turned into manufactured goods such as SIPS and pre-fabricated houses.

8. What would you prioritise as the key areas of activity for the Agency?

What would you prioritise as the key areas of activity for the
Skills. My approach would be to send people from the region on short working visits to centres of excellence - cheese making in Normandy, advanced forestry machinery in Finland, creative industries in London. Too much training is low-quality & tick-box KPIs for the development agency rather than benefiting the trainees. Social capital with a focus on shared value through collaboration between the region's micro-businesses e.g. machinery-ring approaches outside agriculture (sharing technicians for example), sharing apprentices that one business might not be able to support alone. Using the north-Italy model.

9. What specific things could the Agency do to help you, your business, your sector or your community?

What specific things could the Agency do to help you, your
My sector is forestry. The key issues are local added-value and sustainable micro businesses with high-end tech skills.

Effective boundaries

10. What could the Agency do outwith its boundaries working with other local authorities or with agencies like Highlands and Islands Enterprise to support specific projects which benefit the South of Scotland and with national agencies?

What could the Agency do outwith its boundaries working
Although the area is highly rural, remember that there is no such thing as a rural economy. Businesses in the region are as likely to be trading with Spain as with their neighbouring town. Insomuch s there is a rural economy, the objective should be to promote local added value rather than the export of commodities. There is a highly important hinterland across the Scottish/English border as well as to the North. South Scotland is also accessible to English tourists and should aim to capture some of the business currently enjoyed by the Lakes and Northumbria. So please don't be parochial. From my direct experience I would say that UHI is something that the South should replicate and could certainly learn how to (and how not to!) deliver FE and HE in a geographically diffuse area. SE and HIE have both played an instrumental part in making Scottish forestry a true - and highly successful - industrial sector. A large part of this was through promoting collaboration and communication across the sector - growers understanding the needs of processors and vice-versa. Research & product development that a sector dominated by micro-businesses could not undertake alone and training that also was beyond the reach of individual businesses. It took persistence over decades but it worked.

Location of the new Agency

11. Which option, either from the list above or your own suggestion, do you think offers the best way to ensure the Agency is accessible to all across the South of Scotland?

Which option, either from the list above or your own
What structure is the most sustainable? The one that has the lowest long-term costs. It has to be co-location of outliers with a significant HQ. Otherwise you sentence the agency to continuing structural reviews and disruption. You need a local presence but not stand-alone satellite offices. But why co-location just with public bodies? You could also consider sharing premises with banks, post-offices, organisations such as citizen's advice bureau, social enterprises, and charities such as NFUS. Online-only is a cop-out and will be seen as such, though significant online is, of course, efficient and how people expect business to be done.

12. Which criteria should be used in reaching a decision about the location of the Agency?

Which criteria should be used in reaching a decision about
Accessibility within the region. Accessibility to Scot Gmnt - Edinburgh. Local services for staff - especially reputable education for children. Access to high-speed broadband - though this will soon be universal :)

13. If you were to use the services of this Agency, what factors are important to you in terms of reaching it?

you were to use the services of this Agency, what factors are important to you in terms of reaching it?
Probably the most important factor would be that agency staff could visit me, rather than me visit them. Because of the dispersed population & businesses, local meetings and events will be required - it will be some time before digital services such as videoconferences replace physical gatherings - so agency staff will need to be able to travel to meetings and return home within a reasonable time.

14. What sort of people should be on the Board of the Agency and what sorts of skills and expertise should they have?

What sort of people should be on the Board of the Agency
The 'sort of person' is an improper question. You want people who understand the particularities of the region, as you set out so well above - rurality, peripherality, low income, micro businesses, travel and transport, patchy skills, important advantages in environment and primary sector. Combine this with a strategic outlook, understanding of how the public sector operates (what it can and cannot do), a co-operative nature and a willingness to accept change and new ideas. Ideally with evidence of having made things happen in their own spheres.

Other issues

15. We know that young people are less likely to stay in or move to the South of Scotland than they are other parts of the country. Do you have any comments on things the Agency could do to meet the interests of children and young people?

We know that young people are less likely to stay in or move
The most difficult group to cater for are young teenagers who need to travel to sport, specialist tuition and to socialise. Good digital services could probably reduce the 'penalty' of living in South Scotland to a large extent because of the willingness of this group to substitute physical with virtual. 'Place' is a social construct and there are many examples of places being transformed through reconstruction - Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow. Almost always there is a strong element of cultural and arts-based activities, also sport, that help change the way that a place is thought of. Kirkcudbright was once 'cool' and could be again. Whithorn has a remarkable and neglected history there are many similar assets - the region needs a concerted campaign to market itself so that when people say they come from there it means something positive to the person they are speaking to. A virtuous cycle. This applies to all age-groups.

16. In delivering opportunity and growth in the South of Scotland, how can the Agency:

In delivering opportunity and growth in the South of Scotland, how can the Agency:
I think SG agencies are as good as any organisations in the UK at promoting equality. Holding meetings outside working hours, pay for advice (if you would pay a professional for advice, why is a volunteer different? ), pay the costs of engaging with you (travel, childcare), make online real-time engagement a reality, avoid process-based interactions with the public that treat everyone the same.

17. Do you have any other comments on how the Agency might address specific needs?

Do you have any other comments on how the Agency might
None that you haven't thought of already.

18. We want to make sure that the Agency works effectively with a wide range of key stakeholders/partner agencies to ensure that inclusive growth also enables positive social and environmental outcomes. Do you have any comments on how this should work in practice?

We want to make sure that the Agency works effectively with a
The only way to do this is to give your staff agency - a level of autonomy where they can take responsibility for the decisions they make and also be accountable. People need to feel that they can make a difference. The two development agencies can be highly formulaic and I have met dispirited staff who felt that their role was almost robotic.

19. Do you have any other thoughts on powers that the Agency will need?

Do you have any other thoughts on powers that the Agency
How about the power to award degrees? What is missing from the consultation is discussion of a budget. You will need money and powers to spend it. That could include you having a say over some the money currently given to farmers through CAP, some form of accommodation with SFC on education objectives and funding, same with the research councils. I suggest that you also consider taking powers to fund the softer side of development - arts and culture that define place. So an arrangement with Tourism and with Sport departments in SG and their respective agencies. Finally transport and infrastructure. You need a view on what is needed and some form of coercive process - especially in making the region 'digital'.

20. Is there anything else you wish to say about the operation of the Agency?

Is there anything else you wish to say about the operation of
I wish you well - the Borders and South West have been badly neglected and for far too long.

About you

What is your name?

Name
Marcus Sangster

Are you responding as an individual or an organisation?

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Individual
Ticked Organisation

What is your organisation?

Organisation
People and Land Ltd