Cross-Border growth blueprint sent to Holyrood and Westminster

Photo: The Borderlands Proposition, Our Offer & Our Ask

A long-awaited cross-border blueprint aimed at winning millions of pounds in extra funding from Holyrood and Westminster to boost growth in the borderlands has been sent to ministers.

Five councils from the south of Scotland and north of England have draw up the plan which they hope will lead to the borderlands equivalent of the lucrative city deals agreed across Scotland.

At the heart of the document 'The Borderlands Proposition, Our Offer & Our Ask' is a call for investment in transport and digital infrastructure to drive what it calls 'inclusive growth' in the area.

The plan aims " develop the Borderlands from a place through which financial, human and knowledge capital simply travels to become a destination of choice for relocation to, particularly from the over-heating and increasingly populated south east of England".

Credit: The Borderlands Proposition, Our Offer & Our Ask

It has been submitted to minsters in Edinburgh and London by Scottish Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, Cumbria, Carlisle and Northumberland councils but is not yet in the public domain.

ITV Border has obtained a copy of the document which will form the basis of negotiations with the UK and Scottish governments ahead of the budgets in both Westminster and Holyrood.

The document calls the potential investment "an historic opportunity to drive inclusive growth throughout the borderlands" based on low carbon economy driven by digital technology.

It suggest that the area north and south of the Border should become the UK's first 'Gigabit City Region' with increased investment in broadband in an effort to increase the number of businesses in the area.

The Borderlands would also become the UK's first 'Zero Carbon City Region' to exploit what it calls this new "emerging economy".

According to the document the growth will be based on five strategic 'growth corridors' based around improving the existing transport infrastructure including a possible extension to the Borders Railway line.

It says that this plan, if it is supported by Holyrood and Westminster, aims to tackle "poor productivity performance, our low levels of innovation and our lack of internationalisation".

Credit: The Borderlands Proposition, Our Offer & Our Ask

In Holyrood today the plan was raised with the Scottish government by south of Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth, a former Dumfries & Galloway councillor.

Mr Smyth called on the finance secretary Derek Mackay to support the plan financially in the Scottish government's budget in December and to help press the UK government to contribute inits budget due later this month.

The finance secretary said the sums of money would be agreed at the end of the negotiations but he would consider it for this year's budget if a deal could be agreed in time.

Today UK government sources were unable to say if there would be money the scheme in Chancellor Philip Hammond's budget but said the plan would definitely be supported financially by the UK government.

The move to win support from the governments north and south of the Border follows a promise in the Conservatives UK election manifesto.

It said: 'Building on the City and Growth deals we have signed across Scotland, we will bring forward a Borderlands Growth Deal, including all councils on both sides of the border, to help secure prosperity in southern Scotland.'

The Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who is the MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, played a key role in getting that commitment into the manifesto.

Mr Mundell has already met the councils, and local MPs, as well as Jake Berry, the 'northern powerhouse' minister in Theresa May's government to discuss the plan.

Sources in the UK government say that they see the document as "the starting point" and there is a hope that as it develops it will become "even more ambitious".

City deals are being introduced across the UK. In Scotland the UK and Scottish government contribute £500 million each to the Glasgow deal. However, a better comparison for the borders area might be the Inverness and Highland city region deal.

That included £53m from the UK Government, £135m from the Scottish Government and £127m from the Highland Council and other 'regional partners'.

ITV Border asked the councils to comment on the document. So far, Dumfries & Galloway, Cumbria and Northumberland councils said they had no comment to make.

A UK Government spokesperson said:

The UK Government is committed to working with the Scottish Government to drive forward the innovative, cross-border Borderlands Deal. We hope to agree a deal next year which will see significant investment to transform the local economies within the Borderlands area. The Borderlands Growth Deal has the potential to give the area a significant economic boost. Work to develop the Borderlands Growth Deal has picked up pace and the Borderlands partners produced a proposition which is now being discussed.”

– UK Government spokesperson