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The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

Keep up to date with the latest news and stories from across Dumfries & Galloway.

 

IT’S TIME FOR ACTION TO ADDRESS SERIOUS TRANSPORT ISSUES IN THE SOUTH WEST OF SCOTLAND – LOCAL MSP

South of Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour Transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth has said it is time for action to address transport issues in the south west of Scotland, following the publication of the South West Scotland transport study earlier today (January 28).

 

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The report highlights more than 20 options to improve connectivity in the south west of Scotland. These options will now go through to a national assessment of future transport interventions for further consideration.

Just some of the recommendations for further appraisal include:

  • The reopening of the rail links between Dumfries and the West Coast Mainline and between Stranraer and Dumfries and a new line from Stranraer to Cairnryan 
  • A continuous programme of improvements for the A77 and A75 including partial dualling, bypassing and other upgrades to replace existing low-quality stretches of the road with higher quality, more efficient and safer alternatives and improvements to the A76
  • The development of better freight facilities, especially to support the timber industry in the area.
  • The reopening of railway stations including Thornhill, Eastriggs, Beattock and Dunragit.
  • Increased rail services on the West Coast Mainline

However, while Colin Smyth has cautiously welcomed the publication of the report, he believes it is time for action, rather than more warm words regarding transport issues in the south west.

Colin Smyth said: “Our region’s transport system has been neglected for far too long by the Scottish Government and the economic impact of that neglect is there for all to see. 

“There has been a sustained lack of investment in key trunk roads which make them a real risk of serious accident, to say nothing of the fact that bus and rail fares are simply too high to make them an affordable alternative to the car, people in our region are being badly let down. 

“While I cautiously welcome the recommendations in the report, it is now time for action. The people in the south west of Scotland want to see real changes to address the very serious transport issues they face on a daily basis. This can’t just be a wish list of projects that sit on a shelf gathering dust.  

“It will also be a source of frustration for local people that the full dualling of the A75 and A77 has not been considered, while the SNP Government presses ahead spending £3 billion to dual the A9 from Perth to Inverness.”

Shortlist Announced and Tickets on Sale for DGBusiness Awards 2020

DGChamber is delighted to announce the shortlist for 9 of the 11 2020 DGBusiness Awards sponsored by Cunninghame Housing Association.

 

DGBusiness Awards host Lee Medd said: “The entries to the 2020 DGBusiness Awards have always given a great indication to the state of the local economy and the confidence among businesses within it.

We’ve seen more entries to our Most Promising New Business category than ever before, in a time when customer service is paramount the judges saw some fantastic entries and had a really hard time just getting to this interview shortlist. Our Social enterprise award is more diverse than ever and our NEW awards for Tourism and Independent Retailer have been supported in huge numbers.

I’d like to thank all our category sponsors and Cunninghame Housing Association, our Headline Sponsor"

 

The awards themselves will be handed out at our awards evening at Easterbrook Hall, on Friday March 20th 2020 

tickets for this event can be purchased on-line now BY CLICKING HERE or by calling DGChamber on 01387 702157 

The Shortlist

Outstanding SME (25 Employees or Under) - Sponsored by Cunninghame Housing Association

  •          Galloway Activity Centre/Loch Ken Eco Bothies
  •          Genesis Occupational Health
  •          Paterson ATV
  •          Robertson Gemini

   

Outstanding Large Business - Sponsored by Cunninghame Housing Association

  •          Brown Brothers
  •          Concrete Wall Panels
  •          ETB Technologies

 

Outstanding New Business – Sponsored by SP Energy Networks

  •          Botann Rubber Company
  •          Patwoman
  •          Qubiti Ltd

Excellence in Customer Service

  •          Alpha Solway
  •          Genesis Occupational Health
  •          Stewartry Care

 

Outstanding Social Enterprise

  •          Cunninghame Housing Association
  •          The Crichton Trust
  •          The Usual Place

 

Outstanding Independent Retailer

  •          Earth’s Crust Bakery
  •          Galloway Bridal
  •          The Pied Piper

 

Outstanding Tourism Business or Organisation - Sponsored by The Crichton Trust

  •          Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival
  •          Galloway Activity Centre
  •          Wigtown Festival Company

 

Outstanding Family Business - Sponsored by Armstrong Watson

  •          Boyd Group
  •          Brown Brothers
  •          Grierson & Graham
  •          Robinsons Scotland

 

Young Entrepreneur Award - Sponsored by Alpha Solway

  •          Brandon Barrett
  •          Gemma Findlay
  •          Maeve Reekie

 

Entrepreneur Award

  •          David Hyde
  •          Lesley Ann Johnstone
  •          Amanda McFern
  •          John McGee

Latest Economic Indicator Shows Challenges Ahead

The latest Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) Quarterly Economic Indicator (QEI) survey for Q4 of 2019 shows that businesses are in a period of stasis with global and domestic factors all contributing to subdued levels of confidence and investment. The quarterly survey was carried out between November to December 2019, during the UK general election period which suggests political considerations will certainly have had some influence in how businesses responded to the survey.

 

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Key highlights:
 On business confidence: Despite signs of resilience, confidence levels remain weak relative to their long-term norms, with manufacturing, retail and tourism in negative territory for outlook.


 On business investment: Investment levels remain weak and subdued across all sectors in the survey. This has been an ongoing trend as global and domestic uncertainty continues to take its toll on business communities. This is likely to impact on the growth and competitiveness of Scotland’s economy in the coming quarters.


 On cost pressures: The price of raw materials and the cost of finance is increasing compared to previous quarters, adding to the cost burden across all sectors.


 On business concerns: Business rates feature as the most significant concern for all sectors, aside from manufacturing which cited exchanges rates as its main concerns.


The survey, conducted by Scottish Chambers of Commerce, in partnership with the Fraser of Allander Institute, is Scotland's longest-running economic survey of its kind.
Commenting on the results, Tim Allan, Chairman of the Scottish Business Advisory Group and President of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:
“Given recent prolonged uncertainty and trading conditions, these flat results are not surprising. The business challenges prevalent in 2019 are showing signs of continuing into 2020 with business confidence at worryingly low levels.
“The decisive election result at Westminster is yet to provide the clear direction that business communities are looking for. Of particular concern to businesses will be the extent of divergence the UK Government plans to adopt between UK and EU regulation. This continued uncertainty, coupled with a continued sense of “election-style” policy making, has the potential to disrupt business planning, supply chains, as well as negatively impacting on job creation.
“We urge the UK government to clearly communicate these changes in a timely way and provide substantial support to help firms adapt – ensuring it reaches all parts of the UK. Otherwise companies will struggle to make the most of new opportunities as Britain sets its own trading polices.


“Business sustainability, economic certainty and a healthy planet are the watchwords for 2020. The role of business to leverage private sector innovation and solutions to meet the big economic and societal challenges should not be underestimated by either Holyrood or Westminster. Our message to government is clear: only by working with business will we
be able to create the fair and thriving economy that will provide jobs, stability and valued
public services.”

 

On the construction sector, Tim Allan said:
“The survey reveals that business confidence amongst construction firms is at its lowest point in almost three years with contracts at their lowest level since Q3 2017. The trends for contracts sit below their five-year average for the survey, which is concerning for the long-term health of this important sector. Firms are continuing to be affected by raw material prices and other overheads, adding to continued pressure to hold back on investment which is continuing to fall.”

 

On the manufacturing sector, Tim Allan said:
“With negative results across most of the key trends, this was another weak quarter for the sector. Business confidence has been on a downward trajectory over a series of quarters, and is significantly below the five-year average.
“An increasing number of firms continue to report recruitment difficulties. Companies are relatively downbeat about the next quarter results, with many predicting falling sales and investment.”

 

On retail and wholesale, Tim Allan said:
“The festive boost for the sector did not deliver, with sales flatlining and business confidence lower than the average for the quarter. Prolonged periods of discounting, changing consumer habits and “Black Friday” style deals impacted the overall
performance of companies.
“The sector reported business rates as a leading concern, and one that must be addressed by the Scottish Government to support retailers and our high streets.”

On tourism, Tim Allan said:
“Business confidence in the tourism sector has fallen to the lowest level in nine quarters, and well below the five-year average, whilst negative trends for cash flow, profits and sales present cause for concern. Interestingly, whilst the number of people coming from the EU was flat, the balance of visitors from outside the EU saw an increase from the previous quarter.

“Policymakers must be alert to the challenges facing the tourism sector, one of the gems in Scotland’s diverse economy, with a focus to tackle the sector’s concerns, namely business rates & taxation.”

 

On financial and business services, Tim Allan said:
“With around half of firms expecting to see no changes to levels of investment, it’s clear the sector is continuing to place key investment decisions on hold in the midst of ongoing uncertainty. Recruitment difficulties continue to weigh on the minds of companies as attracting suitable talent continues to take its toll.’’

 

Commenting on the results, Professor Graeme Roy, Director at the University of
Strathclyde's Fraser of Allander Institute, said:
“These latest results from the Scottish Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Indicator, suggest that the positive but challenging conditions many sectors faced in 2019 have continued into 2020. This is not that surprising.
“The global outlook continues to remain fragile. Here at home, last month’s data showed economic growth tracking at less than 1% over the 12 months to September, marking another year of below par performance for the Scottish economy.
“And whilst December’s decisive General Election result removed any immediate threat of crashing out of the EU with ‘no deal’, it is important to remember that this was just the end of the phase 1 negotiations, and the decisive end-point for agreeing an all-important trade deal is less than 12 months away.”

Trade Association Supporting Big Energy Saving Week By Sharing Advice On Cutting Fuel Bills

Liquid fuels distribution trade association the UK and Ireland Fuel Distributors Association (UKIFDA), is this week supporting, Big Energy Saving Week, the national week-long campaign, by urging households warmed by heating oil to take positive steps to better manage their energy use and save money in the process.

 

GUY PULMAN

Organised by Citizens Advice every year, the Big Energy Saving Week campaign raises awareness of the simple ways we can all increase our energy efficiency and reduce our energy costs.

UKIFDA has lots of advice for the 1.5m oil-fuelled households across the UK on steps they can take to use less fuel and save money as well as have a positive impact on the environment.

"A warm house is what everyone wants in the winter - and there are ways to achieve this that don't hurt people's bank balance or the planet," says Guy Pulham, UKIFDA Chief Executive.

"This is why we are supporting Big Energy Saving Week as it is such a great opportunity to get people thinking about their energy consumption and find a way to be more energy efficient.

"The good news for customers using liquid fuels to heat their homes is the value for money this fuel type offers. The latest report from Sutherland Tables, a recognised independent source of comparative domestic heating prices, on 31st October 2019, highlighted that oil is still one of the cheapest forms of energy for off-grid homes compared to electricity and LPG and compared to 2018 heating oil prices, in the latter part of 2019 in most regions were down by between 2% and 8%.  Furthermore, customers are able to shop around to find the most competitive supplier of heating oil, and when it comes to improving the environmental impact the industry is working towards a biofuel to replace heating oil.

"Biofuels would enable customers to switch to a more environmentally friendly fuel with lower carbon emissions and without the need to change the heating system or a large upfront investment - for example, a modern condensing boiler would support a 30% blend of biofuel with kerosene and this boiler uses almost all the fuel for maximum efficiency."

During this year's Big Energy Saving Week, UKIFDA has advice and considerations for households wanting to stay warm this winter and save money:

  • Bleed your radiators to boost heating efficiency
  • Consider upgrading your thermostat to a modern one that enables you to set different temperatures in each room so you only heat the rooms you need, when you need them
  • Turn your thermostat down by 1 degree to make a 10% saving
  • Service your boiler annually, to ensure it works efficiently and help avoid costly breakdowns. To find your nearest OFTEC registered heating technician visit https://www.oftec.org/consumers/find-a-technician
  • Check your oil tank regularly for cracking, sag, discolouration and any unusual sign of wear and tear.
  • Upgrade your boiler if it is old (more than 15 years) to a condensing boiler. This can reduce your fuel consumption and carbon emissions by up to 20%, helping you make further savings both financially and environmentally
  • Ensure you order fuel from UKIFDA registered heating oil suppliers who all follow a code of practice by visiting https://www.oilsave.org.uk/distributor-search/
  • Check grants and benefits availability to make sure you're getting the help you're entitled to, such as the Winter Fuel Allowance

SCOTTISH NATIONAL INVESTMENT BANK GIVEN GREEN LIGHT BY MSPs HOLYROOD PASSES PLAN TO TRANSFORM DUMFRIES & GALLOWAY ECONOMY

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has said the new Scottish National Investment bank will help encourage economic growth across Dumfries and Galloway, after the bill to introduce the body was formally agreed to in Holyrood today.

 

joan Mcalpine

MSPs from all parties gave their backing to the Scottish Government’s blueprint for the investment bank that will begin investing in businesses and communities later this year – committing to invest at least £2 billion in its first ten years.

The bank will have an important role in helping Scotland meet its ambitious climate change targets - forming part of the SNP’s Green New Deal to kick-start investment and build the momentum needed to reduce emissions and create high quality jobs in the process.  

Commenting, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:

“The Scottish National Investment Bank will help us reach our world-leading climate change targets while transforming communities here in Dumfries and Galloway.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy, that’s why the bank will invest in firms and community projects that are looking to play their part in tackling the global climate emergency.

“Individuals, and small local businesses, the length and breadth of Scotland are set to benefit from this historic move as we move towards a low carbon economy fit for the future. I look forward to seeing the bank’s impact in Dumfries and Galloway.”