Huge turn-out at Borderlands conference

The Borderlands conference.
The Borderlands conference.

Hundreds of stakeholders had their say on proposals to transform the Borderlands economy at a special conference in Dumfries on Monday.

Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Elaine Murray, welcomed more than 370 business representatives, public sector organisations and individuals to the first Borderlands conference, describing the initiative as ‘a once-in-a-generation opportunity which must be seized’.

Five local authorities from north and south of the border are working in partnership to put together a proposal that should have huge implications for those who live, work and visit the area.

It was the first opportunity for interested parties to hear about the themes that are being developed to underpin the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, and to give their views on the major projects they believe would kickstart transformation.

The conference was held at a key time for the partnership, made up of Northumberland County Council, as well as the local authorities of Carlisle, Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Border.

Responses from the conference will help the partnership to build a case to present to both the UK and Scottish Governments later this year.

Views were sought on the Borderlands’ key themes: Digital; energy; Destination Borderlands; rural productivity; business growth; transport; innovation and skills; and quality of place.

Those attending quizzed a panel, chaired by the UK Government’s Borderlands champion John Stevenson MP, on how the deal could support inclusivity, tourism projects and benefit small rural communities.

The conference had backing from both governments who have pledged support for a deal.

Coun Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “We’ve been amazed by the level of enthusiasm by businesses from right across the Borderlands area.

“Around 370 delegates have come up with a range of ideas that we could progress to make the whole Borderlands a better place.

“We’re talking about schemes such as industrial parks to create high-value employment but also start-up units and ways to improve the tourism offer to put us on the national and international map.

“I think this is the start of something that could build into a significant programme to make this one of the most exciting places to live in the whole of the UK.”

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The newly-formed Loving Alnwick group and the town’s chamber of trade have arranged a special meeting to discuss the Borderlands deal and its potential benefits for Alnwick. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, at the Alnwick Garden Pavilion, from 6pm, and all are welcome. To confirm attendance, email

A spokesman said: “This is an opportunity for Alnwick, along with other border towns across Northumberland, to benefit from the deal. It is important we don’t let it pass us by. At the meeting, we will explore ideas, brainstorm creative ideas and demonstrate a joined-up approach in the town.”