Borders economy grows at twice Scotland's national rate

NEW figures released yesterday by Scottish Enterprise Borders show the Borders' economy growing at almost twice the rate of the Scottish average.

According to data prepared by the research consultancy Experian, the Borders economy grew at a rate of 3.6 per cent per annum, compared to about 2 per cent for the Scottish economy as a whole.

But the research also found lagging productivity levels in the region, ascribed to the Borders' relative lack of high-growth industries such as financial and business services, and communications. The lag was seen as affecting wage levels in the region, which continue to be lower than the Scottish average.

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The report also showed higher-than-average levels of economic activity, with 79 per cent of people in the Borders economically active, compared to 75 per cent for Scotland. The unemployment rate for the Borders is just 1.4 per cent compared with 2.5 per cent for Scotland.

Hugh Tasker, chairman of SE Borders, said the findings were an early indication that the Borders economy was enjoying a renaissance.

"Our traditional industries of agriculture, textiles and forestry are adapting and modernising in line with global market conditions while there is a greater emphasis on high-value employment and higher wage levels," he argued.

"We are beginning to reap the rewards of our investment but we cannot be complacent. The Experian report also highlights several areas which could limit future economic growth.

"We must focus on the region's key industries which have the biggest potential for growth, in order to overcome these challenges by boosting productivity, attracting new high-value employment and generating greater prosperity for the people and businesses of the region."

Tasker also referred to SE Borders' annual report, published yesterday, which boasted of 213 new business start-ups through Business Gateway, 50 new ventures in rural areas, 397 participants in occupational training programmes funded by SE Borders, and 76 companies participating in workforce development programmes to boost productivity and increase skills of the local workforce.

David Gass, the senior director of operations for SE Borders, said: "We have also begun to see real progress in our efforts to develop more links within the wider region and developing projects in our priority industries.

"By continuing to focus on these areas, we aim to attract new investment and employment opportunities for the region which will help to increase productivity levels; attract new people to live and work here; and increase prosperity across the region.

Last month, the Iranian firm Jahan Cashmere reversed a long-standing trend of textile factory closures, by announcing that it was creating up to 60 jobs in a cashmere "de-hairing" factory in Kelso.

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