The south of Scotland is the “neglected” part of the country with concerns that the region is blighted by low-paid seasonal work, a lack of roads and transport links, as well as educational opportunities.
And the region is now suffering a “brain drain” as the younger generation leaves to seek work elsewhere, according to a public consultation into a proposed South of Scotland Enterprise Agency.
The Scottish Government’s rural economy minister Fergus Ewing admitted yesterday there is a “need for a new approach” in the region to address the challenges it faces.
The south of Scotland is “distinct” from the rest of the country, respondents told the consultation.
“It was felt that the south of Scotland was the neglected area of Scotland, a situation they hoped the agency would rectify,” an analysis of the consultation reponses found.
The sense of neglect is worse in the south-west of the country, where locals feel the that Borders have received greater investment in recent years, with the arrival of developments including the Borders railway.
High levels of inequality, deprivation and fuel poverty are also raised as concerns by local people in the report. These are viewed as the “results of a low wage economy, high living costs and cuts to public sector services”.
The lack of affordable housing is another concern with many locals priced out of home ownership and calls for the proposed new agency to instigate a regeneration of housing options.
And despite Glasgow University’s Crichton campus in Dumfries, plus Borders College and Dumfries and Galloway College, there was also seen to be a lack of broader further and higher education opportunities in the region.
There is also now a falling and ageing population across the south of Scotland which is “further exacerbated by many young and economically active people leaving the area, creating a ‘brain drain’,” the report added.
The consulation attracted 268 responses, split between organisations and individuals.
Mr Ewing said the challenges facing the region lay behind the decision to establish the new agency.
He said: “That agency will be crucial in transforming the fortunes of this important economic region, by working with local partners to create a clear vision, and putting in place the foundations for sustainable and inclusive growth.”