South of Scotland's economic fate 'really critical'
The MSP convening a committee looking at the creation of a south of Scotland enterprise agency has said work must be done to help struggling businesses.
Edward Mountain is the convener of Holyrood's rural economy and connectivity committee.
He was speaking ahead of meetings in Dumfries and Galashiels about the establishment of the new agency.
He said the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway were "really critical" for the future of the nation as a whole.
The public is being asked to help shape plans for the new agency aiming to stimulate economic growth and create job opportunities.
It is expected to be formally established in 2020.
A bill is currently going through the Scottish Parliament to pave the way for the new body and as part of the process the committee is holding a public discussion in Dumfries on Monday and Galashiels on 23 January.
"Edinburgh can seem remote from some parts of Scotland and I think it is really important that we come out from Edinburgh as committees and listen to what people say," said Mr Mountain.
"That is why we are coming down for this meeting.
"We would like to hear from as many people as possible - especially young people - because young people are very important to the future of the area."
'Sense of optimism'
He said the new agency would have a lot of work to do but people were positive about its prospects.
"We are seeing lots of small businesses struggling and we are also seeing people moving away from the area and we need to redress that balance," he said.
"There is certainly a sense of optimism coming across from the people who have given evidence.
"There is certainly a feeling on the committee that this is something we should be pushing forward and helping the government get right when they bring the legislation forward."
Plans to create the body for the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway were confirmed in 2017.
The new agency would co-exist with Scotland's two other enterprise agencies - Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Work is currently ongoing via the South of Scotland Economic Partnership to pave the way for its creation.