South of Scotland Alliance raises key economic concerns
A string of key economic issues facing the south of Scotland have been taken to Deputy First Minister John Swinney.
He met representatives from Dumfries and Galloway Council, Scottish Borders Council and Scottish Enterprise who make up the South of Scotland Alliance.
Brexit, transport and demographic challenges were among the areas discussed in Dumfries.
Mr Swinney said the meeting was a "welcome opportunity" to talk about a number of "shared concerns".
Dumfries and Galloway Council leader Elaine Murray said: "Agriculture dominates the economy of much of the south of Scotland, and the regional farming industry received £146m of European Union funding via the Common Agricultural Policy in 2017.
"On that basis alone, never mind the significant employment connected to the sector and the rural economy generally, it is vital that we get clarity as soon as possible on the future of funding for rural areas and agriculture after the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union."
Mark Rowley, Scottish Borders Council's executive member for business and economic development, flagged up efforts to stop young people leaving the region and attract inward investment.
He said: "We want this area to thrive, and to do so we need to create more opportunities for learning at the highest level; make the region more attractive for younger people to stay, or return after studying; and support the creation of more jobs, particularly those of higher quality and pay."
The alliance also raised road, rail and public transport concerns and opportunities.
Mr Swinney said the Scottish government was working hard to support the rural economy after Brexit but said "greater clarity" was needed.
"We remain deeply frustrated about the lack of any certainty over future funding arrangements for investment in our communities and businesses and the impact this could have across the south of Scotland," he said.
He said a hard or no-deal Brexit could have "catastrophic impacts" on farming and food production including the dairy sector in the south west.
He added that a "tailored approach" to migration was needed in order to recognise the needs of Scotland.