South of Scotland enterprise agency endorsed by MSPs
Plans to create a south of Scotland enterprise agency have won the backing of MSPs.
Holyrood's rural economy committee said there was "no doubt" the body was needed and had "overwhelming support".
They said the area faced a number of challenges, including an aging population as well as transport and digital connectivity issues.
A bill is currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament to establish the agency.
The committee identified a number of challenges facing the economy in Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders.
They included young people leaving the area, relatively low levels of productivity and GDP growth, transport and digital connectivity issues and higher concentration of low-paying jobs.
However, it also found strengths, including strong community spirit, good strategic location, and a natural environment that provided a high quality of life and opportunities for healthy living.
Committee convener Edward Mountain said there was "no doubt" a local enterprise agency was needed for the region.
He added: "As part of our scrutiny, the committee visited Dumfries and Galashiels, where we heard directly from the people who live and work in the region.
"It was clear to us there is overwhelming support for this bill."
He said southern Scotland faced a "a significant number of economic, social and geographic challenges" which differed from the rest of Scotland.
"The evidence we received strongly suggests that these are not being sufficiently addressed by existing support mechanisms," he said.
Among the findings of the report were:
- the new enterprise agency should cover Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders council areas only
- board membership should include individuals with as wide a range of interests, skills, expertise and experience as possible
- the bill should include measures to increase the local accountability of the new agency