Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont has welcomed the £3.65m regeneration funding announced for Hawick this week but is now calling on the Scottish Government to go further by declaring the town an enterprise zone.
He said: “This money is really good news for Hawick and is a very welcome announcement. Now we need to make sure it goes to good use.
“I want the Scottish Government and Scottish Borders Council to be bold, to invest this money wisely and use it for something co-ordinated.
“I strongly believe the best way to attract new businesses to the region is to create an enterprise zone in Hawick.
“In the north of England, these zones have created more than 8,000 jobs and millions of pounds of private investment by offering incentives to new businesses such as lower business rates and better broadband.
“An enterprise zone is the best way to ensure that this funding maximises the benefit for the wider community and existing businesses.”
Borders SNP MP Calum Kerr disagrees, though, saying: “I’m aware that there have been calls for Hawick to be designated as an enterprise zone.
“However, I think today’s announcement shows that we can deliver positive change for the town without the constraints and negative connotations that such a designation would bring.
“Let’s use this opportunity to come together to make this funding work hard for our community and put Hawick back in its rightful place as a thriving, prosperous town.”
Tweeddale East councillor Stuart Bell, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for economic development, is also unconvinced.
He said: “The challenge with an enterprise zone is that the evidence shows they have not been particularly successful when applied to the circumstances that Hawick faces.”
“In England, enterprise zones are sectorally-based, not geographically organised, and there is some doubt that it would be effective.
“We believe that following the options identified in the action plan will help deal with Hawick’s particular problems.
“That is not to say that an enterprise zone is being ruled out totally for the future, and it will remain under review.
“The good news is that Hawick has attracted £3.6m in funding, and we need to rapidly identify the projects to fund given the timescale set at the end of the financial year.”