Hawick Enterprise Zone proposed to improve town’s economic future

John Lamont on Hawick high street.

John Lamont on Hawick high street.

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At a meeting in Hawick today to discuss the economic future of the town, MSP John Lamont has proposed setting up an Enterprise Zone for the town.

The meeting was arranged by the Enterprise Minister, Fergus Ewing MSP, after John Lamont raised the closure of Hawick Knitwear in the Scottish Parliament.

At the meeting, attended by local businesses, politicians and representatives from the council and skills agencies, John Lamont has urged the Scottish Government to look closely at setting up an Enterprise Zone, the first in the Scottish Borders, to encourage businesses to invest in Hawick.

The Zone would offer a range on incentives including business rates relief, fast track planning applications, the prioritisation of high speed broadband, specific skills and training support and advice for businesses on international growth.

This would differ from Enterprise Areas already in place elsewhere in Scotland because it would apply to any businesses willing to invest in a specific geographical location, rather than to specific sectors.

Hawick’s MSP John Lamont, has said that following the loss of the jobs at Hawick Knitwear, the long term decline of the textiles industry and closures in Hawick’s High Street, there is now a real need for a radical long term plan to bring businesses and jobs back to Hawick.

He said: “Hawick needs a radical, long term and co-ordinated plan to get it back on track. Meetings and warm words will simply not be enough. While we need to continue investing in broadband and transport in the Borders, more needs to be done to reverse the decline that we have seen in Hawick in recent years, both in the textiles industry and on the High Street.

“Enterprise Zones have had great success elsewhere and if done right, could signal a new wave of investment for Hawick. By offering incentives like business rates relief, super-fast broadband and skills and training support, businesses would be encouraged to return to and invest in the town. I hope the Scottish Government proves they understand the seriousness of Hawick’s situation and looks closely at setting up an Enterprise Zone.

John added: “This move would need to be combined with investment in infrastructure and so alongside this plan we need investment in our roads and crucially to bring the Borders Railway to Hawick and on to Carlisle.”