SCOTTISH Conservative leader Ruth Davidson is to spearhead a campaign to “create the conditions” to allow people in the town to be able to remain here for further education and work.
Ms Davidson, speaking ahead of her tour of Johnstons of Elgin before strengthening the Tories’ presence in the town by opening the Conservative Club, revealed to the Hawick News that her party will later this year launch a rural affairs commission, which will aim to help halt the exodus of people from rural communities to cities.
“We will launch the commission to look at how we can support rural communities around Scotland,” she explained. “That’s looking at not just agriculture and fishing, but agri-business, infrastructure, planning issues, energy, goods and services. I grew up in a small village in Fife, went to university then went back home, but then had to leave for Glasgow because that’s where the jobs were.
“For people who want to stay in the towns and villages they grew up in, we have got to find a way to create the conditions to allow that to happen. We shouldn’t be emptying our towns and villages into our cities – there has to be opportunities for people all around the country to stay within the areas where they grew up.” Ms Davidson said she recognised the efforts of local organisations aiming to regenerate the town centre and highlighted last week’s Hawick News front page as evidence of positive campaigns.
“What we have to look at in Scotland is the ability of the powers that we do have to boost jobs. Retail is a really interesting area. I saw that the Hawick News is supporting the Future Hawick campaign to dress some of the shop windows in the High Street.
“One of the things we did in the last parliament was to put money aside for town centre regeneration that can help towns like Hawick. It’s about getting people back into town centres because they are the vibrant parts of our towns and communities.
“The thing about towns and villages when it comes to the focal point, there is a critical mass: once you lose a certain number of shops, it’s very difficult to build that back up. You need to have a focal point and to support local businesses.
“Particularly given the geography of the Borders, a town like Hawick is not only a centre for people who live in the town, but also for people round about it.
“Firstly, you need to be able to have goods and services for people who aren’t willing or able to travel. More than that, you need a meeting place.”