New group will aim to capitalise on railway line

Hawick needs to start making its voice heard if it is to reap any benefits from the Borders Railway.

That was the warning from
Future Hawick chairman Derick Tait who also told Monday night’s community council meeting in the lesser town hall that a new group, Destination Scottish Borders, would be
set up in the near future in a bid to help promote tourism ideas.

Comprising representatives from Hawick, Galashiels, Selkirk, Melrose, Kelso and Jedburgh, the group aimed to work together to help towns to capitalise on the railway, which wasn’t happening at present, said Mr Tait.

He continued: “They [Scottish Borders Council and ScotRail] keep telling us that it’s a great success, but we suspect that they [the passengers] are all going up the way to Edinburgh, and there are very few coming back down the way from Edinburgh to the Borders.”

Mr Tait said the impending formation of DSB had coincided with national tourism body VisitScotland’s appointment of a Scottish Borders director, whose remit would include setting up a Borders destination marketing organisation which would co-ordinate local tourism strategies. “It is most likely that role will be filled by the Scottish Borders Tourist Partnership, but that would mean a big overhaul as far as they are concerned,” he explained.

“But if they [SBTP] are going to restructure, Destination Scottish Borders wants a seat at their table.”

SBTP was currently involved in a joint bid between Scottish Borders Council and Midlothian County Council for £300,000 from Scottish Enterprise. And if successful, it had already been agreed that Destination Scottish Borders would play a key role in any strategies that developed from that [funding].

Mr Tait added: “We need a strong voice on Destination Scottish Borders, and Future Hawick believes Hawick Community Council representation would be a good thing for the town. It’s going to be an action group, because if we don’t take action we’re going to lose out.

“If Hawick’s going to get something out of this railway at all we really need to make our voice heard.”

Local volunteers were then sought to join Destination Scottish Borders, and community councillors Ian Turnbull and French Wight offered their services.