Town issues brought into sharp focus at meeting

A TOP-level delegation threw the spotlight on Hawick during a recent regeneration meeting.

Chaired by local MSP Paul Wheelhouse, the summit in the Heart of Hawick saw the visit of cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital investment, Alex Neil MSP, as well as secretary of state for Scotland, Michael Moore MP.

There were also representatives from the community council, business leaders, Scottish Borders Council, housing associations, Scottish Enterprise and VisitScotland.

The focus was on Hawick and Eyemouth, two places identified by the Scottish Agricultural College ‘Rural Scotland in Focus 2012’ study as being among the 20 most economically vulnerable towns in Scotland.

Mr Wheelhouse said: “The need to support the textile industry was a key feature of the discussions regarding Hawick, as was the examination of ideas to stimulate footfall in Hawick town centre where there has been a particular decline. There was a desire to capitalise on the strong community spirit and key assets such as the Heritage Hub, and to ensure that efforts are made to broaden the range of tourist infrastructure for the town and maximise the connectivity of Hawick to the Borders Rail project.

“In both cases, the need for investment in broadband and mobile phone coverage was strongly pressed, to support local businesses and exploitation of tourism opportunities.”

And the SNP politician insisted that the event was not a talking shop. He added: “I appreciate that these types of discussions have been had before and many people remain cynical that nothing tangible ever comes from them, but I believe this meeting marks an important date in the regeneration of both Eyemouth and Hawick and will work closely with those present to ensure that we maintain the momentum we have now established.”