Traders refute minister’s trade boost claims

Hawick is yet to reap any economic benefits of the new railway.
Hawick is yet to reap any economic benefits of the new railway.

Claims made this week by an SNP government minister that businesses across the Borders have reported significant growth since the railway opened were refuted in Hawick.

And Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing’s suggestion that 80 per cent of shops in Galashiels have reported “a doubling of takings” isn’t, according to High Street traders, reflected in their tills.

Mr Ewing’s claim came days before the launch of the Borders Railway Tourism Opportunities Guide which is aimed at providing a range of market information, case studies, examples of tourism collaboration in practice and tips on how businesses can develop to capitalise on increased tourism activity as a result of the Borders Railway.

The guide has been developed by Scottish Enterprise, Midlothian Council and Scottish Borders Council as part of the Borders Railway Blueprint commitments and it was launched at the Galashiels Transport Interchange on Wednesday.

In a press statement on Tuesday, Mr Ewing said: “From carrying around 6,200 passengers on 17 steam train journeys to four out o five shops in Galashiels reporting a doubling of takings, the Borders Railway is breathing new life into the region.

“The Borders Railway has clearly struck a chord with local communities and tourists from across the world alike providing them with opportunities to enjoy the many wonderful attractions and experiences the Borders has to offer and I look forward to its continuing success.”

A spokesperson for the Mansfield House Hotel told the Hawick News: “We have not seen an increase in business since the railway opened. In fact some of the people staying with us are now opting to spend the day in Edinbrgh and are travelling on the train out of the Borders.”

Lockie’s Knitwear manager Cameron Deans said that although they’ve had one or two visitors travelling to Hawick after taking the train to Tweedbank there has been no significant boost in trade.

He added: “I think for it to have a huge impact on Hawick the train will need to come here. It’s that simple.”

The Hawick News also spoke to several guest house owners and none have reported an upturn in trade.