‘Critical link aspirational’

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The recently published tourism destination audit, a joint venture between Midlothian council and SBC, commissioned to highlight business opportunities connected to the opening of the Borders Railway, may not have revealed any startling revelations, but it sets a very clear agenda for SBC.

It describes how Hawick businesses are more likely to have negative viewpoints about the new railway primarily because the line does not extend to the town. It also highlights that we, like Galashiels, have a large number of empty retail premises creating a negative impression.

On the positive side, it tells us what we already know that we have great attractions in Wilton Lodge Park and the Heart of Hawick. We have a bespoke and world-renowned textile industry and host events that set us apart from many others.

Key to all of this is the ability of visitors to reach Hawick from the Galashiels or Tweedbank stations and the need for integration of timetabling of rail and onward specialist bus services. You may be forgiven for thinking this is already in place having previously been told that was part of the proposition. However, despite the valiant efforts of Future Hawick and many others, this critical link remains aspirational, a situation that needs to be urgently corrected if Hawick and other Borders town are to receive the benefits promised by the railway.

While the report contains a very clear reference to Hawick and Galashiels town centres, the current investment and effort is hardly equitable. While substantial investment is being made in Galashiels, including the provision of a town-centre co-ordinator, Hawick, despite the fantastic efforts of the Future Hawick trustees, is having to fight to free every pound of the derisory £30,000 promised to aid our High Street.

I am delighted that this audit has been completed as it will allow us all to benchmark and monitor the effort being made to help individual towns and communities. Councillor Stuart Marshall and I have already contacted the head of the council’s economic development team to understand just exactly what the next steps will be and when we can expect to see the timetable for those buses that will bring the railway users to Hawick and beyond.

Councillor Watson McAteer

Hawick and Denholm