5. Potential Activities for the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency
5.1. The potential of the South of Scotland is clear. The Agency needs to be able to take forward activities that drive the economy, sustain and grow communities and capitalise on people and resources. The Agency will have a leading role in creating the conditions for more skilled and better paid job opportunities, help support low carbon activities and support the area to take advantage of international opportunities and technological change.
5.2. A range of public, private and third sector organisations already work actively in the South of Scotland to deliver services to businesses, learners and communities. These organisations include Scottish Enterprise ( SE), Skills Development Scotland ( SDS), the Scottish Funding Council ( SFC), Visit Scotland, the local authorities (Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council), and further and higher education providers. The work of these organisations is valued by those who benefit from their support and contributes to the economic prosperity of the South of Scotland. The Agency offers the opportunity to create a fresh approach to economic development, to complement and harness existing activity to deliver the best outcome for the area.
5.3. Scotland's existing enterprise agencies are Highlands and Islands Enterprise ( HIE) and SE. The legislation establishing the Agency will draw from the legislation establishing those bodies  . The legislation will set out the overarching powers of the Agency, enabling it to take forward activities reflecting the circumstances of the South. The high level powers set out in the legislation will be shaped to ensure that the Agency can take forward the range of activities to deliver its high level aims. The legislation will not set out the detail of activities.
5.4. The Agency needs to reflect the aspirations of the people of the South and not simply do the same as other agencies have been doing. It needs to work for the South. However, there is value in learning from, and drawing on, the success of other agencies when considering the sort of activities the Agency could carry out. The potential activities captured below are informed by the range of activities carried out by SE and HIE, as well as other public bodies supporting economic development. Those activities also reflect what stakeholders said during the Enterprise and Skills Review.
5.5. The following section seeks views on the potential activities the Agency might undertake, grouped against the three initial overarching aims: to drive forward the economy, to sustain and grow communities, and to capitalise on people and resources. There are specific questions to consider at the end of the section.
Driving forward the economy: potential activities
5.6. This section explores the sorts of activities that the Agency might take forward to drive forward the economy, increasing productivity and creating the conditions of fair work and inclusive growth.
5.7. It is important that the Agency operates with a clear understanding of the assets tailored to the needs of the area's business base, looking at how more businesses benefit from public sector support to contribute to the area's inclusive growth and create opportunities. Its decisions need to be supported by a well-informed evidence base.
5.8. The Agency will need to have a clear vision for the area, providing strong regional leadership working with locally elected leaders and other key stakeholders. Clarity of purpose would help to align people behind a clear direction. The Agency could act as a voice of the South of Scotland, ensuring that it is heard in national debates. In identifying areas of regional strengths, it could provide sector-specific support.
5.9. There is a range of activity that the Agency could undertake to help specific businesses across the South of Scotland to reach their potential, recognising the nature of the area's business base with many family owned and micro-businesses. Activities to support business sustainability and growth might include:
- joining up existing support for business, working with other organisations offering support;
- having an 'account management' system for supporting individual businesses, in the model of SE and HIE;
- setting up business networks and clusters;
- growing the local supply chain;
- providing specific support tailored to small and micro businesses;
- working with businesses to build capacity and confidence so small and medium sized businesses are able to seek investment from bodies such as the Scottish National Investment Bank;
- encouraging greater business spend on research and development;
- developing rural business leaders;
- targeting support for under-represented groups;
- working with Scottish Development International to support import and export; and
- working with the existing enterprise agencies where services are best delivered on a national basis; for example, the Scottish Manufacturing Advice Service and Regional Selective Assistance.
Sustaining and growing communities: potential activities
5.10. This section explores the sorts of activities that the Agency might take forward to sustain and grow communities, supporting them achieve their economic potential. This builds on our existing commitment to empowering communities via the Regeneration Strategy  , the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2105  , and our Fairer Scotland Action Plan  .
5.11. We think that there is a range of activity that the Agency could deliver to build the economic strength and resilience of communities. We recognise that, in rural areas, the integration of economic and community development is important to the long term success of the area. The inclusive growth diagnostic provides a tool for the Agency to understand what is preventing communities from accessing employment opportunities. Activities taken forward could include:
- Further supporting communities to grow their capacity and to play a greater role in the long term development of their area, including acquiring specific assets and opportunities to generate income and deliver services;
- Supporting the growth and development of the social enterprise sector, identifying specific geographical and thematic opportunities, including the potential for increased innovation and more effective joint working;
- Supporting community based businesses, reflecting the traditions, skills and aspirations of different places;
- Working with local authorities and other partners supporting regeneration and place based activities; and
- Responding to the inclusive growth diagnostic, addressing the things that are getting in the way of economic opportunities.
Capitalising on people and resources: potential activities
5.12. This section explores the sorts of activities that the Agency might take forward to capitalise on the people and the resources of the South of Scotland.
5.13. The Agency will be able to focus on the needs of the South of Scotland. In looking at how to ensure people in the South have the skills to make the most of future opportunities, the Agency will want to work closely with existing organisations such as Skills Development Scotland, the Scottish Funding Council and education institutions, including colleges and universities. The Agency should forge productive relationships between these organisations and ensure that their provision planning and resource allocation becomes better aligned, more coherent and subject to more consistent performance management.
5.14. Working with skills organisations and skills providers, the Agency could:
- support the development of skills in the South of Scotland;
- align skills needs with skills provision;
- work to increase economic opportunities for young people;
- work to ensure that the existing workforce have the opportunity to develop their skills and to access on-going training to enhance their skills;
- ensure a workforce that can make the most of future economic opportunities, including building digital skills; and
- help business benefit from the Scottish Government's commitment to its expansion and diversification of apprenticeships  .
5.15. The Agency will also look at how best to promote the area's assets and resources, maximising the impact of investment in the areas. This could include activities such as:
- developing business spaces fit for the growing businesses of the 21 st century;
- supporting enabling business infrastructure;
- maintaining an asset register for the South of Scotland to record the economic assets of the area to help inform decision making;
- supporting the development and regeneration of towns and town centres;
- working to attract inward investment;
- working with organisations such as the Scottish Futures Trust to influence the national infrastructure investment plan;
- developing a digital economy, improving the take up of digital technologies and ensuring business make the most of those new technologies; and
- fostering partnerships to promote the South of Scotland as a tourism destination, through digital and traditional methods.
Question 6 – What currently works well in the South of Scotland?
Question 7 – What would you add or take away from the potential activities that the Agency could carry out across the three areas:
a) drive forward the economy;
b) sustain communities; and
c) capitalise on people and resources
Question 8: What would you prioritise as the key areas of activity for the Agency?
Question 9: What specific things could the Agency do to help you, your business, your sector or your community?