The Borders Party has launched a policy plan for Hawick designed to reinvigorate the town’s economy and improve local services.
Hawick is a great town that typifies many of the best attributes of the Borders: a strong sense of identity, community and tradition; a wonderful townscape with splendid buildings and parks; friendly, welcoming people; a strong tradition in industry, sport, and culture.
We believe that Hawick has a great future building on these strengths. There are some serious economic problems to be overcome, but a dynamic and innovative approach by the local council could empower local people to promote Hawick as an economic powerhouse for the region.
We propose six initiatives to improve Hawick’s economic prospects and create a better future for Hawick:
- Devolution of powers to a reinvigorated Community Council. We believe that local services should be accountable to local people. That is the best way to make them cost efficient and to match the priorities and aspirations of Hawick. We believe local people can make a big difference to the way Borders towns look and feel. Hawick in Bloom, the Welcome Hosts, the Christmas Lights and so on all make an enormous contribution, yet they all face the annual struggle to find money and volunteers. Meanwhile, services provided by SBC often have little or no local input. As a start, we therefore propose that dedicated SBC staff, located in Hawick, should be answerable to a reinvigorated Community Council who would prioritise the work of cleaning, maintenance and other works around Hawick, working where possible in conjunction with other voluntary groups, such as Hawick in Bloom. In principle many more SBC services, including the commissioning and supervision of public works, could be subject to the oversight of Hawick Community Council, so in time Community Council responsibilities could be beefed up. These arrangements would be subject to a plebiscite of Hawick residents so that a strong popular mandate was secured before taking on new duties, prior to elections to the Community Council. Considerable interest would be generated in what the Community Council does, and its membership, and through it local people would be able to affect the way Hawick looks and operates.
- Return of the Common Good Fund. We believe that the Hawick Common Good Fund should be controlled locally in the local interest. We would establish a new Advisory Body, made up of a board of respected local people to provide financial oversight and management guidance to the Fund, ensuring proper accountability and sustainability in the long term. Scottish Borders Council would undertake to act under guidance from this body.
- A new approach to promoting Hawick cashmere to visitors and investors. Hawick cashmere has enormous potential as one of the country’s most distinctive high quality products and brands. There are signs that the knitwear industry is picking up despite the difficult general economic conditions. We want to build on this tradition and potential to promote Hawick as a destination for shoppers and visitors from across the UK so that the tourist potential of Hawick is enhanced by the industry and vice versa. There are a number of examples from around Scotland where industry has combined with tourism well to provide improved accommodation, retail outlets, visitor attractions and food and drink outlets on the back of increased visitor numbers. We would work with the industry and wider business, potential investors, and local representatives to create the best framework in terms of co-operation, planning and promotion.
- Improved links between schools and business. As economic prospects improve, not least in the textile industries, opportunities for workers with the right set of skills will grow. It is vital that these jobs are available to local people. We would work with Hawick’s schools and the Borders College to promote technical skills, work experience and apprenticeships to match Hawick’s labour force requirements. We would promote much more integrated co-operation between Hawick business and educational institutions.
- Improving transport links. We believe that the A7 should have trunk status restored all the way from Carlisle to Edinburgh, including the section North of Galashiels. We would work with the Scottish Government to improve the road network to shorten journey times to Carlisle, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Berwick. We oppose the insertion of proposed new roundabouts in the A7 and other measures that clog up the route and slow down journey times. In the meantime we would seek to establish an express non-stop bus service to Edinburgh via the A68 or the quickest route available.
- Support for Wilton Lodge Park and the Hawick Museum. We are very supportive of the efforts to win new funds for the development of Hawick Park in addition to lottery funding. We see it as one of the finest heritage parks in the region and a major attraction for visitors as well as a great asset for local people. We would look for ways to engage the development of the Park with these other initiatives to boost the local economy and the provision of high quality local services.
Tell us what you think
The Borders Party is fully committed to taking the views of Borderers into account, so please contact us and let us have your thoughts on how we can best serve the Borders.