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24 February 2017

Self-employment has ‘aye-been’ the way in the Borders

Entrepreneurial Towns - Title

In discussing FSB’s recent entrepreneurial towns report, my colleague David Richardson makes an excellent case for his Highland region in his blog. With his mention of being dealt a ‘great hand’, a ‘Royal Flush’, and a ‘tourism honeypot’ why on earth would anyone set up a business outside the Highlands?

Well, sorry to gatecrash your party David but have a look at the Scottish Borders – the second best performing council area in Scotland (missing the top spot by 0.1%) with all 18 of its towns included in the report above the national average for self-employment. A pretty good showing I’d say!

Like the Highlands the Borders has a rural economy with a lot of small towns and villages set amongst beautiful scenery. However, like the Highlands it’s not all self-employment of course, the Council and NHS are key employers and a great many people commute to Edinburgh for work, especially now that there’s a railway connection. Key Findings

The report suggests that Scotland’s most entrepreneurial towns tend to be the smaller ones with high levels of home and car ownership and wealthier populations, with the opposite true at the other end of the scale. Even though all of the Borders towns are above the national average these findings are still evident with West Linton, Lauder and Melrose at the top and Hawick and Galashiels at the bottom.

The industrial histories of Hawick and Galashiels are well known, their large employer textile mills are no longer operating but the industry continues to thrive with a growing number of self-employed textile designers and manufacturers locating here. Heriot-Watt University has a textiles campus in Galashiels and it is suggested that an Edinburgh City Region Deal could pave the way to the development of a textiles innovation centre here. The detail of that deal remains all too secret for my liking but such a centre would give entrepreneurship in the Borders a massive boost.

Flat Cat GalleryNext time you’re in Lauder stop and say hello to Ralph Christie and his wife Lesley at their Flat Cat Gallery (it’s a type of Tibetan rug!). They recently moved to the Borders so that they could jointly own and run a business and this is one of my favourite places. Don’t know if it is the constantly changing collection art by local artists or the huge spread of cakes in the café?

So, not a full house but I think I’ve been dealt a decent hand as well.


Gordon Henderson is FSB's Senior Development Manager for the East of Scotland 

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