Building new bridges over the border

The striking similarities between Berwick and the Dutch town of Maastricht could point the way forward for an economic revival.

Saturday, 26th March 2016, 07:51 am
Updated Wednesday, 23rd March 2016, 13:57 pm
Maastricht old town across the River Meuse

Maastricht, best known as the birthplace of the European Union, is right on the border but has overcome the problems posed by national boundaries to become an economic success story.

Councillor Stuart Bell, executive member for economic development on Scottish Borders Council, said: “Maastricht has had a turbulent history, just like Berwick, which has led to it being cut off from its hinterland by a border.

“However, it’s been at the centre of numerous cross-border initiatives, trading on its advantage of being right on the border, which has helped create a fabulous quintessentially European city.”

He hoped the Borderlands initiative between councils on either side of the English and Scottish borders could eventually deliver similar success.

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Both the Scottish Borders and north Northumberland faced similar challenges, such as the decline in manufacturing and the lack of professional services. Wages were also below average.

Cllr Bell said: I don’t agree with the perception that the Scottish Borders and north Northumberland is a place to bypass. These are beautiful places to work and healthy places to grow yourself, your family and your business.

“Berwick faces similar challenges as we do across the border, such as part-time employment, small and microbusiness, but we need to do our very best to maintain the quality of services being provided by small towns such as Duns, Chirnside and Eyemouth and not having to travel somewhere else. There are opportunities to build bridges and I hope this will be a start.”