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Meeting of the Parliament [Draft]

Meeting date: Tuesday, April 16, 2024


Putting Langholm on the Map

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-12617, in the name of Oliver Mundell, on putting Langholm on the map. The debate will be concluded without any question being put. I invite those members who wish to participate to press their request-to-speak buttons now or as soon as possible.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises what it sees as the outstanding efforts of local campaigners in the Muckle Toon to ensure that Langholm is not forgotten when it comes to vital road signage on the trunk road and motorway network; celebrates what it considers the passion and dedication of many local individuals and organisations who work tirelessly to raise the profile of Langholm; understands that it has an extremely proud history and many claims to fame, including its Common Riding, textile heritage, links to Neil Armstrong, the Border Reivers, natural capital, including incredible scenery, walks and wildlife, and what it sees as a number of outstanding local businesses, such as Latimer’s of Langholm, as well as being home to the Eskdale & Liddesdale Advertiser and so much more; considers that Transport Scotland does not have sufficient flexibility when it comes to making sure that trunk roads work for local people and understands that this has caused frustration among local residents; recognises the reported concerns voiced by many smaller, more remote and rural communities that they are often not served well by the trunk road network; notes the calls for Transport Scotland and operating companies to do more to support communities in encouraging drivers to stop and take advantage of the many services and visitor attractions available; welcomes that some progress has been made in relation to enhanced signage for Langholm but understands that the town is still absent from signs on the M74, and that residents believe that the signage remains inadequate on the A7 itself; notes the belief that all communities on trunk roads should be better supported and funded when it comes to brown tourism signs; further notes the view regarding the A7 corridor that more work is needed to promote the Borders Historic Route and all its communities and attractions; recognises what it sees as the importance of the visitor economy and tourism in protecting local livelihoods and addressing rural depopulation, and notes the view that there are many untapped opportunities for the Scottish Government and its agencies to do more to get behind proactive communities like Langholm.


Oliver Mundell (Dumfriesshire) (Con)

While a day out of Langholm is a day wasted, I am delighted to have brought the debate to the chamber, with support from members on all sides. It is an opportunity to put Langholm on the map, in the Scottish Parliament at least.

Langholm is a proud community, and rightly so, with a rich past and equally vibrant present. The muckle toon, as it is known locally, is said to have taken its name from the many large textile mills that were once based there and the booming population and bustle that accompanied them. Sadly, however, the subsequent years have seen many changes as that industry and other traditional industries have declined, with only a handful of connected businesses remaining. However, one thing is for certain: the sense of community, heritage and spirit that has been fostered over the years has not left—if anything, it has been reignited in recent years. Community efforts are now firmly focused not on halting decline, but on reversing it.

This is rare praise from me, but I give credit where it is due: pre-Covid, a visit from John Swinney, although it did not deliver the funding for which many—including myself—had hoped, nonetheless focused minds, and eventually led to the formation of the Langholm Alliance and the community forum, which has brought the whole community together. That has been very much a community-driven effort, much like the Langholm moor buy-out and many other success stories. Again, however, we cannot downplay the importance of on-going support from South of Scotland Enterprise, which has been invaluable in funding roles to co-ordinate that activity.

Following a meeting on Thursday, at which the community hosted the South of Scotland Enterprise chair, Russel Griggs, it was helpful to be able to ask for support from the Minister for Agriculture and Connectivity in addressing Langholm’s very real concerns that, because of the success of the Langholm Alliance, SOSE might now be looking to pull the plug. That would be entirely the wrong decision and would represent poor value for taxpayers when just another 12 months of support, at around £50,000, would give a number of key projects, such as the old primary school hub, a real prospect of being delivered. I would be grateful for confirmation this evening that the Scottish Government will take an interest in securing the support that the community deserves.

It would be easy to fill the remainder of this contribution many times over in talking about Langholm and the many projects, individuals and community groups that make it Langholm. Some of those are touched on in my motion, although it barely scratches the surface. The town has been called, among other things, Scotland’s chilli capital, given the number of members of its chilli-growing club. That is before we even get to its well-advanced plans to move into a new brand of horticulture, with a large facility for growing medicinal cannabis situated nearby—for the colleagues sniggering behind me, I stress that it is entirely legal.

Langholm is many things, but it is always full of surprises, and new ideas and new thinking, which sit alongside its many proud traditions and customs.

Would Mr Mundell like to declare any personal interest in the cannabis factory in Langholm?

Oliver Mundell

Mr Carlaw makes an interesting point. [Laughter.]

Shares were available to the community, but I declined to take them up, primarily because I felt that it would limit my ability to lobby the Home Office for a licence, and the Scottish Government for the financial support that is needed, to build what is an incredible facility that will bring jobs and opportunities to the community.

I turn to the past, and to some of the customs and traditions that make Langholm special. The most notable of those is undoubtedly its historic Borders common riding, which is truly Langholm’s greatest day and a spectacle to behold. It is best experienced on horseback, and it remains one of my own personal achievements to have successfully ridden the common riding, including the gallop up the Kirk Wynd, as a member of the Scottish Parliament. I have committed to doing so again, but only on the condition that Emma Harper takes part too. This seems an appropriate point to thank her for supporting my motion; I know that she had wanted to speak tonight, but she is away on British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly business. I am sure that if Emma had been here, she would have been willing to confirm her willingness to take part. I will make sure to catch her later in the week.

Langholm has another major claim to fame, as the ancestral home of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. The town remains very proud of that, and it was honoured to make Neil Armstrong a free man of Langholm during his very special visit to the town in 1972. The relationship has continued through Neil’s sons and their families, who were back in Langholm recently.

That was followed by a proclamation of kinship from Armstrong’s birthplace of Wapakoneta in Ohio, which was unveiled a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps ironically in the context of this debate, Armstrong’s famous 1972 visit even resulted in the Chicago Tribune publishing a front-page story featuring a map of the United Kingdom that showed only London and Langholm.

That fact takes me neatly on to the key ask of the debate. For all its many attractions and accolades, Langholm appears to have been forgotten when it comes to road signage. Anyone on the near one hour’s drive between Longtown and Hawick, or, equally, on the whole of the M74 motorway, would be forgiven for thinking that Langholm does not exist: it is absent from major directional signage and there is very little to tell people about the visitor attractions and facilities that are clustered around what is a major population centre for those who live and work in the Eskdale valleys or in Langholm itself. To someone sitting behind a desk in Scotland’s urban central belt, Langholm might be small in terms of population numbers, but it matters to the people who live there, and it has so much to offer.

The Langholm Alliance, which I mentioned earlier, and many individuals and other organisations have worked tirelessly to promote the town. They are represented in the public gallery by Anthony Lane, who has worked hard alongside Sharon Tolson to drive forward the road signage project. Although there has been some progress south of the border in delivering some new signs between the M6 and Langholm—and there is a solitary new sign near Annan—efforts on the A7 in Scotland and on the M74 at junction 21 have hit a roadblock.

We have been told that Langholm is not a primary destination so it does not get to go on the signs. That characterisation is insulting and, even if it conforms to technical guidance, seems overly officious when there is plenty of room on the signs in question. It is not as though we are awash with other primary destinations between Longtown and Hawick; nor are there other communities between Kirkpatrick-Fleming and Langholm that are championing the case to be put on motorway road signs.

When we consider the disruption that is associated with having a trunk road roar through the high street of a small town, it does not seem that big an ask for the responsible authorities to be willing to acknowledge that the route goes through that community. What is more, I believe that there is an obligation on Transport Scotland and operators to get more involved in promoting such communities as somewhere to stop, visit and return to. It is not good enough to punt that on to the communities themselves and expect them to navigate the bureaucracy that VisitScotland has created around brown signage on the trunk road network.

As I close, I ask the minister to reflect on what more can be done to get behind Langholm to remove those roadblocks. Our smaller, more rural and remote communities have every bit as much to offer as other destinations—they are primary destinations for those who live there and the many visitors that they attract.

We move to the open debate.


Fulton MacGregor (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)

Oliver Mundell probably thinks that I am a surprise contributor to the debate, but I am delighted to contribute and I thank him for lodging the motion. He is achieving the aims of the motion by bringing it to the Parliament, because I have had to learn a wee bit about Langholm today, as I am sure that others have done, so well done to him for that.

I am speaking mainly on behalf of my colleague Emma Harper, who, as Oliver Mundell said, would have spoken today but for the fact that she is out of the Parliament on other business. She is absolutely gutted to have missed the debate and has asked me to relay some points, some of which Oliver Mundell has already covered. Broadly, she agrees with everything in Oliver Mundell’s motion. She talks about Langholm as a very close-knit community whose members support each other and the desire for better signage. She also stresses that, in her view, Transport Scotland needs to review its policy on directing people to destinations, and that Langholm should be a place that people are pointed towards rather than being a village that is just driven through. She also told me the story about Neil Armstrong, which is an absolutely fascinating bit of history. It has been great to learn about that.

Langholm sounds like a great place, and I will make efforts to visit it. As somebody who travels across Scotland with my kids, I think that they will definitely like some of the history there—particularly because one of my children is very into space stuff just now.

On the broader issue of signage, I think that we can all agree that it is very important to have signage in our constituencies. Other than in Glasgow, Edinburgh and some of the other cities north of the central belt perhaps, it sometimes feels that tourist attractions and suchlike can be missed out.

There is plenty of signage in the Coatbridge and Chryston area—the signage on the two major motorways surrounding my constituency is okay. On the M80, there is plenty of signage for places in Coatbridge and in the northern corridor areas, but it took the upgrading of the M8 just a few years ago to improve the situation there. The signage is really important, as it highlights places such as the Time Capsule, the Summerlee museum in Coatbridge and the Auchengeich memorial on the M80 motorway at the northern corridor.

Signage is very important; it is important that everywhere in Scotland, whether it is a small town such as Langholm or a medium-sized town or constituency such as Coatbridge and Chryston, benefits from tourism and that we do not just focus on Glasgow and Edinburgh, as important as those cities are—I use both regularly. The ethos of today’s debate in relation to signage is very important. I thank Transport Scotland for the signage in my constituency, which is in pretty good shape just now.

I will end my brief contribution by wishing Emma Harper and Oliver Mundell the best of luck in their continuing efforts for Langholm. I look forward to visiting Langholm and hearing more about it.


Brian Whittle (South Scotland) (Con)

I congratulate my friend and colleague Oliver Mundell on securing time in the chamber to promote the muckle toon that is Langholm. In his speech, Oliver Mundell highlighted the great characteristics of Langholm and set out many reasons why we should visit the town. Unsurprisingly, I will mention Langholm’s great sporting heritage, especially as the town is steeped in Borders rugby folklore. I have travelled down to play rugby in the cauldron that is Langholm rugby club. The word “passionate” does not seem to cover the town’s support, but, yes, most of us got out alive.

Oliver Mundell also highlighted that the town, like many communities in the south of Scotland and in rural Scotland as a whole, especially in the south-west, is poorly serviced by transport links. That is not a new topic in this place—members of this party and from across the chamber have continually brought it to the attention of the Scottish Government. The situation makes it difficult to attract businesses and visitors to those areas. If it is difficult to get workers in and out of rural Scotland and to access services, the attraction that rural Scotland undoubtedly offers in communities such as Langholm becomes difficult to justify for businesses and families.

Migration is a hot topic at the moment, but the Scottish Government has conveniently forgotten about the huge issues that Scotland has with migration from rural to urban areas, or even from west to east. In the past 10 years, migration numbers from the west of Scotland to the east of Scotland have been the equivalent of the population of the Inverclyde area. Moreover, much of that migration is from rural areas to urban areas.

Migration from rural to urban is reducing the need for services in rural areas, leading to services becoming more expensive to deliver, which in turn leads to a reduction in the provision of those services. Schools, healthcare, community sport and leisure are all services that councils are increasingly struggling to maintain. Class sizes are reduced to a point at which there are fewer and fewer teachers, which leads to more composite classes or even the closure of some schools.

Rural schools and general practitioner practices are struggling to recruit enough teachers and GPs to service those communities. Accessing hospital care, especially emergency care, is precarious at best, with accidents on trunk roads often necessitating huge diversions on to B-class roads. If we lay on top of that a rural housing policy that does nothing to deliver rural housing, the Scottish Government is presiding over a perfect storm.

It is no wonder that rural Scotland is struggling to maintain its rural communities. Scottish Government policy has, for many years, been biased towards urban communities and their needs, to the detriment of communities such as Langholm. The lack of investment in our rural communities, which was detailed by Oliver Mundell, is continuing to cause a population drain, as it becomes increasingly difficult to deliver the connectivity and services that will reverse that trend.

If the Scottish Government continues to starve our rural communities of investment in transport infrastructure—let us face it, less than 0.05 per cent of the Scottish transport budget in the past decade has been invested in the south of Scotland—the inevitable conclusion will be a Scotland that is increasingly urban based. Fantastic communities such as Langholm, with such a rich Scottish history, will fade away. Would that not be a travesty? Once again, I thank Oliver Mundell for giving us the opportunity to speak on this topic in the chamber.


Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

I thank Oliver Mundell for lodging his motion. It is a welcome opportunity to shine a light on a town that is often forgotten but whose community drive, passion and achievements are an example to others. Langholm was the birthplace of engineer Thomas Telford and the poet Hugh MacDiarmid. As home of clan Armstrong, as we have heard, it proudly made Neil Armstrong the first—and, indeed, only—freeman of Langholm on his visit in 1972, when he warmly told the crowds:

“I consider this, now, my home town.”

The muckle toon has a proud, rich history. It was once a thriving economy, with a population of more than 4,000 and bustling textile mills. However, the economic decline of the 1980s halved the population. The big employers closed or left town. The last, the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, which was founded in Langholm in 1946, moved its head office to Carlisle five years ago. Despite that decline and those challenges, the community is fighting back. It recognises the opportunities that exist in Langholm, from a focus on ecotourism to making the town a hub for small, growing businesses.

I spoke recently in Parliament about the quiet land reform revolution that is taking place on Langholm moor. The moor’s dramatic hills, native woodland habitat and stunning river valley are home to some of the best sites to see hen harriers and curlew, and they are right on the doorstep of the town of Langholm. In 2019, when the Duke of Buccleuch declared the moor surplus to his vast land portfolio, the community, through the Langholm Initiative, undertook a bold fundraising effort that put the town on the map, captured hearts around the world and raised a remarkable £6 million to undertake South Scotland’s biggest community buy-out, taking 10,000 hectares of the duke’s land under the protection and ownership of the people.

Now known as the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, the community owners are improving the environment by pushing the boundaries of ecological and community restoration, in partnership with organisations such as the Woodland Trust and the John Muir Trust, and by building a far better economic future for Langholm by pursuing sustainable and responsible tourism. Their vision and plans for the moor are inspiring, and they sum up the community spirit that drives Langholm.

That optimism has also been captured by the Langholm Alliance and its community plan for the town—an ambitious but, I believe, entirely achievable long-term plan that aims to give the town a thriving, sustainable economy by 2030, including by bringing more visitors to the area to enjoy the moor and everything that Langholm has to offer.

However, as we have heard, the alliance has rightly identified that it makes it that bit more difficult to put Langholm on the map when Transport Scotland seems to have such difficulty even putting the town on its road signs. Thanks to the alliance’s campaign, we are seeing some progress south of the border, with proposals from the United Kingdom Government for new signage to Langholm on the roundabout at junction 44 of the M6, and from Cumberland Council for signage on the A7.

However, the Scottish Government needs to show more flexibility and common sense and to play its part, with far better signage to Langholm on the A7 and the M74 north of the border. The alliance has set out exactly where that could be achieved. I hope that the minister will respond positively to those calls in his closing comments and review the current outdated policy that holds communities such as Langholm back.

The alliance’s plan also rightly backs calls by the Langholm and district rail group that any feasibility study on extending the Borders railway line should include consideration of the route passing through Langholm. The case to extend the line to Hawick is powerful. Further south is more challenging because there are fewer major population centres. Although there is a strong argument for extending the line to Carlisle to link with the west coast main line and provide an alternative to the east coast main line, the case for that extension would be even stronger if Langholm was included on the route, given that it is the largest town between Hawick and Carlisle. That, along with proper signage on the A7 and the A74, would put Langholm on the map.


Rachael Hamilton (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

I thank Oliver Mundell for bringing forward this great debate and for his fantastic speech.

Not to be outdone by him, I, too, completed the Selkirk common riding on horseback. My horse was going so fast that I had to tuck myself right behind Stuart Coltherd, a previous standard bearer for Selkirk. It was the most frightening experience of my life and thank goodness we were going up the Three Brethren—it is worse coming down. As Oliver has done, I challenge my colleague Brian Whittle to join me.


Rachael Hamilton

Although Langholm is not in my constituency, I represent the neighbouring communities across the Borders. Newcastleton, for example, is closer to Langholm than it is to Hawick. Some of the children of Newcastleton go to the Langholm school and some go to the Hawick school.

As Oliver Mundell has said, Langholm has much in common with its neighbouring town, Hawick, because it has a common riding. I support the common ridings. Tommy Morrison from Langholm was in the car with me as we drove round Hawick, waving to everyone as all the townsfolk came out. I thought that they were waving at me and saying hello, but no, it was Tommy Morrison from Langholm they were waving at, so I have just given him a shout out because he was far more popular than I was.

The core of the debate is about ensuring that we give communities the right tools and support to allow them to thrive. As many speakers have said, we need to ensure that people do not just drive through these areas on their way to other places; we need to ensure that they come and enjoy the fantastic towns and attractions that we have on our doorstep.

In Langholm and across the south of Scotland, tourism is a key part of the local economy. As of March this year, there were just over 890 businesses directly involved in the visitor economy, employing thousands of people across the Borders. I draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of members’ interests as the director of a local hospitality business in the Borders.

There were 2 million day trips to the Borders in 2022, and our towns and villages are the first to offer the best experience for tourists across the area. Millions visit the region every year to see attractions such as Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford and our historic Borders abbeys. Sadly, however, as others have said, it is easy for travellers to miss those key attractions while driving through the region and not to enjoy what they have in the region because of the lack of effective signposting on roads such as the A7.

At this point, I would like to mention the A7 action group, because it is a group of people who have consistently, over the years, campaigned for signage to be improved on the A7 corridor. I also met Famously Hawick, which is a group of five premium luxury retailers who promote their local attractions and improve the visitor experience of the town—producers such as Johnstons of Elgin, the Borders Distillery, Hawico, William Lockie and Lovat Mill. Their concern was that there was no strategic approach to welcoming signage in the town and along the A7, which was resulting in missed opportunities for visitors. I agree with other speakers that improved signage along the A7 would undoubtedly provide a valuable boost to them and others in places such as Hawick and Langholm.

Finally, I was really disappointed by VisitScotland’s decision to shut down the iCentre in Jedburgh. I do not think that the Scottish Government, at this stage and juncture after Covid, can afford to take the visitor economy for granted. Our communities are proud of their heritage and culture. It is only right that the Scottish Government does more to boost those communities and to save those iconic and special visitor centres.

Thank you to Oliver Mundell. Let us try to do more and get the Government to engage with communities by implementing effective signposting to local attractions and businesses.


The Minister for Agriculture and Connectivity (Jim Fairlie)

I congratulate Oliver Mundell on lodging his motion, and I recognise the efforts of many people, including my colleague Emma Harper, in making sure that the community in Langholm is heard, and in creating opportunities for the town as a destination in the Borders. I emphasise that the Government recognises the strategic importance of our towns and villages to ensuring that Scotland is a destination with huge diversity. Be it its cityscapes, landscapes or cultural heritage, Scotland offers it all.

Like other members, I recognise the attractions in Langholm. Again, I highlight that it is called the muckle toon and that cannabis is grown there—for me, that is a reason to get brown signs on the roads. Langholm is the birthplace of Hugh MacDiarmid and sits on the River Esk, which is another beautiful Scottish attraction. It has a connection to the reivers, whom I like to think of romantically as being of independent mind and spirit.

Common ridings have been talked about; Langholm would be worth a visit just to see Emma Harper going through the town on a horse. Langholm undoubtedly finds fame through the association of Gilnockie tower to Clan Armstrong and its having made Neil Armstrong a freeman of the town in 1972. We can add to those things the Buccleuch Centre and the Langholm moor raptor study.

There are, therefore, endless reasons why folk would want to visit the town, and I am sure that such visits would be welcomed by residents and tourism businesses alike. For all those reasons, it is clearly worth having this debate for members and the people of Langholm.

As far as road signage is concerned—signage is the foundation of Mr Mundell’s motion—there are many things to consider, and lots of years of work and consultation have been devoted to Langholm. In closing the debate, I will outline some of the points and set out Transport Scotland’s approach to, and current position on, road signage policy.

With regard to Langholm on the A7 trunk road, Transport Scotland has over the years held various discussions with local representatives including MSPs and MPs, members of the Langholm Alliance, Dumfries and Galloway Council, a number of north-west England road authorities and the United Kingdom Department for Transport. Transport Scotland has confirmed that it believes that the current strategic signage arrangements for Langholm are consistent with the nationally applied strategy. The trunk road signage policy governs directional signage on trunk roads in Scotland and throughout the UK’s strategic road network.

Oliver Mundell

I thank the minister for what he said at the start of his speech, but what he is saying now is more of the same. It is very hard to believe that, although Cumberland Council and National Highways are able to put Langholm on road signs just south of the border, technical requirements prevent the same from happening in Scotland. As I said in my speech, that seems to be odd because there are no other primary destinations. Such signs can have up to six destinations on them, but there are not six destinations on the signs in this case, so there is space. It seems to be a shame to hide behind technical requirements.

I can give you the time back, minister.

Jim Fairlie

I will complete the point that I was making. A detailed review of the existing signage on strategic roads has been conducted, which has resulted in Langholm’s inclusion on northbound signs on the A7 in England and on additional signs on the A75 to the east of Dumfries.

Signage on the A74 motorway was also examined last year to evaluate the feasibility of incorporating Langholm on existing signs, but it was determined that the existing signage on the motorway complies with current design requirements. It is important to acknowledge that the motorway signs in question are relatively new and are large and expensive to replace. Consequently, it has been deemed to be prudent to defer consideration of the opportunity for Langholm’s inclusion until the signs require to be replaced at the end of their serviceable life. As Mr Mundell has been advised in responses to previous parliamentary questions, there are no immediate plans to modify A74 signs.

It should be noted that other policies exist for consideration of new brown tourist-destination signage—if we want to talk about cannabis, there we go—that aim to promote businesses and attractions that are accredited through VisitScotland’s quality assurance scheme. Given the wealth of attractions that I mentioned, perhaps Mr Mundell could explore that option with his constituents.

Transport Scotland’s approach to the Langholm signage issue has been thorough and thoughtful, and I advise that, following engagement with the local community and stakeholders over the preceding year, the Langholm sign rationalisation initiative has been effectively executed along the A7 trunk road. The initiative seeks to enhance the pedestrian experience and to reduce visual clutter by minimising the number of signs, and it has resulted in optimisation of available foot space throughout Langholm.

Looking ahead to this year, I note that the focus will be on addressing the community’s requests for new signage. The requests include signage for community facilities and catering for motorists and pedestrians, as well as provisions for parking, including electric vehicle charging facilities and gateway signage. Through on-going collaboration, that initiative will optimise signage in Langholm while ensuring efficient use of space, to address the community’s needs and requests.

Through Transport Scotland’s road maintenance contracts, significant investment has been made in the A7. Since 2007, £64 million has been invested in initiatives including routine and cyclic maintenance, deeper road reconstruction, general minor improvement measures, active travel works, road safety enhancements and bridge maintenance.

In the past financial year, a total of £6.6 million has been invested in road maintenance for the A7. That funding has been directed towards projects including improvement of road markings and studs between Langholm and Hawick, as part of on-going efforts to improve the overall infrastructure and safety standards of the A7 corridor.

As far as our continued investment in the A7 is concerned, two significant resurfacing schemes are scheduled for this year. The first of those, which it is estimated will cost £130,000, involves a stretch of the road north of Langholm. That work is programmed for autumn 2024. The second scheme, which it is estimated will cost £970,000, involves a stretch of the road south of Langholm and is scheduled for winter 2024.

The Scottish Government’s commitment to implementing, by 2025, 20mph speed limits on roads where that has been deemed to be appropriate was reinforced in the 2022 programme for government, which advocated expansion of 20mph zones in order to create safer streets and promote active travel. As part of that initiative, the A7 at Langholm has been identified as a potential location for reducing the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph on sections that meet specific criteria. Transport Scotland is collaborating with Dumfries and Galloway Council and Police Scotland to advance new 20mph speed limit areas where that limit is deemed to be suitable.

In the upcoming year, Transport Scotland is committed to enhancing end-to-end footway accessibility throughout Langholm town centre, with the objective of offering the most optimal walking and wheeling facilities in the area.

As well as continuing to support discussions on signage with aforementioned groups—including the Langholm Alliance and its tourism officer—Transport Scotland and its road maintenance operating company, BEAR Scotland, participate in all A7 action group meetings to foster close communication and collaboration with communities, including the Langholm community.

Will the minister give way?

Jim Fairlie

I will push on, because I am already over my time.

In addition, as part of its commitment to social value and community benefits, BEAR Scotland has proactively engaged with schools in the area. That outreach has been conducted in person and online, in order to ensure comprehensive coverage and accessibility. Furthermore, the community has been provided with on-going assistance for road network access during special community events, such as the Christmas lights display and the Langholm bonfire and fireworks event.

With all that in mind, I reiterate the Government’s unwavering commitment to all the aspects that are raised in the motion and to ensuring that the A7 trunk road continues to support economic development in the south-east of Scotland and, indeed, across the country.

That concludes the debate. I suspect that Emma Harper will watch this evening’s proceedings tomorrow with no little alarm.

Meeting closed at 18:12.