A Scottish council delegation has arrived in Mid and East Antrim on a two-day visit aimed at boosting economic, cultural and tourism links across the North Channel.
Representatives from Dumfries and Galloway Council are visiting key locations throughout the borough, including The Gobbins, Carrickfergus and Glenarm castles, Ballygally Castle Hotel, and The Braid Museum and Arts Centre.
The councils will explore opportunities for greater joined up working on a number of key issues, including improved infrastructure and connectivity.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Maureen Morrow, said: "We have strong ties to Scotland, and Dumfries and Galloway, and I am delighted to welcome our visitors to Mid and East Antrim - an area with such a rich and proud Ulster-Scots heritage.
"This visit is all about building on our close relationship and exploring what we can do together to grow our respective economies for the benefit of all our citizens.
"We will also be exchanging ideas and shared learning, and showcasing just some of Mid and East Antrim's many tourism gems.
"We will be discussing our plans for significant investment locally through Belfast Region City Deal, as well as other ambitious development opportunities we are currently working on."
The councils are part of the North Channel Partnership Group, a body set up in 1999.
It was established to secure funding and infrastructure for the A8 and the A75, which is yet to be completed.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has described it as a “significant trans-European route which, when completed, will exploit the economic potential for both council areas”.
Chair of Mid and East Antrim's Borough Growth Committee, Councillor Gregg McKeen, welcomed the reinvigoration of the partnership.
He said: "Our Scottish counterparts have a lot of experience in developing infrastructure, the economy and tourism, and we are keen to learn from that.
"This renewed partnership moves us beyond the original vision for the body. This will focus us on connectivity and infrastructure, and how both areas can benefit from one another's development."
Depute Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Rob Davidson, said: “This visit presents us with a valuable opportunity to explore future joint working between Mid and East Antrim and our own region. We face many similar challenges in terms of economic regeneration, demographics, and transport infrastructure. Both our regions are now part of significant growth deals and the time has never better for us to reinvigorate the North Channel Partnership and examine how we can work together to attract future investment.
“I’d like to thank my colleagues in Mid and East Antrim for arranging a full programme which will really focus on areas of shared interest such as tourism and destination marketing, business growth and innovation, transport infrastructure and potential joint projects. I hope that it will be the start of a fruitful relationship between our councils and one which will deliver economic benefits for both our regions.”
Councillor Archie Dryburgh, Vice Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy and Resources Committee, said: “We are looking forward to our visit to Mid and East Antrim Council to look at the potential for growing economic opportunities for both local authorities.
“The statistics show how similar both councils are, with the same issues and industries. There is a strong appetite in Dumfries and Galloway to reinvigorate our North Channel Partnership Group arrangements, to the benefit of both councils and beyond.
“We want to thank Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Mayor Councillor Morrow and Councillors McKeen and Donnelly for the invite to restart, what I hope will be, a very fruitful relationship between our two councils.”