ONE of the first benefits of devolution for the Borders is celebrating its 15th anniversary.
Responsibility for the Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA) was transferred to the Scottish Executive, now Scottish Government, after it was established in 1999.
And, as part of a move to spread out civil service jobs from the cities, it was relocated from Edinburgh to Tweedbank three years later.
Staff at the Agency administer the pensions for employees of the National Health Service, teachers, police and firefighters in Scotland – amounting to over £2.25 Billion pension payments every year to over half a million people in Scotland.
It is now one of the largest employers in the region with a workforce of over 300 people.
SPPA chief executive Penelope Cooper told us: “I am extremely honoured to lead this fantastic organisation which has grown from strength to strength over the past 15 years.
“We have not only expanded our services to serve new pension schemes, but have contributed significantly to the local economy by our growing workforce.
“We are very fortunate to have a have such a beautiful setting here in the Scottish Borders and the building has won awards for its progressive architectural features, including renewable materials such as our grass roof and award winning ventilation and lighting.”
The SPPA have been presented with the gold award standard by Investors in People Scotland for its continued training and employee support schemes.
The agency also supports young people through the Scottish Government’s Modern Apprentice Program.
Since 2012 34 young people have began careers through the program, including nine apprentices starting this month.
Ms Cooper added: “One of our key objectives here at SPPA is our corporate social responsibility and supporting the local community where we can.
“We have supported 11 local charities over the years through fundraising.
“We are also proud to support young people in the region to develop skills through the Scottish Government’s Modern Apprentice Programme.
“This programme has been very successful and this month we welcome nine new Apprentices to the Agency.
“I believe the Agency will continue to grow and the Scottish Borders will be home for many years to come.”
When it opened in 2002 at Tweedside Park it provided much-needed employment following the downturn in both textiles and electronics.
Last week the Agency held its very own 15th birthday party with a cake provided for by Galashiels bakery, Dalgetty & Sons.
John Lamont, MP for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Berwickshire was among the guests.
He said: “Employing more than 300 staff, the SPPA is a major provider of jobs for the Borders and it is great to have them based here.
“It was surprising to see the scale of the work carried out there. The building is certainly very impressive and seems a great place to work.
“I was delighted to go along and take part in their celebration of 15 years in the Scottish Borders.”
When the Agency first opened in 2002 a total of 170 jobs were created.
And over the following 15 years that number has gradually swollen to almost double.
Council Convenor David Parker, believes the Agency proves that Borders is an ideal location for employers.
He said: “The agency really has been a huge asset to the Scottish Borders.
“It was critically important for the area, and I think it went a long way to prove that you didn’t have to be based in Edinburgh to run a big agency.
“Next to that, it also helped to diversify local industry whilst also showing that the Borders has a lot to offer in a business sense.
“I’m very pleased to see the agency celebrate 15 years in the Borders.”