McAlpine condemns Edinburgh Woollen Mill move

Joan McAlpine MSP has condemned the Edinburgh Woollen Mill move to Carlisle from Langholm as a “cross border raid by Cumbria’s richest man”.

The South Scotland MSP said Philip Day, whose wealth grew by £50 million last year alone according to the Sunday Times Rich List, had shown no consideration to the town where EWM was born.

Ms McAlpine also pointed out that the EWM Group had seen like for like sales rise last year and reported operating profits of £91.5m.

The MSP said: “This is a cross border raid by someone whose wealth is reported as £1.2bill.  It is callous and it is unnecessary. While some workers will be able to commute, the real impact will be felt by small businesses in the Langholm, such as caterers and hotels whose customers comprise a large number of EWM staff.

Ms McAlpine said the migration of jobs from Dumfries and Galloway to Carlisle was a worrying trend and she questioned how the UK Government’s proposed Borderlands Growth Deal would reverse it.

“We have already seen the move of Pinneys contracts from Annan to Carlisle and now the move by EWM. So we have Scottish smoked salmon being processed in England and an Edinburgh Woollen Mill Head-quartered in Cumbria. It’s ridiculous.

“I asked a question about the proposed Borderlands Growth Deal in parliament yesterday. The UK government still has not told us how much it will put in or when we will see the money. There is also a lack of clarity about what it will fund. But we do know it is built around a “city region” model with Carlisle at the centre of the strategy.

“While I welcome any money for the area, with Carlisle sucking jobs away from smaller towns in Scotland, I do wonder if the city region model is the right one here. By contrast, The Scottish Government’s new South Scotland development agency will focus on helping small businesses and communities across the south, which is a more appropriate solution for this area.”

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McAlpine urges Santander boss to keep Lockerbie branch open

Joan McAlpine MSP has urged the Managing Director of Santander’s North division to keep open its branch in Lockerbie. In a frank exchange with Richard Owen Ms McAlpine questioned the figures being used to justify closure.


She also challenged Santander to be more transparent in sharing information about the number of people using the branch.


She pointed out that she had already been fighting RBS branch closures, and the loss of two branches.


Ms McAlpine urged customers to complain officially in order to let bank bosses know the strength of feeling in Annandale.


She commented:


“I told Mr Owen that the closure would disproportionately affect elderly people and those who do not have good internet access. He refused to share details of the footfall at the bank, which I find astonishing because that is the justification for closure. He then refused to tell me the number of customers who hold accounts at the branch claiming this would be inaccurate because it would include customers who had moved elsewhere but retained their account. But it is this group of customers who Santander surveyed in order to justify the closure. So for example, they claim 51 per cent of customers use online banking, but that is meaningless if the groups surveyed include account holders who have, for example, moved to the city. I imagine the number of people using mobile or online banking who live in the surrounding area is likely to be much lower.”


Ms McAlpine urged local people affected by the closure decision to complain to Mr Owen by writing to or to ask for an official complaint to be lodged by the branch.


The SNP MSP added:


“Bosses need to know exactly how people feel and claim they have received a low number of complaints about the planned closure.”


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McAlpine welcomes plans to realign A76

Joan McAlpine MSP has welcomed the £2.85 million proposal to re-route the A76 because of a land slip at Enterkinfoot after handing a petition by local people to the Transport Minister.

The plan was unveiled by Transport Scotland last night at a public event in Thornhill. The one-kilometre road realignment will solve the problem of temporary traffic lights which has frustrated motorists since 2014.

Ms McAlpine has campaigned for the road to be upgraded, writing to both Transport Scotland and the Transport Minister.

Joan McAlpine said:

“This proposal is most welcome and will represent a significant investment from the Scottish Government. I understand from engineers that this is a very technical and complex problem to solve and they had to evaluate a number of different options. Realigning the road will solve not just the problem of land slip at the current location but right along the one kilometre stretch.

“I have been told by Transport Scotland officials that the time scale is the quickest possible, as they need to complete a detailed design, acquire the land, publish road orders and procure a contractor. The work could begin as soon as next year and I know for local people who I have spoken to in Upper Nithsdale it can’t come quick enough.”

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MSP and Annan Academy pupils celebrate World Bee Day

MSP Joan McAlpine and pupils at Annan Academy marked World Bee Day with a ‘Bee Fest’ at the school on Monday (May 21st) – organised by Annan Academy Bee club.

Annan Academy is the leading school in the country teaching Bee keeping – and pupils preparing to sit their junior bee keeping exams were on hand to speak to visitors about the work and achievements of the Academy’s Bee Club.

Local bee keepers and craft businesses also attended the event to showcase produce such as ‘Dumfriesshire Honey and ‘Co Co Company chocolate’.

The south Scotland MSP praised the pupils and their teachers after the successful event, commenting:

“I would like to say well done to the young people of Annan Academy who are about to sit exams in bee-keeping – indeed they are the leading school in Scotland teaching this incredible skill.


“Thanks also to young bee keeper Heather Thompson who invited me to their open evening, teacher Ms Johnstone who is driving the apiary project, and South West Scotland Beekeepers Association, who are supporting the pupils.


“I had a great night and came away with some delicious Dumfriesshire honey from Angela Roberts and a wee pipe cleaner and button bee made – by me! – under the supervision of ‘Mad Notions Craft & Gifts’ shop from Bruce Street.”

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Campaign to save lifeline bus service steps up a gear

MSP Joan McAlpine and SNP activists led a day of action today (Monday) to continue the campaign to save the 101/102 bus service from Dumfries to Edinburgh.


The SNP MSP joined local activists in Moffat to speak to residents who will be impacted if the route is scrapped.


The service faces the axe in August due to Tory run Scottish Borders Council’s plans to cut its contribution towards the annual running costs.


Ms McAlpine commented:


“The strength of feeling against the funding cuts to the 101/2 route was very clear chatting to people in Moffat. Many talked about how they used the bus as a vital link to neighbouring towns like Beattock and Thornhill, as well as to Dumfries and Edinburgh.


“The three local authority areas covered by the service currently all chip in to pay for it – but if Borders Council pull their share then the service is likely to be axed. While it looks like provision for Borders’ residents may be safe, the service is a vital connection for people in Dumfries and Galloway, particularly in areas like Moffat and Thornhill.


The SNP MSP – who has written to Borders Council urging the local authority to reverse its decision – added:


“The threat to axe the service flies in the face of the Scottish Government’s new proposed economic partnership, and efforts to bring the south of Scotland together.


“Rural areas need more public transport links, not fewer, and Borders Council has a responsibility to work together with neighbouring local authorities in the region to maintain this service.”


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McAlpine urges groceries regulator to “stand up for Pinneys”

The South Scotland member wrote to the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) asking her to investigate events behind Young’s closure threat.


She asked Christine Tacon to investigate workers’ concerns that a “mutually convenient deal” was reached between Young’s and Marks and Spencer’s – which resulted in Pinneys being earmarked for closure.


And she raised concerns about arrangements where factories have only one customer – making workers and communities very vulnerable.


The MSP urged Ms Tacon to “Stand up for Pinneys” in the same way as the adjudicator previously defended dairy farmers being squeezed by the supermarkets.


The Groceries Code Adjudicator is an independent regulator set up by the UK Government tasked with ensuring that the 10 big UK supermarkets “Treat their direct suppliers lawfully and fairly”.


Commenting Ms McAlpine said:


“I know that the UK Groceries Regulator has in the past spoken out against bad practice and stood up for farmers when supermarkets squeezed their margins. I am asking them to now stand up for Pinneys workers in Scotland.


“Young’s and M&S are both UK companies who have carefully crafted public images. In the case of Marks and Spencer, ethical treatment of communities and suppliers is promised in their “Plan A” approach to corporate behaviour. Many of my constituents feel that –  even though both companies deny an exclusivity arrangement was in place – they have still failed in their social responsibility towards the people of Annan who have worked so hard for them both for many years.”


Explaining the background to her letter to Ms Tacon, Ms McAlpine said:


“Pinneys’ closure was triggered by Young’s moving its natural salmon contract to Grimsby, where it gained an additional two Marks and Spencer contracts. At the same time, it voluntarily gave up its Marks and Spencer deli and prepared meals contracts produced at Pinneys. Both companies have said they wish to concentrate production, so this suits them both.

I have told Ms Tacon that my constituents are very much of the view that these two large companies have reached a mutually convenient deal – with little thought for the devastating consequences in Annan. These remain allegations so I hope she can get to the truth. I hope she will investigate that.


The SNP MSP added:


“I continue to talk to those on the ground at Pinneys, including union reps, and am fully backing their efforts to get enhanced redundancy for workers should the worst happen.”


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Leading musicians showcase song for Scotland’s children in Parliament

South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine this week hosted leading folk musicians Catriona Mckay and Christ Stout in Parliament for a debut performance of their song ‘believe in me’ – composed in collaboration with a group of two – three year old children from Drumchapel in Glasgow.


The duo performed the musical dedication to Scotland’s children, alongside their young co-writers at a reception sponsored by the MSP as part of Early Years Scotland’s 50th Anniversary celebrations.


The musical project began back in March as part of Early Years Scotland ‘2 Stay Play and Learn’ scheme – an alternative approach to nursery provision aimed at encouraging parents and carers to stay at nursery and learn with their children.


Ms McAlpine commented:


“I was delighted to host this special evening and would like to thank Chris, Catriona and the children for treating us to a preview of ‘Believe in me’.


“Their song is the result of some of the work EYS has been doing in two locations in Glasgow. The scheme encourages children and parents to spend lots of quality time together by including the parents in nursey activities.

“Parents and children bond and connect through playing and learning together, with support from fully qualified Early Years Practitioners. It is a powerful model, and I believe could trigger transformational change for children and families.


“The Early Years Scotland staff team who deliver the service are very knowledgeable about the potential barriers that some of the participating families experience, and they are respectful and non-judgemental in their approach – this allows parents to develop their skills and confidence too.  


The project is run by Early years Scotland and Glasgow City Council – and It would be great to see a similar scheme in Dumfries and Galloway.


(from  left to right) Joan McAlpine MSP, Maree Todd, Minister for Early Years, Jean Carwood-Edwards CEO Early Years Scotland

Chris Stout & Catriona McKay


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McAlpine welcomes cross party rejection of Westminster Brexit Bill

MSP Joan McAlpine has today welcomed Holyrood’s rejection of Westminster’s EU Withdrawal Bill by all parties except the Scottish Conservatives.


The Scottish Parliament voted this afternoon to reject the Bill  – which has been described as an attempt to strip the Scottish Parliament of powers after Brexit  –

with Scottish Labour, Greens, and Lib Dems all voting with the SNP.


Ms McAlpine commented:


“I welcome the result of this afternoon’s vote – although it is not a surprise.


“The UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill is a piece of legislation which fundamentally undermines the devolution settlement by imposing restrictions on the Scottish Parliament post Brexit.


“Clause 11 of the Bill effectively allows the UK Government to over rule the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government on devolved policies for up to seven years after Brexit.


“Allowing Westminster to control policy areas like farming and agriculture would be a massive blow for Dumfries and Galloway. Just last year, the UK Government was found to be misappropriating hundreds of millions of pounds of European farming subsidies destined for Scotland.


“All the indications were that Scotland’s Parliament would not consent to this Bill. Last Thursday the Finance and Constitution committee published its cross party report recommending that Parliament should not consent while Clause 11 remains, and that was a position backed by Labour, Lib Dem, SNP and Green MSPs – the Tories are out on their own on this issue.”


Scottish Secretary David Mundell appeared before the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations committee last week and failed to rule out imposing the UK’s Brexit Bill on Holyrood if Parliament did not consent to it today despite, being asked by four times by committee convenor Ms McAlpine to do so.


Ms McAlpine added:


“Every local authority area in Scotland voted to remain in the EU – including Dumfries and Galloway – but instead what my constituents may face is the hardest of Brexits.


“What has been clear throughout this process is the Tory’s contempt for Scotland’s Parliament and the devolution settlement.


“But Scotland’s Parliament has spoken today in no uncertain terms to reject this attempted power grab, and it is now up to Westminster to respect the result of that democratic vote.


“The rejection of the withdrawal bill by the Scottish Parliament means the UK Government must now act to remove Clause 11 from the bill, or make further changes to secure Holyrood’s consent before the EU Withdrawal Bill is passed by the commons.”

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Young people’s opportunities must be protected after Brexit, warns local MSP

South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has warned that young people are at risk of losing out on opportunities to learn and work abroad after Brexit.

The SNP MSP, who convenes the Scottish Parliament’s Culture and Europe Committee, said that a Tory hard Brexit could see young people in Scotland lose access to EU schemes like Erasmus Plus – while UK universities and research bodies lose the right to apply for money from a growing pot of EU research funds.

‘Horizon for Europe’ – the research programme administered by the EU – is set to rise by almost 30 per cent after 2020. Higher education institutions, businesses and research institutes in Scotland have been the main beneficiaries of its predecessor programme Horizon 2020. The new programme will also include €26bn for Erasmus, and €700m for an InterRail programme which allows EU citizens to apply for a free pass to travel on Europe’s rail network.


This week MSPs will debate the Culture and Europe (CTEER) Committee’s report on Erasmus plus – a popular exchange scheme which allows students from a variety of backgrounds to live and work In different countries. The scheme – currently funded from the EU budget – is facing the axe after Brexit, and the CTEER committee, have recommended the UK Government commits to footing the Bill.


Joan McAlpine MSP commented:


“European exchange programmes like Erasmus Plus offer huge benefits, and transforming experiences, for apprentices, students, youth groups, and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, but access could be severely restricted if Tory plans for a hard Brexit go ahead.


“We need Westminster to recognise the transformative opportunities which will be missed because of Brexit, and do everything in its power to limit the damage it is causing.”


“Reckless Tory plans for a hard Brexit could also see Scotland lose out on millions of pounds in vital European research funding – damaging the success of our universities, businesses, and research bodies for many years to come. 


“The UK government needs to recognise the folly of its extreme Brexit plans, and the damage they are doing across important sectors of our economy, before it is too late.


CTEER Committee report on Erasmus plus:


The EU’s next research program Horizon Europe should get €97.6 billion for the next seven year period, according to the European Commission — a rise of 27 percent from the previous program.

  • Horizon Europe, running from 2021 to 2027, will fund research and innovation across policy areas including health, agriculture, energy, climate change and transport. Its predecessor Horizon 2020 has a €77 billion budget for 2014-2020.
  • Research, along with the Erasmus student program, both received a rise in spending despite cuts to the agriculture and cohesion budgets. The Horizon Europe total includes €10bn for research on food, agriculture and the bioeconomy.
  • The Commission was keen to point out the increase for Horizon Europe is even greater when the U.K.’s departure is taken into account, since British researchers won around €10 billion from Horizon 2020. If British researchers no longer take part, Horizon Europe will boost research in the EU27 by close to 50 percent.
  • “In practice, it’s not only that the cake is bigger than before, but that the guy that was eating more of that cake is not anymore around the table,” a Commission official said.


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McAlpine welcomes First Minister to Dumfries to address National Economic Forum

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s visit to Dumfries this Wednesday (16th) to discuss the creation of the new south Scotland Enterprise Agency.

Ms Sturgeon will give the key note address at the National Economic Forum meeting this Wednesday at Easterbrook Hall where attendees will debate ways to maximise growth and resilience across the Rural Economy.

Ms McAlpine commented:

“I am pleased that the First Minister will be delivering the keynote speech on Wednesday. This is an important time for Dumfries and Galloway as we establish the south of Scotland’s enterprise agency. It is vital that we get this right – it is our chance to deliver a body that will truly make a difference to the economy in our region.

“A dedicated enterprise agency for the south of Scotland was something that I campaigned for during my first term as an MSP, and I made it a corner stone of my re-election campaign in 2016, so I am pleased to see it coming together.”

Wednesday’s event will include opportunities to engage with both the First Minister and other Ministers in Q&A and group discussion sessions.

In addition to the enterprise agency, sessions will also address developing the young workforce and digital opportunities in rural economies.

The SNP MSP added:

“The SNP government has invested in Dumfries and Galloway’s road network, overseen a 70 per cent increase in the number of Modern apprenticeships to help young people stay in the region; invested over £3 million in town centre regeneration and almost £40 million in the new Dumfries and Galloway College.

“Recently, Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse has been working extremely hard to save jobs in Annan after Young’s announced their intention to close Pinneys.

“The creation of the Enterprise Agency will help build on this progress and drive forward sustainable economic growth, while growing local communities, and capitalising on the skills and resources of local people.


“The consultation setting out the aims of the proposed agency will remain open until June 7th, and I urge as many individuals, businesses and communities respond to the consultation as possible, and tell the Scottish Government what matters to them, and what support they need to thrive.”


Link to the consultation:


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