McAlpine welcomes £250,000 support for Pinneys’ workforce

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed £250,000 of Scottish Government money to support Pinneys employees following Young’s decision to close the site in Annan.

The money will come from the Scottish Government’s South of Scotland Economic Partnership – the agency being established to boost the region’s economy – and is part of a wider £7.6 million investment in south Scotland by the partnership.

The Annan funding will help to mitigate the impact of job losses by supporting a team to drive forward the Annan Action Plan – which includes supporting workers with business advice and investing in capital projects.

The SNP MSP welcomed the announcement from Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing during his visit to Annan today (Thursday).

Ms McAlpine – who has campaigned to save Pinneys from closure – commented:

“The Scottish Government has carefully considered how to provide the most effective support to the workforce after Young’s confirmed that it is abandoning the people of Annan – and I am delighted to welcome today’s announcement. 

“This funding will help workers who want to move into alternative employment to do so quickly. I am very pleased that some of the workforce workers have already found posts elsewhere, and the direct support available to those who have yet to secure employment will increase as a result of this announcement.”

The funding for the action group comes as part of a wider £7.6 million package from the south of Scotland Economic partnership which will see a huge investment in Dumfries and Galloway College – as well as money for sustainable community projects in Stranraer, Eskadale, Kirkcudbright and Kirckonnel & Kelloholm.
 
Ms McAlpine added:
 
“The Scottish Government’s Economic Partnership – a prelude to an enterprise agency for the south of Scotland – will build the resilience of the economy in the region by supporting businesses of all sizes to develop, and investing in training opportunities for people living here.
 
“Today Mr Ewing announced that Dumfries and Galloway College would share over £6 million with Borders College to expand training places in care, renewables, engineering and construction.
 
“Funding will also go into a ‘strengthening communities programme’ which will assist income generating activity for each community by helping them to identify their needs, and project plan.
 
“investments like these will increase job opportunities and bring long term social and economic benefits to the area which will help ensure that private companies like Young’s can never inflict disaster of this scale on communities in the region again.”

 

Project

Applicant

Project aims

Funding amount

Annan Regeneration

Dumfries and Galloway Council

To support the cost of a team to drive forward the Annan Action Plan developing projects to mitigate the impact of job losses in the town following Young’s closure of its Pinney’s seafood processing plants. 

Team will be set up to cover business advice, planning, property, capital projects and community development. 

£250,000 (over two years)

Centre of Excellence in Textiles

Scottish Borders Council

This project seeks to address a business critical skills issue in the textiles sector by the provision of a training centre to deliver skills training to local textile companies. 

£610,000 (over two years)

South of Scotland Skills & Learning Network

Borders College and Dumfries and Galloway College

Hub and spoke model to provide new facilities across the South of Scotland that will facilitate digital learning in rural locations.  Initial focus on training in care, renewable energy  and engineering and construction.

Involves construction of physical and digital centres and hub and spoke infrastructure. 

£ 6,601,919 (over two years)

Strengthening Communities Programme

Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Match funding for seven sustainable communities projects in Peebles, Newlands, Tweedsmuir, Stranraer, Eskdale, Kirkcudbright and Kirckonnel & Kelloholm.

Funding will primarily support project officer posts to assist with the delivery of asset based income generating activity for each community.  Officers will support communities to identify their needs/opportunities, agree actions, and project plan to deliver.

£220,710 (over two years)

 




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SNP spends almost £400m plugging Tory welfare cuts

MSP Joan McAlpine has said Scotland is “tackling poverty with one hand tied behind our backs”, following revelations that the SNP Scottish Government has spent almost £400 million in four years plugging the gaps of Tory austerity.

 

Despite Westminster’s £211m real terms cuts to Scotland’s fiscal resource budget this year, the SNP Government is spending over £127m mitigating UK Government welfare policies, such as the bedroom tax, and supporting those on low incomes.

 

By the end of this decade, Westminster cuts since 2010 will have reduced annual welfare spend in Scotland by £4 billion, which is more than the entire budget for the new Social Security system in Scotland.

 

Commenting, MSP Joan McAlpine said:

 

“The Tories think they can do whatever they want to Scotland and get away with it.

 

Despite continued cuts to Scotland’s budget, over the past four years the SNP Scottish Government has spent nearly £400m plugging the gaps created by Tory austerity to try to keep people in Scotland from further hardship.

“In that time, Tory cuts have driven up the number of food bank parcels distributed in Scotland by nearly 30%, and this year alone it’s estimated that Tory cuts will leave 3.1 million children with working parents below the official breadline across the UK.

“It is totally unacceptable that in 2018 people are finding themselves in these situations through absolutely no fault of their own.

“With our limited powers over welfare in Scotland we are building a social security system with dignity and respect at its heart – but as long as the Tory government in Westminster persists with such damaging, callous welfare policies, Scotland will be tackling poverty with one hand tied behind our backs.”

Annandale North ward Councillor Stephen Thompson said:

“Scotland will always have one hand tied behind her back as long as any Westminster Government is setting the policies. This morbid stumbling circus of current Tory government is awful, but the Westminster alternative is a Labour party that puts Party before people and Party before policies, and puts Westminster before Scotland. Labour’s meaningful activity has created a new unit of measurement: Abstentions.”

“In Dumfries and Galloway we’re hamstrung by Labour’s PFI scam, tied into contracts during Labour’s maligned stewardship of Scotland that the children now have to pay for. It takes some perversion to have moved from common sense and the deep-rooted understanding that makes us human – we learn how to make a sacrifice today for a better tomorrow – in Labour’s twisted world we’ve sacrificed the future for the present and now the SNP in Scotland is dutifully having to fix the problems left behind and try and make something good to build on.”

 

 

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MSP blasts Stagecoach over cuts to bus service

MSP Joan McAlpine has written to Stagecoach boss Martin Griffiths blasting the company’s decision to remove its evening service between Dumfries and Thornhill.

 

The timetable for the 246 service was amended without warning on July 8th – leaving customers wishing to travel after 8pm stranded.

 

The SNP MSP says that the company’s decision to amend the route without consultation was an ‘appalling’ way to treat its customers – and highlighted that constituents had discovered cuts to a number of other services across the region.

 

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

 

“I have been contacted by constituents in mid and upper Nithsdale who are rightly angry at the introduction, without prior warning, of an amended timetable for the 246 bus on the 8th of July, which entirely removes the late service between Dumfries and Thornhill. I am told that upon further inspection, constituents discovered another 108 cuts to bus routes throughout Dumfries and Galloway.

 

“Constituents have also been told that, as the 246 route is a commercial one, there is no need to consult on timetable changes. I find this an appalling way to treat customers. The 246 bus serves rural communities and these cuts will only serve to exacerbate rural decline by making it impossible to travel by public transport after 8pm. If indeed there is no obligation to consult this does not preclude a responsible company from doing so, and at the same time engaging with the local communities about how to attract them to utilise services so that they become commercially sustainable.

 

“I have urged the Chief Executive of Stagecoach to revisit this decision as a matter of urgency.”

 

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McAlpine welcomes commencement of £1.5 million summer investment in A76

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the commencement of resurfacing work on the A76.
 
The work – which is part of Transport Scotland’s £1.5 million summer investment into resurfacing the A76 – will commence on July 14th with the resurfacing of 1.3 km of trunk road near Barburgh Mill Quarry, south of Thornhill.
 
Commenting Ms McAlpine said:
 
“I am pleased that the resurfacing work on the A76 will commence this week. While we are experiencing one of the hottest summers on record in Scotland it is important to plan ahead for the inevitable problems that winter will bring on one of south west Scotland’s most exposed stretches of road.
 
“The A76 was significantly affected by our prolonged winter and repeated freeze-thaw cycles – which is why Transport Scotland has accelerated a number of projects to prepare for the winter months.”
 
Alan Murray, Scotland TranServ’s Principal Roads Design Engineer said:
 
“As part of our £1.5Million summer investment into the resurfacing of the A76, we will be carrying out this short programme of work to improve more than a kilometre of the trunk road network in Dumfries and Galloway. The resurfacing programme is the longest of the suite of projects we are carrying out across the summer months.
 
“Scotland TranServ has worked with local authorities and key stakeholders to carefully schedule the works to avoid impacting on major local events and limit the potential disruption to an absolute minimum. The width of the trunk road in this area and the nature of the programme, allows us to implement a convoy system to manage the traffic flow and manage the safety of the travelling public and our workers.”
 
The convoy system will be operated:
 
Between 7am and 6pm (daytime) on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th July, and
Between 7pm and 6am (overnight) from Monday 16th until Monday 23rd of July
Temporary traffic signals will be in place at all other times throughout the period of works.
Scotland TranServ’s Planned Maintenance Manager, Evan Ferguson added:
 



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SP backs calls for Universal Credit statement after Tories mislead Parliament

MSP Joan McAlpine backed calls for the UK Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey to return to the Commons and give a statement, after a watchdog found she misled Parliament about Universal Credit.

 

The Work and Pensions Secretary apologised to the Commons last week after being caught ‘misleading’ parliament over comments by the National Audit Office on the social security system.

 

She said she had “mistakenly” told MPs on Monday the National Audit Office felt the benefit was progressing too slowly and should be rolled out faster – when In fact the watchdog had outlined a catalogue of failings in the system.

MSP Joan McAlpine said the apology did not go far enough.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

 

“Universal Credit was rolled out in Dumfries and Galloway in May – and since then there has been a lot of confusion and concern throughout the region. The fact is that the rollout has been a shambles and is causing unnecessary hardship to people who have already suffered so much at the hands of Tory austerity.

 

“The government has been happy to mislead not just the Commons, but the public about Universal Credit for years, now they’ve been found out. 

“All of Esther McVey’s lines in defence of Universal Credit have been torpedoed by the National Audit Office, which is why she was so desperate to undermine them on Monday. We knew she was wrong then, but her partial apology is just not enough and poses more questions than answers. 

“Esther McVey needs to come back immediately and give a statement on Universal Credit, this time advising how she will address the concerns of the NAO, why she lied to the House and why she appears at odds with her own DWP officials. 

“The Tories are in chaos, crisis managing rather than leading. They need to get a grip instead of ruining people’s lives.”

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McAlpine welcomes continued focus on supporting Pinneys workforce into employment

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed continued support from the Scottish Government for the Pinneys’ workforce-  after Rural Secretary Fergus Ewing announced that he will personally take forward the Scottish Government response to the closure of the factory following the recent Government reshuffle.

 

Mr Ewing confirmed that the PACE team established by Paul Wheelhouse, would continue its focus on supporting workers into alternative employment – and that he will travel to Annan on July 19th to launch a jobs fair as part of ongoing efforts.

 

Mr Ewing commented:

 

“Despite our best efforts to convince Young’s to do the right thing and maintain production at the Pinneys site – I am disappointed to see that they are proceeding with their plans to cease production around September.

 

“I reiterated the Scottish Government’s willingness to work with Young’s to attract a new investor to the site, and, most importantly, secure employment for the workforce.

 

Commenting Ms McAlpine said:

 

“I am pleased that one of the Cabinet Secretary’s first actions following the reshuffle will be to visit the region and launch a jobs fair for Pinneys workers. The PACE team established by Paul Wheelhouse when he was Business Minister continues to work intensively on a range of fronts to secure continued employment for the workforce. The action group are facilitating sessions covering career advice, interview skills, advice on job applications and CVs, business start-up, and guidance on the benefit and tax system.

 

“The team has arranged a Jobs Fair at the Victoria Halls in Annan on Thursday 19 July. There will be a number of local and national businesses in attendance that day, and I hope that many of the employees at Pinneys will be able to attend to see what opportunities are available.

 

“I will reiterate my disappointment and frustration at the way Young’s have conducted themselves throughout this process. The focus now is on doing everything that we can to secure suitable employment for those affected by job losses, and I will work with the Cabinet Secretary to ensure the Scottish Government does everything it can.

 

“As ever, anyone who is experiencing difficulties because of how they have been affected by the Pinneys closure is encouraged to approach my office for support.”

 

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McAlpine welcomes huge economic contribution of Crichton University campus

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed a report confirming that the Glasgow University campus at the Crichton Institute generates up to £14m-a-year for the local economy.

 

The facility – which was under threat before the Scottish Government invested £1.7 million to keep its doors open – has seen student numbers rise to over 350, with the number of full time jobs supported exceeding
100.

 

Student numbers are now being projected to reach 500 by 2020/21.

 

Commenting , Ms McAlpine said:

 

“This is really welcome news for young people in the region, and for the local economy. Both staff and students should be proud of their achievement, developing the campus and making it an attractive place
to work and study.

 

“When the University campus was under threat, David Mundell said it would take a ‘miracle’ to save it. The Scottish Government stepped in to do so, providing £1.7 million.
Since then it has continued to invest in extra student places for the Crichton.

 

“It’s extremely important that Dumfries and Galloway has top class institutions where young people can train and study, so that we retain existing, and attract new talent to the region. That’s why the Scottish
Government stepped in to save the University campus, and has
also invested £37 million building the new Dumfries and Galloway College at The Crichton.

 

“I look forward to seeing the campus grow further and deliver world class teaching. It is also worth noting that the University Campus collaborates very successfully with the other institutions onsite, and
I look forward to one day seeing the overall economic impact of the Crichton recognised.”

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Population stats prove need for Holyrood migration powers, says McAlpine

MSP Joan McAlpine has said the latest statistics on Scotland’s population prove that Tory control of migration policy is costing the region dearly – underlining the need for Dumfries and Galloway to attract more migrants to support our economy.

Last week it was revealed that the difference between the number of people dying and being born in the region has increased by more than a third in just one year. In 2017, there were 1986 deaths registered, compared to 1248 registered births. Across Scotland there were 5,000 more deaths than births in 2017.
 
The Scottish Parliament voted in favour of devolving powers over migration earlier this year – yet the Tory government continues to keep power over this area at Westminster.
 
The recent Sustainable Growth Commission report outlined the need for Scotland to grow its population as a way of boosting economic growth across the country, now and in the future.

Commenting, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:
 
“The Tories’ approach to migration is costing Scotland – and Dumfries and Galloway – dearly.
 
“Their ‘hostile environment’ and hard Brexit are driving people away from Scotland, making it so much more difficult for us to attract the people that we need to come here and work in our communities.

“Our region needs migrants to come and contribute to our local economy. For example, a hugely disproportionate number of skilled workers from EU members states work in Dumfries and Galloway’s thriving dairy industry – and many more contribute hugely to our health service. There are also serious concerns being voiced about the threat to seasonal labour – which is very important to the continued success of the region’s food and drink industry – post Brexit.

 
“As was outlined in the recent Sustainable Growth Commission report, migrants and population growth will play a key part in growing Scotland’s economy. The Tories can give Scotland these powers over migration sooner rather than later, as the Scottish Parliament demanded earlier this year.
 
“We need the power to develop our own migration system in order to attract more people to live and work here – it’s time the UK government gave us the power to do just that.”
 

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Scottish farmers taken for granted by UK Government

MSP Joan McAlpine has said delays to a £160 million farm payments review show that Scotland’s farmers are being taken for granted by the UK government.

 

Last year Michael Gove agreed to review the amount of EU CAP funding Scottish farmers were receiving after the SNP said they were being short changed by £160 million.

 

There was outrage at the Royal Highland Show last week when UK Environment secretary Michael Gove failed to give the Scottish farming industry any assurance that the long-promised review into the allocation of £160m of convergence funding would go ahead.

The Scottish Government and the National Farmers Union had expected a commitment that cash for Scotland’s per hectare subsidy support would be brought more in line with the European average.

 

However, Mr Gove made no commitment to a review.

 

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

 

“Farmers across Dumfries and Galloway are being short changed by the UK Government.

 

The UK only qualified for an uplift in CAP payments from Brussels because of Scotland’s status. The Treasury received £190 million, and only distributed £30 million of that in Scotland, despite the money being earned here.

 

“There are deep concerns about the indefinite delay to the £160 million farm payments review. The SNP has written to Mr Gove asking for a timetable for a review – it is unacceptable for farmers to be asked to take decisions on the post-Brexit period without the full facts.

“The issue here is one of certainty and trust, and for this review to be delayed yet again sends the message that Scotland’s needs in agricultural funding discussions are of insufficient priority to the UK Government to merit any form of prompt action. 

“The Scottish Government has confirmed less favoured area support scheme (LFASS) payments in Scotland will continue into 2019.”

 

Notes

Under the last CAP reform, the EU set out to redistribute direct payments more equitably across Europe based on average Euros per hectare. Member states receiving less than 90% of the EU average – including the UK – were awarded an uplift. Without the Scottish rate, there would have been no uplift for the UK, however Scottish farmers received only £30 million of the £190 million awarded to the UK.

 

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Dodgy Donations flood into Tory party in Dumfries and Galloway

Joan McAlpine MSP has backed calls for an investigation into the source of mysterious cash donations to the local Conservative Party.

 

It was revealed this week by Investigative Journalism platform ‘The Ferret’ that Conservative Party branches in Dumfries and Galloway have been the biggest beneficiaries of large donations from a mystery trust. 

 

Sixteen donations from the Scottish Unionist Association Trust (SUAT) – a secret organisation without a fixed address or known current trustees – totalling £56,100 went to party branches in Dumfries and Galloway.

 

The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee Chair Pete Wishart has now raised a complaint with The Electoral Commission, that regulates election spending – asking for an investigation. There are concerns that unincorporated organisations  could “exploit loopholes in electoral law” and “shield political donors from scrutiny”.

 

The news comes after it was revealed by the BBC that another secret trust with strong links to a senior Scottish Tory funnelled large sums of money to the DUP ahead of the Brexit referendum.

 

South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine commented:

 

“It is very concerning that a murky organisation which has been bankrolling the Tories across Scotland has donated the largest sum of money to branches in Dumfries and Galloway. Though given the mountain of electoral material dropped through local letter boxes, maybe not so surprising.

 

“Tory election spending in Scotland has more than trebled in five years – from £276, 000 in 2011 to over £978’000 in 2016. In the year before the 2016 Holyrood vote the SUAT contributed £28’000 to fund a Tory surge, alongside other secretive organisations.

 

“It’s difficult to know where that money comes from because these trusts refuse to reveal their trustees or donors.

 

“This latest revelation comes just days after the BBC uncovered a trail of illegal activity from Senior Scottish Tory Richard Cook – the man behind yet another shadowy trust known as the Constitutional Research Council. The CRC was responsible for a record £435,000 donation to the DUP in the lead up the EU Referendum.

 

“The Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster, Pete Wishart, has intervened and asked the Electoral Commission to investigate. I too will be asking the Electoral Commission to look into the SUAT – given that constituencies across the south of Scotland are affected.”

 

Notes:

 

Electoral Commission probes £319,000 dark money trust: https://theferret.scot/secretive-trust-scottish-tories-dark-money/

BBC Spotlight: Brexit, Dark Money and the DUP: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44624299

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