McAlpine welcomes funding to boost growth for the region

South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the Finance Secretary’s commitment of £10 million for the new South Scotland Enterprise Agency.

 

The spending was announced in today’s draft budget, along with a raft of measures that will also benefit Dumfries and Galloway.

 

Protecting the Small Business Bonus Scheme, lifting 100,000 properties out of business rates altogether and a £600 million investment to ensure every home in Scotland will have access to superfast broadband by 2021 will all help boost growth in the region, and across the country.

 

In addition the NHS will get an above inflation rise and public sector employees will see their pay lifted by 3%, something that has not happened elsewhere in the UK. Because Scotland’s budget has been cut by the UK government, the additional spending on health will be supported by modest tax rises on higher earners. Everyone earning less than £33k will see their tax bills fall slightly.

 

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

 

“This afternoon’s draft budget includes a number of measures that will boost economic growth and improve productivity to ensure that Dumfries and Galloway is very much ‘open for business.’

 

“The funding for the new South Scotland Enterprise Agency will help support its objectives of ‘sustaining and growing communities’ and ‘capitalising on people and resources’ – objectives which mirror those of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and which has been so successful in addressing issues faced in the north of Scotland.”

 

Today’s draft budget will help support a stronger economy and a fairer society, with increased funding for the NHS and protection for low and middle income earners.

 

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said:

 

“We are investing in our public services and supporting business to develop and thrive. This budget mitigates against the UK Government’s cuts to our block grant.

 

“It delivers an additional £400 million to the health service, it invests in expanding childcare, delivering broadband, building 50,000 new homes and supporting our police and fire services.

 

“It provides the investment we need to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of tomorrow.”

 

Other measures include:

 

  • Increase spending on the health service by over £400 million – £200 million more than inflation.
  • Provide £120 million – over and above core education funding – direct to head teachers to help ensure all young people can fulfil their potential
  • Lift the one per cent public sector pay cap and provide for up to a three per cent pay rise for NHS staff, police, teachers and others earning up £30,000
  • Invest £243 million towards the expansion of free nursery education and childcare
  • Protect funding for Police and Fire services including retaining VAT refunds in full
  • Deliver a local government finance settlement worth more than £10.5 billion
  • Contribute £756 million towards investment of more than £3 billion by 2021 to deliver 50,000 affordable homes
  • Allocate over £4 billion of funding for infrastructure
  • Deliver £600 million to ensure every home and business will have access to superfast broadband by 2021
  • Deliver the first £70 million of a new £150 million Building Scotland Fund
  • Set aside £340 million for initial capitalisation of the Scottish National Investment Bank
  • Invest nearly £2.4 billion in our colleges, universities, enterprise and skills bodies – including a real terms increase for both college and Higher Education budgets

 

More info: https://www.budget.scot/

 

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McAlpine welcomes assurances from Justice Secretary over HMP Dumfries

South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed assurances from Justice Secretary Michael Matheson that there are no plans to close HMP Dumfries.

 

The MSP wrote to Mr Matheson following an approach from the prison’s branch secretary, amidst concerns that it did not feature in the Scottish Prison Service’s infrastructure investment
plan.

 

The omission had left staff worried about the long term future of the prison.

 

However, in a letter Mr Matheson gave reassurances that HMP Dumfries has a secure future.

 

He said:

 

“I can confirm that the Scottish Prison Service has advised me there are no plans to close HMP Dumfries.

 

“It is true that the facility does not currently figure in infrastructure investment plans at this time, however, these plans are developed and prioritised on the basis of the most
pressing need for capital investment.”

 

Ms McAlpine welcomed this assurance.  She said:

 

“I understand why staff were concerned about the future of the prison, however I am pleased that the Justice Secretary has been able to offer his assurances that it remains an important
part of SPS estate.

 

“I hope that this can allow the staff some peace of mind to continue the fantastic work that they do at HMP Dumfries.”

 

Letter from Justice Secretary attached.

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McAlpine encourages parents across Dumfries and Galloway to make use of free flu vaccine

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine is encouraging all parents and guardians of 2-5 year olds in Dumfries and Galloway to take advantage of the free flu vaccine before Christmas.

In a bid to keep children virus-free this winter, GP practices across Scotland are providing the nasal flu vaccine free of charge.  

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“With only two weeks left until Christmas I am urging all parents or guardians across the region who haven’t yet done so, to take their children between the ages of two and five to their local GP for the free flu vaccine.

“The nasal spray only takes a few minutes, is painless, and does not contain a live virus so will not cause flu in your child and can protect against flu for up to a year.

“It’s very important that children receive the vaccine, which the best defence against flu for your children and also helps reduce the spread of infectious flu.”

Scottish Government news release: Fight flu with free vaccine

 

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McAlpine to host #CleanBeachesScotland event in Parliament

Some of the 10 billion tonnes of plastic dumped in our oceans will wash up in the Scottish Parliament this week – showcased as art.

MSPs will see at first hand the beach litter in their own constituencies in the awareness raising exercise, which is sponsored by Joan McAlpine, MSP for South Scotland and convener of the Parliament’s Culture Committee.

 

Artist Julia Barton’s ‘Littoral Art’ Project exhibition uses detritus collected from 120 Scottish beaches, including fishing twine and nets, cotton buds, micro-beads and packaging which takes hundreds of years to break down and is already present in marine organisms.

 

Julia and her colleague Sita Goudie from the Shetland Amenity Trust’s ‘Dunna Chuck Bruck’ campaign will be sharing their knowledge of what works at a community level, and asking MSPs to pledge action and support to reduce, recover and recycle waste within our economy rather than allow it to leach into the marine environment.

 

This includes East Lothian where fishermen, the harbour masters, surfers and the wider community work together to keep the coast clean. 

 

In partnership with the Marine Conservation Society, the event will give MSPs the chance to learn about successful ways of tackling marine litter in Scotland.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“Julia’s Littoral Art project is a really creative way of showcasing just how much plastics and other marine litter has become part of our coastal environment.

“When I first met with Julia I thought her sci-fi art exhibition would be a great way to really drive home the message to MSPs of the impact of such litter – art really is a great way of engaging with the important issues of the day and can make a difference.

“The event and exhibition will also celebrate the many successful projects and initiatives across the country that are tackling the problem, and cleaning up our beaches.”

Calum Duncan, Head of Conservation Scotland for the Marine Conservation Society said:

“Public awareness and media profile of our seas and the threats they face has never been higher.

“This exciting and timely event will shed light on the dire impacts of marine litter on our beaches and marine wildlife, but will also celebrate some of the ways we’re tackling this problem, and galvanise support for the many actions still needed to clean up our seas.”

This collaborative event is open to MSPs, researchers and invited guests. The #CleanBeachesScotland Exhibition will be on show along with key information displays from:

 

  • SAMS – Scottish Association for Marine Science
  • SAT – Shetland Amenity Trust
  • FIDRA – Environmental Charity based in East Lothian
  • KIMO – Local Authorities International Environmental Organisation
  • MCS – Marine Conservation Society

The exhibition will run from the 12th to the 14th of December, with the event to be held on the evening of the 13th.

For more information of the artist’s work visit: www.littoralartproject.com

Current events and wider lobbying can be followed @LittoralArt

Comments from Julia’s recent exhibitions can be viewed at:  https://littoralartproject.com/neo-terra-exhibition-comments/

Further information on the Marine Conservation Society at: www.mcsuk.org

Further information on the Shetland Amenity Trust: www.shetlandamenity.org

Dunna Chuck Bruck Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Dunnachuckbruck

All photographs courtesy of Alan McCredie.

 

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Sanquhar knitting comes to Parliament

MSP Joan McAlpine was delighted to host Sanquhar knitters in the Scottish Parliament this week.

 

The SNP MSP invited Elma Clark and Kate Sloan from the ‘Sanquhar Pattern Designs’ project to speak to the Cross Party Group on Culture, which she convenes.

 

Elma and Kate – who have been involved in the project since it was launched by A’ the Airts in 2014 – talked about the importance of the pattern to the heritage of Upper Nithsdale.

 

Attendees – including MSPs, Scottish Government representatives and people working in the creative industries – were treated to a display of  knitwear products, some of which featured contemporary takes on the classic pattern.

 

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

 

“It was fantastic to have Elma and Kate up to talk about the importance of the Sanquhar knitting pattern to the cultural heritage of Upper Nithsdale, and what the project is doing to preserve it.

 

“It’s really great to be able to bring the pattern to a wider audience – I think everyone loved the pieces on display and were having to try very hard not to buy them all!

 

A’ The Airts launched the Sanquhar Pattern Designs knitting project in 2014, hoping to make a significant impact on the economic climate of Upper Nithsdale.

 

It is known that knitters have been producing Sanquhar Knitting in significant quantities since the beginning of the 17th century and, despite a few declines in the industry over the centuries, the pattern remains an important tradition of the town and is embedded within its heritage and culture.

 

You can read more about the project here: https://sanquharpattern.wordpress.com/

 

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McAlpine raises local branch closures in Parliament

MSP Joan McAlpine has asked questions in Parliament about RBS plans to close branches in Lockerbie, Annan Langholm and Gretna as part of its plan to cull a third of its operations across Scotland.

 

In an exchange with Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse, the South Scotland MSP suggested that RBS was in breach of advertising standards when it rebranded itself ‘the Royal Bank for Scotland’ last year, in an attempt to improve its battered image.

 

Ms McAlpine said it was a deep betrayal of loyal customers, staff and communities, who had stuck by RBS through thick and thin.

 

She also wrote to RBS Chief Executive Ross McEwan urging him to think again and demanding a meeting to discuss alternatives to the local closure.

 

During the exchange Ms McAlpine said:

 

“These closures don’t just affect small villages – I’ve calculated that there are 16 branches across my South Scotland, region including market towns like Lockerbie, Annan and Langholm.

 

“Last year RBS tried to improve its image through a brand campaign calling itself the Royal Bank for Scotland’ – does the Minister agree with me that people will feel very cynical and regard that as a breach of advertising standards at the very least.”

 

The Minister – who is a fellow South Scotland MSP with an office in the Borders – responded:

 

“In my own area my nearest branch is in England which is an irony given the point Joan McAlpine has made about branding. 

 

“It is a concern that six of the eight branches left in the Borders are being closed as part of this programme. 

 

“Clearly this is having quite a devastating impact at a local level.”

 

This weekend Ms McAlpine also succeeded in getting her party – the SNP – to back a motion condemning the closures, which was passed by acclaim at the Party’s National Council in Perth.

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MCALPINE CALLS FOR RBS TO THINK AGAIN ON LOCAL CLOSURES

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has demanded that the Royal Bank of Scotland reconsiders plans to close four branches across the region, after a shock announcement that the bank plans a series of closures across the country.
 
Following the announcement that RBS plans to close Annan, Langholm, Gretna and Lockerbie branches, Ms McAlpine has written to RBS asking for an urgent meeting on the future of the local service.
 
The Scottish Government has said they will continue to engage closely with banks and with senior representatives from all major companies in the financial services industry.
 
Speaking on the issue of prospective local bank closures, Andy Willox Scottish policy convenor of the Federation of Small Businesses has said:
 
“Banks sharing facilities would be one way to mitigate the impact of local closures, alongside a smart ATM network and mobile banking.”
 
Commenting SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said: 
 
“This is very disappointing news for both customers and particularly for staff who will now be worried about their future so close to Christmas.
 
“Local banking services are vital to communities across Dumfries and Galloway, and many people are still dependent on high street services – this is a lifeline service for some.
 
“It is extremely important that the banks listen to the needs of customers in the region and recognise that there is a continued need for face-to-face provision as well as cash withdrawal and deposit machines.
 
“I have written to RBS to seek an urgent meeting on the future of these local services and hope that they will think again on this closure.”
 
 




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Joan McAlpine MSP comment on Council decision to drop proposals to close rural schools

“It was clear that the Council was going to back down some time ago, but this decision finally draws a line under the threat of closure.

 

“I know from visiting pupils, parents and teachers at the Kirkbean open day last week, that they needed this final decision in order to move forward.

 

“Rural schools are absolutely vital for the sustainability of communities across Dumfries and Galloway, a point that I made in my submission to the consultation – but as the Council officers themselves now admit, that consultation did not give due weight to the impact on communities.

 

“I look forward to the Council working with villages like Kirkbean, Ae and Garlieston in future to ensure that our vibrant local schools are supported to prosper.”

 

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Chancellor bows to SNP pressure on Police and Fire VAT

South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed today’s announcement that the Chancellor will allow Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue to reclaim VAT – after years of intense SNP pressure.

 

Scotland’s emergency services had been the only territorial forces in the UK unable to reclaim VAT – which costs the forces £35 million annually.

 

While the move is welcome, the Chancellor stopped short of refunding the £140 million which has already been paid by Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue.

 

Ms McAlpine  has criticised the UK government for this betrayal of Scotland’s emergency services – and is calling on them to give Scotland the £140 million we are owed to help bolster police and fire services in Dumfries and Galloway, and across Scotland.

 

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

 

“We of course welcome the news that the UK government will no longer unfairly take £35 million from our Police and Fire budgets every year – and constant pressure from the SNP on this issue has made this win possible.

 

“However, the Chancellor does not go nearly far enough – and his refusal to refund the money Scotland has already paid shows how little the Tories care about Scotland’s emergency services.

 

“If they finally agree that it is unfair for Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue to pay VAT, how can they possibly justify keeping the money they have already taken?

 

“The £140 million owed to Scotland’s emergency services is a drop in the ocean compared to the £1 billion the Tories threw to the DUP to prop up a weak and wobbly Prime Minister and government.

 

“The Chancellor has come up short in his commitment to our police and fire services. The refusal to repay the £140 million we are owed is simply yet another Tory betrayal of Scotland – and proves just how useless the band of Scottish Tory MPs really are.”

 

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McAlpine welcomes new initiative to increase exports from Dumfries and Galloway

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the launch of an initiative aimed at boosting exports from the region.

The Scottish Government and Chambers of Commerce are launching a joint initiative to help businesses in Dumfries and Galloway increase their exports, supported by Scottish Government investment.

The Local Export Partnerships (LEPs) will be launched in five pilot areas: the Cairngorms; Inverness/Highlands and Islands; Dumfries and Galloway/Scottish Borders; Edinburgh/Lothian and Glasgow/Lanarkshire.

These will bring together Scottish Development International, local authorities and a range of local support organisations to offer support and expertise to companies, particularly SMEs, with little or no previous exporting experience and help them enter international markets.

The Scottish Government is providing up to £400,000 to the Scottish Chambers of Commerce to develop the pilot programme.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“The new Local Export Partnerships – a pilot initiative between the Scottish Government and the Chambers of Commerce – will be really important in helping to boost international trade and exports from the region.

“Our European neighbours are logically the first port of call for most exporters in Scotland, and yet the Tory plans for a hard Brexit will put barriers in the way of vital EU trade and a ‘no deal’ Brexit could impose prohibitive WTO tariffs on trade.

“With the Tories determined to drag us out of Europe against our will, our trading businesses in Dumfries and Galloway will need as much support as possible to increase their exports, and indeed businesses that are yet to start trading overseas need encouragement to start doing so.

“The LEPs will test new approaches to support businesses to export, opening a whole new world to companies and employers throughout Scotland.”

 

  1. https://news.gov.scot/news/export-boost-for-businesses
  2. The commitment to establish the local/regional export partnership pilots was contained in the Trade & Investment Strategy, published in March 2016. This was restated in the current SNP Programme for Government.
  3. The pilot phase is expected to last 2 years.

 

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