McAlpine: ‘Santander branch closure plans add insult to injury’

MSP Joan McAlpine has demanded that Santander reconsider plans to close its local branch in Lockerbie.


The SNP MSP – who is campaigning against similar closures planned by RBS – received news today that the major bank has also taken the decision to close its Lockerbie branch.


Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:


“It beggars belief that Santander bosses would take this decision, especially in the wake of the community vandalism we are seeing from RBS, who are attempting to close branches across the region – including their Lockerbie branch.


“This decision really does add insult to injury for Lockerbie residents.


“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 Santander to seek an urgent meeting on the future of the Lockerbie branch and will urge them to reverse this reckless decision.”


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McAlpine visits Scotland’s first college breakfast club

MSP Joan McAlpine has praised Dumfries and Galloway College after a visit to their breakfast club.

Vice Principal Andrew Glen decided to establish the club – which is the first of its kind in Scotland – when he noticed that some students reporting to the college’s sick bay feeling light headed and nauseous, hadn’t eaten breakfast.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“The Breakfast club is a really inclusive and sociable initiative. There’s something for everyone – whether students are buying a bacon roll, or going along for a breakfast free of charge.

“The project may not have been possible without The Holywood Trust, who have provided a grant – and the college’s own caterers, who are also playing a significant role – so huge plaudits to them.

“We know that students face financial pressures. It could be that a student has no money for a couple of days, or that they are facing a more serious ongoing problem.

“One problem that was raised with me after the visit was that young people on a bursary are receiving less housing benefit – and I will be following this up with the Department for Work and Pensions. 

Ms McAlpine added:

“The Scottish Government is supporting young people from low-income households into further education by extending the Educational Maintenance Allowance to some college students -and raising the household income threshold for EMA by over £4,000.

“However, it’s encouraging that Dumfries and Galloway College staff are taking further action to help students with this initiative.

“Many students at the college are completing physically demanding Modern Apprenticeships – and they certainly need their daily allowance of calories.

“Since the Breakfast Club was established staff at the College have reported a dramatic decrease in the number of students reporting to the sick bay – and it is hoped that another knock on effect of the club will be an improvement in retention rates. 

 “It was a privilege to be the first person invited to come and visit the Breakfast club. Dumfries and Galloway College are ahead of the curve with this initiative, I will be putting down a motion in Parliament congratulating them, and look forward to seeing more positive outcomes for students as a result of the Breakfast Club.”

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MSP and Employment Minister ‘Blown Away’ by Big Bang event success

MSP Joan McAlpine was joined by the Scottish Government’s Minister for Employability and Training, Jamie Hepburn, at an event to encourage school leavers into STEM related jobs on Friday (April 20th).


The fair highlighted the many employment opportunities in the region for young people to work in science, technology, engineering, and maths related careers – and introduced them to local employers.

The networking event – held at Easterbrook hall – was part of the work being undertaken across Scotland under Developing the Young Workforce – a Scottish Government Initiative to reduce youth unemployment.


Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:


“I was blown away by the number of young people and range of employers at Friday’s event. 16 schools, 320 students and over 20 businesses took part. Jamie Hepburn – Scotland’s Employment Minister was there too and I know that he was really impressed by what he saw.


“Local employers like Cochrane were at the event, as were Arla and Brown Brothers.


“It was also great to meet Gary Mitchell, local dairy farmer and Vice President of NFU Scotland – who has recently launched a Modern Apprenticeship in dairy skills.


“I have been talking to Gary about the need for training in his industry for years, and it’s great to see that as a result of his hard work there is now a focussed career path for young people into the industry.


Ms McAlpine added:


“Events like these are valuable because they allow school children to engage with employers at a younger age, rather than waiting until they leave to start thinking about what career path they might take.


“Too many young people think that they need to leave the region to find the right career path, but there are a lot of opportunities on their door step.


“Developing Scotland’s young workforce Dumfries and Galloway (DYWDG) are working on creating sectoral groups locally to facilitate exchanges between employers working in the same sectors.


“The engineering sector has already been launched – and local engineering companies are coming together to discuss their training needs and solutions. This approach then allows colleges to ensure that courses and apprenticeships are tailored to meet these needs.


“This approach was of great interest to the minister when he was briefed on it and he was obviously very impressed.


“I saw how well the sectoral approach works earlier this year when I visited Kelwood Engineering during Scottish Apprenticeship week.  The company does a lot to boost job opportunities locally, and takes apprentices from local schools and colleges.


“It was great to hear from young people and employers alike that they feel apprenticeships are a good way forward and really do boost their careers.”


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McAlpine calls for halt of Pinneys closure as plans to sell plant before summer are leaked

MSP Joan McAlpine has called on Young’s to halt the closure of Pinneys, as plans to sell the plant before the end of the consultation on the closure have come to light.


Young’s admitted to the plans after a source told the industry website Undercurrent News that the sales process is to begin in the next few weeks.


Ms McAlpine says the closure must be put on hold to allow for the action group to speak to the new owners.


The MSP said Young’s statement on the plan is damning and suggests that it makes a mockery of the consultation process, as well as promises from bosses to be transparent.


Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:


“I spoke with Young’s Chief Executive Bill Showalter just yesterday, and he stressed the company would be as transparent as possible throughout the process – but failed to mention these plans.


“It is imperative that the closure plans are put on hold so that the consultation can run its course, and so that the action group has the chance to talk to the new owners of the plant.


“I am absolutely appalled that the plans appearing in media before workers were informed via email.”


The news of the Young’s sale plan comes as Young’s Chief Executive Bill Showalter is meeting with Business Minister, Paul Wheelhouse today (Thursday)


Undercurrent News release revealing plans is available here:


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McAlpine welcomes First Minister’s comments on youth arts

MSP Joan McAlpine today welcomed the First Minister’s commitment to look at how the success of Scots athletes at the Commonwealth Games could help inspire a new way to fund the most artistically talented young people as well.

The MSP, who convenes the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee, was questioning the First Minister in a session with committee chairs yesterday at the Scottish Parliament.

Using the example of the Scottish Youth Theatre, which was funded by the Scottish Government after it threatened to close when Creative Scotland rejected its grant application, Ms McAlpine suggested national youth performing companies could be treated in the same way as Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet, which are directly funded by government.

Ms McAlpine pointed out there was a consensus that all children and young people can benefit from participation in both culture and sport. However the two were treated quite differently when it came to nurturing the most talented.  There was agreement that the athletes with potential needed specialised coaching – which paid off with Commonwealth medals – but we treat the arts quite differently.

In her answer, the First Minister said she was sympathetic to the idea:

“Like sport, participation in arts and culture for everyone is a really important part of the health and well-being of the country, as well as individuals.

“But we also need to make sure in terms of participants, those who are really are producing, performing – the really talented people – are being given the support they merit.

“There is work under way just now in terms of a refreshed youth arts strategy, which will be published in the not too distant future. 

“Creative Scotland have established traineeships for talented young people, which is a step in the direction you are talking about.

“I think the traineeship programme from Creative Scotland is a good foundation to look at what more we can do there.”

During the meeting, the First Minister agreed that a directly funded national youth theatre is also something that the Scottish Government should take into consideration. 

The First Minister suggested that the process the Scottish Government are going through with Scottish Youth Theatre over the next year will give the chance to look at this.

Ms McAlpine said:

“I was really encouraged by the First Minister’s comments today in response to my questions.

“The government’s ‘Time to Shine’ youth strategy is great in that it is very inclusive and reaches out to all young people who absolutely have a right to access culture, both as participants and as audience members.

“But we need to also think about how we then progress those who show the most talent if that’s what they want. I was struck by a comment made by someone concerned about Creative Scotland’s rejection of the Scottish Youth Theatre when they said “it would never happen in youth football”. We need to have a debate about that. Why is it fine to invest in sporting excellence but it you do the same in arts its considered elitist? 

“We should be able to do both.”

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McAlpine presses importance of retaining jobs in Annan to Young’s Chief Executive

Joan McAlpine MSP has spoken to the chief executive of Young’s Seafood and pressed on him the importance of retaining jobs in Annan.


The South Scotland MSP spoke to the company boss by phone while he visited Annan for talks politicians and workers’ representatives.


During the 40 minute conversation, Ms McAlpine told Mr Showalter, who previously ran the giant Findus Company, that workers at Annan had contributed to the company’s profits for many years and that Young’s should co-operate with the action group set up by the Scottish Government and Dumfries and Galloway Council to save jobs.


She conveyed concerns expressed by the workers that the plant was secretly targeted for closure last year by the Grimsby based company, who went ahead despite Pinneys improving its performance markedly and receiving a “silver” grading from independent auditors.


Ms McAlpine asked Mr Showalter not to asset strip the plant and pointed out that many consumers could shun Scottish salmon processed in Grimsby in favour of products reared, processed and packaged north of the border.


Speaking after the call Ms McAlpine said:


“I was grateful to Mr Showalter for taking the time to speak to me but I was left with mixed feelings after our conversation.


“I had been told closing Pinneys would cost Young’s £4 million in redundancy payments, so I would have hoped he would be more open, say, to keeping the natural salmon at Annan, but he didn’t offer much encouragement, saying that Grimsby was their “centre of excellence” for that product.


“I pointed out to him that consumers might be more inclined to buy salmon wholly produced in Scotland and the product could well suffer if consumer campaigns focussed on that in future.


“Mr Showalter was more positive about potential new operators – he mentioned several food producers – including a household name – who had expressed interest in the plant and he assured me Young’s would co-operate in giving potential buyers access to the site. In addition to three who I understand have already visited, there were another four expressions of interest.


“I was also encouraged that he said the rise in sales of frozen fish – up 17% last year – could benefit scampi and the Annan plant was the only scampi producer that Young’s owned so it might benefit further.


“But I was disappointed that he did not rule out moving the new plant and equipment away from Pinneys, should Young’s decide to pull out at the end of the consultation process – he said the labelling equipment, which cost £600,000 was quite specific to Marks and Spencer products. He did say Young’s was willing to discuss financial recompense with new owners who wanted to keep the equipment.


“He agreed Pinneys had made progress under its new manager  and had been “heading in a positive direction”.  He said the proposal to close was not to do with the people on the ground but blamed the drop in the volume of chilled salmon sales caused by the fall in the value of the pound and the squeeze on incomes since Brexit.”


Ms McAlpine and Mr Showalter also discussed the vulnerability of single supplier sites in the food processing industry. 


Marks and Spencer is Pinneys only customer and aside from a few small contracts here and there, has been the destination for its products for many years.


The chief executive said such arrangements had grown up in the industry because it “allows a higher degree of cooperation between supplier and retailer,” but in his opinion the trend has begun to move away from such arrangements towards highly specialised sites making a single product for a number of clients.


Ms McAlpine said:


“Whether Marks and Spencer demands exclusivity or whether it grows up by mutual agreement, it still makes the communities affected extremely vulnerable when contracts are re-organised.


“That is why the supermarket in my view has the same corporate responsibility to workers at the company that directly employs them.”




Mr Showalter is conducting his face to face meetings with politicians and stakeholders in Annan tomorrow. As the convenor of Holyrood’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and Extrenal Relations Committee, which sits on Thursday, Ms McAlpine was unable to leave parliament tomorrow. She therefore arrangement a telephone discussion with Mr Showalter today.

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Business Minister to discuss Pinneys case with Marks and Spencer bosses

Joan McAlpine has welcomed news that Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse will meet Marks and Spencer bosses to discuss the threatened closure of Pinneys in Annan.


Mr Wheelhouse revealed details of the meeting in response to a question in parliament from Joan McAlpine, who says Marks and Spencer are obligated to the workforce in Annan, as they have been Pinney’s only customer for several years.


Questioning the Minister in Parliament today, Ms McAlpine said:


“The Minister will be aware that Pinneys sole customer under Young’s was Marks and Spencer, and had been for several years.


 “I appreciate that the groceries regulation is a reserved matter and that exclusivity of supply is not prohibited in the grocer’s code of conduct. 


 “But does the minister agree with me that while such an arrangement may seem beneficial when demand is high, it can have very negative effects when there are challenges?”


 In his response, the Business Minister said:


“We do recognise that there are commercial considerations here, but I do identify with the point that Joan McAlpine has said in the respect that where we have a plant being dedicated effectively to one client then clearly if any work is lost from that client it means that plant is particularly vulnerable.


“We are looking to engage with M&S in this particular scenario and seeking to meet with M&S senior management team this week.


“We have had some initial conversations with M&S but I want to speak to them on the specific issue about single company sites and I agree with Joan McAlpine that this situation is starkly illustrated in this case.


“The risks associated with having a single client site is obviously horribly exposed in the context of what has happened at Annan.”


Ms McAlpine raised the issue of contract exclusivity with the retail giant in a letter last week, and was assured by their chief executive Steve Rowe that Marks would engage with the action group set up try to save jobs.


Ms McAlpine is scheduled to speak with Young’s boss Bill Showalter today (Wednesday).


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SNP MSP Emma Harper has signed the pledge to #saynotopuppydealers in order to help combat illegal puppy farming and is urging others to do the same.

The Scottish SPCA has today (Monday 16 April) launched a joint campaign with the SNP Scottish Government, Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, RSPCA, Battersea, Dogs Trust, University of Edinburgh, PAAG, Trading Standards Scotland, One Kind, Blue Cross and BSAVA to put an end to the illegal puppy trade. 
The campaign’s new website aims to be the main source of information for the public on what to be aware of when thinking about buying a puppy and avoiding illegal puppy dealers.

Thousands of puppies are born into the illegal puppy trade each year, which the Scottish Government estimated to be worth £13m in 2017 in Scotland alone. Many of these puppies are kept in horrendous conditions, are often removed from their mothers too early – causing distress, harm and health problems, all in the name of a quick profit.

Commenting, SNP MSP Emma Harper said:

“Since being elected to the Scottish Parliament, I have been heavily involved on a local and national level, and have met with constituents within the South of Scotland to discuss their concerns about how puppy trafficking affects our region. In the Scottish Parliament, I have asked questions in chamber and secured member’s debates to highlight illicit puppy trafficking. The SSPCA supports puppy welfare over profit.
“This provided me with the opportunity to assist SSPCA in drawing attention to what is a cruel and inhumane crime, and to emphasize the importance of best practice when buying a new puppy.
“I am delighted to see the launch of such an informative website supported by the Scottish Government and other agencies.”

“The advice of this new joint campaign is to walk away, report your concerns, and stop the trade. I hope more people will join me and sign the #saynotopuppydealers pledge.”

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Standing room only for Pinneys meet as locals and politician say they won’t give up without a fight

It was standing room only in the Market Hall in Annan tonight as workers and locals queued out the door to have their say on the proposed closure of Pinneys.


The strength of feeling was palpable as the campaign to save more than 577 seafood factory jobs in the town was ramped up at a mass meeting supported by politicians from all parties.


The meeting was jointly hosted by the ‘Save Pinneys of Annan’ campaign group and SNP MSP Joan McAlpine MSP.


Council leader Elaine Murray and Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell attended and spoke along Ms McAlpine, Catrina Baxter of the Save Pinneys campaign and union reps.


As well as hundreds of attendees, the meeting was streamed live to thousands more.


Ms McAlpine says she was pleased with the cross-party determination to keep the plant open. 


The meeting focussed on ways to showcase the very skilled and determined workforce to new buyers for the site.


Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:


“I was blown away by the solidarity and determination shown by the community here in Annan, as well as elected members from all parties to keep Pinneys open and safeguard jobs here in Annan.


“The importance of Pinneys to the local community and wider economy in the region just cannot be overstated – if anyone was in any doubt you just have to look at the number of people attending tonight – not to mention the thousands watching online.


“The workforce at Pinneys is highly skilled, and we need to showcase that fact to potential buyers who might take over the site from Young’s.  


“There was however anger among workers that the blow had come despite the workforce recently achieving the prestigious “Silver Status” in an M&S audit.


“They pointed out that the high street retailer, which insisted on being the plant’s sole customer, was now awarding its contracts to suppliers who scored well below Pinneys in the same audit.


“There clearly is a desire to get the bosses at the top of M&S and Young’s to face up to their obligations – while at the same time working together to ensure that if these companies don’t budge, alternative buyers are found.”


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McAlpine welcomes Business Minister’s letter to Young’s over future of Annan site

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse’s letter to Young’s about the proposed closure of the Pinneys plant.


Mr Wheelhouse has written to the Chief Executive of Young’s Seafood Ltd to express concern over the potential implications of the  proposal, and to put in writing the Scottish Government’s commitment to work with Young’s in exploring any viable options to protect employment in Annan.


The Scottish Government has committed to working with the company through the statutory consultation process on its proposals to explore alternative approaches.


Officials will be visiting the site today (Wednesday) to meet with management and take forward discussions, which will then inform the work of the newly formed Action Group involving the Scottish Government, enterprise agencies, Dumfries and Galloway Council and industry stakeholders.


Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:


“I am pleased that the Minister has re-iterated his commitment to leave no stone unturned in order to save jobs in Annan.


“It is disappointing that Young’s did not engage with Scottish Enterprise at an earlier stage, but we are where we are, and the priority must be to maintain some production at the site and retain as many of the jobs as possible.


“As Mr Wheelhouse has highlighted,  while the commercial environment might be challenging, Young’s has an obligation to consider the profound impact such a decision will have on the families affected by this announcement.”


Business Minister’s letter to Young’s Seafood attached.

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