MSP demands answers on ‘shambolic’ Universal Credit roll out

A south Scotland MSP has said the UK Government must respond to damning criticisms in a report that exposed the “shambolic” roll out of Universal Credit. 

The report – published on Friday by the National Audit office – confirms that the roll out has been too slow, does not deliver value for money and causes hardship.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“Just last week we heard in from Tory MPs John Lamont and David Mundell welcoming the roll out and telling us that Universal Credit will bring a change for the better. Now we have a report from the National Audit office raising serious concerns.

“I am extremely worried about how the roll out is impacting my constituents in the south of Scotland. The report from the National Audit office makes for disturbing reading – claimants have struggled to adjust to Universal Credit; almost a fifth of claimants across the UK do not receive their payment on time, and that the Tory Government has been unresponsive to concerns raised by external organisations.

“The Tory Government at Westminster cannot continue to brush aside the deep and damaging failings of their Universal Credit system – which is pushing families into poverty, debt and crisis.”

Notes: copy of Audit report: https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Rolling-out-Universal-Credit.pdf

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MCALPINE GETS ASSURANCES ON LANDSLIP ROAD

Transport Scotland have written to MSP Joan McAlpine with assurances on the safety and stability on the A76

 

The SNP MSP wrote to Roy Brannen – Transport Scotland’s Chief Executive – last month to raise concerns around safety issues about the stretch of road affected by landslip at Enterkinfoot between Thornhill and Sanquhar.

 

The MSP was responding to concerns voiced at a meeting of Sanquhar community council. 

 

Transport Scotland revealed details of a permanent repair to the damaged section of the road at a public exhibition in Thornhill last month.  The repairs involve a major realignment of the road which is likely to go ahead next year.

 

In his reply to Ms McAlpine, Mr Brannen confirmed that engineers are continuously monitoring the safety of the road, and are confident there will be no further movement before the road realignment commences next year.

 

He said:

 

“The matters raised in your letter were discussed at length at the public exhibition in May.

 

“Currently there is no known danger on the section of roadway however Transerv and geotechnical engineers are continuously monitoring this.

 

“The temporary traffic lights need to remain in place to prevent traffic running on the affected section of the road and help protect the integrity of the road.

 

“Please be assured that the importance of the A76 is recognised and we are working to deliver the road realignment as quickly as possible. A further stakeholder update will be provided later this year.”

 

Ms McAlpine commented:

 

“My constituents raised concerns about the safety of the A76 recently – which were completely justified particularly as children travel this route to school every day.

 

“I am reassured that there are geotechnical engineers continuously monitoring the stability of the road and are confident of its safety.

 

“Transerve and Transport Scotland have drawn up a programme for the construction of the new road which is welcome. Work is scheduled to begin in 2019/20 and I look forward to a more specific update later in the year.”

 

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MSP calls on agency to drive ‘sea change’ in region’s economic performance

MSP Joan McAlpine has said south Scotland’s new enterprise agency should help drive a ‘sea change’ in Dumfries and Galloway’s economic performance.

 

The SNP MSP – who campaigned for the dedicated enterprise agency for the south of Scotland  – said the body should act as a champion for region and deliver support to businesses of all sizes.

 

She said access to finance for SMEs ( Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) was one of the most pressing issues facing the region which she hoped the new agency would addess. 

Ms McAlpine also called for dedicated hubs in both Dumfries town centre and Galloway to ensure that the agency serves the whole of south Scotland.

 

The MSP made the comments in her response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the new agency – which called for views on how the new body can best help the south of Scotland.

 

Commenting Ms McAlpine said:

 

“I want to see a sea change in the economic performance across the South of Scotland, and Dumfries and Galloway in particular. Our new agency should act as a champion for the region as well as providing appropriate business and community support, as is the case with the north through Highland and Islands Enterprise.

 

“While the agency serves the whole South Scotland it must address the particular problems of the South West. 

 

“Access to capital is one of the key challenges for both SME’s and micro businesses in South Scotland. During my time on the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Committee I saw a lot of evidence that access to capital was particularly acute in South Scotland and this applied to private finance as well as public agency loans and grants. The Agency must address this if our businesses are to grow and develop.”

 

“The creation of a dedicated enterprise agency by the Scottish Government is a huge opportunity and we must grasp it. Dumfries and Galloway has the potential to be an economic success story. We already have very strong food and drink, creative, and manufacturing sectors – and the agency can push to define Dumfries and Galloway as a centre of excellence for them all.”

 

The south Scotland MSP also stressed the importance of making sure that the ‘same old voices’ were not allowed to dictate the priorities of the new body – commenting:

 

“We must listen to those who are already working successfully in businesses and communities in Dumfries and Galloway. I would particularly like the economic and human value of the region to be understood and valued by those working within the Agency who must work with the communities and groups in the region to co-produce ideas and drive forward the local economy.”

  • In June of 2017, the Scottish Government confirmed that we would create a new enterprise agency for the South of Scotland. This agency will operate in two local authority areas: the Scottish Borders, and Dumfries and Galloway. It will focus on the needs of the area, driving inclusive growth, supporting communities and capitalising on people and resources.

 

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Independence Campaigners donate to local food bank

Independence campaigners in Dumfries have donated a transit van full of provisions to the local food bank. MSPs Joan McAlpine and Emma Harper officially handed the vital supplies to Mark Frankland of First Base Foodbank on Monday. The donations covered everything from pasta to tinned meat and essential toiletries. There were 12 very large shopping bags and six large boxes which only just fitted in to Mr Frankland’s van.

 

Handing over the donations, Joan McAlpine said:

 

“The marchers didn’t just bring a lot of colour, friendliness and help for local businesses when they visited Dumfries.  They also brought help for the most vulnerable in our communities. The independence movement is very much focussed on making Scotland a fairer place and this shows that they put their words into action.”

  

Mark Frankland of First Base Foodbank said:

 

“We are really grateful to all the Yes campaigners who took the trouble to donate food to us. Some of them provided a week’s worth of shopping for a family. Our food bank delivers right across Dumfries and Galloway and depends on local donations – so this generous act by independence campaigners from across Scotland as well as Dumfries and Galloway is  great boost to people facing food poverty.”

 

MSP Emma Harper added:

 

“I was really pleased to receive donations directly from some people. The generous attitude and unselfish giving of food supplies and other products, like nappies and personal hygiene products, for persons in great need was very welcome and I thank all who donated.”

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SNP Conference sends message of solidarity to Pinneys’ workforce

SNP members sent a strong message of support to the Pinneys’ workforce on Friday – unanimously passing a resolution at the Party’s conference condemning Young’s Seafood for closing the factory in Annan.

 

The emergency motion – proposed by MSP Joan McAlpine – condemned the devastating impact of the decision taken by Young’s Seafood to close the site, and recognised the work of the Pinneys Action Group. The motion was seconded by Councillor Rob Davidson, Depute Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council.

 

Speaking to Conference, Ms McAlpine said:

 

“The council has calculated that the total job losses in Annan will be one thousand – ten per cent of Annan’s population, and if that was translated to Glasgow it would be the equivalent of 59 thousand people which is quite unthinkable.

 

“Young’s is a faceless producer run by faceless corporate investors. They took over Pinneys – in my view – to get access to the company’s lucrative supermarket contracts and they wanted to move the jobs to Grimsby, and have wanted to do that for a long time.

 

She added:

 

“I am delighted that Conference passed my resolution unanimously – sending a strong message that the SNP is completely behind the people of Annan and against the kind of corporate greed that has resulted in the loss of their jobs.

 

“The work continues now to secure continued employment for the people who are facing job losses. Our Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse and the Pinneys’ Action group continue to work hard towards this end. Mr Wheelhouse last week demanded that Young’s suspend redundancies at Pinneys as a serious buyer for the site came forward.”

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McAlpine backs support for carers

MSP Joan McAlpine has pledged her backing for Carers Week which begins on Monday – by committing to support local carers across Dumfries and Galloway.

 

Ms McAlpine has signed up to the Carers Week pledge to take carer friendly action – highlighting the tireless work of the 6.5 million unpaid carers across the UK and offering them any support they need. There are an estimated 788,000 unpaid carers across Scotland – with 44,000 of them under the age of 18.

 

The Scottish Government has taken decisive action to support unpaid carers – investing over £135 million in a range of programmes and initiatives to support carers and young carers, as well as passing a new Carers Act, which has come into force this year, which extends the rights of carers and ensures better support.

 

Ms McAlpine commented:

 

“The important role that carers play in our society cannot be overstated – they provide an invaluable service to their families, community and indeed to Scotland as a whole – and I am always delighted to have the opportunity to support the work that they do in Dumfries an Galloway and across society.

 

“It is estimated that there are 788,000 unpaid carers in Scotland which is why it is so important that the Scottish Government has been leading the way in providing this – investing over £135 million, as well as passing the new Carers Act in 2016, which came into force this year.

 

“And through the new Social Security Agency, the Scottish Government plans to increase Carers Allowance to the level of Job Seeker’s Allowance, giving carers that little bit extra support that can go a long way.

 

“Carers Week gives us all the chance to show our support and appreciation for the work carers do in our local communities – and I am committed to playing a positive role in this inspiring annual event.”

 

Carers Week website: https://www.carersweek.org/

 

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McAlpine: “Young’s must compensate all Pinneys workers fairly”

MSP Joan McAlpine has written to Young’s bosses demanding that all Pinneys workers are compensated fairly after it was announced last week that the site would close leaving over 450 people unemployed.

The SNP MSP warned Young’s boss Bill Showalter against any attempt to restrict redundancy payments for casual or agency workers.

In a letter to the Chief Executive Ms McAlpine said that all of the dedicated and highly skilled workforce should be compensated properly – and that casual and agency workers should be paid based on their total time spent working on the site rather than just as direct employees of Pinneys.

Commenting Ms McAlpine said:

“When I spoke to Young’s Human Resources Director Dominic Kerrigan last month, he assured me that all workers, including former agency workers, would be treated fairly. To my mind that means that a worker’s time on site, including their time as an agency worker, should be taken into account when calculating redundancy payments. However constituents have since raised concerns with me about this and I am seeking assurances in the letter sent today that Mr Kerrigan will stand by his earlier commitment.

“I am also concerned by reports that some long standing Pinneys workers who moved to contracts with privately run firms at Pinneys last year will receive no redundancy –which is completely unacceptable.

The SNP MSP also branded the 45 day consultation a ‘sham’, adding:

“45 days is too short a consultation period for a plant of this size – the time was reduced to 45 days by recent anti-trade union legislation from the UK Government. The consultation is also a sham. It has become clear that Young’s have been building up their Grimsby HQ for years, had been planning close Pinneys to prepare their balance sheet for a corporate sale and even had new premises lined up in Lincolnshire.  Young’s planned to close Piinneys all along.

“It is such a slap in the face. I have been in constant touch with ministers and know that attempts to find a new operator continue. But the blame here lies with Youngs and the all powerful retailers who move contracts around without a thought for workers affected.”

 

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McAlpine welcomes ‘strong’ Scottish Government action on Pinneys

Scottish Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse today demanded that Young’s suspend the transfer of jobs to Grimsby from Annan – after a serious buyer for the Pinneys site came forward.

 

South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine – who has campaigned against the closure of Pinneys – welcomed the Minister’s actions, commenting:

 

“The Business Minister has sent a strong message to Young’s today – you have a moral obligation to the community here in Annan and you will not be allowed to simply walk away from this responsibility.

 

Mr Wheelhouse told Young’s Chief Executive Bill Showalter the company had a ‘moral obligation’ to do right by the people of Annan in the aftermath of its decision to close the site, causing over 450 job losses.

 

Mr Wheelhouse told Mr Showalter:

 

“I would ask you to re-assess your current plans to transfer the natural salmon production to your Grimsby site in July, and instead, put on hold the next phase of redundancies planned for then. Retaining key personnel for securing an investor through protecting vital expertise and skills.

 

“Young’s has a moral obligation to support the community of Annan in the aftermath of its decision to close Pinneys.”

 

The Minister also urged the company to make a financial contribution to support local economic growth and mitigate some of the devastating impact of its decision – and indicated that the Scottish Government will provide support to ensure staff are retained through the summer.

 

 Ms McAlpine added:

 

“Mr Wheelhouse and I are absolutely focussed on securing continued employment for the workforce at Pinneys. He has been working very hard behind the scenes to secure the best possible outcome for a number of weeks.

 

“I am delighted by the news that a serious buyer for the site has come forward. Young’s must now do everything within its power to secure the sale of the site – including retaining the highly skilled workforce.

 

“however, we don’t know yet how many jobs might be saved by a potential sale – so I am pleased that the Scottish Government is looking at further investment to support any workers who are made redundant.”

 

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McAlpine welcomes half million tourism plan for south Scotland


MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the announcement of a £500’000 investment to help promote the South of Scotland as a tourist destination.
 
The funding – which was revealed today by Minister for Tourism Alasdair Allan – will be used by Visit Scotland to market the region, and Ms McAlpine has said Dumfries and Galloway should feature prominently in the plans.
 
The SNP MSP commented:
 
“This is very welcome news from the Minister and will be a big boost for the region’s important tourism industry. I understand the campaign will be of an international nature highlighting South of Scotland as a region. Most people from abroad associate Scotland with the Highlands so It’s really important that they understand we have similar dramatic scenery, castles and wildlife outdoor pursuits.
 
“There are so many attractions in Dumfries and Galloway to market both to visitors, and people who live here in Scotland, from the fairy tale Caerlaverock Castle to Moat Brae – the birthplace of Peter Pan. The region also has some of the biggest events in Scotland’s cultural and music calendar, like Electric Fields and the Big Burns Supper – and world leading food and drink festivals.”
 
Link to the official report of the meeting in parliament: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11581&i=104981

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Local MSP calls on volunteers to help roll out of Cycling scheme in D&G

MSP Joan McAlpine has encouraged people in Dumfries and Galloway to help make a local Cycling Without Age group a reality.

 

The SNP MSP met the group’s Executive officer Christine Bell in the Scottish Parliament and signed a pledge to help support the roll out of the scheme in D & G.

 

“It was lovely to meet Christine Bell and Alastair Smith who are in Parliament this week encouraging MSPs to help support the extension of the programme in their own constituencies.

 

“Cycling Without Age organisers were given Scottish Government funding to bring together and train volunteers to ‘pilot’ trishaws in a bid to help older people get out and about in the fresh air. They are always looking for people who want to pilot as well as organisations such as care homes, doctors surgeries, or community centres to get involved in starting a scheme locally. Apparently there is a real appetite for a group in Dumfries and Galloway, but a local organisation or group would need to come forward and help facilitate the establishment of a project on the ground.

 

“As well as fresh air and exercise, the programme helps tackle isolation as pilots and passengers form strong bonds with each other and look forward to their regular outings together. There are 11 trishaws in operation across Scotland and CWA expect the number to sky rocket to 100 by the end of the year! If anyone is interested in becoming involved in this fantastic scheme, please contact Christine Bell on christine@cyclingwithoutage.scot

 

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