McAlpine raises region’s roads in Parliament

MSP Joan McAlpine today raised the region’s roads in Parliament in an exchange with the Transport Minister.


The South Scotland MSP asked Humza Yousaf when he will know which road improvements are to be included in the Strategic Transport Projects review (STPR) – a document that will outline the government’s transport priorities over the next 20 years.


Ms McAlpine has called for it to include improvements to the A75, A76 and better links between Dumfries and the M74.


Mr Yousaf outlined that the review is progressing on schedule, and that the government has been looking closely at the A75 and the A77 in the region.  The Minister also said he would be keen to meet with Ms McAlpine in order to hear her views.


Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:


“I welcome the fact that the SNP government last year committed to improve the A75, A76 as well as links between Dumfries and the A74, having advocated for these improvements in my submission to the National Transport Strategy.


“I was pleased that the Minister mentioned the importance of the A75 corridor in the south west, as well as recognising the importance of rail links in the region – and I am particularly pleased he has agreed to meet with me.”


Joan has been working closely with local groups – such as the A75 action group – to push for improvements to the region’s roads.


Following last year’s Transport Summit in Dumfries, the MSP has continued to push the case for improvements to local transport, including raising the issue in Parliament, and submitting to the Scottish Government’s National Transport Strategy review. 


The NTS will help inform which projects will be included in the STPR.


The full exchange will be available here when the Official Report is uploaded.


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McAlpine highlights Brexit risk to Camphill communities

MSP Joan McAlpine used a speech in parliament to highlight the risk Brexit poses to Camphill communities – including award winning local creamery Loch Arthur.
Today, young Europeans make up 68 per cent of Camphill’s volunteers – many of whom stay in Camphill and raise families there long after their placements are finished.
Ms McAlpine warned that this is under threat after Brexit.  If EU citizens who arrive in future are treated as third-country nationals, voluntary placements will mean they do not meet residency criteria.
She underlined the need for a bespoke immigration system in Scotland – one which is compassionate and responsive to Scotland’s needs.
Commenting, the SNP MSP said:
“Loch Arthur and other Camphill communities are very special places where people with support needs live and work collectively – in shared houses – with volunteers.  Many stay for decades, and form strong, familial bonds with those they support.
“I am extremely concerned that these long term volunteers will no-longer be able to meet residency rules post Brexit – and will be made to leave.”
Speaking during the debate, Ms McAlpine said: 
“Camphill is one example of the wider humanitarian contributions that EU citizens make to Scotland and the UK as a whole. People from the EU are volunteers, active citizens, good neighbours and social entrepreneurs.
“They are priceless and irreplaceable.

Ms McAlpine supports the devolution of power over immigration to the Scottish parliament – and pointed out that the Canadian Provinces and the cantons of Switzerland already operate distinctive migration policies – as do many federal states.

She said:

“Scotland should introduce an immigration system that is compassionate. We should take our lead from organisations such as Camphill, which was founded by European migrants who were determined to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable people in Scotland. 
“We need an immigration system that values people not just in the monetary sense but for their priceless contribution to our society.”
After a visit earlier this month, Ms McAlpine appealed to the Home Secretary to protect Loch Arthur from the effects of leaving the European Union.

The MSP wrote to Amber Rudd after a visit to Loch Arthur in Beeswing, which is run by the Camphill Scotland charity.

The SNP has also tabled an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on behalf of Camphill Scotland, the ALLIANCE and other organisations, which would require the UK Government to make arrangements for an independent study of the impact of the Act and Brexit upon the health and social care sector across the four nations.
The amendment currently has the backing of 49 organisations across the health and social care sector.
Ms McAlpine said:
“I have written to the UK Home Secretary to try and get some clarity on this matter, and have asked for the forthcoming immigration bill to consider making exceptions for communities such as Camphill.
“It is good to see the SNP in Westminster supporting the Camphill community and I hope the amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill can gather enough support.”
The full text of the debate can be found here.

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MSP ‘delighted’ Dumfries to be signposted from northbound M74

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the decision to include Dumfries on northbound signage on the M74.


The SNP MSP met with Transport Scotland bosses last month – where plans to update motorway signs to include Dumfries, Ecclefechan and other towns in the region before the end of the financial year were unveiled.


But Ms McAlpine wrote to Transport Scotland following the meeting to ask that Dumfries be included on the northbound signs – which was not part of the original plan.


The transport body agreed, and Ms McAlpine has said she is delighted that the ‘Queen of the South’ will now be on the map.


Commenting, she said: 


“It is great news that Transport Scotland plan to add more of the region’s towns to signs on the motorway – I have no doubt that this will increase visitor numbers and be a real boon to the local economy.


“I was even more pleased that they have agreed to include Dumfries on the sign just north of junction 19.


“As the region’s capital, and as ‘Queen of the South’  – Dumfries really does deserve greater recognition, and I think this will encourage more people to drop by and see what the town has to offer.”


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McAlpine ‘delighted’ at victory for schools campaign

MSP Joan McAlpine has said she is ‘delighted’ that the Council has back-tracked over plans to close Ae, Kirkbean and Garlieston primary schools.


Joan – who worked with parents to oppose the plans – said the five year moratorium for rural schools will bring relief to parents who have fought so hard to keep their schools open.


Commenting, the SNP MSP said:


“It was clear a few weeks ago when the Council attempted to pause the process that they had listened to parents and campaigners and abandoned plans to close the school.


“However, experts rightly identified a flaw, which meant that abandoning the process may not guarantee the five year moratorium, which is enshrined in legislation in Scotland.


“Quite understandably parents wanted the Council to take a belts and braces approach, in order to ensure that no new proposal to close the school could be brought forward for at least five years – which they appear to have now done.”


Ms McAlpine had enlisted the help of Sandy Longmuir of Scotland’s Rural Schools Network to assist parents.  She also asked questions in Parliament and submitted to the Council’s consultation.


The MSP praised the hard work put in by Sandy and the parents in fighting this move.


She said:


“Parents, communities and politicians like myself campaigned against this move – with the help of Sandy Longmuir we were able to pick apart the Council officers’ case for closure which was based on flawed figures, a flawed consultation process and a misunderstanding of the law – which presumes against the closure of rural schools.”


“The important thing is that the campaign against the school closure has been successful – this is a real victory for people power.”


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lMcAlpine presents A76 petition to Minister

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine this week presented Transport Minister Humza Yousaf with a petition calling for the removal of traffic lights on the A76.


The petition – organised by community councillor John Holroyd – calls for action to repair a landslip at Enterkinfoot, which has resulted in temporary traffic lights in place for three years.


Running for just over a month, the petition has gathered more than 800 signatures.


The community were keen to alert the Scottish Government to the situation – and to demonstrate the strength of feeling on the issue.


Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:


“The traffic lights at Enterkinfoot have been in place for three years now, awaiting a repair to the road. 


“The A76 is the main road between Dumfries and Kilmarnock; it is used heavily by lorries, other traffic, as well as young people travelling to school and college –  it is clearly not sustainable to have traffic lights in place for this length of time.”


“The community are aware and understand that the Scottish Government capital budget will have faced a real terms cut of almost £3 billion between 2010 and 2020, and is under severe pressure.


“When I spoke to the Transport Minister, I explained that ideally this repair would be done imminently, but if this is not going to happen, an indication from Transport Scotland about a timetable for the repair would at least help allay fears that this is going unnoticed.”


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Award Winning Creamery at risk from Brexit says McAlpine

Joan McAlpine MSP has appealed to the Home Secretary to protect the award winning local creamery Loch Arthur from the effects of leaving the European Union.


Ms McAlpine wrote to Amber Rudd after a visit to Loch Arthur in Beeswing, which is run by the Camphill Scotland charity.

Loch Arthur is home to learning disabled adults who live and work beside volunteers from across Europe, many of whom are also long term residents. Often the volunteers are skilled occupational therapists and teachers.

Camphill Scotland fear immigration rules after Brexit could stop future volunteers coming to Scotland and will hurt hundreds of disabled people who rely on their support. 

The community, which has a farm shop and cafe as well as a bakery and creamery, was recognised as the best “Hidden Gem” at last week’s Scotsman Food and Drink Awards.


Speaking during a visit to Loch Arthur on Friday, the MSP said she was concerned to hear about the impact post-Brexit rules will have on these volunteers who do not meet the current income criteria for UK residency because they do not draw a salary.

During her visit, Ms McAlpine was told of a highly skilled American volunteer, who worked in the bakery as well as supporting residents  – but as an unsalaried third country national, she was sent back to America under UK immigration rules.

Camphill fear that unless specific exemptions are made, future volunteers from Germany, Spain and France and other EU countries will find themselves in a similar position.


The SNP MSP said:


“Loch Arthur is a very special place where people with support needs live and work collectively – in shared houses – with volunteers.


“But the Camphill community relies on young volunteers from Europe – with many staying for decades, and forming strong, familial bonds with those they support.


“I am extremely concerned that these long term volunteers will no-longer be able to meet residency rules post Brexit – and will be made to leave.  These volunteers are selfless. They work for nothing and the community as a whole allocate money on the basis of needs – for example for clothing and travel. It’s awful that people like that could be punished for being caring.” 


Ms McAlpine added:


“I have written to the UK Home Secretary to try and get some clarity on this matter, and have asked for the forthcoming immigration bill to consider making exceptions for communities such as Camphill.


“These communities have transformed the lives of so many vulnerable people thanks to the voluntary work of EU nationals, and it is essential that they are given reassurances that this will continue to be the case post-Brexit.”


The Camphill Community was established in 1939  by a group of Austrian Emigres who followed the teaching of Rudolf Steiner, who believed that education could benefit every child, whatever their ability.. 

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McAlpine welcomes Minister’s meeting with Thornhill Station Action Group

MSP Joan McAlpine welcomed Transport Minister Humza Yousaf’s constructive meeting at the Scottish Parliament with Thornhill station campaigners.

The SNP MSP attended a cross-party meeting with the Thornhill Station Action Group and Mr Yousaf at the Scottish Parliament earlier today.

Mr Yousaf commended the group for engaging with MSPs from different parties, as well as the local school, employers and the wider community.


Speaking after the meeting, Ms McAlpine said:


“I was very grateful that Mr Yousaf met with the Thornhill Station Action Group, and that the meeting was so constructive.

“One of the achievements of the SNP government is the opening and restoration of railway stations and lines. It’s a very popular policy – Mr Yousaf told us that more than 60 communities across Scotland are campaigning for new stations – but he acknowledged the strength of the socio economic case for Thornhill, which serves a very fragile rural area that is badly served by existing transport infrastructure.”

Thornhill station closed in 1965, and the Thornhill Station Action Group think re-opening it boost local employment prospects, stop the ‘brain-drain’ from the town and have a positive impact on the environment.


Ms McAlpine has been supporting the group since she was first approached last year – and she included reopening the station in her submission to the Scottish Government’s consultation on refreshing the National Transport Strategy.


She said:


“I think the Thornhill Action Group have a really strong case to re-open Thornhill Station.


“I was also interested to hear students Georgie and Mia discussing how networking between schools for their Advanced Higher Modern Studies course was almost impossible due to the fact that there are no decent transport links to get to other schools in the region.


“At over 28 miles long, the Nith Valley line between Sanquhar and Dumfries is the longest stretch on the route without a station – it is clear to me that the communities of the mid Nith Valley and Glencairn would benefit considerably from a train station here.


“It’s always going to be a lot of work, but the Minister and his officials assured the group that they were following the correct process, and that Transport Scotland will be on hand to give advice.”


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Living Wage Champion McAlpine welcomes increase in rate for Living Wage Week

South Scotland MSP and Living Wage Champion Joan McAlpine has welcomed the new Living Wage rate and is urging more employers in the region to become accredited.


The Living Wage increased by 30 pence per hour to £8.75, with the uplift expecting to see many local people benefiting from higher wages to help meet the increasing cost of living.


Ms McAlpine – who became living wage accredited last year – was speaking at the start of this year’s Living Wage Week, running from the 5th to the 10th of November.


The SNP MSP said:


“This increase in the Living Wage is good news for many local workers.


“Living Wage week is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the Living Wage, and I hope as many local employers sign up as accredited Living Wage Employers as possible.


“People who go out and do a hard day’s work should not be left struggling to pay the bills and this new Living Wage of £8.75 announced today will be a welcome pay rise for lots of people across the region.


“With low pay as one of the main drivers of poverty, it is vital that employers who can pay the Living Wage do so – it really makes business sense as it’s an investment in people, leading to increased productivity and reduces staff turnover.”


She added:


“It is great that Scotland remains the best-performing of all four UK countries with the highest proportion of employees paid the living wage or more – this is testament to the SNP government’s hard work promoting the fair work agenda and putting equality at the heart of the labour market.”


Katherine Chapman, Director of the Living Wage Foundation said:


“Year-on-year, we see organisations and businesses across the UK embracing the real Living Wage as they recognise that a fair day’s pay is not only the right thing so to but can improve the quality of staff’s work, reduce absenteeism and increase motivation and retention.


“Today’s increase acknowledges that the cost of living continues to rise for workers everywhere and the leadership shown by businesses who welcome this is a cause for celebration during Living Wage Week, sending a positive message to the business community to show what others can achieve.”


For more information about Living Wage Week go to


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SNP MSPs say Small Business Bonus benefits local companies

Scottish Government scheme supports 5122 businesses in the region


The Scottish Government’s Small Business Bonus scheme has helped to support 5122 businesses in Dumfries and Galloway this year.


SNP MSPs Joan McAlpine and Emma Harper said the new figures proving once again the SNP Scottish Government’s commitment to local jobs and communities.


Across Scotland, the Small Business Bonus Scheme, brought about by the SNP Government in 2008/09, paid out over £226 million in 2017-18, supporting over 103,000 local firms by reducing their rates liability and taking some firms out of business rates altogether.


And across Dumfries and Galloway the number of firms benefitting from this flagship Scottish Government policy has risen from 3224 in 2008 to 5122 in 2017/18, with £8.1 million being spent in the region to support local businesses this year.


Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:


“These figures prove the success of the Small Business Bonus for firms across the region – to have more than 5000 businesses in Dumfries and Galloway and over 103,000 across Scotland benefitting from this policy is good for jobs and good for communities – helping to keep more money in our neighbourhoods and boosting our high streets.


“Over the last decade, the Scottish Government has taken strong action to support local businesses, while other parties have carped from the sidelines and chased cheap headlines rather than actually doing anything to support local jobs.”


Fellow South Scotland MSP Emma Harper added:


“It is the SNP that has delivered over £226 million of rates relief across Scotland in 2017/18 – and over £8.1million in Dumfries and Galloway alone.


“Only the SNP are taking the necessary action to help our local firms – and it is great to see so many firms benefitting from this in the last year.”



Table 1: Number of recipients of SBBS, 2008-09 to 2017-181,2,3

1.  Includes recipients of SBBS relief who also receive other NDR relief. 

2. 2008-09 was the first year of the SBBS. Relief thresholds and amounts have changed several times since then (See background noted for further details of relief thresholds and changes).

3.  Data on number of recipients are mid-year estimates.

4.  At the time of the 2017 snapshot Falkirk and Perth & Kinross were undertaking a review of SBBS resulting in lower reported number of recipients. Increases in Edinburgh, Midlothian and West Dunbartonshire follow completion of reviews in 2016.
5.  Between any given years the numbers of properties in receipt of SBBS may vary due to a range of reasons, including other types of NDR relief received, openings/closures and relocations and expansions of chains.

Table 2: SBBS relief provided, 2008-09 to 2017-18 by local authority 1,2,3,4

1.  Includes recipients of SBBS relief who also receive other NDR relief.  The amount of other relief provided is not included in the total relief figure. 

2. 2008-09 was the first year of the SBBS. Relief thresholds and amounts have changed several times since then (See background noted for further details of relief thresholds and changes).

3.  Estimates of relief provided are mid-year estimates.

4. When comparing the amount of relief received in each year, it is important to consider impacts of annual changes in the poundage rates (See page footnote 1). 


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New signage will boost region’s tourism say MSPs

MSPs Emma Harper and Joan McAlpine say plans to include towns in the region on motorway signage could increase visitor numbers.


Plans to update motorway signs on the M74 to include Dumfries, Ecclefechan and other towns in the region were unveiled by Transport Scotland during a meeting with the MSPs yesterday.


Signage directing people to the region is currently absent from motorway signs in both directions – references to ‘the South’ and ‘the North’ between Glasgow and Carlisle leave Dumfries and Galloway completely off the map.


But the Transport body plans to rectify this when the signs are replaced by the end of the financial year.


Emma Harper – who requested the meeting – said that the decision was a victory for those who had been campaigning to get Dumfries and Galloway on the map.


Commenting, she said: 


“This is great news that after months of campaigning, the region will finally be on the road map.


“Signs directing people to Dumfries and other towns in the region from the motorway will be a great boost to the local economy, as it will undoubtedly attract more visitors. This is all part of the progress towards my campaign to create a National Tourist Route to attract people to the whole of the South West of Scotland”


Joan McAlpine added:


“Dumfries and Galloway has so much to offer visitors and I’m really pleased the Transport Scotland plan to add more of the region’s towns to signs on the motorway.


“I have no doubt that the move will increase visitor numbers and be a real boost to the local economy.”


Following the meeting the MSPs wrote to Transport Scotland to push the case that Dumfries should also be included on the northbound signs, and to clarify timescales for the changes.


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