MSP calls for premises to emulate award winning charity

MSP Joan McAlpine has called for more premises in  Dumfries and Galloway to learn from a Dumfries charity’s award winning approach to accessibility


She was speaking as The Usual Place community cafe collected a national award for its changing places toilet – the only facility of its kind in the region until the DGRI Hospital opened last year. 


The Dumfries community café – which provides employment and training opportunities for young people with additional support needs – was nominated for a Sudocrem award after customers praised the accessibility of its facilities.


Ms McAlpine attended the awards ceremony today (Monday) where local athlete Shelby Watson presented the café with the award.


Congratulating The Usual Place at their award ceremony, Ms McAlpine said: 

 “For people who are disabled,  or are caring for a disabled person, The Usual Place’s ‘Changing Places’ toilet allowed them to have a day out, something most people take for granted.


“But other public facilities across the region need to consider whether they can emulate this wonderful initiative to promote equality across the whole region – if a small charity like The Usual Place can do this, then so can larger organisations. It also promotes accessible tourism which is a growing market.


“The facility itself is excellently looked after and always kept clean. Access is easy for all and the unit is the right size to allow adults of all sizes to change with their dignity being maintained.


“The Usual Place is a much loved place for the wider community and I am delighted that the café, and everyone involved is being recognised today, the award is certainly well deserved.”


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MSP secures Minister’s commitment to food and drink workshop in Dumfries and Galloway

Joan McAlpine today (Thursday) secured Rural Secretary Fergus Ewing’s commitment to a food and drink workshop in the region.


The MSP questioned Mr Ewing in Parliament this afternoon, after local businesses expressed concern that Connect Local –  Scotland’s local food and drink marketing advisory service – had not held any workshops in Dumfries and Galloway.


Connect Local receives £3m of funding from the Scottish Government to advise food and drink businesses across Scotland on a range of issues.


Mr Ewing agreed to write to Ms McAlpine with details of the workshop.


Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:


“Many of the food and drink companies in the region are micro businesses, which need a local approach and it’s important that Scottish Government funding of national initiatives deliver on the ground for our local businesses.


“I am pleased that the Cabinet Secretary has agreed Connect Local will hold a workshop in Dumfries and Galloway, particularly given the recent growth target that was announced to double the turnover of the food and drink industry by 2030.”


“To unlock our region’s economic potential we must make sure that everything that can be done, is being done for our local businesses.”


In his answer Mr Ewing also highlighted the fact that Dumfries and Galloway is a centre of excellence for food and drink.


Commenting, he said:


“Dumfries and Galloway has outstanding reputation and excellence in the production of high quality food and drink.


“With the new South Scotland Enterprise Agency, I think there are enormous opportunities for these businesses to be even more successful.”

The region’s strong tradition and reputation is not being linked to the lower than average GDP and low wage economy, which has been instrumental in bringing about the South Scotland Enterprise Agency. Turnover is more important than profit as it discourages distant shareholders diluting localism. All businesses in Dumfries and Galloway, while part of the UK, pay PAYE, NI, Corporation Tax and VAT to HMRC. The more successful, the more is paid to HMRC. Some benefit is accrued locally by providing local employment but this incurs further ‘on costs’ such as NI, PAYE and Pension Contributions for the Micro Business. Any negotiated reciprocal benefit to Scotland is subject to change at any time.

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McAlpine ‘disappointed’ by Young’s decision to close Pinneys

MSP Joan McAlpine has expressed her deep disappointment at the decision by Young’s to close its Pinneys site.


The MSP was informed of the decision via email this afternoon.


The announcement comes  after Young’s decided to consult on the closure back in April.


The Scottish Government has confirmed that it remains committed to securing the best outcome for the site, and is in discussions to find a new buyer.


Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:


“I’m deeply disappointed – but not surprised – by Young’s announcement that they intend to close the Pinneys site in Annan.


“It was clear early on that they didn’t wish to retain any presence at the Pinneys site and were completely focused on the sale of the site.


“This is despite the Scottish Government’s best efforts to convince them to stay through a range of incentives and offers.


“Pinneys has a dedicated workforce – they are highly skilled, motivated and produce food to the absolute highest quality. They deserve better than this.


“I am pleased however that the Scottish Government has reaffirmed its commitment to secure the best outcome for the people of Annan, and to secure a buyer for the site.”


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MSPs debate importance of housing provision for people with learning disabilities

MSP Joan McAlpine this week led a debate highlighting the importance of housing provision for people with learning disabilities.


The South Scotland MSP called for a national conversation on how to provide better housing after a report cited UK Government cuts and disparity of service at local authority level as contributing factors in people’s inability to access suitable housing.


Scotland’s Housing Minister told councils they must plan to meet the needs of people with a learning disability, and pledged to strengthen links between the housing sector and organisations representing people with learning disabilities.


Commenting, the south Scotland MSP – who is Deputy Convenor of the Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Learning Disabilities – said:


“I was pleased to be able to bring this subject to the chamber and I am very grateful to members of the cross party group, who themselves have a learning disability, for sharing their experiences in the lead up to this debate.


“It is welcome progress that fewer people with learning disabilities now need to live in hospitals or care homes, and options such as supported living or accommodation in adapted housing can improve quality of life immeasurably.


“Unfortunately restrictions to housing and disability benefits by the UK Government have made it incredibly difficult for a lot of people to access these facilities.”


A recent report by the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability found that local authorities would sometimes rather see people who can live independently move to a care home for cost reasons, and that 698 households who were homeless or at threat of homelessness last year had ‘learning disability’ recorded as a support need.


The SNP MSP added:


“Local authorities have a very important responsibility to meet the needs of people with a learning disability.


“The Housing Minister has made it clear to councils that they must plan for these needs in Local Housing Strategies, and he has committed to working to strengthen links between the housing sector and people with learning disabilities, which is very welcome.


“The Scottish Government’s guidance to council’s on Local Housing Strategies is under review right now, and this is a real opportunity to ensure that people with learning disabilities have access to their own homes.


“Overall the direction of travel is positive. In 1998, only 600 people with a learning disability lived in suitable supported accommodation and in 2015 that figure rose to 4’622. That’s real progress to build on.”


Link to SCLD report on opportunities and challenges for housing:


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McAlpine condemns Edinburgh Woollen Mill move

Joan McAlpine MSP has condemned the Edinburgh Woollen Mill move to Carlisle from Langholm as a “cross border raid by Cumbria’s richest man”.

The South Scotland MSP said Philip Day, whose wealth grew by £50 million last year alone according to the Sunday Times Rich List, had shown no consideration to the town where EWM was born.

Ms McAlpine also pointed out that the EWM Group had seen like for like sales rise last year and reported operating profits of £91.5m.

The MSP said: “This is a cross border raid by someone whose wealth is reported as £1.2bill.  It is callous and it is unnecessary. While some workers will be able to commute, the real impact will be felt by small businesses in the Langholm, such as caterers and hotels whose customers comprise a large number of EWM staff.

Ms McAlpine said the migration of jobs from Dumfries and Galloway to Carlisle was a worrying trend and she questioned how the UK Government’s proposed Borderlands Growth Deal would reverse it.

“We have already seen the move of Pinneys contracts from Annan to Carlisle and now the move by EWM. So we have Scottish smoked salmon being processed in England and an Edinburgh Woollen Mill Head-quartered in Cumbria. It’s ridiculous.

“I asked a question about the proposed Borderlands Growth Deal in parliament yesterday. The UK government still has not told us how much it will put in or when we will see the money. There is also a lack of clarity about what it will fund. But we do know it is built around a “city region” model with Carlisle at the centre of the strategy.

“While I welcome any money for the area, with Carlisle sucking jobs away from smaller towns in Scotland, I do wonder if the city region model is the right one here. By contrast, The Scottish Government’s new South Scotland development agency will focus on helping small businesses and communities across the south, which is a more appropriate solution for this area.”

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McAlpine urges Santander boss to keep Lockerbie branch open

Joan McAlpine MSP has urged the Managing Director of Santander’s North division to keep open its branch in Lockerbie. In a frank exchange with Richard Owen Ms McAlpine questioned the figures being used to justify closure.


She also challenged Santander to be more transparent in sharing information about the number of people using the branch.


She pointed out that she had already been fighting RBS branch closures, and the loss of two branches.


Ms McAlpine urged customers to complain officially in order to let bank bosses know the strength of feeling in Annandale.


She commented:


“I told Mr Owen that the closure would disproportionately affect elderly people and those who do not have good internet access. He refused to share details of the footfall at the bank, which I find astonishing because that is the justification for closure. He then refused to tell me the number of customers who hold accounts at the branch claiming this would be inaccurate because it would include customers who had moved elsewhere but retained their account. But it is this group of customers who Santander surveyed in order to justify the closure. So for example, they claim 51 per cent of customers use online banking, but that is meaningless if the groups surveyed include account holders who have, for example, moved to the city. I imagine the number of people using mobile or online banking who live in the surrounding area is likely to be much lower.”


Ms McAlpine urged local people affected by the closure decision to complain to Mr Owen by writing to or to ask for an official complaint to be lodged by the branch.


The SNP MSP added:


“Bosses need to know exactly how people feel and claim they have received a low number of complaints about the planned closure.”


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McAlpine welcomes plans to realign A76

Joan McAlpine MSP has welcomed the £2.85 million proposal to re-route the A76 because of a land slip at Enterkinfoot after handing a petition by local people to the Transport Minister.

The plan was unveiled by Transport Scotland last night at a public event in Thornhill. The one-kilometre road realignment will solve the problem of temporary traffic lights which has frustrated motorists since 2014.

Ms McAlpine has campaigned for the road to be upgraded, writing to both Transport Scotland and the Transport Minister.

Joan McAlpine said:

“This proposal is most welcome and will represent a significant investment from the Scottish Government. I understand from engineers that this is a very technical and complex problem to solve and they had to evaluate a number of different options. Realigning the road will solve not just the problem of land slip at the current location but right along the one kilometre stretch.

“I have been told by Transport Scotland officials that the time scale is the quickest possible, as they need to complete a detailed design, acquire the land, publish road orders and procure a contractor. The work could begin as soon as next year and I know for local people who I have spoken to in Upper Nithsdale it can’t come quick enough.”

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MSP and Annan Academy pupils celebrate World Bee Day

MSP Joan McAlpine and pupils at Annan Academy marked World Bee Day with a ‘Bee Fest’ at the school on Monday (May 21st) – organised by Annan Academy Bee club.

Annan Academy is the leading school in the country teaching Bee keeping – and pupils preparing to sit their junior bee keeping exams were on hand to speak to visitors about the work and achievements of the Academy’s Bee Club.

Local bee keepers and craft businesses also attended the event to showcase produce such as ‘Dumfriesshire Honey and ‘Co Co Company chocolate’.

The south Scotland MSP praised the pupils and their teachers after the successful event, commenting:

“I would like to say well done to the young people of Annan Academy who are about to sit exams in bee-keeping – indeed they are the leading school in Scotland teaching this incredible skill.


“Thanks also to young bee keeper Heather Thompson who invited me to their open evening, teacher Ms Johnstone who is driving the apiary project, and South West Scotland Beekeepers Association, who are supporting the pupils.


“I had a great night and came away with some delicious Dumfriesshire honey from Angela Roberts and a wee pipe cleaner and button bee made – by me! – under the supervision of ‘Mad Notions Craft & Gifts’ shop from Bruce Street.”

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Campaign to save lifeline bus service steps up a gear

MSP Joan McAlpine and SNP activists led a day of action today (Monday) to continue the campaign to save the 101/102 bus service from Dumfries to Edinburgh.


The SNP MSP joined local activists in Moffat to speak to residents who will be impacted if the route is scrapped.


The service faces the axe in August due to Tory run Scottish Borders Council’s plans to cut its contribution towards the annual running costs.


Ms McAlpine commented:


“The strength of feeling against the funding cuts to the 101/2 route was very clear chatting to people in Moffat. Many talked about how they used the bus as a vital link to neighbouring towns like Beattock and Thornhill, as well as to Dumfries and Edinburgh.


“The three local authority areas covered by the service currently all chip in to pay for it – but if Borders Council pull their share then the service is likely to be axed. While it looks like provision for Borders’ residents may be safe, the service is a vital connection for people in Dumfries and Galloway, particularly in areas like Moffat and Thornhill.


The SNP MSP – who has written to Borders Council urging the local authority to reverse its decision – added:


“The threat to axe the service flies in the face of the Scottish Government’s new proposed economic partnership, and efforts to bring the south of Scotland together.


“Rural areas need more public transport links, not fewer, and Borders Council has a responsibility to work together with neighbouring local authorities in the region to maintain this service.”


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McAlpine urges groceries regulator to “stand up for Pinneys”

The South Scotland member wrote to the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) asking her to investigate events behind Young’s closure threat.


She asked Christine Tacon to investigate workers’ concerns that a “mutually convenient deal” was reached between Young’s and Marks and Spencer’s – which resulted in Pinneys being earmarked for closure.


And she raised concerns about arrangements where factories have only one customer – making workers and communities very vulnerable.


The MSP urged Ms Tacon to “Stand up for Pinneys” in the same way as the adjudicator previously defended dairy farmers being squeezed by the supermarkets.


The Groceries Code Adjudicator is an independent regulator set up by the UK Government tasked with ensuring that the 10 big UK supermarkets “Treat their direct suppliers lawfully and fairly”.


Commenting Ms McAlpine said:


“I know that the UK Groceries Regulator has in the past spoken out against bad practice and stood up for farmers when supermarkets squeezed their margins. I am asking them to now stand up for Pinneys workers in Scotland.


“Young’s and M&S are both UK companies who have carefully crafted public images. In the case of Marks and Spencer, ethical treatment of communities and suppliers is promised in their “Plan A” approach to corporate behaviour. Many of my constituents feel that –  even though both companies deny an exclusivity arrangement was in place – they have still failed in their social responsibility towards the people of Annan who have worked so hard for them both for many years.”


Explaining the background to her letter to Ms Tacon, Ms McAlpine said:


“Pinneys’ closure was triggered by Young’s moving its natural salmon contract to Grimsby, where it gained an additional two Marks and Spencer contracts. At the same time, it voluntarily gave up its Marks and Spencer deli and prepared meals contracts produced at Pinneys. Both companies have said they wish to concentrate production, so this suits them both.

I have told Ms Tacon that my constituents are very much of the view that these two large companies have reached a mutually convenient deal – with little thought for the devastating consequences in Annan. These remain allegations so I hope she can get to the truth. I hope she will investigate that.


The SNP MSP added:


“I continue to talk to those on the ground at Pinneys, including union reps, and am fully backing their efforts to get enhanced redundancy for workers should the worst happen.”


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