Tory Govt must intervene in publicly owned RBS after latest claims

MSP Joan McAlpine has called for the Tory government to urgently intervene in taxpayer-owned RBS after it emerged that its chiefs let down communities by telling a Westminster committee that they do not have targets for getting customers to start using digital banking services – with leaked documents revealing this morning that the targets do exist.

The news is the latest in a long list of problems for the majority taxpayer-owned bank – which the Tory government has consistently refused to intervene on in order to support customers and communities. The bank has already come under fire for a round of damaging local branch closures, as well as secretly cutting the amount of time communities have to access mobile banks, with no action from the Tory government, despite RBS remaining 73% owned by taxpayers.

Commenting, south Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine said:

“This is yet a very troubling revelation which RBS chiefs have to answer to – and it’s time the Tory government got a grip of this taxpayer-owned bank.

“The bank is 73% owned by the taxpayers – it is the UK government’s responsibility to sort this mess out. They can’t just stand idly by and let local services be slashed.

“Just last week they told the Westminster Scottish Affairs committee that the digital banking targets didn’t exist – yet now a leaked document reveals that they do.

 

RBS wrote to me, and other elected members to tell us how well they are doing, after making pre-tax profits of £1.2 billion in the first three months of 2018. This begs the question why RBS is so desperate for the £9.5 million savings they will make through the branch closures, if they are making those kind of profits.

 

“Perhaps these latest revelations shed some further light on why RBS is so determined to press ahead with the community vandalism of closing rural branches in Dumfries and Galloway.

“RBS are letting down communities across Scotland.

“It’s high time the Tory government stepped in to save local banking services – their inaction to date has been appalling and a complete dereliction of their duties.”


‘Leaked documents show RBS bosses DO have targets to push customers towards online banking’: https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/leaked-documents-show-rbs-bosses-12531814

During the evidence session last Tuesday, when asked about whether targets existed for getting customers onto digital banking services, Jane Howard, Managing Director of Personal Banking at RBS, said: “We talked about this earlier when we said we do not have targets and we removed incentives.” 

Full transcript of the Select Committee meeting available at: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/scottish-affairs-committee/rbs-branch-closures/oral/82635.pdf

 

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McAlpine welcomes research on economic Impact of Burns

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed news that The University of Glasgow will carry out an extensive assessment of the economic value of Robert Burns to Scotland.

 

The announcement came after the south Scotland MSP led a parliamentary debate in January calling on the Scottish Government to fund the research.

 

Professor Murray Pittock of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University will lead the study – which will assess how much Scotland’s national bard is supporting Scottish business and jobs.

 

The work will also look at the potential for Burns to further support regional inclusive growth – from hotels and restaurants to food, drink and memorabilia.

 

Ms McAlpine, who convenes the parliament’s culture committee, commented:

 

“In January this year I was successful in securing a parliamentary debate calling for more attention to be paid to the value of “Burns the Brand” to the Scottish economy.  I am absolutely delighted that the Scottish Government have now commissioned quality research on the subject. Professor Pittock was extremely helpful in supplying material for my debate and I congratulate him and his colleagues on securing this funding.

 

“In my speech for the debate I reminded parliament that a world bank economist had calculated Robert Burns generated £157 million per annum for Scotland in tourism and merchandising back in 2003. The figure will now be much higher and I am delighted that Glasgow University’s more extensive research project will also look at the global value of Burns to Scotland.

 

“Cultural tourism has enormous potential to create jobs and prosperity, particularly in rural areas such as the south, which I represent. I believe this research will help attract investment into Burns related destinations in places such as Dumfries & Galloway, where the poet lived and died and produced some of his best work, including Tam o’ Shanter.

 

“My debate generated a great deal of interest so this research from the Centre for Robert Burns Studies will be eagerly anticipated.”

 

Professor Pittock added:

 

“With up to nine million people now attend Burns Suppers every year across the world the global importance of Burns is established.  What is important is to know now is the value he brings to the Scotland, and how he can be used to further enhance our economy. I would like to thank Joan for bringing the economic importance of Scotland’s national bard to a wide audience through the Holyrood debate in January which had cross party support.”

 

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MSPs campaign to save lifeline bus service

Three south Scotland MSPs have united to campaign for a lifeline bus service.

 

Joan McAlpine, Aileen Campbell and Christine Grahame said that the 101/102 bus service from Dumfries to Edinburgh is a vital link connecting local rural communities across the region – with young people and the elderly particularly affected.

 

The service has come under threat after the decision was taken by Tory led Scottish Borders Council to withdraw funding.

 

Commenting, South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine said:

 

“The threat to axe the service runs against the new spirit of bringing the south of Scotland together in the Scottish Government’s new proposed economic partnership.

 

“Scottish Borders Council know that if they pull their share of the funding for this service then it will be cut. They have a responsibility to work together with neighbouring local authorities in the region to maintain this service.

 

“As major funders – It is simply unacceptable for Scottish Borders Council to pull out – and I have written separately to them in those terms.”

 

Commenting, Ms Campbell said:

 

“This is a well-used route for many of my constituents in Clydesdale and the only direct method of public transport to and from our capital city. For Scottish Borders Council to withdraw their contribution would represent a substantial and unacceptable loss to the overall funding, and risks putting the future of the service in jeopardy.

 

“I have written to Scottish Borders Council urging them to reconsider this decision and put the interests of bus users first, and I have called on all funders of the service to leave no stone unturned in order to secure this crucial service.”

 

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MSP lays in to RBS as execs fail to answer questions over branch closures

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has said that RBS ‘failed to answer‘ many questions as three senior executives appeared before the Scottish Affairs Committee (SAC) at Westminster this morning.

Ms McAlpine – who has campaigned against RBS branch closures in the south of Scotland -said it was ‘disappointing‘ that RBS had also failed to listen to the anger and frustration voiced by so many of the customers and businesses hit by their branch closure plans.

Ms McAlpine commented:

“It is clear that RBS has no sense of responsibility to communities across Scotland – and it appears to me after that they would have no qualms about cutting services even further in the future.

“I was shocked that Mr McEwan stated he was ‘comfortable’ with the current situation and the number of branches in Scotland he’s planning to close – and I was also very concerned that he refused to guarantee the remaining rural services such as mobile vans – which is what people must rely on if their branch closes.

“Just last week RBS wrote to me, and other elected members to tell us how well they are doing, after making pre-tax profits of £1.2 billion in the first three months of 2018.

“This begs the question why RBS is so desperate for the £9.5 million savings they will make through the branch closures, if they are making those kind of profits.

“When Mr McEwan wrote to me to congratulate himself on RBS’s profits, it was the first time that he had ever written directly to me. He has never replied to me when I have contacted him about the local branch closures in Dumfries and Galloway and across the South of Scotland.

“That irony is completely lost on him and the other RBS executives, and I am deeply disappointed. 

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MSP leads calls for Scottish Screen Agency

MSP Joan McAlpine is leading calls for a new agency to be set up to boost film and TV production in Scotland.

 

The MSP – who convenes the Scottish Parliament’s committee on Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations – has approved a cross party report from the committee recommending the creation of an independent Scottish screen agency.

 

The committee took the unprecedented decision to publish an interim report ahead of schedule after coming to the conclusion that the new screen unit-  which is already under development – needs to be a stand alone agency to reach its full potential.

 

The report – ‘The Bigger Picture: A screen agency for Scotland’ – was published on Saturday.

 

Ms McAlpine commented:

 

“A burgeoning screen sector will benefit the entirety of Scotland. As we have seen recently with the Outlander effect, the number of tourists visiting Dumfries and Galloway has significantly increased.

 

“The Scottish Government’s plans for a Screen unit in Scotland have widespread support and should continue – but it is the committee’s remit to consider whether those plans can be further improved.

 

“The current public sector collaboration suffers from complex governance from civil servants. We need focussed, industry led agency

 

“We feel that a stand alone screen unit – independent of Creative Scotland – will be better equipped to provide bespoke business support and be far more successful in encouraging the overall growth of the sector.

 

“It is clear there are dedicated and talented individuals working on screen within Creative Scotland.  But, we believe that ultimately the Screen Unit needs to be transformed into “Screen Scotland”: an independent screen agency with a wide-ranging remit to represent and promote the screen sector in Scotland. 

 

The full report can be found at this link: http://www.parliament.scot/Reports/CTEER_The_Bigger_Picture_A_screen_agency_for_Scotland.pdf

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McAlpine calls for assurances over Scotland’s future relationship with EU on ‘Europe Day’

MSP Joan McAlpine has said that politicians from across party divides should mark Europe Day by refocussing efforts on securing the future of Scotland’s relationship with the EU.

Europe Day – which falls on May 9th – is the ‘National Day’ of the EU, and will be marked this year with a celebration in George Square in Glasgow.

Ms McAlpine – who also convenes the Scottish Parliament’s Europe committee – commented:

“Unfortunately – despite every local authority area in Scotland voting to remain – we could be out of the European Union in a matter of months.

“Still, every week brings more evidence of unfolding disaster and confusion. The Prime Minister’s refusal to countenance continued membership of the Customs Union is a result of the internal tensions within the Tory Party, and has nothing to do with the best interests of Scotland, or indeed, any part of the UK.

“Membership of the European Union has undoubtedly delivered many social, economic and cultural benefits for individuals, business and communities across Scotland.

“The SNP’s priority now is to protect Scotland’s interests.  We are considering all possible options to ensure Scotland’s continuing relationship with Europe – At the heart of the proposals is a framework to keep Scotland’s place in the European Single Market.

“But the Tories seem set on making this process as arduous as possible by using Brexit to attempt a power grab on the Scottish Parliament. Last week, David Mundell point-blank refused to confirm that the UK government will respect the will of the Scottish Parliament with regards to devolved powers.

“It is time the Tories stopped playing games, and focussed their minds on what kind of legacy they want to leave behind when we look back at this process in 12 months time, and on future ‘Europe Days’.

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McAlpine urges D&G women to join PROCESSIONS

MSP Joan McAlpine has urged women from Dumfries and Galloway to become involved in a mass participatory artwork to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage on Sunday 10 June.

To mark the anniversary of some women being given the right to vote – thousands of women will walk together wearing either green, white or violet scarves – the colours of the suffrage movement, appearing as a flowing river of colour as they walk through the city streets.

PROCESSIONS takes place in the four UK political capitals (Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and London) in the afternoon on Sunday 10 June. 

Commenting Ms McAlpine said:

I am delighted to support the women and girls from across Scotland – and especially from Dumfries and Galloway – who have signed up to take part in PROCESSIONS to mark this historic anniversary when the first women got the vote. I hope that many more will join them on Sunday 10 June to celebrate how much has been achieved for women, as well as to recognise how far there is still to go. It will be an amazing atmosphere and the type of event that everyone will look back on with pride in the future and say “I was there”. 

For more information and to sign-up to take part in PROCESSIONS visit www.processions.co.uk

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#PROCESSIONS2018 is produced by Artichoke, commissioned by 14-18 NOW, and funded in Scotland by the Scottish Government’s Centenary Fund, Event Scotland part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate, Creative Scotland and the City of Edinburgh Council.

 

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McAlpine attacks banks over cash machine closures

MSP Joan McAlpine today attacked banks for closing cash machines in the south of Scotland during a debate in the Scottish Parliament.

 

The MSP spoke up after a threat to cash lines was posed in Annan and Lockerbie.

 

Ms McAlpine made the comments as MSPs debated plans from LINK – the UK’s biggest provider of free to use cash machines – to reduce their interchange fee for card providers, a move which will reduce the financial viability of free to use ATMs, and result in more ATM closures and disproportionately impact rural areas.

 

Ms McAlpine commented:

 

“As is the case with anything to do with the financial sector, it is quite hard to get to the bottom of who is responsible. However, Link’s membership is comprised of 37 banks, so the scandal, again, looks like it comes from the banks.

 

“The decision by LINK to reduce the interchange fee is all the more concerning as it comes against the backdrop of local branch closures. Three market towns in Dumfries and Galloway —Langholm, Lockerbie and Annan—which are close together, are all threatened by Royal Bank of Scotland closures. That problem was added to recently by the proposed closure of a Santander branch.

 

“While fighting such closures, my constituents were assured that, at the very least, they would still be able to access cash from cash machines. Now, we are told that Scotland will be among the hardest hit by a drop in the number of free-to-use ATMs.

 

The SNP MSP – who has campaigned against local branch and ATM closures – added:

 

“I recently discovered that applications have been made to Dumfries and Galloway Council’s planning department for the removal of an ATM in Annan. My understanding is that that closure is directly linked to the reckless decisions on bank closures that were made by RBS.

 

“People are rightly incensed by the idea that the banks, which caused such carnage in 2008, are imposing more damage on communities. I hope that the banking sector will learn from the events of the past few months and recognise that there is a continued need for face-to-face provision as well as cash withdrawal and deposit machines.

 

“Link must acknowledge its social responsibility as the network to which almost every cash machine in the UK is connected. It is the role of the UK-wide Payment Systems Regulator and the Bank of England, which also regulates Link, to ensure that consumers are able to access cash effectively and efficiently. Perhaps it is time for them to step in and force Link to revise its plans.”

 

More detail about Which? and FSB’s campaign against LINK’s proposals can be found here: https://campaigns.which.co.uk/save-our-cashpoints/

 

Ms McAlpine’s full speech can be read here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11499&i=104367

 

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MSP raises A76 safety concerns

MSP Joan McAlpine has written to Transport Scotland raising concerns about the safety and stability of the A76.

 

The SNP MSP was made aware of safety issues at a meeting of Sanquhar Community Council.

 

Ms McAlpine commented:

 

“A number of parents have expressed to me concern about the stability of the road. Notwithstanding the frustrations with traffic lights, this is an issue which should be looked into urgently.

 

“I have asked Transport Scotland what the structural issues affecting the road are at the moment, and how confident we can be that the road will not slip further, even with the temporary traffic lights in place?

 

“My constituents’ fears are that the road could collapse while traffic is using it, and one mother at the meeting became very upset because her children travel the road every day to school.

 

The south Scotland MSP also highlighted that further slippage of the road would risk blocking the route to Brown Brothers of Kelloholm – one of the largest employers in the region. She added:

 

“There is a real fear that if the road subsided further, even with the traffic lights it would require to be closed and any diversion, I have been told, would be extremely lengthy; upwards of 50 miles.

 

“The largest employer in Dumfries and Galloway, Brown Brothers of Kellohlm, uses the A76. Any slippage could be disastrous for their business and is of great concern to the people of Sanquhar – many of whom are employed there.

 

“I have asked Transport Scotland for a meeting to discuss the concerns of the local community ahead of the May 22nd meeting regarding the Enterkinfoot traffic lights.”

 

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McAlpine welcomes Minister’s Pinneys Action Meeting

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed news that Minister for Business Paul Wheelhouse will convene an action meeting in Annan tomorrow (Wednesday) evening to discuss the proposed closure of the Pinney’s of Scotland site.

 

Commenting Ms McAlpine said:

 

“I welcome the hard work Paul has put in to securing a future for Pinney’s – and will be attending the meeting tomorrow in Annan for an update on progress of talks with Young’s.

 

“I would also like to recognise the efforts of the workforce at Pinneys who continue to do an excellent job in difficult circumstances.

 

“The Scottish Government and elected representatives remain committed to doing everything within our power to find a solution.

 

“Tomorrow will also be an opportunity for workers to update the Minister about their concerns and thoughts regarding recent developments, and I look forward to a productive meeting.”

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