SCOT GOV FUNDING FOR DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY BIODIVERSITY

SNP MSP for South Scotland, Joan McAlpine, has welcomed news that Dumfries and Galloway will benefit from a new £1.8 Million Biodiversity Challenge Fund to help support at-risk habitats and species in local forests and coastal areas.

Delivered through Scottish Natural Heritage, the fund will support large-scale projects across Scotland that aim to improve natural habitats, safeguard plant and animal species and improve biodiversity.

2 of the 14 projects to have secured funding over the next two years will operate in Dumfries and Galloway. The two projects, which both deal with restorative work on the breath-taking ecological system in South Scotland, include:

  • A project for the restoring of montane scrub and bearberry in the ‘wildheart’ of Southern Scotland between Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders, run by Borders Forest Trust.
  • A partnership secured by Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust which is working to enhance three key freshwater pearl mussel populations in the north, south, and west of Scotland.

Commenting, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:

“It’s great news for Dumfries and Galloway that thanks to the Scottish Government’s Biodiversity Challenge Fund these fantastic projects on our coast and in our forested areas will receive funding to protect some of the most vulnerable species and habitats in the area.

“The success of these projects, and others like them across Scotland, will play a vital role in helping us meet our biodiversity commitments while improving natural spaces for all of our benefit.

“This SNP Government are committed to delivering the transformational change needed to ensure a bright future for Scotland’s beautiful natural environment.”

Notes and pictures available: https://www.snhpresscentre.com/news/nature-fund-announced-gbp-1-8m-given-to-biodiversity-projects

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COUNCIL TAX REDUCTION FOR 13250 HOMES IN DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY

Joan McAlpine MSP for South Scotland has welcomed new figures showing that 13250 in Dumfries and Galloway benefitted from the SNP Government’s Council Tax Reduction scheme in March 2019.

 

The scheme helps provides financial support to low income households, saved families in Dumfries and Galloway an estimated £166.7 a week in March. 

 

Between 2013/14 and the end of 2018/19 the SNP Government invested over £1.4 billion into the Council Tax Reduction Scheme – recently extending the scheme to include higher band households who fall below average earnings up to a maximum of £25,000 net income.

 

The move has helped support an extra 54,000 households in Scotland – a third of them pensioner households.

 

Commenting, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:

 

“In the face of huge cuts from the UK Tory government, the SNP has managed to help almost half a million households every year with their council tax bill.

 

“Just under 80% of those households are totally exempt from council tax thanks to the scheme.

 

“In March alone, the Council Tax Reduction scheme has helped 13250 households in Dumfries and Galloway – saving local families an estimated £166.70 a week in March.

 

“I would encourage anyone who thinks they might be eligible for a reduction in their council tax to get in touch with their local Citizen’s Advice Bureau for advice.”

 

Citizens Advice Dumfries: 0300 303 4321

 

Statistics here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/council-tax-reduction-scotland-annual-report-2018-19/

 

 

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Transport Review Update

 SNP MSP for South Scotland Joan McAlpine has welcomed news from the Scottish Government that a study into South West Scotland’s transport network will be published at the end of this month, after asking the Scottish Government for an update on the progress of the Strategic Transport Projects Review. Ms. McAlpine previously campaigned successfully  for a Transport Summit in Dumfries in August 2016 which was chaired by the Deputy First Minister John Swinney and attended by then Transport Minister Humza Yousaf.

 

Joan McAlpine asked Cabinet Secretary for Transport Michael Matheson to comment on how the SNPs manifesto commitments to better link Dumfries to the central belt via the motorway and improve the A75 might be implemented following the review.

 

Mr. Matheson announced that the South West Transport Study will be published in draft format by the end of June and says that the study will be used to feed into a ‘detailed assessment of options to link Dumfries to key markets including the central belt’. He also provides an assurance that these options for Dumfries form part of the selected areas for consideration in the Strategic Transport Projects Review. 

 

Joan McAlpine MSP said:

 

“I welcome the news that the results of the South West Transport Review will feed into a wider programme of work to improve the face of transport in Dumfries and Galloway, and this is something I have taken a strong interest in for some time.

 

“Dumfries is the regional capital of South West Scotland – the only part of the country not considered a “city region” for economic development purposes. People in surrounding areas need to access Dumfries for work, education, health and social services as well as cultural, social and sporting activities.

 

“Presently, the region is not well connected with slow, intermittent rail links and no dual road links. The A701 and A709 which link Dumfries to the M74 are in need of upgrading and have single lane traffic, at points controlled by traffic lights. This is unacceptable.

 

“Linking Dumfries and its satellite communities better to the central belt, by both road and rail, will in my view have the most significant economic benefit to the whole region. “

 

This is the second strategic review – the first was published in 2008.  The new review will consider future investment in all transport modes including the strategic road and rail networks as well as active travel, island connectivity, ferries and buses.

 

Speaking on the background of the STPR, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said:

 

“The Scottish Government is fully committed to building a sustainable transport system that supports our economy and helps deliver inclusive growth.

 

“Work is already underway on the review of the National Transport Strategy which will set out a shared vision for a future of our transport system and the second Strategic Transport Projects Review will build on that by identifying the infrastructure required to make this a reality.”

 

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Parliament Sees Value of Nature and Culture in South Scotland Economy

 South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has secured a late change to the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill to acknowledge the powerful role that cultural and natural heritage plays in the local economy.

 
In a momentous day for the region, the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill was passed unanimously by Parliament on Wednesday (5/06/2019). This fantastic development comes after many years of campaigning for a South of Scotland Economic Agency which Joan McAlpine has supported in full. 
 
The Bill will establish a new South of Scotland agency which will take a fresh, tailored approach to supporting the economy of the South of Scotland, ensuring the South has the strong role in Scotland’s economy that it deserves and supporting business interests in the region. 
 
Ms McAlpine, who is convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Committee on Culture, Tourism, Europe, and External Relations chose to highlight the work of projects like The Stove Network, Midsteeple Quarter Project, and Creative Futures which all use cultural programmes to drive economic regeneration and community development work in Dumfries town.
 
Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing MSP has said that the new agency could be up and running within 8 months.
 
Speaking in the Scottish Parliamentary debate, Joan McAlpine said:
“The vibrancy of our areas culture is renowned locally, nationally and internationally.
“From the Abbeys of the Borders to the Castles and Standing Stones of Dumfries and Galloway, the South has a heritage to be proud of.
“Art and culture play an important role in engagement and energising communities and community development which is very much in the spirit of what we’re doing with this Bill.
“The South of Scotland was an important player in Scotland’s early textile industry, its agriculture and forestry sectors are thriving, and it has a growing tourism industry. It also has a diverse business base, many of which are small, and family owned. The economic seeds are all there and, with the right nurturing, can flourish.”



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US TRADE DEAL THREAT TO LOCAL FOOD AND DRINK

SNP MSP for South Scotland, Joan McAlpine, has warned that farmers and food producers in Dumfries and Galloway could be hit by a post-Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump – after the US ambassador reiterated demands for major concessions from the UK.

 

The Trump administration want the UK to accept lower food safety standards than exist within the European Union, allowing US products such as chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef to be sold in the UK – undercutting our own food producers.

 

The US ambassador this week confirmed that a future trade deal would require access to “the entire economy”, potentially impacting other sectors such as the NHS.

 

There are also concerns that Scottish products, such as Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Scotch Whisky, could lose their protected status after Brexit – allowing cheap-knock offs to be sold.

 

Commenting, Ms Joan McAlpine said:

 

“Scotland has top-quality food safety standards, in line with the rest of the EU, protecting consumers and our world-renowned Scottish produce.

 

“But that’s now under threat, with the Tories planning to sell out Scottish food producers as part of a damaging back-room trade deal with Donald Trump.

 

“As a member of the EU, local products like Scotch Beef and Lamb have been protected from cheap market knock offs – we can’t allow the Tories to take a take a wrecking ball to our booming food and drink sector here in Dumfries and Galloway.

 

“The UK government’s shambolic approach to Brexit leaves them in an exceptionally weak bargaining position – with Tory leadership contenders competing to be the most reckless with our economic future.

 

“There’s a real danger that, if Brexit happens, the next Prime Minister will be absolutely desperate to sign whatever damaging trade-deal Trump demands.

 

“Scotland voted overwhelmingly against Brexit – and the threat of selling out Dumfries and Galloway’s food producers shows exactly why we need to stop it.”

 

Notes: https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/us-ambassador-nhs-healthcare-services-on-table-for-post-brexit-trade-deal/

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lJoan McAlpine welcomes meeting of the health board with epilepsy parents

South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed news that Epilepsy Scotland will meet with representatives from the Dumfries and Galloway Health Board alongside local parents of children who suffer with epilepsy.

 

The meeting has been arranged after Ms. McAlpine raised concerns with Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Jeane Freeman about Dumfries and Galloway being the only local authority in Scotland not to have a specialist epilepsy nurse, despite figures from Epilepsy Scotland which suggest that over 100 children are currently living with the condition across the region.

 

The health board is currently conducting a comprehensive service needs analysis and has agreed that engaging with families will be an essential part in working towards meeting the needs of families dealing with epilepsy.

 

Commenting, Joan McAlpine MSP said:

 

“I am pleased that the local health board are willing to meet with parents and discuss concerns about the lack of a specialist epilepsy nurse for Dumfries and Galloway. I am fully supportive of the local families who are working hard to change this for the benefit of others dealing with this condition across the region.”

 

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SNP WIN IN DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY AS SCOTLAND SAYS NO TO BREXIT

RESULT IS BIGGEST EUROPEAN ELECTION VICTORY EVER SEEN IN SCOTLAND


The SNP has won the European election in Dumfries and Galloway as Scotland voted emphatically to reject Brexit.

The SNP received 27.8% of the vote in Dumfries and Galloway and 38% nationally. The conservative party received 21.1% of the vote, while the Labour party only achieved 7%.

The SNP won in every part of mainland Scotland, with the party making history by achieving the country’s biggest ever margin of victory at a European election and securing 3 MEPs. 
 
The emphatic win means the SNP is on course to send Alyn Smith, Christian Allard and Aileen McLeod to the European Parliament. 
 
Commenting, returning SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:
 
“People in Dumfries and Galloway, and across the country, have sent a strong message that Scotland does not want Brexit.
 
“This is the biggest European election win for any party ever seen in Scotland. Winning 3 of 6 available seats in Scotland is simply phenomenal.
 
“Throughout this campaign the SNP has offered a message of hope and ambition. Scotland wants to be part of an EU that allows us to travel, work and live freely across Europe.

 

“This is in contrast to both the Tories and Labour who have not been clear about their Brexit position and have failed at every turn to stand up for Scotland’s best interests.
 
“Scotland deserves better than a Westminster system that isn’t working – it’s no wonder more and more people believe Scotland’s future should be as independent country within the EU.”
 

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STOP BREXIT TO PROTECT NHS IN DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY

TRUMP TRADE DEAL AND HIT TO STAFF AND MEDICINES MUST BE AVERTED

The European election is a chance to stop Brexit and protect our NHS, SNP MSP JOAN McALPINE has said – as the party steps up campaigning on the final days ahead of the European election.

Donald Trump has outlined his demand that a post-Brexit trade deal sees “full market access” for US health products, allowing American drug firms to hike up prices for medicines.

The potential hit to NHS budgets adds to existing concerns that Brexit will have a harmful impact on healthcare.

A BBC investigation found that NHS DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY were concerned about attracting and retaining key and specialist staff and ending freedom of movement could limit Scotland’s ability to fund the NHS – with Holyrood’s cross-party Finance committee last year warning there was a strong demographic risk to the size of the Scottish budget. 

The BMA’s European election manifesto this week said that “Brexit will be damaging for the medical profession, both in the UK and across Europe.”

Commenting, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine
 said:

“Thursday’s vote is a chance to stop Brexit in its tracks – and to protect the NHS in Dumfries and Galloway.

“Brexit poses a major risk to medicine supplies and is already making it harder to attract vital medical staff to the region and we already know that Donald Trump wants to use a post-Brexit trade deal to rip up the rulebook and open our NHS to American drug firms.

“That would mean higher prices for medicine and a worse deal for patients. 

“The Scottish Government is working as hard as possible to mitigate the impact of Brexit on Dumfries and Galloway’s health service – but any Brexit will have consequences for our NHS.

“We need to send the strongest possible message that we will not stand for this. A vote for the SNP on Thursday will make clear that Scotland will not stand for Brexit.”

US drug firms would be able to charge NHS more under Trump trade plan, campaigners claim
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/live/2019/mar/01/brexit-latest-news-theresa-may-faces-further-backlash-over-decision-to-give-mps-vote-on-extending-article-50-politics-live?page=with:block-5c792219e4b0c5f213665258#block-5c792219e4b0c5f213665258

Rightwing thinktanks unveil radical plan for US-UK Brexit trade deal
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/18/rightwing-thinktanks-unveil-radical-plan-for-us-uk-brexit-trade-deal-nhs

European Parliament Election Manifesto 2019
https://www.bma.org.uk/collective-voice/influence/europe/brexit/eu-parliamentary-manifesto
 

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Scotland can’t be forced into bargain basement Trump trade deal

Scotland must avoid being forced into a “bargain basement” trade deal with Trump by stopping Brexit, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has said. 

The Tories have made the ability to strike independent trade deals a red line in Brexit negotiations – despite the EU having a proven record of securing advantageous trade deals on the UK’s behalf. 

But a chilling 18 page list of US government negotiating priorities published earlier this year outline the potential cost of a trade deal with Trump. 

The US priorities include weakening food standards in the UK, opening up our domestic market to genetically modified crops, chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-injected beef – which could disadvantage farmers in Dumfries and Galloway.

Studies have indicated significantly higher rates of salmonella in the US than in the UK, contributing to fears over the safety of reducing food standards. 

Commenting, Joan McAlpine MSP said:
“Dumfries and Galloway voted to Remain in the EU by 53.1% – yet we face being dragged out against our will.
“Brexiteers promised that leaving the EU would lead to free trade deals across the globe. 

“The reality is that the UK alone will be in a much weaker negotiating position than the EU as a whole – and Donald Trump will try to use that weakness to lower standards and open up our market to second class produce.  

“That’s bad news for consumers, and bad news for food producers, our local dairy industry, and manufacturing companies in Dumfries and Galloway forced to compete with a flood of cheap, low quality imports. 

“Scotland can’t be forced to accept a bargain basement trade deal with Trump. 

“We need to stop Brexit – a vote for the SNP in the European election will make clear we will not stand for this.”

Britain’s hopes of a trade deal with America just suffered a big blow
https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/01/business/us-uk-trade-deal-brexit/index.html

Chlorinated chicken: How safe is it?
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47440562
 



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McAlpine Slams Tory Government’s Callous Treatment of Mixed Pension-Age Couples

South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has hit out at the Tory led UK Government this week over a callous decision to force newly-retired people with partners younger than the state retirement age of 65 to claim Universal Credit, rather than Pension Credit.

 
The change comes/came into force on Wednesday, 15 May, despite calls from Age Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland, Engender, MSPs, MPs and campaigners who have expressed concerns about the impact this move will have on some of Scotland’s poorest pensioners.
 
The switch to Universal Credit could cost affected households £140.44 per week, or £7,320 per year. Put another way, the Pension Credit Guarantee tops up a couple’s income to a minimum of £12,940 per year. Under Universal Credit, the Standard Allowance entitles couples to less than half that amount. 
 
Those affected by the loss of Pension Credit will also miss out on other aspects of social security delivery, as Pension Credit is a passporting benefit, enabling access to free NHS dental treatment, Cold Weather Payments, and help with Housing Benefit and Council Tax.
 
The Scottish Government estimate that, by 2020-21, 3,800 mixed-age households in Scotland, will collectively lose around £20.8 million.
 
The announcement was sneaked through on the day of the first ‘Meaningful Vote’ on Brexit.
 
Age Scotland issued a statement which said: 
 
“Such an outrageous new policy will do nothing but penalise older couples of mixed age, making them poorer for living together”.
 
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:
“This decision by the UK Government is utterly disgraceful, plunging even more people into financial difficulty.
 
“These changes to Pension Credit eligibility will only exacerbate the situation already faced by women who are affected by the Tory increase in the state pension qualifying age.
 
“The proposed changes are extremely unfair and in exceptionally bad taste in light of other Tory proposals which hurt pensioners, including proposals to take away free TV Licences for over 75s and thousands more pensioners being pushed into poverty while the UK already has one of the lowest earnings to pension ratios in Europe.”
 
Any older person who is concerned about their income should call Age Scotland’s excellent Helpline. It is free and available from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0800 12 44 222.
Picture of Joan McAlpine MSP Attached
 

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