SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the announcement that the first payments of the Best Start Grant will be delivered to families in Dumfries and Galloway in time for Christmas.
The Best Start Grant – which provides low-income families with financial support during the early years of a child’s life – will see eligible applicants receive £600 for their first child, £100 more than the UK government’s equivalent in England. 

Best Start Grants replace and expand on the UK Government’s Sure Start Maternity Grant by providing eligible families with £600 on the birth of their first child and £300 on the birth of any subsequent children. 

Ms McAlpine said:

“I am delighted that families in Dumfries and Galloway will be eligible for their first payments of the Best Start Grant in time for Christmas. These new payments will ensure that our under 5’s get the best possible start in life. 
“It’s vital that the SNP government can provide help at a time when families in Dumfries and Galloway are seeing UK government social security support drastically reduced, and Universal Credit is causing hardship across Scotland. 
“By reversing and mitigating the Tory cuts that have been so damaging to families in Dumfries and Galloway, and ensuring that we support those on the lowest incomes, the SNP continues to show its commitment to building a social security system that is based on dignity and respect. 

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Scotland’s Minister for Migration has intervened in the case of a Dumfries family facing deportation.

Ben Macpherson MSP has written the UK Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes MP, about the welfare of Dami and John Samuel who have lived in the UK for over twelve years.

Mr Macpherson, who was introduced to the family in parliament by local MSP Joan McAlpine, told the UK Minister:

“It is of particular concern to me when I hear that young people, who entered this country legally as children, who have spent their formative years here, and who have the potential to make a valuable contribution to our society, are being served with removal notices which threaten to separate them from their friends, their communities, and their future careers”

Mr Macpherson pointed out that John, now aged 12, had lived his whole life in the UK and Dami, who has just celebrated her 21st birthday, has spent all her adult life in Britain and was unable to take up an offer of midwifery studies because of her immigration status. Their mother Christiana, a nursing assistant, is also prevented from working because of her visa withdrawal.

Mr Macpherson wrote: “I greatly value all those who have the ambition and potential to make a valuable contribution to healthcare in Scotland, by joining our dedicated NSH workforce.  However, due to the family’s current situation, Dami has unfortunately been unable to take up her place”

Ms McAlpine was delighted by the Ministers intervention saying:

“Ben Macpherson has written a very strong letter to the UK Minister who of course has all the decision making powers over immigration.  His letter is polite but also persuasive and I hope it will encourage the UK Government to reconsider their decision and allow the Samuels to stay.

“It is a lovely 21st birthday present for Dami”

Miss Samuel has also been nominated for the ‘Unsung Hero’ at this year’s inaugural Year of the Young People awards.

Ben Macpherson MSP, Minister for Migration, letter to Minister of State for Immigration, Caroline Nokes MP attached.

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Joan McAlpine MSP joined local Brownies in Annan as part of UK Parliament Week.

The MSP answered questions about her work as an SNP member for South Scotland and took part in a mock election held by the girls.
Ms McAlpine said:
“I was delighted to see the seventh company is thriving and has a very healthy interest in women’s political representation.  Their work on the suffragettes was fantastic and they all asked very intelligent questions about the work of an MSP.
“I was also very impressed by the dedication of the adult volunteers Toni Owl, Snowy Owl and Barn Owl!”
The mock election involved the brownies splitting into four groups, which each agreed a manifesto.  The winning group advocated, “Snacks at every meeting” while “Crafts at every meeting was a close second”
All the Brownies had parental permission for photographs to be used.

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A Dumfries family threatened with deportation from the UK by the Home Office have welcomed support from the Scottish Migration Minister this week.


The Samuel family, whose 12-year-old son John featured in the BBC documentary Breadline Kids, visited The Scottish Parliament at the invitation of Joan McAlpine MSP who has been campaigning for their right to remain in the UK, which is the only real home John and his sister Dami have known.


Although the Scottish Government has no power over immigration decisions, Migration Minister Ben Macpherson expressed interest in the family’s plight and expressed concern for their welfare.  He promised to look into their case while emphasising that it was the Government in London who had all powers of decision making.  Mr Macpherson also pointed out that the Home Office had made a mistake in their most recent letter to the family’s solicitor in which the mistakenly said John was born in Nigeria and in fact he was born in the UK.


SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:


“Ben took a real interest in the case and was very sympathetic.  Dami had been offered a place to study midwifery, which she was unable to take up due to her migration status.  Her mum was a nursing assistant until her visa was withdrawn.  It is so damaging that people who wish to do useful and necessary work are treated like this because of the UK’s hostile environment policy.


“John won over so many viewers in Breadline Kids when he was shown to be so cheerful in the face of absolute poverty.  The UK Home Office are damaging his education, he was born in this country and is very happy with all his friends in Dumfries where he is a first year student at St Joseph’s College”


Dami Samuel also commented saying:  


“It was both fantastic and overwhelming to hear that the Scottish Government has taken such interest in my family. The Minister for Migration, Mr Macpherson, was honest when he said that neither he or the Scottish Government have powers to prevent my family from leaving the UK, but his insistence in supporting my family in whatever way he can was very humbling.


“I want to thank everyone on behalf of my family who has supported us thus far and hope that with everyone’s support we manage to stay in the UK and continue our lives here with my ambitions of becoming a midwife come true”

1.       Picture of Samuel family in The Scottish Parliament L-R:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Joan McAlpine MSP, Dami Samuel, John Samuel, Christiana Samuel and Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development Ben Macpherson MSP

2.       Previous release from Friday 2nd November attached.

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Joan McAlpine MSP has welcomed the inclusion Dumfriesshire Fair trade pioneer Lorna Young in the new Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women


Lorna, who died in 1996, is one of 180 new entries in the dictionary, which is launched today in Edinburgh. It celebrates and commemorates the lives of individual Scottish women whose actions have influenced the course of history.


Ms McAlpine has also written a parliamentary motion celebrating Lorna’s work.


She said:


“I first heard about Lorna from her close school friend at Lockerbie Academy Isabelle Gow.  She was a remarkable woman who changed the lives of so many people around the world. She deserves this recognition.”


Lorna, a former pupil of Langholm and Lockerbie Academy, was the first sales director in 1991 of Café Direct, a company founded by Oxfam to give farmers in the developing world a fair price for their crop. The company re-invests 60% of its profits in improving the lives of producers in South America and Africa. It was the first Fair Trade product to really make and impact in the UK.


Lorna Young was able to persuade supermarket chains to stock Café Direct for the first time.  The Fair Trade movement was then in its infancy.  Lorna played a major role in exposing the terrible poverty endured by farmers who did not get a decent price for their commercial crop.


She suffered from a serious congenital heart condition and died at the age of 44.  Letters from farmers in South America were read at her funeral thanking Lorna for the difference she had made to their lives.

The Lorna Young Foundation was established in 2003 to continue her work improving the lives of poor farmers as well as disadvantaged groups in the UK.  The charity’s programmes includes “Farmer Radio” which reaches 6 million people in Africa.  The radio service, along with text messaging, gives farmers essential information about weather conditions, crop management and market prices.

Ms McAlpine added: “It is often said history is written by men and the contribution of women is often erased. That is of course changing – and the Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women is evidence of that change.”

The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women is published by Edinburgh University Press

The Lorna Young Foundation website is here

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Migration Minister to Meet Midwife Student Over Visa Row

A family threatened with deportation by the Home Office is to meet the Scottish Minister for Migration thanks to an intervention from Joan McAlpine MSP.


Ms McAlpine, SNP representative for South Scotland, was approached by Dami Samuel after her ambitions of training to become a midwife were sunk by the UK Government.


The situation has caused a great deal of strain for Dami and her family.  Dami’s young brother John, 12, won the hearts of BBC viewers when he featured in the documentary Breadline Kids earlier this year.  Ben Macpherson MSP, Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development, asked to meet the family to try to help publicise their case and put pressure on the Home Office to grant them leave to remain.


Ms McAlpine said:


“The way Dami and her family have been treated is appalling.  Here, what we see, is an ambitious, hardworking young woman.  A woman who wants to dedicate her life and career to our NHS – helping people – and she has been left out to dry by the UK Government.


“Dami has lived here since she was 12.  To turn around now and say you are no longer welcome – forget your dreams – is an abhorrent way to treat someone.


“While the Home Office drag their feet, Dami and her family cannot support themselves.  They cannot work, they cannot claim benefits. 


“I will continue to pursue every available avenue in order to help Dami and her family carry on their life here, in peace.  I am grateful to the Minister for giving his time to hear Dami’s story.”


Nigerian-born, Ms Samuel, 20, secured a place to study midwifery two years ago before the Home Office refused to renew her family’s visa.


This has caused the Samuels great hardship as they have been legally prevented from working or from claiming benefits to sustain themselves.  The family has been mainly relying on the support of local Dumfries charity First Base.


Due to the family’s protracted appeal process, Dami has been without her passport, taken by the Home Office, and unable to work.  She has filled her time with local volunteering. 


The Samuel family initially came to the UK on a work visa 7 years ago.  Dami’s mother, Christiana, who worked as a carer for the elderly, later had her visa revoked.  She applied for ‘leave to remain’ but the delay in answering her appeal has left the family in limbo.


To make matters worse, Dami’s place to study midwifery on a study visa was also revoked.


Ms McAlpine has been campaigning for the Home Office to grant the family’s leave to remain.  She has written to the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid and the MP for Dumfries and Galloway, Alister Jack.


Contact Joe McGurk – 07870 850 207


Midwife hopeful meets Robison as family bid to remain in Scotland


Nigerian family overwhelmed by the kindness of Dumfries


Aspiring Dumfries Midwife Denied University Place By Home Office To Meet Health Secretary

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SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has made a direct appeal to the Duke of Buccleuch to show compassion towards the Telfers – a tenant farming couple facing removal from their farm.


Ms McAlpine’s letter to the wealthy aristocrat comes on the day factors from Buccleuch Estates are to value David and Alison Telfer’s sheep before their imminent sale. 


The Estate wishes to move the hefted sheep off Cleuchfoot Farm’s high ground to secure lucrative planting grants for commercial forestry.


The rest of the farm is being sold next year, as part of the Evertown Portfolio, when David and Alison will be forced out of their home of 20 years.


An online petition, started by political activist organisation 38 degrees, in support of the couple has gained more than 18,000 signatures.


Ms McAlpine, the South Scotland MSP, said:


“The Duke promised local people at a meeting in Langholm this year that he would listen to them when it came to land use. There is real and righteous anger at the clearing of the Telers from the estate – particularly when they previously recieved verbal assurances that they could stay.


“The Duke’s factors have failed to listen so I am appealing to him directly. If he has any compassion he will allow them to stay at Cleuchfoot until they retire in four or five years. “


The Evertown Portfolio




Buccleuch Estates


‘Land Commissioner intervenes in Buccleuch tenant farmer row’


‘Sturgeon rebukes Duke of Buccleuch in tenancy row over forestry plantations’


‘Nicola Sturgeon voices ‘concern’ over Duke of Buccleuch’s land sell-off’


‘Scotland’s Modern Day Clearances Under Way’


‘Buccleuch Estates land sale row could lead to breaking of fresh ground’


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A mothballed fibre broadband network could soon go live in Dumfries after the intervention of SNP MSP Joan McAlpine.


The state-of-the-art system would turn The Crichton Estate into a “gigabit campus” and attract more jobs and investment to the area.


Ms McAlpine called a meeting at the Scottish Parliament between Kate Forbes MSP, Minister for the Digital Economy, The Crichton Trust and Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE).  SSE own the lease over the faster fibre network which was installed in 2005 but never lit up.


Ms McAlpine said she was very positive about the progress made at the meeting which she arranged after an approach from Gwilym Gibbons, the new CEO of the Crichton Trust – the charitable organisation which runs the 85-acre, business, leisure and academic campus in Dumfries. 


Ms Forbes told the meeting that switching on the system would be an exciting development for the whole of Scotland as well as Dumfries and Galloway.


Mr Gibbons explained that every building at Crichton was connected to the fibre network and he outlined his belief the Trust taking control over the network would help attract new business tenants who preferred to pay for broadband as part of a single package with their utility bills. 


SSE heads Eddie Duffy and Steve Wood said they wanted to help the area and were willing to enter into talks to get the system up and running.


Ms McAlpine, the South Scotland MSP, said:


“This was an extremely positive meeting. 


“I was impressed with SSE’s candour.  They have commercial interests but they made it apparent that they will help the Trust realise its ambitions. 


“The Trust has big plans for Crichton.  Now, with the help of SSE, it looks as though they will be able to take the next step in developing the campus and making it an even more attractive place to invest.


“It comes at the perfect time, as the Scottish Government is really focussed on the South, with plans for a new dedicated economic development agency.


“I was grateful to the Minister for lending her support.  She was clearly very excited by Gwilym’s vision of a gigabit campus.”


Giving her thoughts on the meeting, the Minister for the Digital Economy said:


“I thank Joan McAlpine for inviting me to the meeting to hear first-hand the ambitious vision she has for Dumfries and Galloway. The Crichton Campus already plays a critical role in the local economy and I support Joan McAlpine’s desire to see it going even further in opening up the digital potential of the south of Scotland.”


As part of the Atlas Project, a broadband infrastructure scheme funded by the EU, faster fibre-optic technology was installed in every building on the Crichton Estate in 2005. 


However, the fibre broadband was never connected.  Atlas Connect Limited, a company that was setup and wholly owned by Scottish Enterprise to carry out the work, was subsequently sold to SSE in 2010. 


SSE currently owns the lease to the Estate’s comms cabinet but the company has not lit up the line because in the past it was not considered commercially viable.  Other business parks that benefitted from Atlas have since prospered.


SSE will review the legal implications of surrendering their lease to the Crichton Trust.  This process should take a matter of weeks.  The ultimate aim is for the Trust to have full control over the fibre broadband connection at the Estate.  Ms McAlpine and Ms Forbes have emphasised that they will give what support they can to help smooth the transition.


ATLAS Project


‘SSE extends fibre network with Atlas acquisition’

(4 other sites mentioned)




The Crichton Trust


Connecting Scotland our broadband future: Making it Happen


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McAlpine To Meet With SSE Heads Over Crichton Campus

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has set up a parliamentary meeting with senior representatives of Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) in a bid to bring an end to the long running saga of fibre broadband connectivity at The Crichton Estate near Dumfries.
As part of the Atlas Project, a broadband infrastructure scheme funded by the EU, faster fibre-optic technology was installed in every building on the Crichton Estate in 2005. 
However, the fibre broadband was never connected.  Atlas Connect Limited, a company that was setup and wholly owned by Scottish Enterprise to carry out the work was subsequently sold to SSE plc in 2010.  In all that time, the fibre connection was never used by SSE despite the Crichton Trust asking for it to be set up.
Gwilym Gibbons, the CEO of Crichton Trust, has outlined the organisation’s ambition to turn Crichton into a ‘Gigabit campus’ as part of its continued development. The Trust believes that using the Estate’s fibre broadband connection is pivotal to Crichton’s ability to attract new business and investment. 
Ms McAlpine, the South Scotland MSP, said:
“The Crichton Trust have big ambitions for the future of the Estate.  They see fibre broadband as integral to their plans.
“SSE seem to have no interest in operating or maintaining a fibre broadband connection at the site.  It has just sat dead since it was put in. 
“This is a curious situation as it means they are leasing an asset from which they receive no benefit.  Surely, the sensible thing to do would be to surrender the lease to the Crichton Trust and let them connect the Estate for the benefit of everyone. 
“I am appealing to the benevolence of SSE.  Give a little bonus to the community the campus serves.  I hope that they will see that point of view at our meeting.”
The Crichton Estate constitutes an 85-acre parkland area which incorporates food, drink, leisure activities, business and an academic campus.  The land is owned by Dumfries and Galloway council who leases it to the Crichton Trust – a not-for-profit organisation.  
Four other sites around Scotland were connected under the Atlas Project and all of those sites were able to utilise their fibre connection after it was installed.  
SSE currently owns the lease to the Estate’s fibre broadband cabinet but the company has refused to operate and maintain the line.  This means that Crichton has been without fibre-optic connectivity as the network has lain dormant since it was installed back in 2005.   
Ms McAlpine hopes that this meeting will lead to a satisfactory resolution for all parties and that Crichton can finally be ‘lit up’.
  • The meeting will take place on Tuesday 30th October
ATLAS Project
‘SSE extends fibre network with Atlas acquisition’
The Crichton Trust
Connecting Scotland our broadband future: Making it Happen

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Joan McAlpine MSP has spoken out in Holyrood for the Dumfries and Galloway communities affected by the Duke of Buccleuch’s sale of the so-called Evertown Portfolio.
The South Scotland SNP MSP told parliament that the Duke of Buccleuch is advertising land near Canonbie village for its Coalbed Methane (CBM) deposits.  The Scottish Government has made clear that no licenses will be granted for unconventional oil and gas extraction – including coalbed methane – and the residents of Canonbie have raised repeated objections to any excavation proposals. 
Ms McAlpine highlighted her concern that big landowners are shirking their responsibility to formally engage with local residents impacted by decisions relating to land. 
The MSP has been campaigning on a number of fronts in relation to Buccleuch Estates disposal of Evertown – a 9,000 acre rural estate in South Scotland being marketed for £19.5 million.  As well as fighting CBM proposals at Canonbie, the MSP has objected to the impending removal of farming couple, Alison and David Telfer, who are being cast off their Cleuchfoot farm, after 20 years, to make way for more lucrative forestry plantation.
Responding to questioning, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Land Reform, outlined that landowners were expected to formally engage communities when significant decisions about land use are made.  Ms Cunningham then confirmed that no local authority can grant planning permission for any proposed fracking or Coalbed Methane project
On Buccleuch, Ms McAlpine said:
“I am pleased that the Scottish Government has left us with no doubt.  The Duke has hidden from his obligations.  The expectation is clear; this is undeniably a major change in land use and Buccleuch Estates have ignored the wishes of the community and flouted their responsibilities.
“Savills, the agents marketing the sale, are advertising Canonbie as ripe for profit because of CBM deposits.  Well, Scotland and its government are clear, we don’t want extraction here.  It is a destructive process and environmentally crippling – especially for rural communities like Canonbie. 
“Buccleuch Estates has shown nothing but disdain for the concerns of the communities affected by this sale.  The Telfers have been on their farm for 20 years.  The Duke, on a whim, has decided to uproot their livelihood in pursuit of yet more profit.  It is time to do the reasonable thing and leave the Telfers and the residents of Canonbie in peace.” 
The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, and the Scottish Government’s Scottish Government’s Guidance on Engaging Communities in Decisions Relating to Land, necessitates formal community engagement over decisions which may significantly impact on the social, economic or cultural development of a community, access to a good quality environment, and community viability.
Both the communities around the Telfer’s Cleuchfoot holding and the residents of Canonbie have reacted angrily to the Duke’s proposals. 
An online petition in support of the Telfers, started by activist organisation 38 degrees, has garnered over 11,500 signatures.

Full transcript:  General Questions 25/10/18
JM:  To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on legally obliging landowners to formally engage with communities affected by major changes in land use?
RC:  The Scottish Government’s Guidance on Engaging Communities in Decisions Relating to Land sets expectations that all landowners across urban and rural Scotland will engage with their local communities about decisions relating to land that will have a significant impact on the local community.  
JM:  Does the Scottish Government share my concern over the Duke of Buccleuch advertising coalbed methane deposits at Canonbie, in his sale of the Evertown Estate, despite the local community’s continued objections to any extraction proposals? 
RC:  The Scottish Government does not support unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland and that does include Coalbed Methane.  No local authority can grant planning permission for any proposed fracking or Coalbed Methane project and Scottish Ministers would defer any decision on any planning application that did come forward, until the full policy making process on our preferred position is completed.  The practical effect of that is that no fracking or other unconventional oil or gas activity can take place in Scotland at this time.  In line with statutory requirements, earlier this week we published for consultation, the Strategic Environmental Assessment environmental report on our preferred policy position.  That consultation is the nezt step; it continues the dialogue with the public on this important issue.  It will run for 8 weeks from the 23rd of October.  It is anticipated that Ministers will inform Parliament of their finalised policy on unconventional oil and gas in Scotland in the first quarter of 2019.  That is the backdrop that people will be operating in regardless of who they are. 
Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 – s 44
Guidance on Engaging Communities in Decisions Relating to Land
‘Sturgeon rebukes Duke of Buccleuch in tenancy row over forestry plantations’
‘Land Commissioner intervenes in Buccleuch tenant farmer row’
‘Scotland’s Modern Day Clearances Under Way’
Evertown Portfolio
Mouldyhills – Canonbie

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