South Scotland MSPs, Joan McAlpine and Emma Harper will take part in a day of action in Dumfries on Saturday to highlight the devastating impact that Universal Credit has across the region.


Both MSPs have experienced an increase in the number of constituents contacting them for help after finding themselves without an income due to the new system. They will encourage constituents to sign a petition against the benefit and say recent changes announced by Amber Rudd, The UK Work and Pensions Secretary, do not go far enough.


Universal Credit is a new payment to replace several working age benefits, including housing benefit and tax credits. It was first introduced by the UK Government in 2013 and has been rolled out gradually across the country ever since. It’s in place across Dumfries and Galloway for all new claimants.


The system is widely criticised across the UK because of five-week delays in processing payments, causing claimants to fall behind in rent and forcing them to rely on emergency welfare support. The UK Government refuses benefit for families with more than two children if they are born after 2017. Charities have criticised it for causing households unnecessary stress and worry. The Scottish Government previously secured a concession which allows rent in Scotland to be paid directly to landlord. The “Scottish Choice” also allows the benefit to be paid twice a month, although the benefit itself remains firmly controlled from London.


SNP MSP, Joan McAlpine says:


“Amber Rudd offered some concessions but not nearly enough – and she vowed to roll out Universal Credit by 2023, despite the hardship caused. Every day we’re seeing more and more evidence of how the system is failing, with distraught constituents getting in touch because they’re being forced into debt or don’t have enough money to feed their children.


“Our calls for the rollout to be halted have been ignored and Universal Credit has now reached all areas of Scotland. So on Saturday we’ll be asking concerned constituents to sign a petition asking the UK Government to fix the fundamental flaws in the system before even more people are forced to suffer unnecessary hardship.  


“Universal Credit is entirely reserved to Westminster and it’s time Tory ministers listened to the concerns being raised about the suffering that built-in delays are causing.”


The petition can be found online at


Emma Harper MSP agrees with her SNP colleague. She says:


“Universal Credit is a broken system – it’s leaving people destitute, driving kids into poverty, and is making families turn to school uniform banks just to clothe their kids. Additionally, Universal Credit is causing a rise in the number of people using food banks across South West Scotland.


“Since Universal Credit was rolled out in Dumfries and Galloway, and indeed Ayrshire, I have seen a significant rise in the number of constituents contacting me about the horrendous and disrespectful way they have been treated by the Tory Government’s Department for Work and Pensions, through the administration of Universal Credit.


“Money is being diverted away from key public services to cover the costs to mitigate the damage caused by this appalling change being imposed by the UK Government on Scotland. This is fundamentally unfair. The announcement from Amber Rudd to halt the rollout of certain elements of Universal Credit is too little too late, and I would call on the UK Government to fully devolve powers over welfare to the Scottish Parliament in order to allow the SNP Scottish Government to develop a fair and socially just system for all.”


Emma and Joan will be joining the Day of Action in Dumfries Town Centre on Saturday from 12 noon onwards. They are happy to take up any individual cases of problems with Universal Credit brought to them.


Image attached : Joan McAlpine MSP and Emma Harper MSP campaigning against Universal Credit


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South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine says the new economic development agency for the South of Scotland deserves the same level of funding as the one in the highlands.


The SNP MSP, who campaigned for the agency, made her comments as the Scottish Parliament met in Dumfries to take evidence on the bill establishing the agency. 


She said:


“It’s fantastic that the SNP government is passing legislation to create the new agency. The challenges faced in the south of Scotland might be different to the Highlands, but it’s vital that we receive the same levels of funding, per head of population, as Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE).


The MSP attended the meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee at the Easterbrook Hall. The cross party committee will scrutinize the bill to create the agency, which will cover the Borders region as well as Dumfries & Galloway.


The new body is due to be established in 2020, however an interim partnership is currently operating in the region with a budget of £10 million for the 2018/19 financial year. That sum is in addition to the millions already spent in the region by Scottish Enterprise and Business Gateway.


The MSP said: 


“This interim funding is very welcome and some has already been utilised for the Annan Action Plan to boost the local economy after the closure of Pinneys.


“The challenges facing the South of Scotland include transport infrastructure,  a low wage economy, an ageing population and outward migration of young people. These are now compounded by Brexit and the loss of EU funding – so the agency could not come at a better time.


“We already have many strengths in the region that the agency can help build on,” continued the MSP, “such as an internationally-renowned food and drinks sector, a high quality of life, well-established primary industries such as agriculture, forestry, manufacturing and thriving tourism and cultural sectors.”


The meeting of the Scottish Parliament Committee in Dumfries looked at ways in which the new agency could be organised as well as what it’s purposes and powers might be. It also offered opportunities for members of the public and school pupils to find out more about the plans.


“This is a great example of the Scottish Parliament getting out and about across the country to meet people in local communities,” added Ms McAlpine.




Note to Editors – Link to Scottish Government’s South of Scotland Enterprise Agency: consultation report:


Image attached – Joan McAlpine MSP with Emma Cooper, Chief Executive, Scottish Rural Action.


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Joan McAlpine MSP has spoken up in parliament to demand that the local council pays private nurseries a fair rate.


And she welcomed the children’s minister Maree Todd’s reassurances that government pressure would be put on councils to treat independent “partnership nurseries” equitably.


The SNP government is expanding childcare to 1140 hours a week and has given local authorities the money to fund places for children at private nurseries, childminders, playgroups as well as council facilities.


However, Dumfries and Galloway council is still paying private provider well below the “sustainable” rate of £5.35 an hour recommended by its own independent review last August.


Ms McAlpine spoke up after being contacted by Sparklers Nursery in Annan who face a large shortfall once 49 of their children take up the funded places in January.


Ms McAlpine said:


“It is fantastic news that the Scottish Government are extending early years education to 1140 hours a week for 3 and 4 years olds and vulnerable two year olds between now and 2020. It’s a massive investment and the government is determined it will be of the highest quality.


“The money has been made available to council’s but is not passed on to providers like Sparklers, who will be the first private nursery to deliver the 1140 care in Dumfries and Galloway.  The council need to deliver what they promised in an independent review of early years that reported in August this year. They have left things far too late and need to get it sorted before a nursery goes bust. The minister made clear in her answer that she will not let councils off the hook and expects them to fund nurseries fairly and not discriminate in favour of council owned premises.”

Background from the Scottish Government on Early Years Rollout


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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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