McAlpine Welcomes Scotland’s Economic Growth

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has praised new figures showing that Scotland’s economy has outperformed the rest of the UK in the second quarter of this year.
 
According to official figures, announced by Scotland’s Chief Statistician, the economy in Scotland grew by 0.5% in the second quarter of 2018 while growth in the UK was at 0.4%.
 
In the first half of this year, Scottish GDP grew by 0.8% – ahead of the UK at 0.6% over the same period, and already higher than the 0.7% growth forecast by the Scottish Fiscal Committee for 2018 as a whole.
 
The last year has seen the Scottish economy grow by a total of 1.7%, whilst the UK’s growth stands at 1.3%.
 
However, this growth in Scotland comes in tandem with a growth in disquiet over the handling of Brexit negotiations.  Leaving the EU is set to cost the Scottish economy up to £12.7 billion a year – the equivalent of £2,300 for every person in the country.
 
Ms. McAlpine commented:
 
“It is extremely encouraging to see that economic growth in Scotland is exceeding expectations – and this is sure to benefit people in Dumfries and Galloway.
 
“These latest figures show the success of the Scottish Government’s approach:  focused on building a strong economy, investing in business and enterprise and supporting the industries of the future.
 
“Of course, we should temper our celebrations.  The growth is naturally welcome but the uncertainty surrounding Brexit persists and it continues to pose a real threat to Scottish jobs and household incomes.
 
“The EU single market represents a market that is eight times larger than that of the UK.  Cutting ties with this bloc can only be damaging to the Scottish economy and the Dumfries and Galloway area by extension. 
 
“The Tories must abandon their petty internal disputes and do what is right for Scotland by committing to stay in the single market.  After all, in the political crossfire, those at Westminster seem to find it easy to forget that that is what Scotland voted for.”
 
Background
The full statistical publication and data are available at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Economy/PubGDP/GDP2018Q2
 
All results are seasonally adjusted and presented in real terms (adjusted to remove inflation). GDP growth in this publication relates to Scotland’s onshore economy, which means it does not include the output of offshore oil and gas extraction.
 
Further information on Scottish economic statistics is available athttp://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Economy
 
These estimates are compiled in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics – more information on the standards of official statistics in Scotland can be accessed at: 


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McAlpine Welcomes South West Transport Survey Launch

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the launch of an online survey by Transport Scotland to garner views on transport investment in south west Scotland.

Transport Scotland want to hear the opinions of people living or working in the south west of Scotland on the problems and opportunities for the transport network in region. The survey is part of the work going on to produce a South West Scotland Transport Study which is considering possible improvements to road, rail, public transport and active travel on key strategic corridors in the region

Ms. McAlpine commented:

“Good transport links are fundamental to the growth and prosperity of any region. This survey presents an excellent opportunity for the people of the south west to have their voice heard on a matter which impacts their daily lives.

“I would encourage all interested parties to participate in the survey. Constructive engagement with the people in the region is the best way to ensure we get a transport network that works for everyone.”

Following 2016’s Transport Summit in Dumfries, the MSP has continued to push the case for improvements to local transport, including raising the issue in Parliament, and submitting to the Scottish Government’s National Transport Strategy review. The National Transport Strategy Review will help inform which projects will be included in the the Strategic Transport Projects review – a document that will outline the government’s transport priorities over the next 20 years.

Cllr Stephen Thompson said:

“The SNP, as part of the Dumfries and Galloway Council administration, have made it a priority to lobby for strategic investment for the A75, A76, A77 and for better road links from Dumfries to the A74(M), as well as examining the case for re-opening Beattock Station. This is a timely survey and the Council’s Environment, Economy and Infrastructure Committee will be receiving a report on the progress with lobbying at the November committee.

Participants have until the 14th of November 2018 to respond to the survey.

www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/South-West-Scotland-Transport-Study

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MCALPINE BLASTS RBS FOR BANK CLOSURES

Branch Losses Will Hit Elderly Hardest

 

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has launched a broadside at the Royal Bank of Scotland for the loss of banking services across Dumfries and Galloway.

 

Giving a speech to Parliament, during a debate highlighting the negative impact of branch losses, Ms. McAlpine warned that planned closures would have a devastating impact on the largely rural communities throughout the region.

 

Earlier this year, RBS – a bank 62% owned by the UK government – announced that it planned to close 16 branches across South Scotland.  This came on top of extensive closures previously announced by RBS and Bank of Scotland. 

Commenting, Ms. McAlpine said:

 “I have been struck by the contempt that the bank has shown to customers in my constituency.

“Customers such as those in Langholm, Lockerbie and Annan all lost their branches earlier this year.

“In Langholm, the nearest branch is an unbelievable 30 miles away.”

67% of people over the age of 75 in Scotland do not use the internet.  It follows that the elderly and the vulnerable are likely to be hit the hardest by the closures.

Older people express a preference for face-to-face engagement in branch banking – a lack of faith in digital banking and the cost of accessing technology serves as a deterrent. 

Ms. McAlpine continued:

“Access to broadband is improving – thanks to the Scottish Government – but that does not mean that all of our older citizens will choose to become silver surfers. And why should they?”

The Committee’s report is available here: https://digitalpublications.parliament.scot/Committees/Report/EJFW/2018/7/3/Bank-closures–impact-on-local-businesses–consumers-and-the-Scottish-economy  

 

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McAlpine raises questions in Parliament over North West Community Campus

MSP Joan McAlpine today asked questions in parliament over the North West Community Campus – following the injury of a second child at the school last week.

 
Education Secretary John Swinney told her processes in place to ensure effective scrutiny of building projects in Dumfries and Galloway are ‘not as effective as they could be’ and said council officers should pay close attention to the recommendations made by the expert who reported on the fiasco of DGOne.
 
The SNP MSP raised concerns with Mr Swinney, that Dumfries and Galloway Council had failed to learn lessons following the damning Cole Report into the disastrous DGOne project.
 
The report – while being clear that the failures were the fault of the contractor – was highly critical of the lack of oversight the Council had given to the project.
 
In her question to Mr Swinney, Ms McAlpine asked:
 
“Earlier this year the independent Cole report exposed failings in the way Dumfries and Galloway council officers monitored the contractors at the DGOne leisure centre which closed for safety reasons.
 
Does the minister share my concerns that lessons have not been learned from that report?”
 
In his response, the Education Secretary said:
 
“It’s important that when there is material such as the Cole Report produced we follow and observe those recommendations and the issues raised.
 
“What strikes me about the information I have seen in relation to Dumfries and Galloway Council’s handling of this matter, is that they have been given a range of assurances by the contractor, they have sought to verify these. The fact that we are where we are today shows that this process has not been as effective as it should be.
 
“I would expect the Council to look very carefully at the material in the Cole Report, and, in particular in relation to this process, ensure that there is effective scrutiny put in place to protect the public interest and to protect the safety of staff and pupils at the North West Community Campus.”
 
Last week, Ms McAlpine revealed that she had written to the Chief Executive of Dumfries and Galloway Council on 29 August after the first child was injured by a falling door, raising these questions, and seeking assurances as to the safety of the building.
 
She has still to receive a reply.
 


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MSP DEMANDS ANSWERS ON NORTH WEST COMMUNITY CAMPUS

Following the injury of a second child at a Dumfries school Joan McAlpine MSP has revealed that she was still waiting for a reply after raising her concerns with the council a week ago.

 

The MSP revealed that she wrote to the Chief Executive of Dumfries and Galloway Council on 29 August after the first child was injured by a falling door.

 

She has still to receive a reply.

 

Ms McAlpine’s letter to Gavin Stevenson asked if the council had learned the lessons of the failure of the DG1 leisure centre project that was criticised in a damning expert report by Professor John Cole earlier this year.

 

Professor Cole was highly critical of the failure of council officers to independently scrutinise the quality of construction at DG1 and Ms McAlpine has demanded to know whether these lessons were learned when building the North West Community Campus, which has now been closed after a second child was injured by a falling whiteboard.

 

In her letter she demanded assurances on the quality and safety of the campus. 

 

Ms McAlpine said:

 

“I am angry that more than a week after my letter to the chief executive another child has been injured and I still don’t have a reply to critical questions about the health and safety of this building.  Dumfries and Galloway Council officers had the Cole report on DG1 to refer to, to ensure they did not repeat past mistakes.  Did they do this?  Was the North West campus constructed under the same “design and build” contract as DG1, which was criticised by Professor Cole? What sort of independent scrutiny of the building work took place?”

 

“I have been contacted by experts in the building trade very concerned by Grahams public explanation of photograph of a roof that appeared to have collapsed.  The experts tell me that Graham’s claims that the roof was subject to controlled demolition after a leak are simply not credible when scrutinising these photographs.  If this is the case, and the builder has not been honest about the roof collapse, how can we be assured that any part of the building is safe? The injury of a second child by a falling white board after another child was injured by a falling door suggests that there may be systemic problems with this building and it should be independently evaluated as soon as possible. 

 

“I shall be writing another letter to the chief executive asking for answers to these and other questions regarding safety.”

 

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MSP DEMANDS ANSWERS ON NORTH WEST COMMUNITY CAMPUS

Following the injury of a second child at a Dumfries school Joan McAlpine MSP has revealed that she was still waiting for a reply after raising her concerns with the council a week ago.

 

The MSP revealed that she wrote to the Chief Executive of Dumfries and Galloway Council on 29 August after the first child was injured by a falling door.

 

She has still to receive a reply.

 

Ms McAlpine’s letter to Gavin Stevenson asked if the council had learned the lessons of the failure of the DG1 leisure centre project that was criticised in a damning expert report by Professor John Cole earlier this year.

 

Professor Cole was highly critical of the failure of council officers to independently scrutinise the quality of construction at DG1 and Ms McAlpine has demanded to know whether these lessons were learned when building the North West Community Campus, which has now been closed after a second child was injured by a falling whiteboard.

 

In her letter she demanded assurances on the quality and safety of the campus. 

 

Ms McAlpine said:

 

“I am angry that more than a week after my letter to the chief executive another child has been injured and I still don’t have a reply to critical questions about the health and safety of this building.  Dumfries and Galloway Council officers had the Cole report on DG1 to refer to, to ensure they did not repeat past mistakes.  Did they do this?  Was the North West campus constructed under the same “design and build” contract as DG1, which was criticised by Professor Cole? What sort of independent scrutiny of the building work took place?”

 

“I have been contacted by experts in the building trade very concerned by Grahams public explanation of photograph of a roof that appeared to have collapsed.  The experts tell me that Graham’s claims that the roof was subject to controlled demolition after a leak are simply not credible when scrutinising these photographs.  If this is the case, and the builder has not been honest about the roof collapse, how can we be assured that any part of the building is safe? The injury of a second child by a falling white board after another child was injured by a falling door suggests that there may be systemic problems with this building and it should be independently evaluated as soon as possible. 

 

“I shall be writing another letter to the chief executive asking for answers to these and other questions regarding safety.”

 

Letter from Joan McAlpine MSP to Gavin Stevenson attached

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October jobs fair for Annan welcomed by MSP

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed continued Scottish Government support for former Pinneys workers, as Rural Secretary Fergus Ewing announced he will host another jobs fair in Annan next month.

 

The Rural Secretary was responding to a question in Parliament from Ms McAlpine asking for an update on the situation at Pinneys.

 

Ms McAlpine said that she felt Young’s decision to close the site – in spite of incentives offered by the Scottish Government to maintain production while a buyer was found – is a betrayal of the workers and of the wider community.

 

The SNP MSP said she hoped the announcement that the Scottish Government will host another jobs fair will assure the community they have not been forgotten, and the SNP is committed to finding new jobs for loyal Pinneys workers.

 

The Scottish Government is now seeking a new investor for the site and discussion are ongoing with a number of interested parties.

 

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said: 

 

“This is a very disappointing time for the workforce of Pinneys after so many years of loyalty.

 

“Young’s disregard for the Pinneys workforce is astounding – they should be ashamed of themselves. Quite frankly this is a betrayal of the community.

 

“It might be cold comfort but the Scottish Government remains committed to finding alternative employment for those who have lost their jobs.

 

“The jobs fair hosted by the Scottish Government in July was well received with many individuals securing alternative employment as a result.

 

“I hope that the October event will result in more jobs being found for those who have been made redundant in the months following.”

 

Full text of the question and response is copied below:

 

Joan McAlpine: To ask the Scottish Government what the latest situation is with the Pinney’s site in Annan.

 

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy (Fergus Ewing): Young’s Seafood confirmed on 3 September that it has now ceased production at the Pinney’s of Annan site and the majority of the workforce has now left the company.  A skeleton staff of around 50 are expected to remain on site until November to oversee the close-down procedure.  

 

The Scottish Government, working with Scottish Enterprise and Dumfries & Galloway Council, has worked intensively over the past 5 months to encourage Young’s Seafood to maintain production at the site and offered a range of incentives to do so, including a reduction on rates and professional support to review the efficiency and productivity of their operation. However, it became clear that Young’s wanted to extract themselves from the site as soon as possible. 

 

The Scottish Government is now seeking a new investor for the site and discussion are ongoing with a number of interested parties.  Meanwhile, we remain committed to finding alternative employment for those formally employed at the site and on the 19 July our multi-agency Partnership for Action on Continuing Employment (PACE) facilitated a dedicated jobs fair in the town.  Over 200 individuals attended the fair with 19 employers and recruitment agencies exhibiting over 350 vacancies.  The jobs fair was well received and initial feedback is that a number individuals were successful in seeking alternative employment.  In light of the further redundancies that took place in August, and in agreement with the local trade union, we have agreed to facilitate an additional jobs fair in the town in October and are now in the process of finalising the detail. 

 

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McAlpine welcomes South of Scotland Enterprise Agency Bill

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine today welcomed the First Minister’s announcement that the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency Bill will be brought forward this parliamentary term.
 
The announcement was made as the First Minister delivered her Programme for Government – which outlines the government’s priorities for the coming year – during a speech to the Scottish Parliament today.
 
Ms McAlpine – who campaigned for the dedicated enterprise agency for the south of Scotland  – said the body, which is underpinned by funding of £10 million from the Scottish Government on top of the Scottish Enterprise budget, will act as a champion for region and deliver support to businesses of all sizes. 
 
The Bill, along with other measures announced today, such as the development of a Rural Economy Action Plan, and improvements to the promotion of Scotland’s Food and Drink industry, will act as a driver to boost the economy in Dumfries and Galloway.
 
The economy was at the heard of today’s announcements, as the First Minister set out her mission to reach the most ambitious long-term level of infrastructure spend ever in Scotland, with a commitment to invest an additional £7 billion – over and above existing plans – on schools, hospitals, transport, digital connectivity and clean energy by 2026.
 
The South Scotland MSP said she will be campaigning for this sharp rise in infrastructure spending to improve transport infrastructure in the region.
 
The MSP also welcomed the important announcement that every secondary school in Dumfries and Galloway will have access to counselling services, ensuring vital early intervention and improving young people’s health and well-being.
 
Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:
 
“The announcement that the South of Scotland Agency Bill will be brought forward in this parliamentary term is great news for the economy in Dumfries and Galloway.
 
“I have campaigned for many years for the agency and I hope that once in place it can deliver a sea-change for the regional economy.  The partnership which precedes it has already utilised some of the £10 million funding towards an Annan Action Plan, aimed at boosting the local economy after the closure of Pinneys.
 
“The First Minister’s programme signals a major boost for jobs and the economy in the region, including an additional £7 billion infrastructure investment in schools, hospitals, transport and digital connectivity over the next five years. I will be campaigning for the sharp rise in infrastructure spending to help improve our transport infrastructure in the south west.
 
“We are continuing the major reforms in our health, education and justice systems over the course of 2018-19 – with a significant £250 million extra funding for mental health services, increased support for teachers, head teachers, parents and pupils, as well as a major package of reforms for the justice system, increasing support for the victims of crime and their families.
 
“Despite Brexit, we will ensure Scotland remains an attractive place to live and work and provide advice and support for those EU citizens already living in Dumfries and Galloway who are dealing with the Tory government’s unfair plans to charge them for the right to live and work here. 
 
“And our global climate change ambition will continue to be matched by realistic action, with £1billion funding in low carbon and public transport over the next year.
 
“These bold and ambitious plans for the year ahead are just some of the reasons why the SNP is the second biggest party in the whole of the UK.”
 


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McAlpine to chair culture and wellbeing summit

South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine will this week chair a discussion at the Edinburgh International Culture Summit – exploring the important role culture plays in health and wellbeing.

 
The  SNP MSP – who convenes the Scottish Parliament’s culture committee – will highlight examples of artists working in health settings in Dumfries and Galloway.
 
Commenting Ms McAlpine said:
 
“I am looking forward to chairing a session of the international culture summit and talking to politicians and artists from around the world about how the arts can improve health and wellbeing. 
 
“In D&G we have some fantastic examples of artists collaborating with healthcare providers, and working in healthcare settings to improve patient’s experiences and improve recovery rates.
 
“During the construction of the new DGRI, NHS D&G partnered with a local arts production company to design the building, and implement an arts strategy.
 
“Artists and musicians also work in care settings with people suffering from Dementia, Alzheimer’s and mental health problems throughout the region.  The Dumfries Musical Minds Music group meets monthly, and provides an opportunity for people experiencing memory loss or dementia to sing and have fun with friends and family.
 
“I have always believed that arts and culture, whether people are creating themselves, or enjoying the work of others, are very important to everyone’s health, wellbeing and happiness. That’s why events like the one I am chairing this week are important in sharing policy ideas between countries, and talking about how we support artists to become involved in healthcare projects.”




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McAlpine condemns high sanctions rate under ‘flawed’ universal credit

MSP Joan McAlpine has backed calls demanding clarity over the “worryingly” high sanctions rate against Universal Credit claimants.

Statistics on benefit sanctions released this week revealed that the proportion of claimants sanctioned under Universal Credit (2.8%) is nearly ten times higher than under Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) (0.3%), and nearly 30 times higher than Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) (0.1%).

It also revealed that the average Universal Credit sanction lasts for longer than JSA and ESA sanctions.

The SNP have called on Esther McVey to urgently clarify – 
  • Why more claimants are being sanctioned under Universal Credit than under legacy benefits?
  • Is it DWP’s policy intention that more claimants be sanctioned under Universal Credit than under legacy benefits?
  • Why Universal Credit sanctions are longer on average than sanctions under legacy benefits?
Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“The UK government’s Universal Credit system has been deeply flawed and harmful since its roll-out.  

“With financial support being shamefully pulled from claimants who have already faced delays in Universal Credit, as well as the direct link between people who have been sanctioned and the rise in foodbank use and poverty, the UK government is pushing people into crisis. It needs to stop.

“The SNP has long opposed the Tories’ brutal sanctions regime, and believe it is both cruel and counter-productive. The DWP’s own data shows more people are being sanctioned under Universal Credit than under the previous legacy system.

“According to the last few Benefit Sanctions Statistics bulletins, this trend has been consistent in that the proportion of people sanctioned under Universal Credit is many, many times higher than under the legacy system.

“Esther McVey has many questions to answer over the distressing direction her department is heading. She needs to realise the damage her regime is causing to people she should be helping.”

Benefit sanctions statistics to April 2018: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/benefit-sanctions-statistics-to-april-2018






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