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South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the First Minister’s Programme for Government – which will include reform of land laws, a Carers Bill, and a new £10 million Community Empowerment Fund.

The Scottish Government to date has invested £114m a year on support for unpaid carers, and will extend this support through a Carers Bill in the coming year – which will ensure carers are involved in the planning and delivery of services which affect them.

Ms McAlpine also welcomed news that a Land Reform Bill will be introduced before the end of the current parliament.

The Bill will remove tax breaks for shooting estates – helping the Scottish Government to support rural communities to buy land by increasing the Scottish Land Fund from £3m this year to £10m a year from 2016.

The programme will also include the establishment of a new Empowering Communities Fund.  Encompassing the existing People & Communities Fund, it will have an additional £10m to allocate next year – more than doubling the existing resource – and be available directly to communities.

Ms McAlpine said:

“This is a programme aimed at creating a fairer Scotland and handing power back to communities.

“I am particularly pleased that a Carers Bill will be introduced in 2015.

“Advocating for unpaid carers is an issue close to my heart. As co-convenor of the Cross Party Group on carers at the Scottish parliament I am all too aware that Scotland has an unsung army of unpaid carers without whom our services could not function.

“The new £10 million Community Empowerment Fund is also very welcome – and I hope will be useful to our own communities in Mid and Upper Nithsdale.

“I am also very pleased to see a further expansion of Modern Apprenticeships and more money to tackle delayed discharge from hospital.”

The SNP MSP added:

“The Land Reform package announced by the First Minister yesterday is a particularly important step. Scotland currently has the most inequitable land ownership in the west and tackling this injustice will be key to creating a fairer society.”

Further details of the First Minister’s programme for Government, including her full speech can be found here: