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:

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Community Empowerment Secretary visits Midsteeple town centre regeneration project

Scotland’s new minister for community empowerment joined Dumfries’s “Doon Toon Army” this week when she visited the Misteeple town centre regeneration project.
Ms Campbell visited the project’s head-quarters at The Stove at the invitation of the community benefit society’s board and south Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine. The Project’s founders led a walking tour of the town centre buildings they hope to purchase, and presented their plans to the Cabinet Secretary and Alasdair McKinlay – the leader of the Scottish Government’s Community Planning and Empowerment Unit.
Ms McAlpine commented:
“I was very pleased to welcome the Cabinet Secretary to Dumfries this morning to see the Midsteeple Quarter Project first-hand.  It is significant that this was one of the first projects Ms Campbell has visited in her new role. 
“Midsteeple Quarter really is an innovative, community led initiative aimed at getting young and old people actually living in the town centre and to end land banking by faceless investors which results in buildings lying empty.
“I knew that Ms Campbell would enjoy visiting the project as it is the vanguard of urban regeneration using Scottish Government community empowerment and land reform legislation. It is also of particular interest as it grew out of an initiative by the creative community in Dumfries.”

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Housing Minister marks beginning of affordable housing development in Annan

The Scottish Government Housing Minister Kevin Stewart visited Annan today (Wednesday) to mark the start of building work on a new social housing development.

Cunninghame Housing Association will begin construction on a new 27 unit development for social rent at the former Carrs Billington site in Annan.
The project was welcomed by south Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine who commented:

“Investment In more housing in Dumfries and Galloway is key to helping to retain and attract people to live and work in the region – and providing good quality, affordable housing is a key priority for the Scottish Government.”

“Cunninghame Housing Association has expressed a strong desire to develop in Dumfries and Galloway and make a positive commitment to the area, so I am pleased to welcome the beginning of construction at the former Carrs Billington site today – and look forward to the development of more affordable housing backed by the Scottish Government and Dumfries and Galloway Council.”

SNP Councillor for the area Henry McClelland was in attendance as Mr Stewart launched the development. He said:
“ I’m delighted to see the start of this housing development on the former Carrs Billington Site by Cunninghame Housing Association, the location of these homes should see much needed increased trade on the High Street. With two further developments in the pipeline at Windermere Road and Elm Road it is very gratifying to see the continued commitment of the Scottish Government and Dumfries and Galloway Council to facilitate the building of affordable homes in our region and Annan in particular.”

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MSP celebrates region’s agricultural sector at Dumfries Show

South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine celebrated the success of Dumfries and Galloway’s agricultural sector as she attended the annual Dumfries Show last Saturday (August 3rd).


The SNP MSP met with representatives from Scotland’s Rural College, NFU Scotland, and Dumfries and Galloway Dairy Women’s Network.


Commenting Ms McAlpine said:


“The Dumfries Show is always an enjoyable day, and a staple of any local MSP or MP’s calendar. This year was a packed show and a huge success.


“On Saturday I was delighted to meet with staff from the SRUC to learn more about their Veterinary Nursing degree – the first degree course to be offered at Barony Campus. There are still a few spaces left for this year, so anyone with an interest can have a look at the College’s website or go along to the Open Day on August 9th.


“I also took the opportunity to attend the NFU Scotland stand – where a reception was held celebrating the success of Dumfries and Galloway Dairy Women’s Network; the Health and Wellbeing in the Farming Community Project and the region’s Retired Farming Social Group – one year on from their launch.


“The agricultural sector is so important to the region, and we are lucky to have so many enterprising individuals developing sustainable businesses. It was fantastic to have an opportunity to celebrate and highlight that.”


  1. Joan McAlpine pictured with members of NFU Scotland and MSPs
  2. Joan McAlpine with MSPs Emma Harper, Finlay Carson, Colin Smyth, Oliver Mundell and SRUC staff

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McAlpine welcomes support for Scotch Lamb

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed £200,000 of new funding from the Scottish Government for Quality Meat Scotland’s Scotch Lamb promotional campaign.


The First Minister confirmed the funding as she attended aa farm show today (Monday).


The sheep sector plays a significant part in Scotland’s red meat industry, which is worth £892 million to Scotland.


Ms McAlpine commented:


Sheep production is concentrated in the South of Scotland, with Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish borders the home to 31% of all the breeding sheep – so this is good news for the region. The food and drink sector as a whole is such an important part of Dumfries and Galloway’s economy – so we must do everything we can to promote our premium produce.


“The strength of our farming industry would not be possible without the dedication and commitment of the farmers who work tirelessly to produce high quality meat.


“That hard work and premium product is recognised by the protection given by the EU to the Scotch Lamb brand and we will be working hard to continue that protection in the future.


“I’m pleased the SNP Scottish Government are supporting this year’s campaign which will help encourage consumers to buy Scotch lamb as part of their regular shopping.”


Jim McLaren, Quality Meat Scotland’s Chairman, said:


“Today’s announcement by the First Minister is fantastic news for the Scottish sheep industry and it’s a great boost for our producers.

“This additional funding will enhance our comprehensive marketing and public relations Scotch Lamb PGI campaign, which is due to launch at the end of August.

“The eight-week campaign will spread the word to Scottish consumers about the quality, taste and versatility of Scotch Lamb – the perfect mid-week meal.”

Scotch lamb is one of 15 protected Geographical Indicators under EU law.


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Brexit vote pushing up cost of family holiday – before UK even leaves

MSP Joan McAlpine has said Scottish families taking a summer break to the continent will have seen a sharp rise in costs due to Brexit – before additional costs kick in after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

Price comparison website Travel Supermarket estimated in 2016 that holidaymakers would take an average of £513 spending money per person, meaning that a family of four holidaying in a Eurozone country will need to take a €433 cut to their spending money because of the Brexit-fuelled fall in the pound.
Since the EU referendum, the value of the pound has fallen by over 16% against the Euro, from 1.30 on 22 June 2016, to 1.09 on 29 July 2018.
The Tories’ hard Brexit obsession may also see UK citizens potentially faced with travel visas, roaming charges and costs for medical treatment in the EU after March 2019.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:

“Brexit has already hiked up costs for ordinary travellers by 16%, and it hasn’t even happened yet.
“But it’s not just luxuries like travel that are affected – a hard Brexit will leave ordinary Scots the equivalent of £2,300 worse off each year, devastating jobs and living standards.
“The SNP has always been clear that in order to protect the interests of ordinary people, Scotland should remain in the EU or at the very least in the Single Market, reflecting the what the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland voted for in 2016. 
“The fact that both the Tories and Labour want to sacrifice jobs and living standards in the name of a hard Brexit underlines the case for Scotland to take decisions ourselves in an independent country.”

Exchange rate
Euros exchanged for £513
Family of four
£1 = €1.3018
£1 = €1.0909
Percentage decrease

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UK Government must respond to damning criticisms of Universal Credit

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has said that the UK government must respond to the damning criticisms in a report that exposed the “shambolic” roll out of Universal Credit.

The south Scotland MSP has backed calls from the party’s social justice spokesperson at Westminster, Neil Gray MP, for the Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions to respond to the concerns raised in the National Audit Office report on ‘Rolling Out Universal Credit’.

The report, published on Friday, confirms the roll-out of Universal Credit has been too slow, does not deliver value for money, and causes hardship.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:
“The Tory government cannot continue to brush aside the deep and damaging failings of their Universal Credit system – which is pushing families into poverty, hardship, and crisis across Dumfries and Galloway and Scotland. Many families are being forced to rely on emergency aid and food banks just to get by as a result of the shambolic roll out of this policy.

“The National Audit Office report exposes the damaging impact Universal Credit is having, and raises serious criticisms of the roll out. The fact that it has not delivered value for money – that it is uncertain it ever will – and that it may end up costing more than the system it replaces, is a damning indictment of the Tories’ callous policy.

“The DWP has ploughed ahead despite all the warnings, and the total disregard shown for the hardship faced by claimants is nothing short of immoral. The UK Government continues to be bogged down in its own Brexit mess, and what this report shows is that the DWP flagship welfare reform is completely rudderless.

“The Secretary of State must answer for these failings. The SNP will continue to do everything we can to hold the UK government to account for the appalling damage this policy has caused.”

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McAlpine calls on Young’s to put workforce first as Pinneys prepares to close

MSP Joan McAlpine has called on Young’s bosses to ensure Pinneys workers are given every opportunity to find alternative employment.
The SNP MSP wrote to the company’s HR director Dominic Kerrigan, after it emerged that some workers at the Pinneys site were prevented from attending a recent jobs fayre because they were unable to get time away from work.
Ms McAlpine – who has campaigned against the closure of the Annan factory since Young’s announced their decision to close it – spoke to constituents in Annan during constituency surgeries who told her they were unable to attend the jobs fayre.
Commenting, she said:
“It’s very worrying that Pinneys workers have been unable to attend the jobs fayre – and I am keen to get to the bottom of why this was the case.
“I attended with the Rural Economy secretary Mr Ewing and was very pleased with the level of participation from companies with a number of vacancies – who are keen to help out the workers in Annan. I have passed on details of those companies to any worker who has approached me, and my office will be happy to provide that information to anyone else who was unable to attend.
“I have written to Young’s head of HR to ask for clarification about why some people were unable to attend the jobs fayre and ask what assurances he can give me that Young’s will put measures in place to help all workers to take advantage of opportunities to secure alternative employment. 

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Miserable Mundells mouthing-off again: anyone but us must help Pinneys

MSP Joan McAlpine has hit out at David and Oliver Mundell for suggesting the Scottish Government should purchase the Pinneys site from Young’s – while the UK Tory government sits on the side-lines.


Commenting, the SNP MSP said:

“David Mundell is fond of telling people that ‘Scotland has two governments.’


“It is therefore astounding that he issued a press release with his MSP son this week demanding that the Scottish Government buy the Pinneys site, while his own UK government sits on the side-lines having spent not a single penny nor lifted a finger to help.”

Last week the Scottish Government announced a £250,000 grant to help regenerate Annan through an action plan, and a £6.6 million package to benefit Dumfries and Galloway College.


This is in addition to the action group, led by the Scottish Government and the council, set up to tackle the crisis within days of Young’s announcing its intention to consult on closing the site.


Ms McAlpine continued:


“Only last week the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, was in Annan to open a very well attended jobs and opportunities event for workers.


“The Scottish Government’s PACE team (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment) has been supporting Pinneys’ workers for months.


“Before Mr Ewing, the former Scottish business minister, Paul Wheelhouse made several trips to Annan and had several meetings with Young’s executives.


“Of course, we all wanted a different outcome, and are disappointed that despite all this activity, Young’s is closing the plant. But the Scottish Government has been active and has done its best.


“The UK government, of which Mr Mundell is a part, has done nothing- no visits from business ministers, no offers of funds, no activity whatsoever.


“The only part the Conservative UK government seem to have played in this terrible affair was giving Grimsby a substantial grant to move Young’s jobs there from Annan.”




The £250,000 is part of the overall South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SOSEP) funding which awarded £7.68 million to projects across Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders.


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McAlpine praises local craftswomen

Joan McAlpine MSP praised craftswomen from Dumfries and Galloway whose work was selected for the prestigious 2018 National Exhibition of the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers on Friday.

 The UK wide exhibition opened at Strathclyde University and Ms McAlpine attended along with Margaret Vaughan, President of the Dumfries and Galloway Guild, who was also an organiser.

Original pieces from Dumfries and Galloway selected for the show included Fiona Moir’s hand dyed and woven tunic (pictured) and a number of tapestry items by Rita Corbett, including the Saltire that became the symbol of the exhibition. (pictured).


The selected items in the competitive section included a beret in suffragette colours, finely spun hand dyed silk scarves and intricate tapestries featuring people, birds, animals and architectural themes.

Hundreds  of examples of textile jewellery in the style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh were displayed in the open competition. 

 Also making a surprise appearance – though not in person – was the Castlemilk Moorit, a rare breed of sheep created by Sir Jock Buchanan Jardine on his Annandale estate more than a century ago. Wool from the Moorit featured as knitted bunting from breeds across the UK. 

Ms McAlpine has championed the textile industry in the region and last year hosted Sanquhar knitters in the Scottish Parliament. She said:

 “It was a pleasure to accompany Margaret to the exhibition this evening – she has done a lot for the arts and crafts community in Dumfries and Galloway as President of the branch of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild  – as well as running one of the regions’ most successful small businesses ‘By Heck! Preserves’.

“The talent on show tonight was extremely impressive. Weaving, spinning and dyeing are an important part of our cultural heritage in Scotland and in Dumfries and Galloway – where many towns have a history of producing yarn and fabric. Langholm is of course known globally for its textiles, and the Sanquhar pattern is an instantly recognizable piece of our heritage. The whole of the South of Scotland was well represented, with the Suffragette hat being made by a member of Tweed Guild. 

“There is renewed interest in “making” and traditional skills among the young.  Such crafts take patience and skill but are extremely sustainable.  The guild offers workshops and support and a  chance to help each other and make friends. 

“I would encourage anyone with an interest to become involved with the Guild locally. “



 Margaret Vaughan runs ‘By Heck! Preserves’ – named because she lives in Heck, and because her husband comes from ‘by ’eck’ country in Yorkshire. It sells a range of small-batch, traditionally cooked jams, jellies and chutneys, with an effort made to source fruit and vegetables locally. These are sold at farmers’ markets around Dumfries & Galloway (Langholm, Moffat, Lockerbie, Kirkcudbright), in local shops and in catering sizes to food-service, and small jars for wedding favours or holiday cottages.

 She is also President of Dumfries and Galloway Guild of Spinners , Weavers and Dyers.


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