3,980 CHILDREN TO BE HIT BY TWO-CHILD CAP IN DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY

23.3% of the total number of children in Dumfries and Galloway could be affected by the two-child cap, according to new research  – prompting more calls for the UK Government to scrap the “heartless” policy.
 
The “two-child policy” allows low-income families to claim child tax credits or universal credit for their first two children only.
 
New research from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has revealed that 160,000 families have had their income slashed by the two-child limit to-date.
 
The charity estimates that more than 3 million children could eventually be affected by the benefit cap.
 
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said: 
 
“Social security should be a safety net for all of us, but the two-child limit is having a devastating effect on families up and down the country, with 23.3% of children in Dumfries and Galloway set to be affected by it.
 
“All families are valuable and worthy of support, but this heartless policy turns people away when they most need support, and leaves children to grow up in hardship – which can have lifelong consequences for their health and wellbeing.
 
“The SNP government has been left to pick up the pieces, investing over £125 million to mitigate callous Tory welfare policies.
 
“In addition, it is introducing a Scottish Child Payment to tackle child poverty. Without the two-child cap, this payment could go so much further.
 
“The next Tory Prime Minister should make it a priority to tackle poverty and enable children to thrive, starting with reversing the two-child limit and horrendous ‘rape clause.’”



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Draft Proposals to Improve Transport in SW Scotland

South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the publication of draft proposals to improve transport links and infrastructure in South West Scotland. The draft publication of the South West Scotland Transport Study, which was launched on 27th June, gives local people and interested parties the opportunity to have their say on the future of transport in South West Scotland through a public consultation process.

 
Twenty-three potential options for further consideration have been put forward in the South West Scotland Transport Study, with the intention for these recommendations to be considered nationally in the second Strategic Transport Projects Review.
 
The options put forward include enhanced rail services, significant upgrades to the A75 and A77 to improve connectivity to the ports at Cairnryan, and upgrades to the A76 and to transport hubs in towns like Dumfries, Stranraer and Lockerbie.
 
Joan McAlpine MSP said:
“I am very pleased that the South West Scotland Transport Study is now available, and I’m looking forward to reading in detail the proposals put forward.
“I am glad that the study takes forward proposals I have backed, such as new stations, and upgrades to road and rail networks, particularly upgrades to A75 and A76.
“I’m encouraged by proposals for a new railway connections and a Dumfries to Stranraer line which would be great for the region, and I’m glad that such an ambitious, popular, and environmentally friendly project is included.
“This is an opportunity to get South West priorities earmarked for the national transport strategy, so I would encourage everyone to respond to the public consultation with their views.”
 
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said:
“We understand the importance of connectivity for the South West of Scotland and extensive stakeholder engagement and data gathering has taken place during this study to help us develop a good understanding of the issues and opportunities for strategic transport links across all modes.
“The draft report will now be available for eight weeks to allow all those with an interest to provide comments on it. Following this, the emerging recommendations will be considered as part of the nationwide Strategic Transport Projects Review which will set out future transport infrastructure investment priorities.
“We have already had valuable local input into the Study with more than 3000 people contributing and we will keep them updated as work progresses.”

Notes:


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New Child Welfare Payment for Low Income Families

South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed news that the Scottish Government will use new powers over social security to introduce a payment to help lift children out of poverty.

 

The Scottish Child Payment will give eligible families £10 a week for every child under 16 by the end of 2022. For a family with two children under the age of 16 this is an additional £1,000 a year.  It makes Scotland the only part of the UK to introduce an extra payment for the children of low income families..

 

The payment will be introduced early for all families with children under six. 170,000 children will benefit from early introduction which will start in early 2021. This is a more than a year earlier than the timescale outlined in the Scottish Government’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.

 

Scotland is the only UK country to have set statutory income targets to end child poverty in the Child Poverty Act, with the Scottish Government also having brought forward its Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan. The Scottish Government has already spent £527 million across all government policies to support low income families with children.

 

Joan McAlpine MSP said:

“This new benefit shows that the SNP committed to helping people in Scotland, and to tackling the alarming levels of child poverty. The SCP will go some way towards mitigating against continuing benefit cuts from the UK Government. If we didn’t have those UK Government cuts pushing families into poverty, the Scottish Child Payment could do much more and have more reach.

 

“UK benefit cuts will be an annual £3.7 billion in Scotland by next year. We cannot stand by and let that happen. We need more powers to ensure we are not fighting poverty with one hand tied behind our back. Where the Scottish Government do have powers, we will use them to do things differently.

 

“Already the SNP Government are making a real difference to thousands of families across Scotland with the new Best Start Grant, increases to the value of the School Clothing Grant, nearly doubling funded provision of Early Learning and Childcare, and delivery of 50,000 warm and affordable homes.”

 

Notes:

  • The SCP will be a monthly payment administered by Social Security Scotland alongside the existing programme of devolved social security benefits. There will be no cap on the number of children in eligible families. Of all children in poverty, almost 60% live in a family where a child is under six. The early years in a child’s life are key for long-term outcomes.

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REGIONAL SKILLS INVESTMENT PLAN

South Scotland MSP, Joan McAlpine has backed a new plan to ensure Dumfries & Galloway has the skills and training to keep young people in the region and ensure future prosperity.

 

She made her comments after attending an event to promote the Regional Skills Investment Plan of the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, which was unveiled in the college in Dumfries on Monday.

 

The new plan has a focus is on communities, farming, fishing, forestry, rural high streets and land management.  It has a strong emphasis on young people with plans to provide more employment opportunities and work-based learning offers for school leavers and graduates.

 

Commenting Ms McAlpine says

 

“The Regional Skills Investment Plan is good news for the South of Scotland and it’s great to see the economic partnership making so much progress already.

 

“Improving digital and transport connectivity and increasing access to education, skills and training will help meet the needs of local employers and hopefully enable more of our youngsters to stay in the region instead of moving away.

 

The plan, which has been developed alongside Skills Development Scotland, has been the culmination of twelve months of partnership working with organisations, employers, parents and young people across the region. It aims to contribute to the economic growth of the south of Scotland by providing a greater choice of career opportunities for young people while offering more opportunities for upskilling and reskilling to the current workforce. 

 

Ms McAlpine continued:

 

“The approach to partnership working is impressive and should ensure the successful delivery of the plan in the coming years. I can’t praise the members, stakeholders and other contributors highly enough for their achievements.

 

“While Brexit is unresolved there’s still a lot of uncertainty hanging over the region so it’s reassuring to see a well thought out, realistic strategy to unlock the full potential of the South of Scotland economy.”

 

Image attached : from left to right, Joan McAlpine MSP, Chris Brodie, SOSEP Board Member, Amanda Burgauer, SOSEP Board Member

 

A copy of the Regional Skills Investment Plan can be downloaded here :

https://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/media/45740/south-of-scotland-sip.pdf

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SCOT GOV FUNDING FOR DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY BIODIVERSITY

SNP MSP for South Scotland, Joan McAlpine, has welcomed news that Dumfries and Galloway will benefit from a new £1.8 Million Biodiversity Challenge Fund to help support at-risk habitats and species in local forests and coastal areas.

Delivered through Scottish Natural Heritage, the fund will support large-scale projects across Scotland that aim to improve natural habitats, safeguard plant and animal species and improve biodiversity.

2 of the 14 projects to have secured funding over the next two years will operate in Dumfries and Galloway. The two projects, which both deal with restorative work on the breath-taking ecological system in South Scotland, include:

  • A project for the restoring of montane scrub and bearberry in the ‘wildheart’ of Southern Scotland between Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders, run by Borders Forest Trust.
  • A partnership secured by Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust which is working to enhance three key freshwater pearl mussel populations in the north, south, and west of Scotland.

Commenting, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:

“It’s great news for Dumfries and Galloway that thanks to the Scottish Government’s Biodiversity Challenge Fund these fantastic projects on our coast and in our forested areas will receive funding to protect some of the most vulnerable species and habitats in the area.

“The success of these projects, and others like them across Scotland, will play a vital role in helping us meet our biodiversity commitments while improving natural spaces for all of our benefit.

“This SNP Government are committed to delivering the transformational change needed to ensure a bright future for Scotland’s beautiful natural environment.”

Notes and pictures available: https://www.snhpresscentre.com/news/nature-fund-announced-gbp-1-8m-given-to-biodiversity-projects

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COUNCIL TAX REDUCTION FOR 13250 HOMES IN DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY

Joan McAlpine MSP for South Scotland has welcomed new figures showing that 13250 in Dumfries and Galloway benefitted from the SNP Government’s Council Tax Reduction scheme in March 2019.

 

The scheme helps provides financial support to low income households, saved families in Dumfries and Galloway an estimated £166.7 a week in March. 

 

Between 2013/14 and the end of 2018/19 the SNP Government invested over £1.4 billion into the Council Tax Reduction Scheme – recently extending the scheme to include higher band households who fall below average earnings up to a maximum of £25,000 net income.

 

The move has helped support an extra 54,000 households in Scotland – a third of them pensioner households.

 

Commenting, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:

 

“In the face of huge cuts from the UK Tory government, the SNP has managed to help almost half a million households every year with their council tax bill.

 

“Just under 80% of those households are totally exempt from council tax thanks to the scheme.

 

“In March alone, the Council Tax Reduction scheme has helped 13250 households in Dumfries and Galloway – saving local families an estimated £166.70 a week in March.

 

“I would encourage anyone who thinks they might be eligible for a reduction in their council tax to get in touch with their local Citizen’s Advice Bureau for advice.”

 

Citizens Advice Dumfries: 0300 303 4321

 

Statistics here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/council-tax-reduction-scotland-annual-report-2018-19/

 

 

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Transport Review Update

 SNP MSP for South Scotland Joan McAlpine has welcomed news from the Scottish Government that a study into South West Scotland’s transport network will be published at the end of this month, after asking the Scottish Government for an update on the progress of the Strategic Transport Projects Review. Ms. McAlpine previously campaigned successfully  for a Transport Summit in Dumfries in August 2016 which was chaired by the Deputy First Minister John Swinney and attended by then Transport Minister Humza Yousaf.

 

Joan McAlpine asked Cabinet Secretary for Transport Michael Matheson to comment on how the SNPs manifesto commitments to better link Dumfries to the central belt via the motorway and improve the A75 might be implemented following the review.

 

Mr. Matheson announced that the South West Transport Study will be published in draft format by the end of June and says that the study will be used to feed into a ‘detailed assessment of options to link Dumfries to key markets including the central belt’. He also provides an assurance that these options for Dumfries form part of the selected areas for consideration in the Strategic Transport Projects Review. 

 

Joan McAlpine MSP said:

 

“I welcome the news that the results of the South West Transport Review will feed into a wider programme of work to improve the face of transport in Dumfries and Galloway, and this is something I have taken a strong interest in for some time.

 

“Dumfries is the regional capital of South West Scotland – the only part of the country not considered a “city region” for economic development purposes. People in surrounding areas need to access Dumfries for work, education, health and social services as well as cultural, social and sporting activities.

 

“Presently, the region is not well connected with slow, intermittent rail links and no dual road links. The A701 and A709 which link Dumfries to the M74 are in need of upgrading and have single lane traffic, at points controlled by traffic lights. This is unacceptable.

 

“Linking Dumfries and its satellite communities better to the central belt, by both road and rail, will in my view have the most significant economic benefit to the whole region. “

 

This is the second strategic review – the first was published in 2008.  The new review will consider future investment in all transport modes including the strategic road and rail networks as well as active travel, island connectivity, ferries and buses.

 

Speaking on the background of the STPR, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said:

 

“The Scottish Government is fully committed to building a sustainable transport system that supports our economy and helps deliver inclusive growth.

 

“Work is already underway on the review of the National Transport Strategy which will set out a shared vision for a future of our transport system and the second Strategic Transport Projects Review will build on that by identifying the infrastructure required to make this a reality.”

 

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Parliament Sees Value of Nature and Culture in South Scotland Economy

 South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has secured a late change to the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill to acknowledge the powerful role that cultural and natural heritage plays in the local economy.

 
In a momentous day for the region, the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill was passed unanimously by Parliament on Wednesday (5/06/2019). This fantastic development comes after many years of campaigning for a South of Scotland Economic Agency which Joan McAlpine has supported in full. 
 
The Bill will establish a new South of Scotland agency which will take a fresh, tailored approach to supporting the economy of the South of Scotland, ensuring the South has the strong role in Scotland’s economy that it deserves and supporting business interests in the region. 
 
Ms McAlpine, who is convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Committee on Culture, Tourism, Europe, and External Relations chose to highlight the work of projects like The Stove Network, Midsteeple Quarter Project, and Creative Futures which all use cultural programmes to drive economic regeneration and community development work in Dumfries town.
 
Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing MSP has said that the new agency could be up and running within 8 months.
 
Speaking in the Scottish Parliamentary debate, Joan McAlpine said:
“The vibrancy of our areas culture is renowned locally, nationally and internationally.
“From the Abbeys of the Borders to the Castles and Standing Stones of Dumfries and Galloway, the South has a heritage to be proud of.
“Art and culture play an important role in engagement and energising communities and community development which is very much in the spirit of what we’re doing with this Bill.
“The South of Scotland was an important player in Scotland’s early textile industry, its agriculture and forestry sectors are thriving, and it has a growing tourism industry. It also has a diverse business base, many of which are small, and family owned. The economic seeds are all there and, with the right nurturing, can flourish.”



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US TRADE DEAL THREAT TO LOCAL FOOD AND DRINK

SNP MSP for South Scotland, Joan McAlpine, has warned that farmers and food producers in Dumfries and Galloway could be hit by a post-Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump – after the US ambassador reiterated demands for major concessions from the UK.

 

The Trump administration want the UK to accept lower food safety standards than exist within the European Union, allowing US products such as chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef to be sold in the UK – undercutting our own food producers.

 

The US ambassador this week confirmed that a future trade deal would require access to “the entire economy”, potentially impacting other sectors such as the NHS.

 

There are also concerns that Scottish products, such as Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Scotch Whisky, could lose their protected status after Brexit – allowing cheap-knock offs to be sold.

 

Commenting, Ms Joan McAlpine said:

 

“Scotland has top-quality food safety standards, in line with the rest of the EU, protecting consumers and our world-renowned Scottish produce.

 

“But that’s now under threat, with the Tories planning to sell out Scottish food producers as part of a damaging back-room trade deal with Donald Trump.

 

“As a member of the EU, local products like Scotch Beef and Lamb have been protected from cheap market knock offs – we can’t allow the Tories to take a take a wrecking ball to our booming food and drink sector here in Dumfries and Galloway.

 

“The UK government’s shambolic approach to Brexit leaves them in an exceptionally weak bargaining position – with Tory leadership contenders competing to be the most reckless with our economic future.

 

“There’s a real danger that, if Brexit happens, the next Prime Minister will be absolutely desperate to sign whatever damaging trade-deal Trump demands.

 

“Scotland voted overwhelmingly against Brexit – and the threat of selling out Dumfries and Galloway’s food producers shows exactly why we need to stop it.”

 

Notes: https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/us-ambassador-nhs-healthcare-services-on-table-for-post-brexit-trade-deal/

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lJoan McAlpine welcomes meeting of the health board with epilepsy parents

South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed news that Epilepsy Scotland will meet with representatives from the Dumfries and Galloway Health Board alongside local parents of children who suffer with epilepsy.

 

The meeting has been arranged after Ms. McAlpine raised concerns with Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Jeane Freeman about Dumfries and Galloway being the only local authority in Scotland not to have a specialist epilepsy nurse, despite figures from Epilepsy Scotland which suggest that over 100 children are currently living with the condition across the region.

 

The health board is currently conducting a comprehensive service needs analysis and has agreed that engaging with families will be an essential part in working towards meeting the needs of families dealing with epilepsy.

 

Commenting, Joan McAlpine MSP said:

 

“I am pleased that the local health board are willing to meet with parents and discuss concerns about the lack of a specialist epilepsy nurse for Dumfries and Galloway. I am fully supportive of the local families who are working hard to change this for the benefit of others dealing with this condition across the region.”

 

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