South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has called on Conservative MPs David Mundell and Alister Jack to explain why they backed Boris Johnston’s illegal shut down of the UK parliament.

 

The proroguing of parliament was ruled unlawful today in a landmark ruling by the UK Supreme Court in which judges were unanimous.

 

Mr. Mundell and Mr. Jack both also voted against the ‘Benn Bill’ which protects the UK against a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, which Ms. McAlpine says is ‘unforgivable’ given that both MPs are well aware of the severe impacts which a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit will have on rural areas like Dumfries and Galloway.

 

Speaking after the announcement that Parliament should return as soon as possible, Joan McAlpine MSP said:

 

“I am proud of my friend and SNP colleague Joanna Cherry QC MP in leading this historic case which is a victory for democracy. David Mundell and Alister Jack have some serious explaining to do if they expect the people of Dumfries and Galloway to have any faith in their elected representatives.

 

“Supporting Boris Johnston’s attempts to pervert democracy just to get his own way and avoid parliamentary scrutiny is an affront to democracy and against the law. The people of this region deserve better.

 

“It is staggering that both MPs also voted against a Bill introduced to stop a no-deal Brexit from becoming a legal possibility. The impacts of a no-deal scenario on Dumfries and Galloway would be severe, with many of our key industries like farming and food and drink production being negatively impacted.”

 

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Michael Matheson MSP agreed to meet the Langholm station action group after being contacted by South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine.

Ms. McAlpine, an SNP MSP, said:

“I have taken a keen interest in the campaign and was delighted when a previous transport minister a couple of years ago agreed at my suggestion to include Langholm in a feasibility study about extending the Borders railway to Carlisle.

“Since then, the need for Langholm to get a connectivity boost is even greater given the move of Edinburgh Woollen Mill to Carlisle and other closures.

“But Langholm also has many historic attractions and the emergence of new small businesses which could really be boosted with a future rail link.

“At my recent surgery in Langholm I was visited by Andrew Scott of the railway action group and agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary to once again push Langholm’s case.

“We know there is still competition from Newcastleton, but Langholm has a very strong case in terms of its size, the technical feasibility of running the line to the town, and economic opportunities.

“Also, any future extension of the Borders railway to Carlisle which didn’t include Langholm would be likely to bypass Dumfries and Galloway altogether, which would be wrong given that we are setting up an economic agency to boost the economy of the entire south of Scotland.

“I made this point to the leaders of Dumfries and Galloway council shortly after meeting with Mr. Scott and I got very positive replies from Cllr. Elaine Murray and Cllr. Rob Davidson.”

A date is currently being arrange for the meeting which will take place in the Scottish Parliament

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MSP Joan McAlpine has raised fears about the future of egg production after the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing told her the sector could be ‘wiped out’ if a no-deal Brexit leads to a mass influx of cheap, poor quality produce into the UK market.

The South Scotland MSP asked questions in Holyrood after being approached for help by the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC), as Dumfries and Galloway is home to some of the best quality producers including Nith Valley Eggs at Gatelawbridge, and Auchtralure Farm Eggs at Stranraer.

UK ministers propose to drop tariffs on eggs from abroad in the event of a “no deal”. Mr Ewing told the MSP that he had raised the BEIC concerns with UK ministers just last week but they were unable to give any reassurance about fears a no deal could lead to an influx of poor quality eggs produced to lower animal welfare standards.

Joan McAlpine MSP said:

“A no-deal Brexit scenario could be disastrous for Scottish consumers and for our high-quality egg industry. Rural areas like Dumfries and Galloway have risen to the challenge of producing high quality free-range eggs in recent years, and it would be disgraceful to put these businesses at risk by allowing poor quality ‘battery’ eggs back onto the market.

“If we leave the EU without a deal, we will revert to WTO rules. Under the World Trade Organisation’s sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules, animal welfare cannot be used as a barrier to trade, so we could go backwards.”

The British Egg Industry Council fear that in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, many of the EU regulations and quality controls which ensure the welfare of egg laying hens and the quality of the eggs sold at market, could be scrapped.

The Council, who represent the UK egg industry, say that though the EU banned conventional ‘battery’ cages in 2012, a no-deal Brexit could risk a lapse in welfare and food quality standards, and may see poor quality eggs from battery hens back on UK supermarket shelves, or used in other food products.

Responding to Ms McAlpine’s questions in the Scottish Parliament, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing said:

“Unfortunately our assessment is that egg production is another of our successful food and drink sectors that will be negatively impacted by a no deal Brexit, and this is particularly true if, as expected, the UK Government leaves the sector without the protection of tariffs or quantitative restrictions on egg products coming into the UK. That would leave Scottish producers at an unfair disadvantage with the potential for imported products of much lower quality and welfare standards flooding the market here.

“It beggars belief that the reckless approach by the UK Government to allow complete trade liberalisation on the egg production sector could wipe this out in one fell swoop. Not only will it leave our hard working egg producers unprotected and vulnerable to cheaper imports, but could also lead to consumers unwittingly eating egg and egg products produced to a lower welfare standard than we do thanks to being members of the EU.

“These issues were raised with DEFRA Ministers on Monday, but yet again they were completely unable to give us any reassurance whatsoever to alleviate these real and practical concerns. It was completely inadequate, and utter shambolic.”

Speaking after the exchange, Joan McAlpine MSP said:

“I am incredibly worried about the impacts which a no-deal scenario could have on Scottish egg producers, and these fears have been confirmed today by the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy. I will continue to work hard to stand up for the interests of producers across Dumfries and Galloway who could be facing serious losses as a result of an extreme Tory Brexit.”

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South Scotland MSP, Joan McAlpine, has praised Dumfries & Galloway’s high quality food and drink sector following a tour of some of region’s top growers, producers and retailers.

 
The SNP MSP had been visiting the businesses as part of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, an annual celebration of Scotland’s produce and those who grow, make, cook and sell it. She was impressed with the range, quality and choice of what’s available.
 
Commenting, Ms McAlpine says,
 
“I’ve had such an enjoyable time visiting businesses around the region and meeting some of the people involved in growing, manufacturing and selling our world-class local produce, not to mention sampling some of what’s on offer! 
 
 “I learned a lot about local beers and spirits at TB Watson, and stocked up on local Sulwath Beer. TB Watson are one of Dumfries’ oldest businesses, having been operating in the town one way or another for 110 years.

“I then bought a high quality barbecue pack at the award winning JB Houston craft butchers in Dumfries, established in 1950 and now in its third generation.  
 
“I also visited Barony Country Foods, who specialise in smoked fish, game and other specialised products – including the honey and cheese I purchased. I was delighted to learn that two years after their move to Lochmaben, Barony are employing more staff thanks to acquiring a new mail order brand.
 
“it was a joy to stock up on groceries from the huge range of local produce on sale at The Dumfries Larder and at Broomhouses store in Lockerbie. Family members who visited me that weekend were most impressed!
 
“A highlight of the fortnight was a visit to the newly refurbished Globe Inn in Dumfries. This historical pub, famously frequented by our national Bard, Rabbie Burns, has undergone major renovations and now boasts a restaurant specialising in high quality local produce, including Galloway beef. New owners, Prof David Thomson and Teresa Church have done a fantastic job with the re-development. It was a privilege to sample their delicious menu.
 
“Food and drink production is such an important part of our region’s economy, supporting small businesses, employment and tourism. Almost half of Scotland’s dairy production is carried out in Dumfries & Galloway and we boast world-class restaurants, ice cream manufacturers, breweries, smokehouses, fisheries, farmer’s markets and chocolatiers, so I’m keen to do what I can to support them.”
 
Now in its tenth year, the Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight runs until the 15th September. It is co-ordinated by Scotland Food & Drink and supported by the Scottish Government and industry partners. 

Images of Joan McAlpine MSP at TB Watson, The Dumfries Larder, JB Houston, and Barony Country Foods
 
More information on Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight is available from Visit Scotland;   https://www.visitscotland.com/blog/food-drink/food-and-drink-fortnight/
 







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South Scotland MSP, Joan McAlpine has condemned the UK government for taking six years to hand over EU cash earmarked for Scottish Farmers. She welcomed the Conservatives finally releasing the £160m but said it came too late. 

 

The payment, known as a convergence uplift, had been awarded to Scottish farmers by the European Union in 2013 but DEFRA had failed to pass on. Instead they distributed the bulk of it to farmers in England and Wales. The cash was supposed to bring Scottish hill farmers on a par with farms across the EU.  

 

Ms McAlpine also disputed  claims by the Conservatives that the payments are ‘extra cash’ or that the announcement was as a result of a campaign by Scottish Tory MPs.

 

Commenting Ms McAlpine says,

 

“The UK Government spin on this is mendacious. The truth is they stole cash that was supposed to go to Scottish hill farmers and they’re only handing it over now as a bribe to voters because they know a general election is approaching.

 

“This money was awarded by the European Union in 2013 and was aimed at addressing the low payments received by Scottish farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy. But the UK Government failed to pass it on.

 

“Since 2013, The National Farmers Union in Scotland and the Scottish Government have repeatedly asked for and been promised, by successive DEFRA Ministers, a review into the spending decision. Yet just last year Michael Gove claimed the money was already spent and called the SNP ‘grievance-mongering separatists’ for raising the issue in Parliament.

 

“So although farmers in Scotland will welcome this cash boost, they won’t be fooled by Tory attempts to claim credit for passing it on. They’ll see through it as the pre-election stunt that it is.”

 

Links to further information on the convergence uplift:

 

https://www.ruralpayments.org/publicsite/futures/news-events/scottish-farmers-owed-millions-in-convergence-payments-/

 

https://www.nfus.org.uk/news/news/bew-review-must-deliver-for-scotland-on-convergence

 

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SNP SET OUT PLANS TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE AND BUILD FAIRER COUNTRY


STARK CONTRAST WITH WESTMINSTER SHUTDOWN

 

South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the SNP’s ambitious new plans to tackle climate change and build a fairer country, outlined today in this year’s Programme for Government.

 

Setting out her plans for the year ahead, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out how the Scottish Government would tackle the climate crisis with a range of new measures including £500 million of investment in public transport.

The Scottish Government will put in place a ‘Green New Deal’, harnessing the power of the Scottish National Investment Bank to attract £3 billion of investment into green projects.

It was also confirmed that the Scottish Child Payment, a brand new benefit to tackle child poverty, will be launched earlier than previously announced – with the first payments made by Christmas 2020.

Other commitments include:

 

  • Decarbonising Scotland’s railways by 2035, and making the Highlands and Islands the world’s first net zero aviation region by 2040
  • Developing regulations so that new homes from 2024 must use renewable or low carbon heat
  • Providing an additional £20 million of funding to help tackle the drugs emergency
  • Putting in place a Women’s Health Plan to tackle women’s heath inequalities

 

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:

“The SNP has achieved a huge amount in government – in just the last year we’ve increased NHS funding, increased teacher numbers and pay and delivered brand new benefits through our Scottish Social Security Agency.

“Our plan for the year ahead is an ambitious set of proposals to tackle climate change and build a fairer country.

“Even in the midst of Westminster chaos and instability, the Scottish Government is determined to get on with improving lives in [AREA] and across Scotland.

“But it cannot be stressed enough – while we are doing everything we can to move Scotland forward, the threat to our economy and our society posed by Boris Johnson’s plan for a No Deal Brexit remains.”

 

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Joan McAlpine MSP has praised the work of community Police Officers in Dumfries town centre after she spent a day on patrol with officers as part of the National Police Chief’s Council’s ‘Give a day to policing’ scheme.
 
On Tuesday 20th August Joan McAlpine MSP joined community police officers on patrol on Dumfries High St., learning about some of the key issues which affect life and business in the town centre and getting a first-hand look at how community policing is working to make Dumfries a safer place. 
 
The day was also an opportunity to learn more about the Police Scotland Youth Volunteer Scheme, an exciting project for young people aged between 13-18 to volunteer under the lead of a Police Constable to learn more about how policing in Scotland works, and to contribute positively to the community. 
 
Speaking about the event, Joan McAlpine MSP said:
 
“I was delighted to join community Police Officers Alistair and Scott on patrol in Dumfries High St. It’s fantastic to see that community policing is alive and well in Dumfries and Galloway, and I’m so pleased that these wonderful officers work so hard to keep our streets safe. 
 
“I understand that shoplifting is still a key issue affecting local retailers, but I’m encouraged to hear that thanks to good CCTV coverage in the town, shoplifters tend to be caught quickly. I am also pleased to hear that alcohol related crimes have dropped because of the Scottish Government’s minimum unit pricing on alcohol.
 
“It was also great to learn more about the Police Scotland Youth Volunteers project. I’m pleased to see local youngsters taking an interest in learning about how policing in Scotland works, and I want to wish all these wonderful young people all the best for their upcoming passing out ceremony at Dumfries and Galloway College.”
 






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REPORT FINDS ELDERLY IN UK SUFFER THE WORST POVERTY RATE IN WESTERN EUROPE

SNP MSP, Joan McAlpine, has warned the Tory government against increasing the state pension age, which would have dire and disproportionate consequences in Dumfries and Galloway and across Scotland.

The Tories’ threat comes following a report published by the Centre for Social Justice – chaired by close Boris Johnson ally, Iain Duncan Smith – which concludes that the state pension age should rise to 75 over the next 16 years.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has said that any further increases in the state pension age could have a hugely disproportionate impact on Scotland due to its unique demographic needs.

The MSP also called on the UK government to heed warnings raised in a new report that found the proportion of elderly people living in severe poverty in the UK is five times what it was in 1986 – the largest increase among western European countries.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:

“The Tory’s government’s approach to the UK’s elderly population and state pension policy has been cruel and callous.

 

“From the burning injustices facing the WASPI women who have been denied the right to their state pension, to the stripping away of free TV licences for the over 75s, this government’s attitude towards its older people is shameful.

 

“Instead of taking on board policies written up by one of the architects of Tory austerity, the new Prime Minister must take action to address the dire levels of pensioner poverty in the UK.

 

“The Tory government must take a step back and tackle these injustices – rather than ramping up the threats.”

 

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An estimated 13,400 children in 7,600 families across Dumfries and Galloway are expected to benefit from the Scottish Government’s ground breaking anti-poverty payment, it has been revealed.
 
The Scottish Child Payment will be worth £10 per child for low-income families by the end of 2022, with introduction for under-6s starting by early 2021.
 
The brand new benefit was described as a “game changer” and a “lifeline” by anti-poverty campaigners and is central to the SNP’s ambitions to tackle child poverty.
The Scottish Government this week published estimates, based on the number of Tax Credit recipients prior to the rollout of Universal Credit Full Service, showing how many children and families are expected to benefit in each local authority.
 
Commenting, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:
 
“The Scottish Child Payment is an ambitious and ground breaking new benefit that will directly tackle child poverty.
 
“When fully rolled out, the Scottish Child Payment will benefit over a third of all children – giving families £10 per week for every eligible child under 16 years old.
 
“Tory cuts are driving too many families into poverty – but the SNP are determined to use every power at our disposal to help families make ends meet.”


John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland: “This new payment is an absolute game changer in the fight to end child poverty. £10 a week for each child will make a real difference to families struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes and pay for the ordinary school trips, sport and other activities that are fundamental to a decent childhood.  Today’s announcement is a landmark recognition of the role the Scottish social security system can play in ending child poverty. It’s now vital that the UK government follows suit and starts to use its powers in an equally positive way and scraps the universal credit two child limit and the UK benefit freeze, so that government at every level works together to protect children from poverty.”

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance: “Amid a rising tide of poverty, the new Scottish Child Payment will act as a lifeline for families struggling to stay afloat. An additional £10 per week will help unlock tens of thousands of children from poverty and underlines the important role that Scottish social security powers have to address poverty. The early introduction of the new payment in 2020/21 for families with children under six is particularly welcome, and shows what can be done when there is political will to address poverty.”
 
The qualifying benefits for the Scottish Child Payment include Universal Credit and all the legacy benefits it is replacing, as well as Pension Credit. Universal Credit is in the process of being rolled out and current caseloads across local authorities are not representative of the long-term steady state. We also have limited information on the number of children in families on Universal Credit.

Given these limitations, we have estimated the above figures by applying proportions from HMRC data on the number of children and families receiving Tax Credits in each local authority prior to the rollout of Universal Credit Full Service. To avoid double counting and because most families with children in receipt of legacy benefits receive tax credits we have not factored in other legacy benefits.

The above caveats mean that the figures should be treated with caution and could overestimate or underestimate the numbers eligible in individual local authorities. We will continue to refine our analysis of the Scottish Child Payment as we develop the policy.

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The Scottish Welfare Fund made 5,275 payments to people in Dumfries and Galloway in the last financial year, new figures show.

 
A total of 1,150 Community Care Grants and 4,125 Crisis Grants were awarded in Dumfries and Galloway over the year.
 
The money helped people with essentials such as food, heating costs and household items.          
 
The SNP introduced the Scottish Welfare Fund in 2013. The Fund is part of a £125 million annual package to mitigate the impact of UK government austerity.
 
Since its launch in April 2013, the Fund has paid out more than £200 million to support over 336,000 households across Scotland, with a third of recipients being families with children.
 
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:
 
“The Scottish Welfare Fund is a vital lifeline for many people facing poverty or personal crisis.
 
“The fact that so many households in Dumfries and Galloway are in need of emergency financial help is appalling, and a sad indictment of the UK Government’s record on austerity and welfare changes.
 
“The SNP would prefer these resources were invested directly to tackle poverty rather than protecting people from Tory austerity. 
 
“Indeed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Poverty described it as outrageous that the Scottish Government had to divert funds to protect people from Westminster’s mess.
 
“The SNP will continue to do everything in our power to tackle poverty and support low income families. It’s time for the Tories to end their austerity agenda and stop forcing Dumfries and Galloway families into poverty.”
 
ENDS                                                              
 
Notes:
 
The Crisis Grant aims to help people in financial emergency, such as those struggling on low incomes or benefits                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
 
Community Care Grant aims to, among other things, help people set up home or help families facing exceptional pressures                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
In the UN Special Rapporteur on Poverty, Professor Philip Alston praised Scotland’s “ambitious” schemes for addressing poverty, including the Fairer Scotland Action Plan and the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan. He noted Scotland’s “promising social security system, guided by the principles of dignity and social security as a human right, and co-designed with claimants on the basis of evidence”
 
The Scottish Government’s response to the Special Rapporteur’s report shows UK Government welfare cuts have increased the risk of deprivation for low-income families across Scotland
 


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