MSP Joan McAlpine used her first speech of the new Parliament to push the case for more investment in the region.
The South Scotland MSP welcomed the Government’s £20 billion infrastructure investment plans, and said she looks forward to welcoming the new Transport Minister to Dumfries to chair a summit identifying priorities for road and rail for the area.
Better connecting Dumfries and Galloway to the rest of Scotland played a key role in Ms McAlpine’s recent election campaign, and she has vowed to make this a top priority. SNP ministers also made a number of commitments to the south including fresh action on tourism and upgrades to the A75 and looking at better ways to connect Dumfries to M74.
Speaking during the debate on taking Scotland forward, Ms McAlpine said:
“It has been in my view one of the great achievements of the SNP governments from 2007 to 2016 that we managed to invest records amounts in infrastructure despite very sharp cuts to our capital spending budget from London.
“In Dumfries and Galloway, there have been a number of important upgrades to roads but more needs to be done. I was very pleased that in April John Swinney committed to chair a Transport Summit for Dumfries and Galloway to really raise the ambition to properly connect this region to the rest of Scotland. I hope that summit can go ahead with Mr Yousaf in the chair.”
The SNP MSP, who sat on the economy committee during the last parliamentary session also welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to review the roles and responsibilities of Scottish Enterprise announced by the First Minister.
She said: “When I sat on the economy committee it was clear to me that the way companies were selected for account management was not working in the south, we did not have enough companies of the required turn over, ignoring the medium sized enterprises that had potential.
“I am very pleased that the FM has said that her government will carry out an end to end review of the roles, responsibilities and relationships of our enterprise, development and skills agencies. While Scottish Enterprise have made internal personnel decisions to address it, a more fundamental change is required.
“For a very rural area like south Scotland we need the Highland and Island Enterprise model that incorporates Community Development.”
Ms McAlpine also welcomed the First Minister’s ‘extremely ambitious’ early years agenda, and the jobs it will create.
She said: “ A £500 million investment to double early learning in this parliament to 30 hours a week will not only benefit parents and children - it is a huge infrastructure investment.”
She also welcomed news that the government’s £700 million “attainment” fund for schools will be allocated on the basis of those pupils in receipt of free school meals, as opposed to the normal “Index of Multiple Deprivation” which favours urban areas.