Statement from Joan McAlpine on the relocation of Eastriggs Post Office

Joan McAlpine has reacted with dismay to news that Eastriggs Post Office is to relocate to the Spar; she said:

“This announcement is devastating news to businesses, local pensioners and the wider Eastriggs community who are overwhelmingly opposed to the plans.

“To announce this within a few weeks of the consultation period ending is very disappointing but sadly not surprising. I suspected that this consultation was a sham and those suspicions were confirmed when I received a letter from Tory Baroness Neville-Rolfe, which strongly implied a decision had already been made while the consultation was still taking place.

“UK Government Ministers should hang their heads in shame for the way this has been handled. While claiming to support local communities they have singularly failed to listen to the overwhelming arguments for retaining the current post office, and despite extensive communications with and representations from me, they have failed to advise me, as south of Scotland MSP, of the decision to close this vital community resource.

“I am deeply disappointed in this decision, but despite the outcome the Eastriggs community should be congratulated for their campaign to oppose this plan and to stand up for the best interests of vulnerable people within their community.”


Clark’s Little Ark volunteers to benefit from shelter donations

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Joan McAlpine has praised the generosity of two companies who are making generous donations of a visitor shelter, from Portakabin, and a storage facility, from Wernick, to a much loved animal sanctuary in Sanquhar.

Clark’s Little Ark will receive the important new units after local MSP contacted the businesses to request help for the animal sanctuary. The organisation was set up by Alison Shankly whose disabled son Clark had a special bond with animals. Sadly, Clark died but his legacy is bringing happiness to many children.

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MSP says there is “still hope” for haaf netting in Annan

Joan McAlpine MSP says she has “not lost hope” that a way can be found to preserve the ancient tradition of haaf netting in Annan.

The tradition, which dates back to Viking Times, is affected by measures to conserve wild salmon which scientists say is threatened in Scottish rivers such as The Annan where the government plan to introduce a three year ban on killing salmon.

Now the government has indicated that it will compensate angling clubs affected by the changes and Ms McAlpine said she hoped this indicated a willingness to compromise in other areas.

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MSP welcomes local history campaign success

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South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine congratulated campaigners who succeeded in getting an important local history book reprinted by its Edinburgh publishers.

Ms McAlpine had added her support to an online petition calling on publishers Birlinn to reprint “The Lowland Clearances” by Peter Aitchison and Andrew Cassell.

The book argues that it is impossible to understand the Highland Clearances without knowing that they were preceded by the Lowland Clearances, which began in Dumfries and Galloway in 1724 when it took an entire regiment of soldiers 9 months to suppress an armed uprising against enclosure.

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MSP welcomes proposal to create new South of Scotland European statistical region

Joan McAlpine has said the proposal by Scotland’s Chief Statistician to create a new European statistical region for the South of Scotland is very good news for Dumfries and Galloway and may result in more money coming to the region from the EU.

 Ms McAlpine said: 

"The change in classification will better reflect the challenges faced by the south including rural poverty. I very much hope this can be a trigger for more European funding AND I know that it is one of the reasons this change is supported by Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce and by the South of Scotland Alliance. It sounds very dry but it is a potentially important opportunity which I strongly support. 

“NUTS in this case isn't nuts at all - it makes perfect sense!"


MSP welcomes progressive budget for the region

Local MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the Scottish budget's record investment in the Dumfries and Galloway's NHS and its extension of social care, the living wage, housebuilding and free childcare in the region. She said the budget protected public services in the face of Tory austerity.

Finance Secretary John Swinney outlined an extra £500 million investment in the NHS, taking spending to nearly £13 billion for the first time – in spite of £3.9 billion of cuts to Scotland’s budget.

Ms McAlpine said:

“This is a budget that takes decisive action to deliver inclusive growth and support public services while protecting, not burdening, those on the lowest incomes.

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Above inflation rise for NHS Dumfries and Galloway welcomed by MSP

Joan McAlpine has welcomed an above inflation rise in the budget of NHS Dumfries and Galloway this year, with £7.6 million for health and social care which aims to end “delayed discharge” from hospital.

The rise was revealed in figures obtained by the MSP from the Scottish Government. They show NHS Dumfries and Galloway's resource budget rising 5.1% to £279.4 million in 2016/17. Under the SNP the budget has risen by a total of £72 million since 2007.

This has resulted in an increased number of staff, numbers of which are up by 6.5%. Dumfries and Galloway is also getting a new hospital, an investment of £256 million that builds on previous new build projects including the Midpark Hospital and the Dumfries North West Primary Care Centre.

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Joan McAlpine slams Scottish Tories for their ‘embarrassing’ fiscal framework position

Joan McAlpine has slammed Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Tories for their refusal to stand up for Scotland’s interests during the fiscal framework negotiations, an agreement on which was reached late yesterday. As the only party in Scotland who failed to back the Scottish Government during the fiscal framework talks they would have been happy to inflict a £7 billion cut to the Scottish budget.

Ms McAlpine said the original Treasury plan would have devastated public spending in Dumfries and Galloway. She said: "The Barnett Formula, which the Treasury tried to ditch, is designed to protect the higher cost of delivering things like health and education in rural areas like Dumfries and Galloway. The Scottish Tories were happy to see that wiped out and to hurt many people in this area.

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Local groups urged by MSP not to miss deadline of first tranche of EU cash

Joan McAlpine MSP has urged community groups, farmers and businesses to apply for a record tranche of EU and Government as the deadline fast approaches.

The £5.6 million of LEADER funding is made up equally by the Scottish Government and the European Union. It is a record allocation for Dumfries and Galloway and the third highest allocation in Scotland this time – after the Highlands and Ayrshire.

The deadline for expressions of interest is 9 March. Match funding is required.

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MSP hails Johnstonebridge Centre as a ‘fantastic testament to community endeavour’

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Joan McAlpine has encouraged community groups and others to make full use of the new Johnstonebridge Centre. Ms McAlpine supported efforts to fundraise for the centre and visited for the first time last week to join the Wednesday Lunch Club and Bingo.

The centre includes a state of the art theatre sound and lighting system, catering facilities, mother and toddler room, meeting room, disabled toilets and even a cinema screen.

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MSP encourages groups to attend the Community Shares Scotland Training Roadshow

Joan McAlpine is encouraging community groups in Dumfriesshire to find out more about community shares initiatives by attending a free roadshow taking place in Dumfries next week.

Community shares are a way of raising capital to start and grow a community project, such as a shop, community building, renewable energy initiatives or a local food scheme. Community shares allow investment to come from the very community a project intends to benefit, meaning community shareholders can work together to provide services that meet local needs.

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‘Save The Barony Campus’ meeting draws widespread support

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Around 70 people packed out Locharbriggs Village Hall last Thursday to express concerns about the future of the Barony College campus at an open meeting organised by members of the ‘Save The Barony Campus’ Facebook page.

Local South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine spoke about the work she has done to scrutinise the SRUC’s plans for the campus, including raising the issue in parliament and, more recently, arranging for the Principal of Barony College to meet with the Cabinet Secretary.

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MSP hits out at UK Government over Post Office response

Joan McAlpine MSP has hit out at the UK government after a Tory Baroness appeared to write off Eastriggs Post Office before the consultation on its future is complete.

Ms McAlpine, the local SNP member of the Scottish Parliament, received a reply from Baroness Neville-Rolfe after she informed the UK government of her concerns about the downgrading of Eastriggs Post Office.

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MSP welcomes rail refurb promise

Joan McAlpine has welcomed assurances from Transport Minister Derek MacKay that the promised refurbishment of train coaches on the Glasgow – Dumfries – Carlisle route will begin this month.

In a letter sent to the Scottish Government Minister in January Ms McAlpine asked Mr MacKay to confirm whether the promises made by ScotRail franchisee Abellio about upgrades to the route would be kept. Mr MacKay has now confirmed that the class 156 trains which run on the route will be undergoing a refurbishment beginning this month, with all 38 coaches due to be fully refurbished by mid-2018.

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Joan McAlpine highlights Dumfries and Galloway tourism success in the Scottish Parliament

Local MSP Joan McAlpine has congratulated Dumfries and Galloway’s communities and businesses on the region being voted Holiday Destination of the Year.  She said the award, which was voted for by readers of BBC Countryfile Magazine, was a long-overdue recognition of the region’s unique charms and she has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament to mark the achievement.

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Local papers praised in Scottish Parliament

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The publications of DNG Media Ltd  as well as the Eskdale & Liddesdale Advertiser have been singled out for praise in the Scottish Parliament during a debate on the future of local newspapers. The papers featured prominently in a speech by Joan McAlpine MSP.

In particular Ms McAlpine raised the importance of the independence of local newspapers, praising DNG Media Ltd and the Eskdale & Liddesdale Advertiser as examples of a local newspaper with strong community minded priorities.

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MSP welcomes new £20m hardship fund for farmers

Joan McAlpine has urged Dumfries and Galloway farmers to take make use of a £20m hardship fund announced last week for Scottish agricultural businesses hit by cash flow problems caused by the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead announced the scheme at the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) annual conference. He said progress on making payments has been made but recognised that many agricultural businesses were facing cash flow issues as a result of the biggest ever CAP reform.

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MSP welcomes new Rural Crime Co-ordinator post

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the announcement of funding to sponsor a Police Scotland National Rural Crime Co-ordinator post dedicated to tackling rural and agricultural crime in areas like Dumfries and Galloway.

The £75,000 funding provided by NFU Mutual will also fund the provision of specialist training to increase the detection and seizure of stolen agricultural vehicles and plant, and it builds on previous work done by the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC), a multi-organisation partnership that works together to prevent rural crime and protect rural communities.

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MSP demands improvements to local rail services

Local MSP Joan McAlpine says Dumfriesshire people have waited long enough for promised improvements to rail local rail services.

Ms McAlpine has written to Transport Secretary Derek Mackay to ask him to urge ScotRail franchisee Abellio to make good on their promises of refurbished trains, at-seat catering, enhanced timetables and increased community opportunities. Abellio was awarded the contract to run the ScotRail services last year and the Glasgow – Dumfries – Carlisle route is among the services they now have responsibility for.

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New analysis – Labour tax plans to hit thousands of low income workers in Dumfriesshire

Labour’s tax hike on working people could hit the incomes of thousands of the lowest income workers in Dumfriesshire new analysis has shown – as the party’s proposals continues to unravel.

Labour announced last week they want to increase the basic rate of income tax for 2.2 million people in Scotland – including 500,000 pensioners. While Labour have claimed that those on incomes between £11,000 and £20,000 could apply for a rebate, they have failed to acknowledge that many people do not claim for benefits they are entitled to.

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MSP congratulates Terrence Higgins Trust for rural service provisions

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Joan McAlpine has congratulated the Terrence Higgins Trust for adapting their services to suit the needs of rural people and communities during a visit to the Dumfries centre yesterday.

Ms McAlpine was shown round the centre by Health Promotion Specialist Johnathon Gallagher who was appointed late last year to provide a range of services on behalf of the Terrence Higgins Trust to Dumfries and Galloway.

During the visit Ms McAlpine found out more about the work of the Trust and about the projects currently being carried out in Dumfries and Galloway, as well as the tailored advice and support offered. Ms McAlpine said:

“The Terrence Higgins Trust is a high profile, national charity who has been at the forefront of supporting people with HIV and AIDS and helping to minimise the risk of exposure. It was very interesting to meet the local Dumfries and Galloway team, and I was particularly impressed by the way the Terrence Higgins Trust have tailored the service they offer in Dumfriesshire to the rurality of our area, for example by providing group support sessions by phone and posting health supplies, such as condoms, to people rather than requiring them to visit the centre in Dumfries.

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Consumer watchdog to make ‘very strong representations’ against Eastriggs Post Office relocation after meeting with Joan McAlpine

The watchdog for protecting Post Officer customers has promised to intervene in the plan to move the Eastriggs Post Office after a meeting with Joan McAlpine MSP.

Eilidh MacDonald, senior policy researcher with Citizens Advice who scrutinise the impact of planned post office transfers, met Ms McAlpine last week in the Scottish Parliament to discuss the Eastriggs residents’ concerns.

Afterwards Ms Macdonald wrote to the SNP MSP:

"In the case of Eastriggs, following speaking with you, I can tell you that the formal review meeting with POL has been pushed to next week. We are minded to make very strong representations about this proposal on the basis of the concerns you voiced on behalf of your constituents.

"I will be in touch to give you more detail on that - I envisage we will focus on accessibility to the new location, and to Annan; privacy concerns; ensuring the ramp is safe and clear; automatic doors; and business banking. We will also talk about the loss of the social value - but as I said, this is not an area where we have much room at present.

"The loss of the social function of this branch is clearly enormous. As we discussed, sometimes transformation improves a service and sometimes - as in this case - it may reduce it. It sounds like this is a very special branch and were the social value to be quantified, the bottom line may look very different.”

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Cabinet Secretary confirms attendance allowance recipients to ‘be protected’ after question from local MSP

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed assurances that attendance allowance for the frail elderly will be protected in Scotland after she raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament.

Ms McAlpine raised the future of the vital pensioners' benefit after concerns were highlighted in the media over potential cuts in England - where responsibility for the benefit is being transferred to councils. However attendance allowance will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament as part of the post referendum package of powers.

Ms McAlpine sits on the Scottish Parliament's Welfare Reform Committee which scrutinises the impact of the UK government's changes to social security benefits. Speaking in parliament, Ms McAlpine pointed out that in England the Independent Living Fund for disabled people has disappeared after being devolved to councils - sparking furious protests at Westminster. Now concerns have been raised that a similar fate may await attendance allowance south of the border.

Responding to Ms McAlpine, Alex Neil, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights said current recipients of attendance allowance will “be protected" when the benefit is transferred to Scotland.

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McAlpine celebrates new law for carers with ENABLE Scotland

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Unpaid carers joined MSP Joan McAlpine in the Scottish parliament last week to celebrate the passing of a bill giving them legal rights and recognition.

The carers and staff from Enable Scotland also thanked Ms McAlpine for backing their campaign to strengthen the bill by making sure it included ways to help carers facing crisis.

Ms McAlpine is co-convenor of the Carers Cross Party Group in parliament and spoke in the debate which led to the bill being passed last week.

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Joan McAlpine encourages local people to apply for new Flood Recovery grant

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the launch of a new grant scheme launched by Foundation Scotland to provide financial assistance to relieve hardship in those areas affected by recent flooding.

Grants of up to £1000 are available for individuals and families who are suffering financial hardship, and the grant applications can be made in addition to claiming the £1500 available from the Scottish Government.

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Joan McAlpine slams Labour-led councils’ reluctance to accept multi million pound social care living wage fund

Joan McAlpine has criticised Labour councils including Dumfries and Galloway for threatening to turn away from £250 million funding to give care workers a living wage and she has challenged Labour on their decision to vote for a tax hike for 2.2 million basic rate taxpayers across Scotland – including almost half a million pensioners.

The SNP budget was debated by the Scottish Parliament this week and, in contrast to Labour plans, will deliver a pay rise for up to 51,400 low paid workers and no rise in Income Tax or Council Tax bills.

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MSP welcomes floodbank repair grant scheme

Local MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the launch of a grant to help repair man-made floodbanks. The Agricultural Floodbank Repair Grant Scheme was announced by the First Minister earlier this year, with £1 million being set aside to fund the repair of man-made floodbanks on farms in nine local authorities including Dumfries and Galloway.

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McAlpine secures pylon campaigner meeting with energy watchdog

Joan McAlpine MSP has secured a vital meeting with energy regulator Ofgem for local people concerned about the proposed upgrading of the electricity transmission network that would see a series of new electricity pylons erected across the region.

The energy regulator agreed to meet campaigners to discuss the pylons after speaking with Joan McAlpine at the Scottish Parliament last week. Ms McAlpine welcomed the fact that Ofgem acknowledged the importance of taking local views into account and she outlined the concerns of local people, particularly the planned routing of powerlines in areas where there are no pylons at present.

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McAlpine brands Post Office public consultation a ‘sham’

MSP Joan McAlpine has branded the public consultation process of the Post Office modernisation programme a ‘sham’ after learning that staff at a proposed new location for Eastriggs Post Office were invited to attend post office training and counters were being measured for fitting while the public consultation taking place.

The proposed relocation of Eastriggs Post Office, from a fully accessible stand-alone shop to a counter within the village’s Spar store, has been fiercely opposed by local people. More than 80 attended a highly charged public meeting two weeks ago to quiz Post Office representatives on the plans. The public consultation, which purported to seek community feedback before final decisions are made, didn’t end until 29th January.

Following the meeting Joan McAlpine wrote to Post Office Ltd demanding that they come clean about whether firm decisions about the relocation had already been made. She reiterated those demands in her own submission to the consultation last week and she will be meeting with post services consumer watchdog Citizens Advice to discuss the matter further.

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MSP criticises Virgin Trains for response to Dumfries and Galloway commuter woe

Joan McAlpine has said that rail users in Dumfriesshire will be ‘extremely disappointed’ about the continued unwillingness of Virgin Trains to stop any of their services at Dumfries to mitigate the chaos for local commuters caused by the extended closure of Lamington Viaduct.

Ms McAlpine wrote to Virgin Trains when the extended viaduct closure was announced to ask them to stop trains in Dumfries, something they already do in Kilmarnock.

In a reply sent to the MSP Virgin Trains stated that “putting an additional stop in the timetable would make it impossible to maintain the connection into onward services at Carlisle.” Virgin Trains also claimed that the re-routing of West Coast Mainline services through Dumfries while the viaduct is closed has caused “no diminution in services to the key locations of Dumfries and Kilmarnock”. However this contradicts direct evidence from local commuters who have faced delays of up to an hour on local routes due to the extra trains using the line.

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MSP to support community ownership bid for Gallow Hill

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Joan McAlpine is adding her voice to calls for at least 100 members of Moffat’s local community to sign up to a bid to transfer ownership of Gallow Hill to Moffat Community Woodlands.

Moffat Community Woodlands plans to secure the buyout with funding from the Community Land Scotland fund, established by the Scottish Government to support the growth of community land ownership in Scotland. Moffat Community Woodlands says there would be multiple benefits from community ownership of Gallow Hill, including providing mixed broadleaf woodland, improved leisure resources and educational opportunities that make the most of the views from the hill.

The group is holding a public meeting in Moffat Town Hall on 2nd February at 7.30pm to encourage local people to sign up as ‘Friends of Gallow Hill’.

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MSP secures Robert the Bruce commemoration in Greggs

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Joan McAlpine MSP has congratulated Greggs bakery for responding in record time to her appeal that their new Dumfries shop be recognised as a key site in Scottish history.

Ms McAlpine wrote to Greggs chief executive after the Robert the Bruce Trust told her the new restaurant and shop would open above the alter of the medieval Grey Friars church where Robert the Bruce stabbed the Red Comyn, sparking the Wars of Independence.

Greggs responded immediately to Ms McAlpine's intervention, designing a plaque and interpretive panel in collaboration with the Dumfries based Robert the Bruce Trust and its expert Ted Cowan, emeritus Professor of Scottish History at Glasgow University.

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Statement from Joan McAlpine MSP on wild fisheries regulation

Following last week's media report on the implementation of measures to conserve wild salmon, Joan McAlpine MSP issued the following statement:

"I will be deeply disappointed if these regulations are enforced in a way that threatens the unique tradition of Haaf netting on the Solway. The regulations still need to go before committees of the Scottish Parliament and enforcement is by no means a fait accompli. I know MSP colleagues are unhappy about the impact on traditional netters. I understand that ministers must meet conservation obligations but not at the expensive of our heritage - a balance has to be found.

"While a total kill ban affects anglers as well as netters on grade three rivers such as The Annan, the catch and release policy that will apply to anglers should the regulations go ahead has a 10% mortality rate. The Haaf netters argue their catch should be based on that 10% as they have zero mortality on catch and release. That seems extremely reasonable to me, especially if it preserves the tradition and generates an (albeit reduced) income for Annan's Common Good Fund.

"Angling will survive the regulations, it is this country's most popular participation sport. But if Haaf netting disappears from the waters off Annan, it disappears forever. There is such a thing as "human ecology", preserving unique aspects of our culture, and that should be taken into consideration."

Last year Ms McAlpine tabled a motion to parliament recognising the cultural importance of the unique fishing methods on the Solway and the threat posed to them. She proposed that Haaf netters be treated as a heritage fishery and protected. The motion gained cross party support. Ms McAlpine argued the same point in her submission to the consultation on fisheries regulation last year.


Labour gaffe on early years spending

Dumfries and Galloway Labour have committed a massive gaffe after demanding more money for early years education despite failing to spend the Scottish Government money they were already given to deliver it.

Committee papers from the Labour run council this month revealed they had failed to spend £797,000 allocated to them by SNP ministers to support investment in Early Years. The council claimed they had already made the investments therefore “not all the funding set aside has been required.”

However speaking in parliament on Wednesday, Labour MSP Elaine Murray asked whether the Scottish government would fund Dumfries and Galloway “for the capital and revenue costs of the increase in early learning and childcare entitlement to 1,140 hours.”

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MSP honours memory of persecuted Jews who sought refuge in Scotland

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Joan McAlpine MSP today marked Holocaust Memorial Day by signing the Book of Commitment at a new mobile exhibition which will take survivor testimonies into communities and classrooms across Scotland.

The exhibition, which is part of the “Gathering the Voices” project, brings together oral and written testimony from men and women who sought refuge in Scotland to escape the racism of Nazi-dominated Europe.

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Substation reassurance urgently needed for Racks residents

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Joan McAlpine has written to the Director of Transmission Programmes at Scottish Power demanding community site visits and urgent reassurance about the siting of an electric substation following a meeting with concerned residents in Racks last week.

The upgrading of the electricity transmission network, “Dumfries and Galloway Strategic Reinforcement”, has recently been going through a phase of public consultation, the results of which are due to be published shortly.

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MSP vows to fight for the future of Canonbie Post Office

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Joan McAlpine MSP yesterday (Friday) vowed to fight for the future of the Canonbie village post office after its Post Master appealed to her for help.

Paul Lumb wants to retire but fears this could mean closure of the post office he has run for 20 years. It is the last surviving shop in the village.

He approached Ms McAlpine after reading of her support for villagers in Eastriggs angry at changes to their service being imposed by Post Office Limited which is wholly owned by the UK Government.

After visiting Mr Lumb The South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine wrote to Post Office Limited asking for answers.

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Resolution Foundation: Tory policy “unlikely” to benefit low earners

The SNP has today highlighted a new report from the Resolution Foundation which has found that “UK tax and benefit policy is unlikely to act as a boost to the income of low and middle income Scottish families.”

The Resolution Foundation report, State of working Scotland, has found that further increases in the personal tax allowance by the UK government will “primarily benefit higher earners” and will “do nothing” for low earners. It also concludes that introduction of Universal Credit could reduce work incentives and cuts to in-work support will “have a large impact” on incomes.

However, the report also shows that fewer people are on zero-hours contracts in Scotland than any other region or nation and that a lower proportion of workers are paid less than the Living Wage. Overall, median pay in Scotland is now higher than in England.

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Local MSP highlights Dumfries HGV Driver Training in Scottish Parliament

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 Dumfries and Galloway companies Nithcree Training and Currie European were praised in the Scottish Parliament this week for their efforts to encourage more people to train as HGV drivers.

Joan McAlpine, MSP for South Scotland, cited the companies’ experience in a debate highlighting the skills shortages in the haulage industry.

Ms McAlpine, who visited Nithcree in advance of her speech, highlighted the frustrations in accessing funding for training and licenses, and the economic impacts driver shortages cause local businesses.

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MSP speaks of the Theatre Royal’s centuries of inspiration at re-opening gala event

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Joan McAlpine MSP has welcomed the refurbishment of the Dumfries Theatre Royal and said its future promised to be as exciting as its illustrious past.

The South Scotland MSP, who is also the co-convenor of the Scottish Parliament's cross party group on culture, was speaking at a gala evening on Sunday (17th January) to celebrate the renovation of Scotland's oldest working theatre.

Quoting J M Barrie, who described the Shakespeare Street venue as a "pocket edition" of a theatre, the MSP said that for centuries the Theatre Royal had consistently delivered the highest standard of work.

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MSP says “extended closure will cause havoc for Dumfriesshire commuters”

Joan McAlpine MSP has said rail commuters will react with dismay to news that the Lamington Viaduct will remain closed until March. Ms McAlpine expressed concern at the impact that an extended closure will have on the people of Dumfriesshire and has asked the train operators to reconsider their decision to run the West Coast mainline through Dumfries without stopping there.

She said: "It is good for the West coast mainline that additional trains will be routed via Dumfries. But they do not stop at Dumfries, and they are causing delays to the trains that DO stop at Dumfries!

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MSP demands answers after highly charged public meeting

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Joan McAlpine has demanded to know whether the proposed relocation of the Post Office in Eastriggs is already a done deal after attending a highly charged public meeting in the village on Monday evening.

Ms McAlpine has already written to the head of the Post Office, Paula Vennells, and to the UK Government Minister in charge, Sajid Javid MP, asking that the process be halted and the move to the Spar shop reconsidered. She said communication from the community at Eastriggs showed that the consultation process for the move was flawed because it was based on misleading information.

During the meeting, which was organised by Eastriggs, Dornock and Creca Community Council, Ms McAlpine challenged Post Office representatives about the way they were representing the situation.

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Tories plotting triple tax whammy for household budgets

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The SNP has today challenged Ruth Davidson on the “hypocrisy” of her posturing against tax rises while proposing a triple whammy of tax rises on household budgets.

Tory election material delivered in the past week boasts that Davidson would “oppose tax rises for Scots”, however in the same week she announced a tax hike on students and graduates, plans to re-introduce the tax on ill health through prescription charges and her Tory-led Moray Council proposed an “eye-watering” Council Tax rise of 18% – which would see the bill for a Band D property rise by £204 a year.

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MSP secures meeting to discuss future of Barony College

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed assurances that farming and forestry education will continued to be delivered in Dumfries after forcing the management of Scotland's Rural College to explain their plans to Scotland's Education Minister.

Ms McAlpine of the SNP secured the crunch meeting between Cabinet Secretary Angela Constance and SRUC managers after being approached by worried staff at Barony College.

At the meeting Ms Constance told SRUC - which is independent of government - she was keen to ensure the future delivery of education was good for the local economy in Dumfries and Galloway.

She also emphasised her commitment to further education, apprenticeships and the need to ensure that young people could access training in land based industries in rural areas.

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Trader slams council failings over flood money

A council's excuse for failing to pay out grants to flood victims was blown apart by a Dumfries trader today (Thursday).

Dumfries and Galloway's Labour run council said they failed to pay £700,000 allocated to it for New Year flooding victims because the money was restricted to Storm Desmond victims in early December.

But Carol Williamson of Ivano’s on the Whitesands today revealed that she was flooded by Storm Desmond and was still refused the grant of £1500 which Finance Minister John Swinney allocated to the council in December.

Carol approach council officers afterwards and was told ‘we don't know anything about a grant’.

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MSP supports campaign to save Eastriggs Post Office

 

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A local MSP has added her voice to those asking the Post Office to re-think its planned relocation of the Eastriggs branch.

SNP politician Joan McAlpine was invited by local activists to a meeting in the village to discuss their concerns about the plans to move the branch into the Spar.

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Row breaks out in Holyrood over flood grant delays

An explosive row has broken out in Holyrood today over the failure of Dumfries and Galloway Council to pass on Scottish Government money to victims of flooding.

In a heated exchange, Deputy First Minister John Swinney called on the council to ‘pay up to the people and stop finding excuses.’

Mr Swinney put paid to claims by Labour Councillors that they couldn’t pay out to individuals as the funding wouldn’t be distributed until the budget settlement in March.

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MSP calls for apology from Labour Council over flood funds

Dumfries and Galloway Labour council were called on to apologise today after they claimed to have no money for cash payments to flood victims despite sitting on £2.3 million of extra revenue they had failed to spend.

The call came from Joan McAlpine, the SNP MSP for south Scotland, who last week demanded the council tell victims about the cash, which is backed by £700,000 of Scottish Government allocated to the council by the Scottish Government in December - with the strict instruction that it be used to pay direct grants to victims. The allocation allowed would be credited to the council in its annual financial settlement from the Scottish Government so that flood spending from the council's £6.8m emergency reserve was more than compensated.

But Senior Councillor Colin Smyth who chairs the economy committee, supported by Labour MSP Elaine Murray, insisted last week that the council had no money to offer the grants because the £700,000 would not be allocated until March.

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Council failure to release flood funds ‘a disgrace’ says MSP

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An MSP has branded Dumfries and Galloway Labour council an incompetent disgrace for wrongly claiming it had no money to help flood victims – while sitting on a pot of cash from the Scottish Government it has failed to spend.

The Scottish government allocated £700,000 to Dumfries and Galloway to deal with flooding in December and at the weekend the First Minister announced a further £1m million to the region – all of which include cash payments to individuals, community groups and businesses.

When Joan McAlpine MSP last week challenged the council to start distributing the money to flooded constituents, the leading Labour councillor Colin Smyth claimed the council had no money to spend and the funds from government would not arrive until March.

However in a deeply embarrassing development, a council committee paper has revealed the council had failed to spend another £2.3m of Scottish Government grants this year – money which is now going spare. The money was revealed in a report by officers to the Policy and Resources committee over the weekend. The money was provided by the Scottish Government for various projects in early years, education and to help with council tax, but is now earmarked for the council’s Change Fund to support future savings measures.

Ms McAlpine described the council leaders as an “incompetent disgrace” and repeated her demand that they “get their finger out” and start helping flood victims now.

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MSP slams Tory plans to end free education in Scotland

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has warned that a vote for the Tories in May is a vote to impose tuition fees on Scottish students.

Her warning came after the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson announced on Sunday that the party in Scotland wanted to introduce a ‘graduate contribution’ from university leavers.

Free University education was introduced by the SNP government in Scotland and continuing it is one of the party's key pledges in this year's Scottish election.

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McAlpine Kicks off Campaign with pledge to keep Scotland moving forward

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MSP Joan McAlpine was joined by SNP activists across Dumfriesshire to kick start the party’s campaign ahead of the Holyrood election in May, with a pledge to keep Scotland moving forward – building on the party’s record of success in government with an ambitious programme for the future.

On the first national ‘Day of Action’ on Saturday, activists braved the rain and freezing conditions to take the party’s positive message to the people of Dumfriesshire – including a pledge from Nicola Sturgeon to never stop working to shape a better future for the country.

The First Minister has called for the election campaign to be the catalyst for a “great, ambitious and thriving debate” about Scotland’s future – and has made clear her determination that this is a debate the SNP will lead over the coming months.

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MSP says Council is stalling over flood payments

Dumfries and Galloway Council is not doing enough to make flooded individuals and businesses aware of the £1500 individual grants made available to them by the Scottish Government an MSP has said.

Joan McAlpine MSP says she is a concerned that the council website does not publicise a scheme announced by the Scottish Government for Dumfries and Galloway in December which gives affected individuals, businesses and community groups up to £1500 each, as part of an additional £700,000 allocated to Dumfries and Galloway by the financial secretary John Swinney.

The £1500 sum per household / business from the Scottish Government is much larger than the £500 grants being made available in Cumbria by David Cameron.

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MSP spends New Year’s Day helping flood hit businesses

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Joan McAlpine MSP joined concerned citizens cleaning up Whitesands on Ne'erday in response to an appeal from local woman Tina Duncan to help businesses affected by the devastating floods. 


The SNP member for the South of Scotland joined a team of volunteers at 9.30am on New Year’s Day after Ms Duncan put out the appeal through a Facebook group called Help for Local Businesses in Dumfries.

The local Tesco branch at the Peel Centre donated cleaning materials to the volunteers who included leading members of the Rotary Club and Dumfries People's Project as well as concerned individuals. The volunteers helped Kaseem Saleem and his family clean out their restaurant on the Whitesands, which had not yet opened, as well as charity shops including Nithsdale Furniture Project in the Vennel and Brewery Street.

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New Year Message

“I wish you all a peaceful and happy festive season – and thank you to our emergency services, NHS staff and others, who sacrifice time with their families to look after the rest of us during Christmas and New Year.

2015 was a year of highs and lows. Dumfries and Galloway showed its true colours in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, when local volunteers set up the group ‘Massive Outpouring of Love’ - even in the hardest times, the human spirit triumphs.

In the Scottish Parliament this year we will pass historic land-reform legislation, giving more security to tenant farmers and rights to communities suffering as a result of bad landlords. I will continue to work in the welfare committee, highlighting the consequences of UK government cuts, particularly to the vulnerable and disabled.

Next year will see the Holyrood election - I have been chosen as the SNP candidate to fight the Dumfriesshire constituency.  I hope to provide the constituency with its strongest ever voice in Edinburgh. 

The Westminster Election saw Scotland place its trust in 56 SNP MPs who have raised the country's profile as never before. We are that strong voice at Holyrood too. The SNP record speaks for itself - universal benefits that make Scotland a fairer society; free tuition, prescriptions, travel and care for older people and a record £12 billion in the NHS which outperforms the rest of the UK. I will be proud to campaign on that record.

May the coming year bring more happiness to you than the last.  I look forward to working hard for you, and for Scotland, in 2016."


MSP commends Mini-Me Statues

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It used to be just royalty and generals who got their own statues.

Now anyone can be preserved for posterity thanks to a 3-D printing venture here in Dumfries.

One of the first customers at shipwreckedmonkey.com in Buccleuch Street was MSP Joan McAlpine, who was scanned at the invitation of the owner, Jonathan Robertson.

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McAlpine praises local Tesco food bank initiative

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MSP Joan McAlpine has praised an initiative ensuring donations at local Tesco stores go to the local food bank First Base.

Ms McAlpine visited Tesco’s Peel Centre store to thank community champion Robyn Brown for ensuring all the donations made at the Tesco annual drive went to First Base, which has been distributing food parcels in Dumfries and surrounding communities for several years.

During the recent collection 3000 items were donated by local customers.  Robyn said “it is lovey seeing the community come together.”

While at the store Ms McAlpine bought the equivalent of a First Base food parcel, which came to £13.11.

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Labour fail on teacher number promise

Dumfries and Galloway’s Labour Council has cut the number of teachers in local schools – despite being given extra funds by the Scottish Government to maintain them.

The council was one of just a handful of local authorities – all Labour – who let the side down by failing to maintain teacher numbers at the same level as 2014, official figures this week revealed.

Dumfries and Galloway was one of just five councils that saw numbers slip – from 1520 to 1504.

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Swinney gives flood support assurances at Holyrood

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has today welcomed news that the Scottish Government will consider applications for help in flood hit areas. She has also urged the Scottish Government to learn lessons from Cumbria where recently installed flood barriers failed to keep out water.

Ms McAlpine today (Tuesday) used parliamentary questions to ask Deputy First Minister John Swinney what help was being given to areas of the south of Scotland hit by flooding.

Mr Swinney said "I chaired meetings of the Scottish Government resilience committee during the course of this event to ensure all the appropriate support was in place to mitigate potential damage."

"I have activated the Bellwin scheme to provide support to local authorities to assist with the immediate and unforeseen costs of dealing with the flood damage."

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McAlpine marks volunteering day with youth volunteer praise

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has today marked International Volunteering Day by praising young people for getting involved in their community.

A poll published by the #iwill campaign found that 44 per cent of 10-20 year olds in Scotland were getting involved in activities to improve their community – this was slightly higher than the UK total of 42 per cent.

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McAlpine calls on SRUC bosses to come clean on future of Barony

An MSP is calling on college bosses to come clean on the future of the Barony campus after a ‘shambolic’ performance by senior management in the Scottish Parliament.

Four executives from Scotland’s Rural University College (SRUC) appeared in front of the parliament’s rural affairs committee last week and said the Barony, at Parkgate outside Dumfries, was not their preferred site for the future.

They were grilled after Joan McAlpine MSP first raised concerns in parliament in October about SRUC plans to run down the Barony and sell off its assets - while executives awarded themselves huge pay rises.

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MSP joins last Kings Own Scottish Borderers colonel to highlight war memorial fund

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MSP Joan McAlpine joined the last commanding officer of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers to promote the restoration of war memorials.

Col Rob Jeffries led the historic regiment on its last march in its 317 year history in Edinburgh in 2006.

The two met at a Scottish Parliament reception hosted by former First Minister Alex Salmond to promote the War Memorials Trust.

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MSP backs people’s history call to publishers

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South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has added her support to an online petition calling on publishers Birlinn to reprint a book that is “important for understanding our region”.

The petition, which has attracted almost 600 supporters within a week, asks for a re-print of Peter Aitchison and Andrew Cassell’s “The Lowland Clearances”. The authors recently presented research from the book at a sold-out event in New Galloway. Many attendees were surprised to learn the book was unavailable to purchase due to a publishing decision by Birlinn.

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SNP MSP welcomes Langholm railway response

Joan McAlpine MSP has welcomed the news that the Scottish Government has agreed with her to include Langholm in a study to extend the Borders railway.

Keith Brown MSP, the Scottish Government Transport Minister, confirmed that Langholm would be included in the study, in response to a parliamentary question from the South Scotland MSP, who will contest Dumfriesshire for the SNP in next year's Holyrood election.

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Women in the Spotlight for Annual Business Conference

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Women were in the spotlight as more than 200 business leaders gathered in Holyrood for this year’s Business in the Parliament Conference.

SNP member Joan McAlpine took Jacquie Brown, founder of BreakFree Coaching and Jacquie’s Beauty in Dumfries, as her special guest.

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Statement from Joan McAlpine MSP in response to Cllr Colin Wyper’s comments

“I absolutely condemn Colin Wyper’s comments on refugees, which are deeply ignorant.

“These refugees are vulnerable, traumatised people, desperately trying to escape the sort of violence that descended on Paris last week.

“To suggest that there is a chance that they could be terrorists does nothing more than stir up fear and division – which is exactly what ISIS want.

“There is enormous goodwill towards these refugees, as demonstrated by the relief effort of ‘Massive Outpouring of Love’ which is a real credit to Dumfries and Galloway.

“While so many people are opening their hearts and their homes, Cllr Wyper is spreading poison. He is not representative.

“There are stringent checks in place through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme, and I am sure that the refugee families who are sent here will be welcomed, as they should be, with open arms.”


MSP praises renovation of Theatre Royal

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Local SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has applauded efforts to refurbish the oldest working theatre in Scotland, praising volunteers’ “passionate dedication to promoting live theatre in Dumfries”.

The Theatre Royal, which was built in 1792, has reopened to audiences this month following extensive renovation works.

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SNP MSP takes to the streets with winter surgeries

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South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine will this week hold the first of her seasonal “street surgeries” as she visits constituents in three Nithsdale towns.


The SNP politician will visit Kirkconnel, Sanquhar and Thornhill on Friday morning.

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MSP calls on UK Government to abolish Bedroom Tax

Following the publication of new figures from the DWP showing that 1,489 people would have been affected by the so-called Bedroom Tax in Dumfries and Galloway, Joan McAlpine MSP has called on the UK Government to immediately abolish the “unfair charge”.

Commenting, South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine said:

“These new figures highlight the shocking impact the Bedroom Tax could have had on families in Dumfries and Galloway –1,489 people in our region would have been affected if the SNP Government had not provided the money to mitigate this unfair charge."

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Local MSP urges Branson to meet Beattock campaigners

Local SNP member Joan McAlpine has written to Sir Richard Branson urging him to meet with campaigners fighting for the re-opening of Beattock Station.

Ms McAlpine’s plea to the Virgin boss comes after a meeting with the Beattock Station Action Group, who the MSP described as “well-organised and enthusiastic.”

Beattock Station which closed in 1972 sits on the West Coast Mainline on the longest stretch of rail in the UK without a stop. It is currently fifth on the Regional Transport Partnership’s list of stations to re-open, but it is acknowledged that it is the only one with an active community campaign.

Ms McAlpine believes the case would be strengthened if Virgin would agree to stop at the station.

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McAlpine highlights local charity in Holyrood debate

An MSP has praised a local charity for its work helping those with mental health issues manage their conditions.

SNP member Joan McAlpine led a debate in the Scottish Parliament last week on the importance of volunteering and peer-support to help people self-manage long term health issues.

Ms McAlpine highlighted the work of local group Support in Mind, and volunteer Mo Connelly, who was recently nominated for ‘Inspirational Person of the Year’ at the Self-Management Awards held at the Scottish Parliament in October.

The term ‘self-management’ is the name that is given to a set of person-centred approaches that aim to enable people who are living with long-term conditions to take control of and manage their own health.

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MSP demands ‘urgent’ review of DWP contracts

‘Callous’ DWP contractor shows system failing unemployed people

Scottish National Party MSP Joan McAlpine has written to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith calling for an urgent review of DWP contracts around the Work Programme – after the ‘callous and uncaring’ appearance of a contractor before the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee.

At last week’s meeting of the Committee, MSPs cross-examined representatives of firms implementing the Work Programme and Work Choice. While MSPs raised concern that people on the Work Programme are three times as likely to be sanctioned as find a job, a representative of Working Links claimed a “positive impact” from sanctions – and was forced to deny that he was “unmoved” by the plight of those who have been sanctioned.

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MSP calls on Scotland Secretary to stand up for constituents over poor broadband

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine is calling on the Secretary of State for Scotland to deliver on his general election pledge to improve broadband across the region.

With digital inclusion charity GO ON figures showing that more than one in five adults in Dumfries and Galloway have never been online, the South Scotland list MSP says that David Mundell MP must start “putting his constituents first”.

During the General Election campaign Mr Mundell made a commitment to provide better broadband for his rural constituency and Ms McAlpine said it was time for him to act on that commitment.

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McAlpine stands up for rural GPs against Labour calls to favour central-belt practices

SNP member for South Scotland Joan McAlpine is calling on the Labour party locally to “stick up” for rural GP practices.

The call comes on the back of a Labour led debate in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday where Labour MSPs demanded the funding allocation for GPs should change to favour ‘deep-end’ practices, largely in Glasgow and the central-belt.

Ms McAlpine said it is not only urban areas that are facing extreme challenges, and appealed to the local Labour party to distance itself from these calls.

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Historic Environment Agency recognises importance of Greyfriars Kirk site says MSP

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The new organisation tasked with protecting historic sites paid a visit to Dumfries on Friday to see one of the town’s most important landmarks.

Martin Ross, Projects Manager at Historic Environment Scotland was invited by Joan McAlpine MSP and the Bruce Trust to examine the site of the stabbing of the Red Comyn by Robert the Bruce, which kick-started the wars of independence.

The Bruce Trust has been campaigning for the site to be designated an historic monument.

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MSP highlights winter “Help for Heating Fund” from land-based occupations charity RSABI

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South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has highlighted a new round of funding from charity RSABI available to eligible constituents with a land-based background in Dumfriesshire.

The MSP recently met with Dumfriesshire-based RSABI Welfare Officer Pamela Samson who briefed Ms McAlpine on the scheme.

The “Help for Heating Fund”, from charity RSABI, is available on a first come, first served basis and provides single grants each of £300 for people who have depended on land-based occupations.

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McAlpine praises Clark’s Little Ark

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MSP Joan McAlpine was down on the farm last week when she visited Clark's Little Ark in Sanquhar.

The South of Scotland SNP member came to offer support to the animal sanctuary set up by Alison Shankly and named after her late son Clark.

Ms McAlpine and her staff member Kenelma McCrae of Lochmaben were particularly taken with the Shetland ponies and tame sheep, which star in many community events in the town.

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MSP says Ofgem revelation raises more questions for controversial pylons project

The controversial pylons plans for Dumfries and Galloway may be put out to tender – despite Scottish Power Energy Networks starting a consultation on the project.

The revelation came in a letter from Kersti Berge, Head of the energy regulator Ofgem in Scotland to MSP Joan McAlpine, who has been supporting constituents affected by the plans.

Ms McAlpine said:

“Many of my constituents will be surprised at this revelation from Ofgem given the consultation by SPEN.

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Challenge Poverty Week is opportunity to highlight shameful Tory attack on low-paid parents in Dumfriesshire says MSP

South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed Challenge Poverty Week as an opportunity to highlight the reality of poverty in our region and challenge the policies that cause it – such as the UK Government’s latest cuts to tax credits.

Challenge Poverty Week, which this year runs from 17 to 23 October, is an initiative from Scottish anti-poverty network The Poverty Alliance. According to the organisation, more than 900,000 people in Scotland live in low income households.

And South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine MSP says Tory cuts to tax credits means more bad news for working families in Dumfriesshire.

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McAlpine welcomes SNP commitment to carers

Carers’ allowance will rise to the level of jobseekers’ allowance if the SNP are in government next year, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Speaking at the SNP annual conference, the First Minister said that if re-elected next year, the SNP will increase carers’ allowance to bring it to the same level as jobseekers’ allowance as soon as it has the power to do so.

The increase will benefit carers by £600 a year.

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Council’s community building cuts goes against spirit of empowerment says MSP

South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has expressed dismay at the announcement that Dumfries and Galloway Council plans to close a number of well-loved community venues unless local volunteers agree to take on responsibility for running the buildings.

Any facilities which the local authority fails to transfer to local committees by 31 January 2016 will be closed the following month in a bid to make savings of £283,000.

The announcement comes as the Scottish Government is taking forward action in number of areas around community empowerment, notably with the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act – most parts of which will come into effect next summer.  The aim of the legislation is to empower communities through ownership or control of buildings and land and strengthening community voices in decisions about public services.

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MSP says Annan Athletic show value of putting football fans first

South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the news that local team Annan Athletic FC offer the most affordable ticket prices anywhere in The Scottish Professional Football League.

The League Two outfit has emerged as the best value for money according to a new BBC study.

With match day tickets available for £10, League Two teams Annan Athletic and Elgin City came joint first for fans on a budget - nowhere can you watch men's football cheaper in the top four leagues in England and Scotland.

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McAlpine calls for an end to negativity over Resilience Centre

MSP Joan McAlpine has urged the local Council to get behind the new Scottish National Resilience Centre for Dumfries and Galloway.

Ms McAlpine said the showcase project would make the region a centre of excellence for resilience planning and was already attracting attention from the rest of the UK and Europe.

During a visit to Dumfries to discuss plans for the project at the end of September, environment minister Aileen McLeod said they were “well on track" to open the centre in March.

During the early stages of Police Scotland’s set up, Ms McAlpine lobbied for a centre of excellence to be located in the region, and was ‘delighted’ when the Scottish Government announced plans for the centre to be situated at the Crichton Campus.

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Local MSP shortlisted for community award

A local MSP has been shortlisted in the prestigious "Politician of the Year" awards for her campaign against gas extraction in Canonbie.

Joan McAlpine of the SNP impressed the judges who nominated her for the ‘Community MSP of the Year’ award for fighting plans by Buccleuch Estates to extract coal bed methane around the Eskdale village.

During the course of the campaign it emerged that Buccleuch estates chief executive John Glen had tried to silence Ms McAlpine by appealing to the energy minister Fergus Ewing.

However Ms McAlpine refused to back down and said "I answer to my constituents first."

The campaign in Canonbie contributed to the Scottish Government announcing a moratorium and public consultation into the controversial technology.

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MSP visits Women of the World

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South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine paid a visit to Eastriggs on Friday (9th October)to meet the Women of the World group.

Run by organiser Marilyn Bell, Women of the World is a friendly group of women who are active in the community who meet weekly to share their experiences.

Ms McAlpine spoke to the women about her role as an MSP and learned about some of the work the group is doing in the community.

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McAlpine welcomes offshore UCG moratorium

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed today’s announcement by the Scottish Government that a moratorium will be placed on offshore underground coal gasification (UCG) in Scotland.

The announcement comes as the Scottish Government outline the timetable for an “extensive” research and consultation process into the impacts of onshore unconventional oil and gas exploration.

Ms McAlpine has fought long and hard on behalf of constituents in Canonbie to stop Buccleuch from surrounding their scenic village with boreholes to extract coal bed methane. She said the safety of the technology is at best unproven and potentially very dangerous to public health. The same applies to UCG – which environmental groups have called ‘the most experimental and frightening method of unconventional gas extraction’.

Since discovering the Coal Authority had issued conditional licences for UCG in the Solway Firth Ms McAlpine has been very outspoken in her opposition to the practice.

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MSP raises Barony concerns

An MSP has raised questions in parliament about the future of the Barony campus of Scotland's Rural College (SRUC).

Joan McAlpine said she was worried about the sell-off of land at the Barony, particularly as such decisions were made by senior managers on six figure salaries. She also said staff had told her they feared senior management did not understand the Barony and did not value the further education courses offered there.

SRUC accounts show the principal's salary last year was £280,000-£290,000, with other directors earning between £130,000 and £160,000. Yet these managers failed recently to pull off a merger deal with Edinburgh University, a development that some believe has resulted in cost cutting.

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MSP praises Annan Day Centre

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MSP Joan McAlpine joined in the celebrations at Annan Day Centre for a special 10th birthday lunch on Monday.

Ms McAlpine praised Emma Irving and her staff and volunteers for their dedication and the hard work they put in to make the centre a success.

The room and the tables at the Day Centre are decorated with butterfly symbols. Ms McAlpine said the butterfly symbol of the day centre was a perfect way to celebrate older people –“we all live through several stages of life, each one just as fulfilling as the other.”

At the same time as the day centre lunch, the Scottish Older Peoples Assembly were having a demonstration at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. The demonstration was making the important point that ageing is a positive thing.

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Operation Safety a great example of effective partnership working in Dumfries and Galloway says MSP

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An MSP has praised emergency services and volunteers across the region who offer primary seven school children a special day of ‘”hands on” safety education. 

Joan McAlpine attended Operation Safety this week, a multi-agency interactive learning event which involves Police Scotland, The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Scottish Ambulance Service and Scottish Power.

The initiative involves some 1100 primary seven pupils attending the venue at the Dupont Teijin Films factory at Cargenbridge, Dumfries, where they are given key messages relating to first aid, fireworks and other fire risks, safety around electricity, and internet safety.

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McAlpine urges local football fans to make their voices heard

Consultation to increase supporter involvement in clubs

South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has today urged football fans in Dumfriesshire to make their voices heard in how the game is run, by responding to the Scottish Government’s new consultation.

Ms McAlpine is a member of the Queen of the South Trust, which acts as a voice for the fans and promotes the team throughout the community.

The Scottish Government has launched the consultation to inform potential future legislation to protect the rights of football fans. The consultation, which will run until 15 January 2016, is to look in to the best ways of increasing the involvement of supporters in football clubs.

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Eskdale farmers are angry at Labour attack on meat eaters says MSP

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McAlpine - Local Labour must condemn UK Party's spokeswoman who said government should urge shoppers to reject meat.

Local farmers at the Langholm Show on Saturday were horrified at the comments of Jeremy Corbyn's environment and farming spokesperson Kerry McCarthy, who said the public shouldn't eat meat.

After speaking to local farmers at Castleholm, Joan McAlpine, the SNP MSP for South Scotland, has called on Scottish Labour to distance itself from comments by their Westminster spokeswoman Kerry McCarthy that meat eaters should be targeted with campaigns to encourage them to become vegetarian.

In an interview with vegan magazine Vive!life, McCarthy stated: "I really believe that meat should be treated in exactly the same way as tobacco, with public campaigns to stop people eating it.”

Ms McAlpine, who supported the Langholm Show with an SNP Stall on Saturday, said several local sheep and beef famers shared their fears with her on Saturday - along with a wide variety of local people whose jobs need farming to thrive.

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MSP calls on Labour to support SNP demand for devolution of employment legislation

South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine today appealed to the Labour party to support the SNP’s demand for the devolution of employment legislation.

Her call comes in the wake of a debate around the Tories’ controversial Trade Union Bill which last week passed its second reading in the House of Commons despite furious criticism.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“The protection of workers’ fundamental right to organise should be at the heart of any modern democracy.

“The SNP strongly opposes the Trade Union Bill and recognises that it is an excessive, Dickensian piece of legislation.”

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Labour’s bogus claims on local tax exposed say SNP MSPs

New research shows Council Tax freeze “over-funded” by SNP.

The SNP has today highlighted new expert research showing the Scottish Government has fully funded the Council Tax freeze – and called on Labour to apologise for years of ‘grossly misleading’ claims on the subject.

The new analysis from the politically independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) shows that “the money provided by the Government to freeze the council tax has resulted in local authorities receiving more income than they would have done by increasing rates by RPI%” and goes on to say that the funding given to local government was such that “it could be said that the freeze, over the period 2008-09 to 2013-14 was ‘over-funded’”.

SPICe’s research stands in stark contrast to years of claims from the Labour party that the freeze has been underfunded – claims repeated by Labour Leader of D&G Council Ronnie Nicholson earlier this year.

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New hospital build delivering on local jobs promise

The construction of the new build Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary is delivering high quality apprenticeships for local young people, new figures have revealed.

The project team behind the hospital gave details of the new starts in response to a query from Joan McAlpine MSP, the SNP member for the South of Scotland.

It said 78 new starts were employed to work on the project to date - with over three quarters of these coming from the region – and 14 trainees and apprentices.

However the building is at a very early stage and many more jobs will be created as it progresses. High Wood Health, who are managing the project, signed a community benefit clause to deliver 150 local jobs – 36 of which will be apprenticeships.

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MSP calls on Ofgem to engage with communities affected by pylon plans

An MSP has called on the energy regulator Ofgem to look at ways of funding the undergrounding of any electricity transmission line through Dumfries and Galloway.

Joan McAlpine MSP has written to the regulator, which answers to ministers at Westminster, asking them to make money available for undergrounding – as has already been done for National Parks in England and Wales affected by pylons.

She also revealed that Ofgem were considering putting new transmission upgrades out to tender – after they shared their plans with the Economy, Energy and Tourism committee of the Scottish Parliament.

Ms McAlpine has now asked Ofgem to ensure any tendering process - should it go ahead - includes costings for undergrounding the line, which runs from Ayrshire to Carlisle through large stretches of Dumfries and Galloway.

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McAlpine to host stall at Langholm Show

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine will host an information stall at this weekend’s agricultural show in Langholm.

The South Scotland MSP, who has also been selected by Party members as the candidate for Dumfriesshire in next May's Scottish Parliament Elections, will be available all day to answer constituents’ questions.

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MSP supports local refugee effort

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South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine visited the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Friday to offer her support to Dumfries and Galloway Refugee Action group – and ended up helping to pack the van.

After an appeal for donations was launched by Moxie DePaulitte two weeks ago, locals have donated in their thousands, and the church and other collection hubs have been jam-packed.

 

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MSP calls for urgent meeting on junction

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An MSP has called for an urgent meeting to consider how the safety of the Stapleton Cross junction can be improved after community councillors appealed for her help.

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has asked the Network Strategy Manager at the Council to arrange for officials to visit the junction, after a site visit exposed the dangers of the crossing.

Eastriggs, Dornock and Creca community council invited Ms McAlpine to visit the junction, which sits between the B6357 and the C43a roads, following a spate of ‘near misses.’

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Include Langholm in future railway plans says MSP


Langholm must be included in any future plans to extend the Waverley Line, a South of Scotland MSP has said.

The historic borders railway was opened last week by Her Majesty the Queen and has been greeted with great enthusiasm.

The Scottish Government, which funded the line, has now said it is “committed” to helping extend it south of its current terminus at Tweedbank, right down to Carlisle at some point in the future.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has written to Keith Brown, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, asking that Langholm is included in any feasibility studies to extend the line in future.

When the Waverley Line from Edinburgh was constructed in the 19th century, Langholm was included in proposals for an extension of the main line beyond Hawick to Carlisle. After legal wrangles the reached The House of Lords, Langholm and Canonbie had to settle for a branch line in 1864. It operated for a century before being axed in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.

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Finance Secretary pledges to visit Community Café

Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney has pledged to pay a visit to local community café, the Usual Place.

The promise was made during a debate in the Scottish Parliament where SNP MSP Joan McAlpine highlighted the café, run by Heather Hall and Linda Whitelaw, as an example of social enterprise promoting inclusive economic growth.

The café will work with the local college to train youngsters with additional support needs for a career in the hospitality industry.

Speaking during the debate, which centred on the success of the Scottish economy, Ms McAlpine said that Scotland has “a considerable track record as a world leader in social enterprise”, with the sector contributing £1.15 billion to the economy, as well as playing a pivotal role in tackling social issues.

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MSP welcomes new fuel poverty scheme

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said the Scottish Government’s new energy efficiency scheme will help tackle fuel poverty in Dumfriesshire.

The ‘Warmer Homes Scotland’ scheme is designed to help people make their homes warmer and more comfortable by installing a range of energy saving measures such as wall insulation, loft insulation, draught-proofing, central heating and solar panels. Assistance is available to homeowners and private sector tenants who have lived in their property for at least six months and meet the qualifying criteria.

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