MSP marks International Day of Charity with call to support vulnerable people

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine is marking the UN International Day of Charity with a call for people in Scotland to do what they can to support the work of charities and voluntary organisations in the face of austerity at home and humanitarian crises across the world.

Ms McAlpine – who serves as Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Volunteering and the Voluntary Sector – has lodged a parliamentary motion paying tribute to the work of local, national and international charities working to support people in need of help.

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New Housing Fund will help tackle rural issues says MSP

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said a new ‘rural housing fund’ announced by the First Minister will help tackle the unique issues faced by the sector in Dumfriesshire.

The rurality of the area creates difficulties in relation to the provision of housing across the region - the fund will be available to community groups and rural landowners, enabling them, and other eligible applicants, to take a more active role in meeting the housing needs of their communities.

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McAlpine to join British Champion at Pro-Wrestling Event

 

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South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine is ‘really looking forward’ to joining wrestlers from all over the UK as they take part in Showcase Wrestling’s ‘Game of Champions event on the 12th of September.

The SNP MSP will present Dumfries’ Liam Watson with the new British Heavyweight Championship.

The event, which takes place in the Lochside Club, will see Watson take part in his first defence as British National Champion.

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MSP Urges SPEN to Address Concerns

SP Energy Networks (SPEN) must address the concerns of affected constituents, an MSP has said.

In a consultation submission to SPEN’s proposed Dumfries and Galloway Strategic Reinforcement Project, south of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine urged SPEN to consider undergrounding the project, or replacing the pylons along the current route.

The SNP MSP submitted the response after a number of constituents approached her outlining their concerns.

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A special mention for 'Le Haggis'

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The Electric Theatre Company has only been established in Dumfries for a few years, but they have been wowing the Fringe Festival with their sensational production 'Le Haggis.'


McAlpine Welcomes SNP Record on Education

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine is today welcoming the extension of the Scottish Government’s Attainment Fund, as well as highlighting its record on school refurbishments.

Underlining the party’s unwavering commitment to improving education in Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has today announced that the Attainment fund will be extended to help 57 more schools in another 14 local authority areas – including Kelloholm School in Dumfriesshire.

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MSP Praises Barony Country Foods

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 MSP Joan McAlpine yesterday praised Barony Country Foods for its part in making Scotland "the land of food and drink" after visiting their new premises in Lochmaben.

The company, which has its own traditional smokehouse and offers salmon, venison and a wide variety of poultry and game, recently moved to the town from their original premises in a converted farm steading on the River Ae.

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McAlpine sponsors Moffat Rugby 10s

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South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine donned navy and gold in support of the home side as she joined spectators for the Moffat 10s this weekend.

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DGMA Report

Local newspapers in Dumfries and Galloway today report a confidential investigation into Dumfries and Galloway Multicultural Association that describes a litany of failure. For the avoidance of doubt, I am sharing that report  here. Today in the press DGMA’s “Chief Executive” tries to deny all. He cannot deny the devastating content of this report by a senior council director, Steve Rogers, who consulted widely among DGMA’s own funders. DGMA’s management is described in it as “woeful”, “aggressive” and “inward looking” and not meeting the needs of those it is supposed to serve. We have to ask: “Who exactly is DGMA being run to benefit?” As the report itself says: “There is a view that an important job needs to be done – to be the voice of ethnic, religious and cultural minorities and it (DGMA) is simply not doing that.”

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McAlpine Welcomes Mobile Coverage Checker

MSP Joan McAlpine has today welcomed the launch of a new mobile coverage checker, which provides a single-stop for consumers and businesses to discover the quality of their mobile coverage.

The checker, launched today by Ofcom, allows to zoom to a specific location or simply enter a place name or postcode, to receive data on coverage for each mobile network – down to 100 square meters. The map uses data provided by EE, O2, Three and Vodafone

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McAlpine Welcomes Farm Watch Scheme to Tackle Agricultural Crime

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South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine is urging people to sign up to the ‘Farm Watch’ scheme in a bid to tackle agricultural crime in the region.

Ms McAlpine attended the re-launch of the scheme, run by NFU Scotland and Police Scotland, at Dumfries and Lockerbie agricultural show on Saturday 1 August.

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MSP Praises Common Riding

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Politicians from all parties could learn a lot from Common Riding.

That was the verdict of SNP MSP Joan McAlpine after she fulfilled a lifelong ambition to experience Langholm's big day.

Ms McAlpine said the level of organisation, co-operation and enthusiasm that is seen in the Common Riding showed that when communities come together they can perform better than official organisations.

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McAlpine fulfils ‘decades long dream’ by attending Common Riding

MSP Joan McAlpine said she was fulfilling ‘a decades long dream’ by attending the full common riding experience this weekend.

Ms McAlpine is arriving on Thursday night and spending the whole day in Langholm on Friday so she can experience the common riding along with locals.

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3845 Households in Dumfries and Galloway Helped by Scottish Welfare Fund

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed new figures showing 3845 households in Dumfries and Galloway have been helped by the Scottish Government’s Scottish Welfare Fund.

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MSP Highlights Cash Back Funding Figures - Investment Shows SNP Government Commitment to Region

Dumfries and Galloway has received almost £1.5 million of money seized from criminals thanks to the Scottish Government’s “Cash Back for Communities” scheme.

The region punches above its weight – with Dumfries and Galloway receiving more Cashback money than similar sized and larger local authority areas in the central belt.

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McAlpine Challenges Mundell over Food Banks

Joan McAlpine MSP has written to Scottish of State for Scotland David Mundell, asking if he has changed his stance on foodbanks after he agreed to open one in the south of Scotland this week.

Ms McAlpine previously cross examined Mr Mundell in the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare reform Committee when he claimed welfare reform had not caused the rise in foodbank use.

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SNP Vote Against Welfare Reform Bill

Commenting on the vote on the second reading of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill in the House of Commons last night (Monday), which passed by 308 to 124 - with the Labour Group abstaining, while some 48 Labour MPs rebelled to vote with the SNP against the Bill - the SNP said that Labour's failure to oppose it would haunt them through next year's Scottish Parliament election and beyond.

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McAlpine Calls for Extension on Transmission Upgrade Consultation

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South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has today (Thursday) written to the Director of Transmission Programmes at Scottish Power, asking for the consultation on proposals for a transmission upgrade to be extended.

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Relentless Tory Attack on Poor Pushing Children into Poverty

The ‘appalling’ impact of the Tory government’s continued attack on the working poor is being highlighted again today – as new figures from the IFS confirm that a growing number of children living in poverty live in working households.

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McAlpine Backs Fight For 5 Campaign

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A union campaign calling for decent work for all is a great asset in the fight against low pay and job insecurity, an MSP has said.

Unite’s Fight for 5 is a campaign calling for a living wage, safe and secure work, guaranteed hours each week, training and career development – and access to union representation.

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Civic Scotland 'United in Condemnation' of Tory Budget

The SNP is today highlighting the range of criticism of George Osborne’s budget from Civic Scotland as the third sector unites in condemnation of the measures – and condemned the ‘extreme’ cuts to support for young people.

Major third-sector organisations across Scotland including the STUC, Shelter Scotland, the Child Poverty Action Group, the SFHA and Citizens Advice Scotland have highlighted the serious regressive measures contained in the Budget – which will worsen child poverty, make it harder to escape the poverty trap and implements social security cuts which “have the potential to be just as damaging as the ‘bedroom tax’.”

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McAlpine Criticises Osborne Over Tax Credit Cuts As Region Set to Bear Brunt

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has hit out at the Chancellor's plans after new research has shown the dangers of proposed Tory cuts to tax credits for families across the region.

The children’s charity Barnardo’s Scotland has calculated that over half – 53% – of all families in Dumfries & Galloway currently use working tax credits, helping them buy food, clothes and other essentials for their children. This trend continues across Scotland; with 49.1% of Scottish families using tax credits as well as 30% of people entering employment remaining in poverty.

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McAlpine Welcomes Cash Boost For Local Clubs

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed new funding for Annan Athletic FC and Greystone Rovers YFC through a Scottish Government scheme – which will help to encourage physical activity in the local area.

This new funding comes as part of the Scottish Government’s Legacy 2014 Sustainable Sport for Communities Fund, designed to support sport-related social enterprises, enabling them to become sustainable in the long run and help people become more physically active.

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MSP Says Full Economic Powers Should be in Scotland's Hands to Allow New Approach

The need for the devolution of powers to create more and better jobs and to make Scottish society fairer has been highlighted again today – as a new report highlights the struggles of vulnerable and working poor people to make ends meet as austerity continues to hit.

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Local MSP Challenges ATOS Over Fit For Work Assessments

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Joan grills ATOS bosses during the Welfare Reform Committee

A local MSP has challenged ATOS over their ‘fit for work’ assessments.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine grilled firm bosses during an evidence session for the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee.

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McAlpine Praises Scotland’s Carers

An MSP has said that we owe our carers “a massive debt of gratitude.”

Speaking during a debate to mark Carers Week 2015, Joan McAlpine, who co-convenes the Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Carers, also said she was proud of the SNP government’s work on behalf of Scotland’s 759,000 carers, which includes a £144 million investment to date, containing £14 million for voluntary sector short breaks. 

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McAlpine Praises DAGCAS Welfare Advisers

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Joan with the DAGCAS Team

Welfare advisers at Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service are saving vulnerable people from destitution every day an MSP has said. 

Joan McAlpine praised the local team during a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee.

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Lockerbie Dairy a Beacon of Excellence says MSP

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Joan with Site Director Ian Roy

Scotland’s largest dairy plant is a beacon of excellence in the industry an MSP has said.

Speaking after a visit to Arla Foods’ Lockerbie Dairy on Friday, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine praised the facility and the commitment of the staff to quality.

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Joan warns Tories' Royal Mail sell-off puts universal service under threat

Joan McAlpine MSP has warned that further privatisation of the postal service will lead to a reduced service, especially in rural areas like the south of Scotland. 

George Osborne announced the plan to sell off the final 30 per cent of shares in the postal service - despite there being no mention of it in the Tories General Election manifesto.

The coalition government sold off the majority of the Royal Mail in 2013. A committee of MPs found that it was underpriced by £1bn (click here to read more).

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McAlpine raises concerns over impact of road closures on local festivals

A local MSP has written to Police Scotland raising concerns over new rules requiring road closures for community events.

Joan McAlpine contacted Chief Constable Sir Stephen House after a constituent alerted her to the rule changes introduced by Police Scotland. 

The SNP MSP told the Chief Constable that the high costs of enforcing these road closures – which community groups are required to cover – could cripple event organisers budget’s.

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MSP Congratulates Cochran Apprentices

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Joan with Cochran's Team.  Image credit Bryan Armstrong.

The latest group to graduate from Cochran Boiler’s apprenticeship scheme can look forward to rewarding careers, an MSP has said.

The seven apprentices have all been offered permanent tradesmen contracts with Cochran.

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Health and Loneliness Roadshow Hits Dumfries

The profound impact that loneliness can have on people’s health will be highlighted in a roadshow organised by Befriending Networks this month.

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine welcomed the Health and Loneliness Roadshow event, taking place at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, on Monday 8th of June between 12.30pm and 3pm. 

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Hope At Last For Townfoot ‘Eye-Sore’

A legal loophole could offer hope for the residents of Townfoot in Langholm an MSP has said.

Joan McAlpine MSP made the comments after she wrote to the Council on behalf of locals residing next to an abandoned building site owned by Welcare Homes.

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Region’s Young People Set for Rewarding Careers in the Dairy Industry

More young people in Dumfries and Galloway could have rewarding careers in the dairy industry if they take up the local educational and training opportunities on offer an MSP has said.

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Westminster Failing Local Cider Maker Says McAlpine

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Joan on a visit to Waulkmill Cider Ltd, Langholm.

The UK Government has failed to support a local craft cider producer, an MSP has said.

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'Don't Delay, Apply Today', McAlpine Urges Farmers

Local MSP Joan McAlpine has urged farmers to beat the last minute rush and apply for farm payments using the Single Application Form (SAF) as the Scottish Government announced improvements to the operation of the new Rural Payments and Services website.

The complexity of the new Common Agricultural policy (CAP) has resulted in implementation challenges right across the UK and Europe – and as a consequence Scotland, along with 15 other EU countries, have extended the deadline for farmers and crofters to submit their SAF until the 15 June.

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McAlpine leads debate on food and drink in D&G

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine today (Thursday) led a debate in the Scottish Parliament celebrating Dumfries and Galloway’s vibrant Food and Drink Sector.

The SNP MSP’s debate drew support from across the chamber, as members from different political parties came together to praise the region’s contribution to ‘the Year of Food and Drink.’

Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead was delighted to accept an invitation from Ms McAlpine to visit the newly restored Annandale Distillery, and Scotland’s Artisan Food Trail.

Ms McAlpine highlighted the roles of newly founded organisation ‘D&G Food and Drink’. She said:

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‘London-Centric’ Commissioners Huge Obstacle for Scotland’s Film and TV Industry

Productions of cultural value to Scotland are being overlooked by London-based commissioners, an MSP has said.

Speaking in a debate on culture in the Scottish Parliament, south of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine said that because commissioning is commercially driven, productions of cultural value are being ignored by commissioners who are unfamiliar with Scottish work.

She also criticised the BBC’s “lift and shift” tactic – whereby the production of pre-existing shows is moved to Scotland in order to meet quotas for Scotland-based output. This provides short-term production employment in Scotland, but not sustainability for the industry. 

Commenting, the SNP MSP said:

“The Economy Energy and Tourism Committee recently published its report into the Economic Impact of the Creative Industries in Scotland – independent producers who gave evidence to the Committee were unequivocal that London-centric commissioners presented a huge obstacle for Scotland’s film and TV industry.

 

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Stranraer takes over Scottish Parliament

Stranraer was in the spotlight last night as two major events at the Scottish Parliament showcased young talent from the town.

Joan McAlpine MSP sponsored the “Freedom Square” event – a play written by acclaimed playwright Des Dillon and developed and performed by the young cast of Ryan Youth Theatre.  Set up two years ago by the Wigtown Festival Company, the theatre has built up the confidence of its young members, many of whom are now considering a career in the performing arts.

Catering students from the Stranraer Campus of Dumfries and Galloway College also showcased their culinary skills, taking over the Parliament Restaurant for the evening, with MSPs from all over Scotland keen to sample their lamb and Ecclefechan tarts.

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UN Expert Backs McAlpine on coal gas extraction questions

A former member of the UN Expert Group on Climate Change and Chemicals has backed calls by Joan McAlpine MSP for a coal gas extraction company to answer questions about their plans for the Solway Firth.

Dr Mariann Lloyd Smith, who now serves on the Advisory Group of the national chemical regulator in Australia, also questioned the company's attempts to portray Underground Coal Gasification (UGC) as a form of clean energy. 

The CEO of Five Quarter, Harry Bradbury, last week attacked Ms McAlpine in DnG Media for making her concerns public in the paper and suggested that his company website provided sufficient information on Five Quarter's proposals.

 

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Joan concerned over lack of PIP safeguards

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has expressed concerns that there are not adequate safeguards in place to make sure people transferring from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments do not ‘fall through the net.’

There are concerns that vulnerable claimants may not be able to access the support they need when transferring from DLA.
During an evidence session in Holyrood’s Welfare Committee, Ms McAlpine questioned Paul Gray from Westminster’ Social Security Advisory Committee about the adequacy of the system.

Mr Gray, who was tasked with reviewing PIP admitted there were no safeguards in place:

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Five Quarter, Harry Bradbury, and UCG in the Solway Firth

CEO of Five Quarter Energy Dr Harry Bradbury took exception to my press release of two weeks ago highlighting concerns about his company's plans for underground coal gasification in the Solway firth. 

Prior to issuing my press release I wrote to Five Quarter with a number of questions about the proposed development. In a letter to the Annandale Observer last week Dr. Bradbury claimed that he had already answered my questions in his reply and that there was no need for my press release.  He accused me of making "alarmist statements" and talking "scientific nonsense". 

Dr Bradbury failed to answer many of the legitimate concerns I raised on behalf of my constituents before attacking me in the press.

Below is my correspondence with Five Quarter so that readers can judge for themselves...

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Positive A&E treatment stats in Dumfries and Galloway

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed new statistics showing the strong performance of Accident and Emergency units in Dumfries and Galloway.

The figures published today show that for the week ending 8th March, 96.7 per cent of patients in A&E were treated within four hours in Dumfries and Galloway- more than meeting the Scottish Government’s interim target of 95 per cent.

Both the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary and Galloway Community Hospital show positive figures – with rates of 97.1 per cent and 95.4 per cent respectively.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

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McAlpine expresses concern as region hit hard by welfare reform

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has expressed concerns about the high impact Tory welfare cuts are having on families and households across the region.

Dumfries and Galloway has lost £42 million as a result of the UK government's welfare reforms.

The biggest losers are families with children and single parents especially.

The average couple in Dumfries and Galloway with two or more children has lost £1510 as a result of the Westminster cuts.  Single parents in the region fare even worse - losing out on £1950 if they have two or more children.

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Scottish Government publishes new Bill to recognise Invaluable contribution of carers

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine is today welcoming the publication of the new Carers Bill – making clear that carers will always be a top priority for the SNP in government.

The Bill launched today will entitle all adult carers to their own support plan and all young carers to a young carer statement, setting out the help and support each carer is entitled to.  The Bill will also lead to the establishment of local carer advice and information centres and mandate all councils to publish local carer strategies.

The Scottish Government has always made carers a priority – investing around £114m in programmes to support carers since coming to office.   

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McAlpine demands answers as map reveals Solway coal gas plans

Joan McAlpine MSP has today demanded answers from the company behind a controversial plan to extract coal gas from beneath the Solway – after she obtained a map showing the extent of their ambition.

The South of Scotland SNP member obtained the detailed map from the Coal Authority which issued the license on behalf of the UK Government to allow the company, which has links to Buccleuch Estates, to explore “Underground Coal Gasification.”

The map shows in some detail the area of coastline and seabed affected  – which runs from the South of Annan to just West of Gretna, and takes in the entire estuary down to the Cumbria coast.

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Chapelcross National Energy Store potential highlighted at Scottish Parliament event

The site of the decommissioned nuclear power plant at Chapel Cross has been hailed as a potential national storage centre for renewable energy at a Scottish Parliament event held last week.

The event, hosted by south of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine brought together academics, environmental campaigners and the energy sector to listen to presentations on the future of the energy storage industry in Scotland.

Scottish Enterprise also sent one of its South of Scotland Dumfries based directors to the event - David Byers. 

CEO of Energy Storage Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce Brian Richardson said that the former nuclear plant at Chapelcross could potentially be re-purposed to become a national centre for storage in Scotland, bringing massive economic benefits to the area.

Academics Professor Susan Roaf and Dr Edward Owens, from Heriot Watt University’s world leading Energy Academy also contributed to the event, giving an overview of the emerging global energy storage market and specific technologies currently undergoing development. 

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ITV Border criticised for unbalanced coverage of Ashcroft poll

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has lodged a complaint with ITV Border over the broadcaster’s unbalanced coverage of last week’s poll from Lord Ashcroft which suggested SNP candidates in Dumfries and Galloway and Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale are set to take the two constituency seats from their respective Labour and Tory incumbents.

Ms McAlpine complained after an interview she gave to the broadcaster representing the SNP received only 18 seconds of air time during an 8 minute long package.

The SNP MSP said:

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Community trusts urged to apply to Scottish Government funding pot

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the introduction of a new Scottish Government fund to help communities develop empty properties in their area.

The new Asset Mapping Funding Pots will give development trusts the chance to conduct surveys, work with stakeholders and consult with their communities on the best methods of rejuvenating their town centres.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil announced the £50,000 fund on a visit to Clackmannan whose development trust was established in direct response to issues faced in its historic town centre and across the wider community. He said:

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McAlpine Welcomes Public Health Impact Assessment into Unconventional Oil and Gas

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has called for impartial American academics who have studied the health effects of unconventional gas on a commercial scale to be included in the public health enquiry being set up by the Scottish Government.

Ms McAlpine said lay people and those living in affected communities should be included in the Public Health Impact Assessment – and that none of its members should have links to the industry.

She made her points in a letter to the public health minister Maureen Watt.

Ms McAlpine successfully campaigned for a moratorium on so called “unconventionals”, supporting constituents in Canonbie, where Buccleuch Estates and i-gas wanted to drill for methane gas. 

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Scottish Government funding for Moat Brae restoration

Moat Brae House in Dumfries, where JM Barrie was inspired to create Peter Pan, will receive £300'000 towards its continued restoration.

The Georgian Town House - which faced demolition in 2009 - is now well on its way to being transformed into Scotland's First Centre for Children's Literature.

The award comes as part of £1.7 million being distributed by Historic Scotland to support the restoration of buildings as part of the Scottish Government's historic environment strategy 'Our Place in Time'. 

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McAlpine Highlights Role of Storage Technology in Scotland’s Future Energy Strategy

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has used a debate on Scotland’s future Energy Strategy to highlight the importance of developing energy storage technologies. 

Ms McAlpine said that investment in energy storage would be a major boost to Scotland’s long-term ambition to be a greener nation, as well as a tremendous opportunity to create sustainable employment in assembly, manufacturing and operation.  

She said:

“The renewables sector has already led to the establishment of an industry that is responsible for 11'000 full-time jobs in Scotland and billions of pounds of inward investment.

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Labour's record on health condemned

Joan McAlpine has condemned the Labour Party’s record on health across the UK and highlighted that the NHS can only be protected by sending a strong group of SNP MPs to Westminster this May. 

Ms McAlpine’s comments came during a parliamentary debate led by Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jenny Marra attacking the SNP for a supposed lack of transparency on NHS statistics - despite the fact Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy was caught red-handed fiddling waiting times figures the previous day.

Mr Murphy alleged that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had cancelled four times as many operations as their counterparts in England. However, it quickly emerged that Labour had vastly inflated the figure in Glasgow by including operations which were cancelled for clinical reasons, while the English figure referred to only those cancelled for non-clinical reasons. 

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Nuclear dumping at Chapelcross will jeopardise economic development

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has responded to the UK Government’s consultation on the storage of nuclear waste, voicing her serious opposition to the selection of the Chapelcross site.

Earlier this year, the MoD - which needs to find somewhere to store waste from 27 nuclear subs – revealed Chapelcross was one of five shortlisted UK sites.

In her response to the ‘Submarine Dismantling Project’ consultation Ms McAlpine said:

“The MoD consultation document outlines that defence is a UK Government responsibility and that that Scottish Government policy long term management of radioactive waste is superseded by UK government policy.  This seems to be in contradiction to the respect agenda that has been talked about post-referendum.

“Was the Chapelcross site to be chosen, this creates the risk of setting a precedent for accepting future nuclear waste, contradictory to Scotland's national policy.”

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Wind farm refusal "deeply disappointing"

Joan McAlpine MSP says she is deeply disappointed for the communities of Sanquhar Kirkconnel and Kelloholm after the Scottish Government refused permission for a wind farm which would have earned them £450,000 a year.

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D&G Council backtrack over teacher cuts

Joan McAlpine MSP has welcomed a U - Turn by Dumfries and Galloway Council over proposals to cut teacher numbers.

The Labour administration has suffered a humiliating climb down after it was confirmed that their plan to cut teachers would result in a loss of £1.5 million Scottish Government funding this year.

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Joan praises restored Annandale Distillery

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine paid a visit to Scotland’s newest distillery this week. Annandale distillery filled its first cask in almost 100 years last November.

Closed after WW1, it was restored and reopened last year by Professor David Thomson and his wife Teresa Church, using local labour, craftsmen and materials wherever possible.

The £10.5 million development has employed 16 people in the region with plans to recruit additional staff for peak tourism seasons.

 

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McAlpine urges Dumfries and Galloway to stop cutting teachers - or risk losing £1.5million

Joan McAlpine MSP has urged Dumfries & Galloway Labour Council to think again about cutting teacher numbers after it emerged that this will result in them losing £1.5 million of government grant.

Ms McAlpine said : "Last week D&G Labour were asked to postpone their cuts to learning support teachers until it was clear how this might affect their Scottish Government grant. Arrogantly they pressed ahead with Tory support and now the region stands to lose £1.5m now and £300,000 later this year."

It emerged yesterday that councils which failed to maintain their existing head count and teacher pupil ratio would have their share of the £41m of Scottish Government money allocated for this purpose clawed back. They would also lose their share of an additional £10 million announced last week by John Swinney to maintain teacher numbers.

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Joan will continue to back families, trade unions and equality campaigners fighting learning support cuts in Dumfries and Galloway

The MSP welcomed a letter this week from parents to Tam Baillie, the Children's Commissioner, who had last week advised the council to delay the cuts - advice ignored by the council's ruling Labour Group who voted them through with Tory support.

Ms McAlpine had successfully urged Mr Baillie to intervene on behalf of the affected children last week, on the grounds that they had not been properly consulted and the cuts would damage their education.

 Now parents have contacted Mr Baillie again - backing his intervention and refuting a letter sent to the commissioner by council chief executive Gavin Stevenson defending the cuts process.

 Commenting on the parents group letter Ms McAlpine said:

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Labour and Tories vote to cut ASL posts in D&G

Local MSP Joan McAlpine has slammed Labour and Tory councillors for voting through proposals to cut 52 additional support for learning posts in Dumfries and Galloway.

Following a letter sent by Ms McAlpine the Children’s Commissioner yesterday wrote to the Council expressing concern over the proposals.

He suggested that the decision be delayed until further considerations are taken.

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CALL FOR APOLOGY AS MP DISMISSES CHARITY ON WELFARE REFORM

Joan McAlpine, MSP for the south of Scotland, has today (Wednesday) called for David Mundell MP to apologise for dismissing evidence from local charity worker - because he supports Scottish independence.

 The Under Secretary of State for Scotland was giving evidence to Holyrood’s Welfare Committee on food banks, when Ms McAlpine quoted evidence from Mark Frankland, Manager of First Base, linking welfare reforms to the rise in food bank use.

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JOAN ALERTS CHILDREN'S TSAR TO EDUCATION CUTS

Local MSP Joan McAlpine has today written to the Childrens' Commissioner Tam Baillie to alert him to planned education cuts by Dumfries and Galloway Council.

 Ms McAlpine said the council's actions could breach the Children and Young People's (Scotland) Act of 2014. The act gives the tsar, Children's Commissioner Tam Baillie, legal powers to investigate if a council's actions are suspected of harming the wellbeing of children and young people.

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MORATORIUM ON UNCONVENTIONAL OIL AND GAS IN SCOTLAND ANNOUNCED

Joan McAlpine has welcomed a moratorium on unconventional onshore oil and gas extraction in Scotland. 

The South of Scotland MSP said it would be welcome news for villagers in Canonbie, with whom she has campaigned to prevent coalbed methane extraction around

their homes.

 Scotland’s Energy Minister announced today (Wednesday) that no more planning consents for unconventional onshore oil and gas wells will be granted.

 

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NEW POLL SHOWS STRONG SUPPORT FOR SNP IN SOUTH SCOTLAND

STRONG SNP MP NEEDED TO FIGHT AGAINST WESTMINSTER AUSTERITY

 SNP MSP for South of Scotland Joan McAlpine is today welcoming a new poll showing strong support for the SNP across the area – while Labour’s position in the polls continues to suffer as a result of their toxic alliance with the Tories.

 The Survation poll shows support for the SNP standing at 34 per cent in South Scotland – while support for Labour stands at 16.2 per cent and Lib Dem support has plummeted to 5.2 per cent.

 The General Election in May offers communities across the South of Scotland the chance to elect an SNP MP who’ll always put Scotland’s interests first and fight against Westminster imposed austerity – rather than the Labour and Lib Dem MPs who voted along with the Tories for another £30bn of cuts.

 

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MCALPINE GRILLS REGULATOR OVER “INCONSISTENT” TREATMENT OF HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

Joan McAlpine MSP has criticised the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) over inconsistencies in its dealings with Loreburn Housing Association and Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership.

The South of Scotland MSP questioned SHR Chief Executive Michael Cameron about accusations of disproportionate action - leniency in the regulator’s approach to larger housing associations - and presiding over a “climate of fear” amongst HA’s when he appeared before the Parliament’s Infrastructure Committee.

 The regulator took the decision to intervene in Loreburn in 2011 - despite its 97 per cent approval rating among tenants – when the HA board took legal action to remove three of its members.  The intervention has cost Loreburn nearly £500,000 in consultant and legal fees to date.

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MCALPINE PRAISES LOCAL COMPANY’S WORK DELIVERING MODERN APPRENTICESHIPS

 Joan McAlpine MSP has praised local company Minerva for its work delivering Modern Apprenticeships across the region.

 Ms McAlpine met Modern Apprentices and their assessors along with Directors Tricia and Andrew Hunter last Friday.

 

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DELIVERING A BETTER DEAL FOR CARERS

Joan McAlpine MSP has welcomed comments from Social Justice Secretary Alex Neill MSP, pledging to use any new powers for the Scottish parliament to deliver the best deal possible for unpaid carers. 

The Cabinet Secretary appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee this week to discuss the proposals from the Smith Commission.

When asked by Ms McAlpine, who sits on the Committee, how new powers might be used to benefit carers the Cabinet Secretary replied:

“I am very keen to do much more for carers than is being done at the present time; the transfer of benefits like the carers allowance will help us, hopefully, to do that, and it’s an area where we will be looking at where we can deliver a better deal for carers, using our existing resources and combine them with the additional resources coming from the carer’s allowance and any other relevant benefits as a result of the Smith process.”

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MCALPINE WELCOMES COMMUNITY BENEFIT GUARANTEE FROM HOSPITAL PROCUREMENT DEAL

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed confirmation from the Scottish Government that the new NHS Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary project will have targeted community benefits, including the creation of 150 new jobs.

 In a parliamentary question Ms McAlpine sought assurances from the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, Shona Robison MSP, that employment and local development opportunities would result from the construction of the new hospital.

 The replacement for the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary is currently progressing as planned, with construction due to commence in spring 2015, following the financial close of the project in February.

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RESPONSE TO LABOUR AND LIB DEM PRESS RELEASES ON MY DAILY RECORD COLUMN

My column praises the hard work done by many councillors and council workers.  But I will not shy away from attacking councils that are failing their communities - like Dumfries and Galloway where learning support teachers and classroom assistants are being slashed by Labour, or West Dunbartonshire where the same party is slashing hot dinners for pupils. The SNP's new  Community Empowerment Bill will give real democratic control to communities, especially those who are not served well by local authorities. We are empowering the people - Labour want to empower their cooncil cronies.

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RUSSELL BROWN MP VOTES WITH THE TORIES FOR FURTHER AUSTERITY

Local Labour MP Russell Brown has faced criticism this week – after it was revealed that he voted along with the Tories in the House of Commons to continue austerity cuts.

 Despite communities across Dumfries and Galloway suffering from the impact of existing cuts – Russell Brown MP voted with the UK Government for £75billion of cuts and tax rises proposed by George Osborne.

Commenting, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:

“Labour have shown their true colours in siding with the Tories, and it is now clearer than ever that only by voting SNP can we challenge Westminster’s obsession with austerity cuts.

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ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR NHS DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY HAILED

The announcement of extra funding for NHS Dumfries and Galloway has been hailed today as a clear demonstration of the SNP’s commitment to ensuring Scotland’s NHS gets the resources it needs.

Health Secretary Shona Robison today announced that NHS Dumfries and Galloway will receive an extra £1.1 million in 2015/16 to help with the rising cost pressures facing the NHS.

 In total the uplift for NHS Dumfries and Galloway for next year now stands at £ 6.2 million. 

 

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MCALPINE HAILS FREE SCHOOL MEALS FOR ALL P1-P3 CHILDREN

POLICY TO BENEFIT 135,000 CHILDREN AND SAVE FAMILIES £330

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed a Scottish Government initiative, which sees all pupils in Primary 1 to Primary 3 entitled to a free school meal as of today Monday 5th January.


The SNP MSP is today highlighting the importance of the policy - with 135,000 children expected to benefit and families of every eligible child saving at least £330 per year.

The move – which is being provided with £70.5m in revenue funding and £24.8m in additional capital funding by the Scottish Government – will provide P1-P3 children with guaranteed access to a healthy, nutritious meal and could positively shape children’s eating habits for the rest of their lives.

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MCALPINE TAKES PART IN RELATIONSHIPS SUMMIT

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine last week attended a vital summit at the Scottish Parliament celebrating the importance of everyday relationships.

The event - hosted by counselling and mediation charity Relationships Scotland - featured a keynote speech by the Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell MSP.

Chairman Duncan McEachran and Service Manager John Dougan of Relationships Scotland Dumfries and Galloway attended the event ensuring the voices of the area’s children and families were well represented. Delegates heard from a range of speakers providing specialist relationship support across Scotland, including input from Prostate Cancer UK, Dads Rock and academics. The relationships summit is the first of a series of future events planned by Relationships Scotland, with the aim of ensuring Scottish children and families get the right support at the right time in their lives. 

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MCALPINE BACKS SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has voiced her support for small businesses in Dumfriesshire and across Scotland as part of the Federation of Small Businesses campaign urging shoppers to spend their festive pay checks with Independent businesses this weekend. 

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MCALPINE WELCOMES RENEWABLE ENERGY SUCCESS

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the announcement that last month renewable energy overtook nuclear to become Scotland’s largest source of energy for the first time.

In the first half of 2013 renewable energy accounted for 10.3 terrawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity generated in Scotland, compared to 7.8 TWh generated by nuclear energy over the same period. A further 5.6 TWh came from coal-fired stations and 1.4 TWh from gas-fired stations.

The SNP Government has set an ambitious target of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020.

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MCALPINE URGES YOUNG VOTERS TO CONTINUE TO ENGAGE IN POLITICS

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has today urged all 16-17 year olds to continue to engage in politics by responding to an online survey produced by the Scottish Parliament committee tasked with examining the devolution of further powers to The Scottish Parliament. 

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MCALPINE WELCOMES SNP’S PROGRAMME FOR GOVERNMENT

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the First Minister’s Programme for Government – which will include reform of land laws, a Carers Bill, and a new £10 million Community Empowerment Fund.

The Scottish Government to date has invested £114m a year on support for unpaid carers, and will extend this support through a Carers Bill in the coming year – which will ensure carers are involved in the planning and delivery of services which affect them.

Ms McAlpine also welcomed news that a Land Reform Bill will be introduced before the end of the current parliament.

The Bill will remove tax breaks for shooting estates – helping the Scottish Government to support rural communities to buy land by increasing the Scottish Land Fund from £3m this year to £10m a year from 2016. 

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SCOTTISH ENTERPRISE PROMISE TO RAISE AMBITION IN RESPONSE TO CRITICISM

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine yesterday (Monday) met with Scottish Enterprise bosses to discuss what more they can do to boost the local economy.

The meeting was arranged after Ms McAlpine – who sits on the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee — accused Scottish Enterprise representatives of failing Dumfries and Galloway, with figures showing the area has the lowest percentage of growth export companies across the whole of Scotland.

The SNP MSP quizzed Adrian Gillespie, Managing Director of Operations, and Iain Scott, Chief Financial Officer on what more can be done in the area.

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FRACKING REPORT AUTHOR REVEALED AS ENERGY FIRM BOARD MEMBER

An academic who called this week for fracking regulations to be relaxed is the director of a leading unconventional gas extraction firm.

Professor Paul Younger of Glasgow University’s Department of Engineering received widespread publicity this week for a paper published in the Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology.

The BBC headlined the story: “Fracking regulations too strict say Glasgow academics”. However Professor Younger holds an unpaid position on the board of Five Quarter, an energy firm based in Newcastle which describes itself as specialising in “the infrastructure and processes needed for the extraction and use of unconventional gas from rocks deep below the North Sea.”

A major shareholder in Five Quarter is Buccleuch Estates, who are currently behind a controversial proposal to extract Coalbed Methane gas in the village of Canonbie, Dumfriesshire on their estate.  Mark Oddy, Buccleuch’s Energy Director, is also the Commercial Director of Five Quarter.

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MCALPINE WELCOMES RISE IN YOUTH EMPLOYMENT IN DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed news that youth employment in Dumfries and Galloway has risen to 63 per cent - marginally above the national average.

Ms McAlpine has also endorsed calls by Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment Angela Constance, for Westminster to adopt the European Youth Guarantee to ensure faster intervention with unemployed young people in order to help them into work.

The European Youth Guarantee is an EU-wide measure to ensure the earliest possible intervention with unemployed young women and men by stepping in before four months of unemployment to maximise the chances of supporting 16 to 24 year olds towards work while they are still fresh out of education, training or their previous employment.

In response to a question from Ms McAlpine in the chamber, the Cabinet Secretary revealed she had written to UK Employment Minister Esther McVey urging her to properly consider the benefits of the scheme, only to be told by Ms McVey that Westminster would not endorse it.

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MCALPINE WELCOMES CALLS FOR DEVOLUTION OF FORESTRY POWERS

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed calls from forestry workers for the devolution of all forestry-related powers to the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Woodlot Association (SWA) has highlighted in its submission to the Smith Commission that despite the original aim in 1997 for the Scottish Parliament to have complete control over forestry - the powers required to grow the industry remain with Westminster.

The SWA has therefore argued for the immediate transfer of key financial levers such as Income Tax, Corporation Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Business Property Relief to the Scottish Parliament.

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MCALPINE WELCOMES ‘READY FOR WINTER?’ CAMPAIGN

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has today welcomed the Scottish Government’s ‘Ready for Winter’ campaign – launched by Transport Minister Keith Brown.

According to new research published by the Scottish Government in partnership with the British Red Cross, Two consecutive relatively mild winters appear to have made people in Scotland less worried about severe weather incidents.

The campaign therefore aims to highlight the unpredictability of weather patterns and the importance of being prepared for extreme weather.

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MCALPINE TO MEET WITH RAIL OPERATORS TO DISCUSS OPPORTUNITIES FOR SOUTH - WEST

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has written to Abellio requesting a meeting to discuss how the new Scotrail franchise can benefit the South West.

Transport Minister Keith Brown announced last week that the firm will take over the franchise for the next ten years from current operators First Group.

Ms McAlpine congratulated the team on their success and welcomed plans for improved services on the Glasgow – Dumfries – Carlisle line.  

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MCALPINE WELCOMES BUDGET FOR A FAIRER SCOTLAND

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the Scottish Government budget which will deliver on the aspirations of the people of Scotland for a more prosperous and fairer Scotland.

The budget – set out in parliament by Finance Secretary John Swinney last week – will deliver sustainable economic growth while protecting public services and tackling inequality - Despite cuts by Westminster to the Scottish Government’s budget of around 10 per cent in real terms over five years, including capital spending cuts of over 25 per cent.

Scotland’s Health service will be protected with extra funding in 2015-16 - bringing the total health budget to more than £12 billion for the first time.

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MCALPINE WELCOMES NEW DEAL FOR RAILWAYS

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed a new deal for Scotland’s railways which will bring more tourists to Dumfries and Galloway.

A new franchise agreement announced today by Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown will see reduced fares and better working conditions for staff.

Operator Abellio, which will take on the running of the £6billion franchise from 1 April 2015. Abellio will move their UK HQ to Glasgow creating 50 new jobs alongside 150 jobs secured from First.

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MSP CALLS FOR SUBSTANTIAL NEW POWERS TO BENEFIT REGION

SNP MSP for the south of Scotland Joan McAlpine is urging members of the public from across Dumfriesshire to have their say on what further powers should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

She has urged them to write to the Smith Commission, which is tasked with bringing more powers to Holyrood in the wake of the independence referendum.  Ms McAlpine believes that only powers that amount to the “Home Rule” promised by the No campaign during the referendum debate will be adequate to address the issues facing Dumfriesshire.

Ms McAlpine said the region would particularly benefit from Scotland having full regulatory powers over telecommunications in order to improve broadband and mobile coverage: these powers are currently reserved to Westminster.  She also wants substantially increased borrowing powers and full control of Scotland’s national wealth to invest in improving infrastructure in the south west.  Ms McAlpine also favours job creating powers, such as the ability to vary business taxes and give incentives to employers who invest in their workforce. 

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MCALPINE URGES THIRD SECTOR GROUPS TO RESPOND TO SMITH COMMISSION ON DEVOLUTION

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has urged third sector groups in the region to contribute their views on further powers for the Scottish Parliament to the Smith Commission.

 The Commission – chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin and charged with bringing more powers to Holyrood – is seeking views from across Scottish public life about which new financial, welfare and taxation powers should be devolved.

 The process will be informed by a Command Paper to be published by 31st October which will form the basis of a bill to be launched in January. 

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has agreed to collate responses from the third sector and provide them to Lord Smith. 

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Statement from Joan McAlpine

Yesterday I shared a story on Twitter from the online site Political Scrapbook which highlighted the suffering caused to the poorest disabled children and their families across the UK by Conservative Government policies - In particular the bedroom tax and on-going welfare cuts.

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HUNDREDS OF NEW MEMBERS ATTEND FIRST POST-REFERENDUM SNP MEETINGS

The first local SNP branch meetings since the referendum on Scottish Independence were held across Dumfriesshire this week  - attracting hundreds of new party members.

Around 150 members gathered in the Aberdour hotel for the Dumfries East SNP branch meeting on Monday night and a further 70 attended a meeting in Annan Community Centre the following evening to discuss the way forward after the referendum.

Members in Dumfries also held a collection for the local food bank run by the First Base charity. 

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MCALPINE JOINS ANTI-WAR PROTESTORS IN DUMFRIES

Joan McAlpine MSP joined anti- war protestors at the Burns statue in Dumfries on Saturday moments after MP’s at Westminster voted to bomb Iraq.

Ms McAlpine SNP member for the south of Scotland joined Green party members, trade unionists and others from Dumfries and Galloway who believe the decision will escalate things in the Middle East.

All SNP MSPs at Westminster voted no to the bombing, along with a number of Labour and Conservative rebels. 

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MSP CONDEMNS WESTMINSTER PLANS TO REMOVE SCOTTISH HOUSEHOLDERS RIGHTS TO OBJECT TO FRACKING

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has today condemned UK Government plans to remove the right of householders to object to fracking taking place beneath their homes – and highlighted the need for a public debate on the issue, rather than a behind closed doors agreement at Westminster. 

Despite 99 per cent of respondents to the UK Government consultation objecting to the plans, it has been announced that companies will be allowed to drill below people’s land without first negotiating a right of access – removing the right to object which currently exists.

The Scottish Government has already objected to the proposals, instead calling for the powers over unconventional oil and gas to be transferred to the Scottish Parliament and pointing out whatever the rights and wrongs of the proposal it needs to be given proper consideration and be subject to public debate in Scotland, to allow the issue to be taken forward in a cautious, considered and evidence-based fashion.

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16’000 FAMILIES ACROSS DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY TO LOSE OUT BY UP TO £2000 FROM CHILD BENEFIT CAP

Labour’s plans to continue with the Tories’ child benefit cap could cost families in Dumfries and Galloway and across Scotland as much as £2000 – showing why decisions on welfare should be made in Scotland rather than at Westminster.

New analysis from the Scottish parliament shows that under Labour’s plans to extend the Tory child benefit cap for an additional year, a family with one child will cumulatively lose out on more than £875, a family with two children will lose almost £1500 and a family with three children will lose over £2,000.

Almost 16’000 families and 23’000 children under the age of 16 will be affected across Dumfries and Galloway. 

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WESTMINSTER STILL HAS HEAD IN THE SAND ON FOOD BANKS

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has hit out at the UK government after they refused to address her concerns about the rising use of food banks.

 The Westminster government is continuing to ignore the link between welfare cuts and rising food bank use – despite a 400 per cent increase in the number of people relying on food banks in Scotland in the past year.

 In a reply to a letter from SNP MSP Joan McAlpine, UK Employment Minister Esther McVey claimed there is “no robust evidence that welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks”. This is despite a previous admission from another UK Government Minister that harsh cuts to benefits were to blame. 

 

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MCALPINE DEMANDS LABOUR AND CONSERVATIVE POLITICIANS KEEP SCOTTISH FUNDING PROMISE

Joan McAlpine MSP has demanded assurances from her Labour and Conservative colleagues that they and their parties will stick to promises made on Scottish funding during the referendum campaign.

Ms McAlpine today wrote to MSP for Dumfriesshire Elaine Murray, and Conservative David Mundell MP, seeking confirmation that they will support the continuation of the Barnett formula – which their parties promised to protect in the event of a No vote.

Just days before the referendum the Prime Minister and the other Westminster leaders made what was described as a ‘vow’ to the people of Scotland on more powers – and that pledge included a commitment to maintain Scotland’s funding.

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MSP URGES PENSIONERS TO UNLOCK THE WEALTH OF OPPORTUNITY OF INDEPENDENCE’ FOR THEIR GRANDCHILDREN


South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has called on pensioners in her constituency to vote Yes this Thursday – to ensure that their grandchildren are given the opportunities denied to previous generations in Scotland.

Ms McAlpine reiterated Scottish Government guarantees that in an Independent Scotland public sector pension rights and entitlements will be fully protected and paid in full  - and that private pensions will continue to be paid as at present and will not be affected by Scotland becoming Independent. 

 

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MCALPINE OUTLINES KEY GAINS OF ‘YES’ AND WELCOMES MOVE TO YES AMONGST VOTERS ACROSS D&G

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has outlined the key benefits a Yes vote will bring to her constituents and to people across Scotland, including:

- Job-creating powers and an economic policy tailored to Scotland’s needs

- Protecting the NHS from the impact of Westminster privatisation

- Saving on our share of a £100 billion bill for new nuclear weapons.

- Governments we vote for every time.

- Control of our budget to invest in a childcare transformation

- Control of social security – so we can stop Westminster policies which could put 100,000 children in Scotland into poverty.

- Helping the low-paid by introducing a minimum wage that rises at least in line with the cost of living.

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MCALPINE HIGHLIGHTS PLAN FOR ‘RURAL RENAISSANCE’ WITH A YES VOTE

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has highlighted SNP plans to push forward a ‘rural renaissance’ with the powers that would come to the Scottish parliament following a Yes vote.

Ms McAlpine welcomed comments from SNP Rural Affairs spokesman Richard Lochhead setting out a 10 point plan - including Access to Scotland’s fair share of EU farming, fishing and rural development funds; managing the Crown Estate in Scotland for the benefit of local communities; and establishing a more business-friendly environment for small employers.

Mr Lochhead confirmed that Following a Yes vote, a rural commission will be established to make recommendations on how the Parliament's new powers can be used to promote rural development.

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LOCAL BUSINESS LEADER DECLARES SUPPORT FOR A YES VOTE

A prominent local businessman has urged people to vote Yes because it will be better for jobs and the economy.

Tom Barrie, owner of Currie European haulage business based in Dumfries, has joined the pro-independence Business for Scotland organisation.

He said:

"I am of the firm view that having our own Scottish voice at the top table in Europe can only be good for businesses like mine which operate across the EU." 

Currie European employs 250 people in Scotland and has a turnover of around £53 million a year.  It has operations in Holland and France as well as Scotland and England.

Mr Barrie said: "I am worried by the rise of UKIP in the south and by David Cameron’s in/out referendum on EU membership. A no vote could pull Scotland out of Europe, which would be bad for our business."

 He dismissed claims from the Better Together campaign that Scotland would not be allowed to join a currency union with the rest of the UK and be kicked out of the EU.

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MCALPINE WELCOMES €3.5 BILLION INDEPENDENCE BONUS FOR FARMING: YES VOTE WILL GIVE SCOTLAND A SEAT AT NEXT CAP TALKS

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed assurances from the First Minister that Independence will present a huge financial opportunity for Scottish farming and rural Scotland as a Yes vote means that an independent Scotland will be able to negotiate on its own behalf at the next round of EU Common Agricultural Policy talks when they begin in 2017.

Addressing the International Federation of Agricultural Journalist’s Congress, which is taking place in Aberdeenshire with delegates from 38 countries worldwide, Mr Salmond highlighted that Scotland could have received around €3.5 billion in additional European funding if Scotland has been independent during the most recent Common Agricultural Policy talks.

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ENGLISH SCOTS FOR YES CO-FOUNDER TO VISIT DUMFRIESSHIRE

 

English Scots for Yes co-founder Math Campbell-Sturgess will tour Dumfriesshire this weekend speaking to undecided voters about why he believes a Yes vote next month will be in the best interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Math will speak at a public meeting in Langholm this Friday evening alongside Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, author Alan Bissett, and Jeane Freeman from Women for Independence.  The presentation will begin at 7pm at the Eskdale Hotel and will be followed by a Q&A session. The event is free to attend and all are welcome.

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