In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government announced this week that it was launching a consultation on proposals to provide stability and security for rural businesses in the immediate post-Brexit period. It marks the start of the process of developing a new rural support policy for Scotland with a consultation focusing on what might be done to provide stability in the period immediately after Scotland might have to leave the EU in 2019. In my question to the Cabinet Secretary I pressed the importance of retaining customs union and single market membership for the future of agricultural support.
I was delighted to meet the WASPI women from Dumfries and Galloway on Monday. The women were extremely frustrated at their treatment by the UK government and keen to refresh the local campaign highlighting pension unfairness for women born in the 1950s. They want to reach out to affected local women, many of whom they believe may be unaware of the campaign – and encourage them to contact the DWP about their situation. They also have letter templates which they can use to assist. Anyone interested should contact Dumfries and Galloway WASPI campaign at: Waspidg@outlook.com. In the mean time I will do what I can to help.
I visited First Base Foodbank in Dumfries with MSP Emma Harper to hand over a transit van full of provisions donated by independence campaigners ahead of last Saturday’s march . The donations covered everything from pasta to tinned meat and essential toiletries. There were 12 very large shopping bags and six large boxes which only just fitted in to Mr Frankland’s van. The independence movement is very much focussed on making Scotland a fairer place and the generous donations shows that they put their words into action.
This week I published my response to the consultation on south Scotland’s new enterprise agency. Our new agency should act as a champion for the region as well as providing appropriate business and community support, as is the case with the north through Highland and Islands Enterprise. Access to capital is one of the key challenges for both SME’s and micro businesses in South Scotland. During my time on the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Committee I saw a lot of evidence that access to capital was particularly acute in South Scotland and this applied to private finance as well as public agency loans and grants. The Agency must address this if our businesses are to grow and develop. The creation of a dedicated enterprise agency by the Scottish Government is a huge opportunity and we must grasp it. Dumfries and Galloway has the potential to be an economic success story. We already have very strong food and drink, creative, and manufacturing sectors – and the agency can push to define Dumfries and Galloway as a centre of excellence for them all.
On Monday I was at The Usual Place as the community cafe collected a national award for its changing places toilet - the only facility of its kind in the region until the DGRI Hospital opened last year. I think it is important that other public facilities across the region consider whether they can emulate this wonderful initiative to promote equality across the whole region - if a small charity like The Usual Place can do this, then so can larger organisations.
On Tuesday I was delighted to meet representatives from Cycling Without Age Scotland SCIO who were in Parliament this week encouraging MSPs to help support the extension of the programme in their own constituencies. Cycling Without Age organisers were given Scottish Government funding to bring together and train volunteers to 'pilot' trishaws in a bid to help older people get out and about in the fresh air. They are always looking for people who want to pilot as well as organisations such as care homes. If anyone is interested in becoming involved, please contact Christine Bell on firstname.lastname@example.org