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The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

Keep up to date with the latest news and stories from across Dumfries & Galloway.

 

McAlpine urges groceries regulator to “stand up for Pinneys”

The South Scotland member wrote to the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) asking her to investigate events behind Young’s closure threat.

She asked Christine Tacon to investigate workers’ concerns that a “mutually convenient deal” was reached between Young’s and Marks and Spencer’s - which resulted in Pinneys being earmarked for closure.

And she raised concerns about arrangements where factories have only one customer – making workers and communities very vulnerable.

The MSP urged Ms Tacon to “Stand up for Pinneys” in the same way as the adjudicator previously defended dairy farmers being squeezed by the supermarkets.

The Groceries Code Adjudicator is an independent regulator set up by the UK Government tasked with ensuring that the 10 big UK supermarkets “Treat their direct suppliers lawfully and fairly”.

Commenting Ms McAlpine said:

“I know that the UK Groceries Regulator has in the past spoken out against bad practice and stood up for farmers when supermarkets squeezed their margins. I am asking them to now stand up for Pinneys workers in Scotland.

“Young’s and M&S are both UK companies who have carefully crafted public images. In the case of Marks and Spencer, ethical treatment of communities and suppliers is promised in their “Plan A” approach to corporate behaviour. Many of my constituents feel that -  even though both companies deny an exclusivity arrangement was in place – they have still failed in their social responsibility towards the people of Annan who have worked so hard for them both for many years.”

Explaining the background to her letter to Ms Tacon, Ms McAlpine said:

“Pinneys’ closure was triggered by Young’s moving its natural salmon contract to Grimsby, where it gained an additional two Marks and Spencer contracts. At the same time, it voluntarily gave up its Marks and Spencer deli and prepared meals contracts produced at Pinneys. Both companies have said they wish to concentrate production, so this suits them both.

I have told Ms Tacon that my constituents are very much of the view that these two large companies have reached a mutually convenient deal – with little thought for the devastating consequences in Annan. These remain allegations so I hope she can get to the truth. I hope she will investigate that.

The SNP MSP added:

“I continue to talk to those on the ground at Pinneys, including union reps, and am fully backing their efforts to get enhanced redundancy for workers should the worst happen.”

Campaign to save lifeline bus service steps up a gear

MSP Joan McAlpine and SNP activists led a day of action today (Monday) to continue the campaign to save the 101/102 bus service from Dumfries to Edinburgh.

The SNP MSP joined local activists in Moffat to speak to residents who will be impacted if the route is scrapped.

 

The service faces the axe in August due to Tory run Scottish Borders Council’s plans to cut its contribution towards the annual running costs.

Ms McAlpine commented:

“The strength of feeling against the funding cuts to the 101/2 route was very clear chatting to people in Moffat. Many talked about how they used the bus as a vital link to neighbouring towns like Beattock and Thornhill, as well as to Dumfries and Edinburgh.

“The three local authority areas covered by the service currently all chip in to pay for it – but if Borders Council pull their share then the service is likely to be axed. While it looks like provision for Borders’ residents may be safe, the service is a vital connection for people in Dumfries and Galloway, particularly in areas like Moffat and Thornhill.

The SNP MSP – who has written to Borders Council urging the local authority to reverse its decision – added:

“The threat to axe the service flies in the face of the Scottish Government’s new proposed economic partnership, and efforts to bring the south of Scotland together.

“Rural areas need more public transport links, not fewer, and Borders Council has a responsibility to work together with neighbouring local authorities in the region to maintain this service.”

Castle Douglas Tourist Information Centre to become the ‘Heart of Galloway’

Castle Douglas Development Forum has announced it is to take over the former VisitScotland Information Centre at Market Hill from 25th May. The community development group’s vision is to create a friendly and accessible focal point for the town which will provide essential information to help visitors, and local people, to make the most of their time in Castle Douglas and the surrounding area.

Importantly the visitor centre, to be named ‘Heart of Galloway’, will promote Castle Douglas’ vibrant independent retail experience, showcase local produce and essentially become a hub for a range of products and experiences.

Sarah-Jane Allsopp who chairs Castle Douglas Development Forum will be leading on developing the new visitor centre and has ambitious plans for it, she commented:

“As soon as we found out that the tourist information centre was to be closed we were determined that it needed to stay in community hands and to be used for the benefit of Castle Douglas and the visitors who come here. So we are delighted to be working with VisitScotland to make this happen and we hope to complete an asset transfer of the building over the next year.

“Our immediate plans are to get the new visitor centre open in time for the May bank holiday weekend. We plan to open the doors to the new Heart of Galloway Visitor Centre on Friday 25th May and we hope the community will come out and support it.

“In the longer term we are exploring a range of ideas and we hope to make further announcements soon. We see a great deal of potential in working with the region’s craft, food and drink industry to explore how we can make local produce more accessible and available right across the region by becoming a local produce hub as well as a visitor information hub.”

As well as working with VisitScotland on the property transfer and the creation of a new Visitor Information Point, the Forum is also working with Galloway Glens to explore how best to co-ordinate activity to provide a seamless service to visitors and local people.

For Sarah-Jane Allsopp, who is a former food producer herself, creating a community owned hub to showcase Castle Douglas and the surrounding area opens up lots of possibilities and opportunities.

Lorna Young of DG Food and Drink has complimented the work of the Forum in securing the visitor centre and said:

“I’m delighted that Castle Douglas Development Forum is pulling together such ambitious plans for this important building and I look forward to working with them to develop the local produce offering at the centre.

“Castle Douglas is a jewel in the tourism crown of Dumfries & Galloway and its food heritage as a market town and retail centre means it is perfectly placed to capitalise on the huge growth in food tourism. This is an exciting development for Castle Douglas and the community is to be congratulated for coming up with such a positive future for this visitor centre.”

The Forum is looking for volunteers to help staff the centre, with full training being provided. Local food and craft producers who are interested in having their produce retailed in the visitor centre are likewise invited to make contact at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling into the visitor centre from Friday May 25th 2018.

Business and charities join forces to tackle cycle of reoffending

A new partnership aimed at unlocking the potential of people with criminal convictions has won the backing of business leaders, charities and the Scottish Government.

Release Scotland is set to provide a one-stop shop for employers in Scotland seeking advice and help with recruiting people with convictions when it launches today.

Major employers including Greggs, Virgin Trains, Timpson and Reed Global and business network, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, have come together to launch the partnership in a bid to demonstrate the positive role people with convictions can play in helping businesses succeed. And they have called on other employers to join up and consider what this group of employees can offer.

Through the www.releasescotland.com website, employers will be offered help with practical steps in the full recruitment process from application stage to interview stage to making the decision and creating a supportive work environment.

The initiative is backed the Scottish Prison Service and government agencies working in Scotland to help people with convictions develop their potential in the workplace and contribute to a successful, growing economy.

Getting a job is known to be one of the key factors in helping people with a criminal record turn their lives around, contribute to society and avoid reoffending. Yet previous research has shown that three-quarters of companies in the UK would not consider recruiting someone with a criminal record.

With more than a third of all male adults in Scotland having a conviction in their past and 9% of women, Release Scotland aims to widen understanding of the benefits that people who have been through the justice system can bring to a business. The partnership offers helpful insights, real-life examples and support, all of which help businesses to improve the diversity of their workforce and better represent the society we live in.

Speaking ahead of the launch of Release Scotland at The Scottish Parliament tonight, supported by Scottish Chambers of Commerce and with cross-party support, Finance

Secretary Derek Mackay said: “There are clear social and economic benefits to helping people with convictions move on and play a positive role in helping Scotland’s economy flourish. The Scottish Government supports the aims of Release Scotland and we are committed to helping more men and women with a criminal record turn their lives around and gain employment.  Through the ‘Scotland Works for You’ initiative, we aim to help people with convictions attain the benefits that work brings for reducing reoffending and also, for employers, in finding loyal and dedicated staff.  Proposals to reduce the period of time an individual has to disclose a previous conviction to employers recently introduced to Parliament by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice will also aid this process.”

 

Liz Cameron OBE, Director & CEO, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “I would encourage all employers to connect with Release Scotland and start to engage with this important network. Understanding the recruitment benefits of hiring people with convictions and getting to grips with the practical aspects will enable businesses to expand their recruitment pool. It also offers an excellent opportunity to link up with existing employers who have had success in recruiting people with convictions such as Virgin Trains, Greggs and Timpson.”

 

Pete White, Release Scotland, said: “We believe that people with convictions, of whatever sort are far less likely to re-offend if they are given an opportunity to work. Not only does reducing the level of reoffending mean there will be fewer victims of crime and less harm done, but as employed taxpayers, people with convictions are better able to contribute to the task of making Scotland a better place.”

“It’s generally understood that people who have come through the justice system and will start work, will probably be committed to doing the best they can in the workplace, often over and above the call of duty, so there are clear benefits for business. In addition, the fact that big companies such as Virgin, Greggs and Timpson are known to employ people with convictions, far from damaging their brands, has enhanced them.”

 

Scottish Conservative Deputy Leader Jackson Carlaw MSP, said: “The Release Scotland initiative is to be commended and it can play an important part in providing greater employment opportunities for individuals in Scotland who have a conviction.

“Once an individual has served their time in prison, finding a suitable job is key to providing them with the opportunity to make a positive contribution to society and avoid reoffending in future. I am delighted to be hosting this reception at the Scottish Parliament and I look forward to meeting with many of the organisations already involved with the endeavour.”

 

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder, said: “Recruiting people with convictions is not only good for society, it is smart business practice. We've identified people with talent, ambition and drive at Virgin Trains by looking beyond their criminal record and seeing what they have to offer. I’d encourage other businesses to give this a go and look at what people with convictions can do to help your organisation succeed.”

 

Roisin Currie, People and Retail Director at Greggs, said: "We’ve a long-standing history of working with people from disadvantaged backgrounds, including people with convictions. The passion and energy for work that comes from people who are given an opportunity to kick-start their careers, or to turn their lives around is clear for all to see and as a business, we feel extremely motivated to do all we can to give these people a ‘fresh start’.

 “Our dedicated programme, ‘Fresh Start’, offers support to the many people who find gaining employment through conventional routes more difficult. Fundamentally the programme aims to help break the cycle of re-offending by demonstrating that people with convictions can play a meaningful role within business. We believe our programme addresses societal issues such as high unemployment and re-offending rates.

 “We are proud of our partnership with Release Scotland and look forward to driving awareness and sharing our experience as an employer to help others realise the benefits of recruiting people with convictions.”

James Timpson, chief executive of Timpson Group, said: “Recruiting people with convictions has been a significant factor in the continued success of our business. By offering people a second chance and allowing them to have a fresh start it enables us to attract great colleagues to work in our business. Not only are these colleagues very loyal and hardworking but by offering them a career with Timpson, it means that they are much less likely to re-offend, which is good for everyone”.

Borderlands Conference BOOK NOW

Senior UK and Scottish government ministers will speak at the first Borderlands Conference at Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries on Monday 18 June 2018.

The conference will bring together the Borderlands Partnership, stakeholders and local and national politicians in a bid to enhance the proposals that will be made to both the UK and Scottish governments later this year.

Keynote speakers at the conference will include David Mundell MP, Secretary of State for Scotland and Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work. Other key note speakers still to be announced.

David Mundell MP, Secretary of State for Scotland said: “The Borderlands Growth Deal is a genuinely innovative initiative and has the potential to transform the economy of the whole region, both in the South of Scotland and across the border, creating jobs and increasing prosperity. It aims to build on the successes of city and growth deals across Scotland that are already delivering benefits for people and businesses. I have been impressed with proposals put forward by partners and look forward to continuing fruitful discussions as we work towards a deal.”

Keith Brown MP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work said: “We have made clear our commitment to a deal for the Borderlands that will drive inclusive growth across the area. Indeed, we want to see every part of Scotland benefit from this sort of focussed, transformational investment. 

“We want to ensure that the Borderlands deal complements the Scottish Government’s commitment to establishing a new enterprise agency for the South of Scotland, and have been running a series of events across the South of Scotland to hear what the people who live and work in the area want. I look forward to the event in June as an opportunity to hear from stakeholders across the Borderlands - their aims, aspirations and ambitions for the deal and how was can work together to make them happen.”

Carlisle MP John Stevenson was confirmed as the Borderlands Champion for England in the UK Prime Minister’s Questions on 2 May 2018.

John Stevenson, MP for Carlisle, added: “Borderlands is a unique opportunity for our region. The work which the five Councils have already done is very encouraging. I am delighted, as the Prime Minister’s Champion for the Borderlands, to support the Conference. It will offer participants a chance to hear what work has been done as well as have the opportunity to influence the proposals.”

The conference will take place between 9am and 3.30pm. Places can be booked via www.borderlandsgrowth.com/get-involved

The conference will enable stakeholders to hear about the work to date, the ambition for the Borderlands region and give them the opportunity to provide their input through workshop sessions.

The proposed Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal is unique and is a partnership that brings together the five cross-border local authorities of Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council to promote the economic growth and competitiveness of the area that straddles the Scotland-England border.

A Borderlands Partnership spokesperson said:

“Our first conference is a fantastic opportunity for key stakeholders from right across the area to hear about the work of the Partnership so far and the very positive support we’ve had from both governments to date. Later this year we will submit further propositions regarding potential programmes and projects that could be developed under the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal to the two governments. The conference workshops will give the many stakeholders the chance to discuss these at an early stage and provide their feedback and input and their support will help strengthen our case.”

The partners are working on a collective ambition to unlock the potential for sustainable and inclusive economic growth across the south of Scotland and north of England.

The themed topics that the Borderlands Partnership has been working on are: Energy; Digital; Transport Connections; Business; Destination Borderlands; Quality of Place; Rural Productivity; and Skills and Innovation.

The Borderlands partners continue to meet key stakeholders on an ongoing basis. If you would like to discuss opportunities, ideas and possible working relationships, or would just like more information, visit the Partnership website www.BorderlandsGrowth.com or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.