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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.

 

SNP must urgently invest in rural connectivity

Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson says a new study on broadband speeds highlights the urgent need for the SNP Government to invest in boosting connections in rural communities.

The report by Which? consumer magazine has highlighted the huge disparity that still exists between rural and urban areas when it comes to average broadband speeds.

In the Dumfries and Galloway region that Mr Carson represents, the average broadband speed is 11.8 megabits per second, whereas in urban West Dunbartonshire, the average speed is 29 mbps.

The Scottish Conservative and Unionist MSP has called on the SNP Government to reverse their cuts to the digital connectivity budget, which totals less than £70m over the last two years.

This comes at a time when the SNP Government’s ability to rolling out 100% superfast broadband access for all by 2021 is being questioned.

Commenting Finlay Carson MSP said: “This report clearly highlights how rural communities like Dumfries and Galloway are still missing out when it comes to reliable broadband speeds.

“While those in urban areas are able to enjoy fast downloads, the story is far different for people and businesses living in rural areas.

“The onus is on the SNP Government here who continually talk about delivering 100% superfast broadband access for all by 2021, yet only two years away from that target, they are slashing the digital connectivity budget.

“The SNP Government are going to have to seriously invest in digital infrastructure if they are going to deliver on their much heralded R100 programme.

“Rural communities are once again being left behind by the SNP Government, which only goes to harm the local economy in Dumfries and Galloway.”

SNP MSP WELCOMES FUNDING TO TACKLE ATTAINMENT GAP IN DUMFRIES & GALLOWAY

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has challenged her political opponents across Dumfries & Galloway to back the Scottish Government’s plans to invest over £8 billion in Scotland’s education system.

Announcing his draft budget proposals in the Scottish Parliament last month, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP outlined plans to commit £180 million for raising attainment in schools, including £120 delivered directly to head teachers – helping schools address the poverty related attainment gap and helping children overcome barriers.

This funding is to be spent at the discretion of headteachers, enabling them to secure the additional staffing or resources they need to support pupils affected by poverty and boost attainment levels.

MSPs will vote on the Finance Secretary’s draft budget proposals next month.

Commenting, South Scotland MSP, Joan McAlpine said:

“The SNP recognise that every child, regardless of their background, should have the same opportunities and chances to succeed.

“With education the Scottish Government’s number one priority, this £180 million investment, including £120 million direct to headteachers, will help close the attainment gap here in Dumfries & Galloway and ensure no child is left behind.

“I hope local politicians from all parties will get behind the Finance Secretary’s plans and secure this substantial investment for schools throughout the region.”

REGION FORGOTTEN OVER SCOTRAIL BIKE AND GO SCHEME

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has said that rail passengers have once again been forgotten in the region as no station in Dumfries and Galloway has been included in Scot Rail’s new Bike and Go scheme- despite a promise by ScotRail franchise holders Abellio to roll out the scheme.  

The Bike and Go scheme allows passengers to step from carriage to bike for a small fee and travel by bike for the whole day. The scheme has been rolled out across twelve train stations in Scotland – Aberdeen, Ayr, Dundee, Edinburgh Haymarket, Falkirk High, Glasgow Central, Inverness, Kilmarnock, Largs, Linlithgow, Perth and Stirling.

Colin Smyth MSP has said that this is yet another example of Scot Rail forgetting about services here in Dumfries and Galloway.

Colin Smyth said, “Despite promises being made by Abellio before they were awarded the Scot Rail franchise, they have failed to include Dumfries Train Station in their new Bike and Go scheme. It shows again that our region is being forgotten by Scot Rail who always prioritise other areas. 

 

The original bike hire scheme in Dumfries has been discontinued and there is no doubt that delivering such a scheme in Dumfries is challenging as take up was previously low. But one way forward that was identified was to cooperate with public transport providers and use the station as a hub. It is disappointing that no progress has been made by ScotRail. I recently visited the Active Travel Hub based in Kilmarnock Train Station which has proved to be a huge success in encouraging active travel. There is a demand for improved services which is why Scot Rail should honour their promise and include Dumfries Train Station in it’s Bike and Go scheme.”

 

Galloway National Park Association, Minister to visit Galloway

Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment has declared that she wants to visit Galloway and to discuss the proposal for a National Park following a meeting with representatives of the Galloway National Park Association, the Scottish Campaign for National Parks and the three MSPs held recently in Edinburgh.

Dame Barbara Kelly of GNPA said

“We were delighted that the Minister has taken our proposals seriously, following the First Minister’s pledge to consider the case carefully. We described the overwhelmingly positive response to the extensive engagement work that the Association has done over the past two years. We recognise the difficulties that any Government would have in the current financial climate and that this is just the start of a process of assessment that will, we hope, culminate in Galloway becoming Scotland’s third National Park”

The meeting was joined by three South of Scotland MSPs who have set aside political differences to work with the Association on this project.

Commenting on the meeting Emma Harper MSP said

“I was pleased to attend the Galloway National Park Association’s (GNPA) positive meeting in Parliament with Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment. I would, firstly, like to pay tribute to the GNPA – Dame Barbara Kelly, John Thomson and many others – on the work they have carried out over recent years to get the campaign to this point. They have been coherent, respectful and diligent in their efforts.

The proposal for a Galloway National Park appears to be a positive step which should be given further consideration by the Scottish Government for our Bonnie Gallowa’ Region, and I look forward to seeing further economic and social arguments in favour of its benefits in order to clear some of the uncertainty that has been brought to my attention from constituents over the potential running costs of a National Park.

I look forward to continuing to engage with the GNPA in the future, and was pleased to hear that the Minister will do the same in the weeks and months to come.”

Finlay Carson MSP added

“I was pleased to attend the meeting with GNPA and fellow MSPs to further press for formal consideration of a third National Park for Scotland in the Kingdom of Galloway.

The Association has done as it was asked – demonstrated widespread support for a National Park status across the local community.

I will be meeting the Minister again this week to ask for her to provide a clear pathway for the association to move forward given the momentum that has built up”

Colin Smyth South of Scotland MSP and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Connectivity and Transport also said

“The meeting was a real opportunity to set out the powerful case for a Galloway National Park. While the Government’s position is currently not to support any new National Parks, we hope this discussion with the Minister will be the start of a process to change their mind.

I have no doubt that if the Government properly considers the plans for a Galloway National Park, they will understand that rather than it being a financial burden, it will bring in significant income to the region through a rise in visitor numbers. There is real momentum behind the campaign and growing public support, so we need to keep that going and ultimately secure Government support so that the South of Scotland isn’t treated any differently than the north which has two National Parks”

Scottish Businesses have continued concerns over BREXIT

A new report has been released outlining the extent of concern amongst Scottish businesses over Brexit.

EY consulted over 80 businesses and trade associations in Scotland – and every organisation said that Brexit-related uncertainty was a major concern with businesses highlighting risks to competitiveness, profitability and, in some cases, their viability.

The report says: “The impact of Brexit on consumers in Scotland could be significant through price rises on all imported goods as a consequence of tariffs, border frictions and a weaker currency.”

Commenting on the findings Economy Secretary Derek Mackay said:

“This report demonstrates the costs to Scotland of a Brexit we did not vote for and demonstrates why a no deal Brexit must immediately be taken off the table by the UK Government. It captures the authentic voice of Scottish business and offers further evidence of the severe and disproportionate impacts that a no-deal outcome would have in Scotland. 

“Many businesses highlighted the risks to their competitiveness and profitability, some were worried about future viability and a number are already reporting negative impacts on investment, the costs associated with planning for Brexit and recruitment of staff.

“On top of the damage it is clearly causing to Scottish businesses Brexit, in whatever form, will cost jobs, make people poorer, damage our society and undermine the democratic decision of the people of Scotland to remain in the European Union.

“The UK Government must now take urgent steps to rule out a no-deal Brexit, which threatens to have devastating consequences for jobs, businesses and communities, extend the Article 50 process and hold a second referendum on EU membership.”