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New enterprise body urged to seek town parking solution

THERE has been a call for a new enterprise body, dedicated to improving the south of Scotland economy, to play a part in solving Lockerbie's long-standing parking problems.

Lack of spaces in the town centre are believed to be hindering trade and deterring travellers from using what is the region's only access point to the main West Coast railway line.

Oliver Mundell, MSP for Dumfriesshire, believes there is a strong case for the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, which is backed by £10 million of Scottish Government money, to become involved.

The organisation is a forerunner to the planned South of Scotland Enterprise Agency being created to serve Dumfries and Galloway together with Scottish Borders.

Mr Mundell said: "The shortage of parking in Lockerbie town centre and in the area of the railway station has held back the town for years.

"There has been a lot said on the issue, particularly at local authority meetings, but very little has been delivered on the ground.

"I believe there is a strong case for the new enterprise agency to take on the parking issue  as a strategic project.

"Making it easier for people to come to Lockerbie to join mainline rail services is not only good for the town centre but for the wider region."

Mr Mundell added that he planned to highlight Lockerbie's parking issues with the Economic Partnership.

MP and MSP condemn EWM move from home town

DEEP concern about the impact on Langholm following confirmation that Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) will transfer their remaining operation in the town to Carlisle has been expressed by local MP David Mundell and MSP Oliver Mundell.

The company, which has its roots in the Eskdale town, announced on Wednesday that they planned to relocate their HQ work to their new site in the border city on or about July 30, 2018.

All 190 workers, currently based in Langholm, will be affected by the transfer to the new larger complex around 20 miles away.

Mr Mundell, MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, said: "I'm extremely disappointed to hear confirmation that EWM are proceeding with their move from Langholm to Carlisle.

"EWM owe a duty to the community to recognise the loyalty and support they have given over many years and I am calling on them to meet it.

"The decision will be particularly upsetting and disruptive to employees who live in the Langholm area and may not be able to make the long daily return journey to the new site."

Dumfriesshire constituency MSP Oliver Mundell said: “EWM’s departure from Langholm has been rumoured for sometime but that does not detract from the disappointment. 

"More than that I share the anger of many locally at the manner in which a company with such close ties to the town has gone about its business.

"They have badly betrayed the whole community by failing to engage properly and I very much hope they reflect on the decision and put some considerable resources into ensuring they leave a positive legacy. 

"I will also be asking Dumfries and Galloway Council to explore a bid to the new Enterprise Partnership to secure some funding to support future economic development opportunities in Langholm.” 

Chapelcross progress highlighted at two parliaments

SHAPING a future for the former nuclear power station at Chapelcross has been in the spotlight at both the Scottish and UK Parliaments.

Executives from site owners, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), last week held a meeting with local MP and Scottish Secretary David Mundell at Westminster to brief him on progress.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday evening, Dumfriesshire constituency MSP Oliver Mundell was a sponsor of an NDA presentation at Holyrood by the NDA outlining their work on nuclear sites north of the border.

It was disclosed that NDA spending on all clean-up work at Scottish nuclear sites was currently running at £280m a year.

The organisation's annual budget for Chapelcross alone in the financial year from 2016 to 2017 was £47 million with up to 300 people remaining employed at the Annan site which closed as a power station in 2004.

Other recent NDA milestones at Chapelcross included:

* The removal of 3000 tonnes of asbestos completed.

* One spent fuel storage pond emptied of radioactive fuel and drained.

* Equipment installed to process waste from a second storage pond.

* A new storage facility for intermediate level waste constructed on site in line with Scottish Government radioactive waste policy.

* Structural steelwork and ducting removed from around 16 boilers.

* Regeneration initiatives spending since 2011 in the Chapelcross area reaching £1.7 million.

David Mundell welcomed the opportunity to discuss the latest progress on the 190 hectare Annan site with NDA chief executive David Peattie and chairman Tom Smith.

After the meeting, he said: “As well as discussing the changes to the structure of Magnox and how to keep as many jobs on the Chapelcross site for as long a period as possible, I also sought assurances that the NDA would press ahead with the disposal of the surplus land at the site to the Council for economic development. 

"Creating new business space is vital to sustaining the local economy as Chapelcross decommissions. 

"There are ambitious plans for part of the site as part of the Borderlands Growth Deal and I wanted to make sure they are still on course."

Mr Mundell stated that the NDA chief executive planned to visit the Annan site next week.

He added: "I am sure he will hear how important this project is, particularly in the context of the possible Pinneys’ closure and detrimental effect it will have on the local economy.”

Following the Holyrood meeting, Oliver Mundell observed that a clearer vision for the site was emerging as the run-up to the predicted 2028 nuclear site closure approached.

The MSP acknowledged the work of the NDA, council, Scottish Enterprise and various other agencies such as the Corridor Regeneration Steering Group (CoReS) in attempting to minimise the impact of job losses.

Mr Mundell said: "They have avoided the local economy going off a cliff edge by avoiding too many people leaving jobs at the site at once.

"As many local people as possible have continued to be employed on the site during the decommissioning process.

"They have worked to encourage new business starts and helped diversify the local economy."

He added that with ongoing uncertainty over the Annan Pinneys' factory future, where up to 700 jobs could potentially disappear in a short period, efforts needed to be stepped up to stabilise the economy.

During the Scottish Parliament presentation, Dumfries and Galloway Council chief executive Gavin Stevenson outlined the work of the Beyond Chapelcross project.

NATIONAL ECONOMIC FORUM A “MISSED OPPORTUNITY”, SAYS MSP

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has described the Scottish Government’s National Economic Forum, which was held in Dumfries yesterday (16 May 2018), as a “missed opportunity”.

The forum was held at the Easterbrook Hall and saw key note speeches from both the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and her Depute, John Swinney.

In her key note speech Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the decision of the Rural Parliament that they intended to hold their next meeting in Stranraer in November this year- but failed to announce any new support for the local economy.

Colin Smyth said, “The National Economic Forum may have been an opportunity for those invited to hear some good speeches, but as far as supporting the economy of the south of Scotland it was a missed opportunity. Nicola Sturgeon provided no new support for local businesses or new money to invest in the local economy.

People in Dumfries and Galloway are sick of talking shops. There were no fewer than seven Scottish Government Ministers who had nothing new to say about local economy. Instead the Government simply repeated that the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency would be set up but we still have to wait until 2020. Dumfries and Galloway has huge economic challenges and is suffering from a lack of opportunities to keep young people in the region. One of those huge challenges being the threat of closure at Pinneys in Annan which could cause an economic tsunami, the clock is ticking. We don’t have another two years to wait to tackle those issues”.

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.”