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

 

Support packages 'lifeline' to Covid-hit businesses

LOCAL MP Alister Jack has described as 'encouraging' positive feedback from businesses in his constituency to UK Covid-19 support packages.

 

AlisterJack In Castle Douglas

The Scottish Secretary stated that take-up had been good across Scotland, including Dumfries and Galloway, to both the Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

Latest CJRS statistics published this week, based on data to July 31, showed that 366,700 jobs across Scotland had been furloughed. Of these, 288,400 were fully furloughed with a further 78,400 partially.  In total these represented 15 per cent of eligible jobs.

Meanwhile, the SEISS figures showed 126,000 self-employed individuals in Scotland had claimed support up to August 31 which represented 61 per cent of those potentially eligible. The total awarded was £318 million with the average claim £2500.

Mr Jack stated that whilst no constituency breakdown was yet available many local business people and the self-employed had told him the schemes had proved a lifeline.

He said: "The speed these funds were delivered, in extraordinary circumstances, was a practical way of getting money to where it was needed and helping keep a viable economy moving.

"The funding also provided a confidence boost at what was an incredibly stressful time for so many of my constituents."

Mr Jack, who has visited a number of local businesses in recent weeks, said: "There are no easy solutions to coronavirus, and there will, and has been, casualties, but the UK Government support has helped many in Dumfries and Galloway through the crisis so far.

"We are now better placed, based on the experience of the last year, to rebuild the economy, adjust to the new norm and take full advantage of further opportunities which I'm confident will arise."

Mr Jack added: "I've been impressed by the can-do attitude and flexibility of many managements and staff in working round what have been extremely challenging circumstances."

Dumfries and Galloway College selected to join skills revolution

Young people in the South of Scotland are set to benefit from a radical new approach to delivering high level skills following the induction of Dumfries and Galloway College to the WorldSkills UK Centre of Excellence it was announced today (21 September).

Launched by WorldSkills UK, in partnership with education and skills charity NCFE, the Centre of Excellence will mainstream world-class standards in skills development.

Utilising NCFE’s expertise in curriculum development and drawing on its unique insights into global skills systems through its membership of WorldSkills, the global hub for skills excellence, WorldSkills UK will coach and mentor staff at Dumfries and Galloway College to embed world-class practises and techniques in their teaching, learning and assessment practices.  By creating a collective of world-class educators, all students at Dumfries and Galloway College will benefit from the highest quality training. 

In addition to its work with Further Education Colleges throughout the UK, the WorldSkills UK Centre of Excellence will also play an important role in supporting the development of higher technical standards across qualifications and assessment development.

Parisa Shirazi, Head of skills development and international competition at WorldSkills UK, said: 

“This is a milestone moment – a unique opportunity for Dumfries and Galloway College to work with colleges across the UK and join the dawn of a skills revolution.

“Working with the staff at Dumfries and Galloway College we will champion a skills-led recovery, which is driven by international benchmarking and rightly values high-quality apprenticeships and technical education to enable all young people to develop the employability skills that will provide them with a rewarding future.”

 

Dumfries and Galloway College Principal, Joanna Campbell, said:

 “At Dumfries and Galloway College we are delighted to be part of the WorldSkills UK Centre of Excellence. 

“Vocational skills and training are key to our success here in the South of Scotland and so we understand how important they are, how to help promote them, and how they help prepare our students for their careers after they leave us.

“Our college will work hand-in-hand with WorldSkills UK and I am very excited to see what we can achieve by working together to promote the benefits of a skills-based education.”

David Gallagher, Chief Executive at NCFE, commented: 

“Skills change the lives of young people. They build self-esteem and release potential, create opportunities and build stronger communities, and are the foundation of economic and social progress, which is why we are thrilled to be partnering with WorldSkills UK on this revolutionary and timely project.”

 

“The impact of this project will resonate for years to come and has the potential to inspire and create the next generation of world-class educators and learners, whilst creating a prestige for apprenticeships and technical teaching which will both positively impact the economy and promote social mobility.”

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT IS FAILING SCOTLAND’S AVIATION INDUSTRY – COLIN SMYTH

South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s transport spokesperson Colin Smyth has accused the Scottish Government of failing the aviation industry, after SNP MSPs refused to back his motion in the Scottish Parliament which called on ministers to secure a sustainable post-Covid future for a sector that has been thrown into crisis by the pandemic.

 

ColinSmythMSP

The Scottish Labour debate, which took place in Holyrood on Wednesday and was led by Colin Smyth, also urged the Scottish Government to introduce a comprehensive system for testing air passengers on arrival, as well as direct support to the sector, in order to save thousands of jobs in the aviation sector.

However, in failing to back the motion, the local MSP said the Scottish Government has completely failed the aviation industry, which employs hundreds of people across the south of Scotland.

Colin Smyth said: “It is deeply disappointing that the Scottish Parliament, including the SNP, failed to back Scotland’s aviation sector and the workers it employs. 

“Make no mistake, the challenges that our aviation sector faces are substantial and without action thousands of jobs are at risk.

“The aviation sector deserves a Scottish Government that will stand up for it and its workers: the SNP failed to do so. The workers employed in the sector deserve so much better.

“Scottish Labour will continue to fight for the future of our aviation sector and will do all it can to retain and protect the thousands of jobs that the sector sustains.”

The Fraser of Allander Institute has predicted that proposed cuts in the Scottish civil aviation and aerospace engineering sectors may cause the loss of around 5,000 jobs in total in Scotland.

Colin Smyth added: "Scotland's aviation sector is among the industries hit the hardest by Covid-19, with many jobs already lost - and up to around 5,000 now at risk. This will have a knock-on effect on our tourism sector in the short and long terms, and we simply can't afford to stand by.

"I have been working with the aviation sector and the relevant Trade Unions to agree on a specific package of support for the industry, which was completely ignored in parliament.

“This pandemic is not going away any time soon and it will take serious action to ensure our aviation sector doesn’t implode any further.”

SOUTH SCOTLAND MSP AND LONG TIME LOCAL CAMPAIGNER COLIN SMYTH WELCOMES PROGRESS OF WORKERS’ RIGHTS BILL

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has welcomed the news that the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill looks set to pass an important milestone and receive the unanimous support of the Scottish Parliament when it is debated at Stage 1 on Thursday.

 

ColinSmythMSP

Colin Smyth has been campaigning on this subject for many years, alongside union Usdaw, and hopes the Bill, if made law, will help to protect our retail workers in going about their day to day jobs without the fear of assault or abuse.

The private members bill was brought forward by Labour MSP Daniel Johnson and will create a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker and provide further legal protections when the worker is carrying out their statutory duties such as age restricted sales. 

The Stage 1 debate and vote on the general principles of the bill will take place on Thursday and will be followed by two more legislative stages before it can be made law. 

Colin Smyth said: “This is an important milestone for workers’ rights and I would like to congratulate my colleague Daniel Johnson in bringing forward this bill.

“Passing this bill into law will provide an important recognition of the key duty shopworkers have in upholding the law and the issues they face doing so. Most critically, the pandemic has seen people working in retail performing critical roles, supplying the basic essentials to all of us and keeping us safe as we do so. This bill pays an important tribute to these efforts over the last six months.

“It is clear from the consultation and work that there is clear public support for the Bill and I hope to see it clear the next two stages in the Scottish Parliament and become law.”

Cross-border Laundry Firm Praised For Crisis Support

A LAUNDRY firm, founded in Dumfries in 1845, has been praised for their 'vital' role in helping the region respond to the Covid-19 emergency.

 

Shortridge Ltd. operates from a large building on Lochside industrial estate with a skilled workforce and state-of-the-art equipment.

 

They were visited by Scottish Secretary and local MP Alister Jack together with constituency MSP Finlay Carson who met with managing director Peter Semple and general manager Susan Peat.

 

Both politicians acknowledged the company's contribution including providing additional support to NHS hospitals during periods of high demand and providing laundry services to public and private sector organisations.

 

Shortridge, which also has a base in West Cumbria, assisted many in the hospitality industry to get going again after lockdown through their laundering and linen hire service to hotels, B and Bs and self-catering properties.

 

Around 80 people are normally employed at the Dumfries laundry although that has risen up to 120 during busy periods. 

 

Last year the number of items delivered from the site reached 280,000 per week during the peak hospitality season but because of this year's global health crisis figures have been significantly lower. 

 

After touring the site, Mr Jack said: "The company has come a long way since its early days in Dumfries and they operate over a large part of Scotland and the north of England.

 

"They are an important local employer and carry out a vital task which I'm sure many take for granted.

 

"There has been substantial investment in technology and, importantly with the wide range of work they do, systems are in place to ensure laundering is carried out to the highest standards."

 

Mr Carson said: “As local MSP, I recognise that tourism is an important and expanding industry across the constituency and professional laundry services play a key support role in the sector. 

 

"Small and medium sized businesses have faced unknown challenges as a consequence of COVID-19; through the intervention of my office, I was able to assist Shortridge in receiving a vital grant from South of Scotland Enterprise as well as contracts from NHS Dumfries and Galloway. 

 

"In a rural economic context, the importance of retaining a skilled workforce is vital to support communities – so I am only too glad that an outcome has been reached which works for all."