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MSP Harper praises ‘Can Do’ efforts of Stranraer College Students

South Scotland SNP MSP Emma Harper praised the ‘Can Do’ efforts of Dumfries & Galloway College students in Stranraer as she addressed them as their key note speaker at this week’s Stranraer College Campus Leonard Cheshire Awards.


Emma Harper MSP in front of Carlaverock castle

Ms Harper, who has raised a parliamentary motion to celebrate the students’ work,  joined lecturers and students of Stranraer College online (Tuesday 23 March) to hear from them and congratulate them on their fantastic achievements helping people across Stranraer and Wigtownshire as part of the Leonard Cheshire Can Do Programme.

The programme saw students focused on improving mental health and wellbeing by working out ways to help themselves and the local community in a meaningful way by offering a range of online activities.

Their activities included; mixed martial arts and mindfulness, meditation and breathing, and talking about the positive impact pets can have on mental health. Students also produced named teddies to accompany short stories written for people who use the befriending service. One of the short stories included an Octopus named Maya.

Ms Harper heard more about the activities from the students during the awards event and was pleased to hear they had enjoyed the opportunity to meet one another, to learn new virtual skills and to try new activities – including flower arranging - with local Newton Stewart business Tammy’s Sweet Stems.

The South Scotland MSP was also impressed with the fact that every session in the project has been chosen and planned by the students themselves.

Ms Harper commented;

“I was delighted to be asked to be key speaker at Stranraer College’s Leonard Cheshire Awards and praised students for their hard work enriching the lives of others as ‘Can Doers’ during what has been such a difficult time for everyone during this pandemic.

“As Convenor of the Mental Health Cross Party I particularly liked the fact students had chosen mental health as their theme which is very fitting given people have had to cope with so many restrictions on their lives as a result of public health measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I absolutely loved the ideas students came up with and I could relate especially to the virtual therapet sessions as, I too have been working from home and my two dogs – Maya and Riley – have been there and have been a great support - so I appreciate the wonderful benefits pets can offer people’s lives.”

“The students’ window displays - to brighten the spirits of passers-by in Stranraer - as well as creative and light-hearted comic books have all been lovely, thoughtful ideas and will have been enjoyed by many.

“I have also been impressed with the work students have delivered with the Stranraer Listening Ear Service to help prevent loneliness.

“This project has been a great example of how members of the community, the college and the third sector have been able to come together for a great cause and this must be celebrated - a massive well done to all involved”.

MSP Carson - Farmers Play Key Role in Climate Change

Scottish agriculture is often wrongly blamed for not doing enough when it comes to climate change.

Yet the fact of the matter is agriculture and the broader land use sector contributes hugely in the fight against climate change.

Indeed the sector is now ready to do more to reaching the net zero target, according to Scottish Conservatives rural affairs minister Finlay Carson.


The Scottish Conservative MSP has welcomed the Just Transition Commission report published on Tuesday, March 23, which recognises the need for a managed move towards a net zero emissions target.

He said: “The commission was established to advise on how just transition principles can be applied to climate change action in Scotland.

“It is clear that farmers and crofters are fully committed to doing there bit in supporting the nation’s response to both climate change and biodiversity loss and this has to be good news.

“Farmers and crofters play an essential role in underpinning the rural economy and safeguarding the viability of rural communities.

“I know that Scottish agriculture, if appropriately equipped and empowered with the right tools and support, will play a key role in tackling both the climate and biodiversity crises.”

The MSP added: “What we need now is for the SNP to stop dilly-dallying and bring forward their proposals for the future of rural support payments to give our rural businesses confidence in planning for the future.”

“We also need clarity from the next Scottish Government if farmers and crofters are to play their part and for the transition plan to be ultimately successful.”

Scottish Government Must Use Same Criteria To Determine Cross Border and Cross Scotland Travel Rules.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has demanded the Scottish Government use the same criteria to determine both cross border and cross Scotland travel rules.



Colin Smyth MSP - NEW in Parly

The local MSP took the opportunity to raise cross border travel issues with the First Minister during her final Covid-19 update before the Scottish Parliament dissolves before the upcoming election.

The Scottish Government’s recent Strategic Framework states in the timetable for easing coronavirus restrictions that “travel within mainland Scotland allowed” from 26 April- but gives no details on if, and when, cross border travel will resume.


Speaking in the parliament, Colin Smyth said: “The Scottish Government’s strategic framework is silent on the important issue for my South Scotland constituents of cross border travel in its timetable for easing restrictions, as was the First Minister today.

“So can the First Minister give my border constituents an assurance that the criteria she will use to decide whether cross border travel can resume from 26 April will be the same criteria she has been using to determine whether cross Scotland travel is likely to be allowed from that date.

“There would be understandable anger if politicians are allowed to travel the length of Scotland next month for an election, if families in Gretna can’t travel a mile to visit their loved ones in Cumbria, even outside – without very good reason.”

Speaking after the question session, Colin Smyth added: “Everyone understands why minimising travel has been important during the past few months but I want an assurance that the same criteria is used for the easing of both cross Scotland and cross border travel restrictions.

“This is a big issue for my border constituents, many of whom have family and friends living just a few miles away in England but whom they haven’t been able to see as visits of this kind have not been classed as an essential journey. All local people are asking is to be treated fairly and not have one rule for border communities and another for those in other parts of Scotland”

Homeless Deaths Up in Last 2 Years

They are statistics that shame the Scottish Government – the plight of the homeless.



Tragically the number of homeless deaths has increased by nearly a third in the last two years.

At the same time someone is now made homeless every 17 minutes – perhaps explaining why the latest government figures reveal more than 31,000 people were assessed as being homeless in 2019-20, the highest total in six years.

So, what is the SNP doing to address this deplorable more houses, increase the housing budget...err no, it wants to stage a second independence referendum!

Finlay Carson, MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries, said: “You really have to seriously question the SNP Government’s record and priorities in tackling homelessness in Scotland.

“They claimed they were on track to build 50,000 affordable homes before the pandemic hit which has shown to be a lie. Audit Scotland said it was at serious risk of not being met long before coronavirus.

“The SNP have also cut the housing budget by £268 million proving again they are not serious about ending Scotland’s housing shortage.”

It is not just in the major cities where homelessness and rough-sleeping is a problem. Figures for Dumfries and Galloway revealed 726 people were assessed as being homeless, or threatened with homelessness in 2019-20 – and that was before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

The Scottish Conservative MSP accused them of burying their heads firmly in the sand instead of addressing this crisis.

He said: “How can they honestly live with themselves knowing the number of homelessness deaths is up by nearly a third in two years.

“We are talking about human beings here, people who deserve protection and a secure and warm home to live in.

“The Scottish Conservatives have already pledged that it will make housebuilding and eradicating homelessness a priority as we rebuild Scotland’s communities.”

Mr Carson insisted rough-sleeping in Scotland would be wiped out by 2026, adding: “No-one should be faced with a night sleeping on the streets.”

The MSP supports a manifesto launched by Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, calling for an end to homelessness in Scotland.

The charity says: “In our society, we should all have a safe place to call home. It is not right that thousands of us are experiencing homelessness.

“Homelessness affects your health, your relationships and your future.”

Crisis wants to make it a national priority to eradicate rough-sleeping and homelessness. It is calling for a commitment from the next Scottish Government to bring forward legislation which strengthens the legal framework around homelessness prevention.

It wants to see a long-term strategy for the supply of homes for social rent and to maximise the housing options available within the private rental sector.

Rail Services Must Remain on Track, Says Carson

Assurances are being sought over the future of rail services in the south of Scotland following the news they are to be nationalised.



Finlay Carson, MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries, is seeking cast-iron guarantees that train services in Stranraer will not only be maintained – but improved.

The Scottish Conservative MSP has written to Scottish transport cabinet secretary Michael Matheson to ensure current rail services will not be put at risk.

He said: “Given that up until now successive SNP Governments have neglected transport links in the south of Scotland, it is imperative that assurances are given to maintain them – if not improve them dramatically.

“The Scottish Conservatives have already outlined their strong commitment towards boosting rail services across the whole of the country which is something that the SNP have failed to even consider throughout their time in office.

“Indeed Douglas Ross has already committed to reviewing the Beeching cuts including the Stranraer to Dumfries line.”

Mr Carson has already lobbied for a new rail link to be established to Cairnryan as well as investment towards a new railway station in Stranraer.

He added: “Rail services are going to play a crucial role in the green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and it is important that the necessary investment is made to help this happen.

“All too often there have been promises made but never actually delivered, so obviously I want assurances from the Scottish Government that rail services in the south will be not be ignored again.

“It is clear the SNP have presided over failing rail services, so they must be honest over the financial implications involved in public ownership to the taxpayer, while outlining the benefits, if any, it will bring to passengers.

“Let us be honest, the track record of the Scottish Government in the past has not been entirely convincing when it comes to nationalising certain industries. “

The Beeching cuts in the 1960s resulted in the end of the line for the Dumfries to Stranraer line that became known as the “Paddy Line”.

However the Scottish Conservative leader has already signalled that it may be time to reopen local lines especially in rural areas which had been particularly hard hit.

With a growing impetus towards the use of public transport to benefit the environment, Mr Ross believes it could also help many local economies prosper following the pandemic.

Abellio has been running the rail franchise since 2015 but the Dutch firm has now had its contract ended early amid criticism over its poor performance levels.

The arrangement is being made under powers which allow the Scottish Government to take it over without a bidding process.

Now rail operations north of the border will be run by an “arms-length” Scottish Government company from March of next year.