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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.

 

HARPER PRAISES SWIFT RESPONSE TO UNEXPLODED SECOND WORLD WAR ORDNANCE BUT HIGHLGHTS ‘VERY REAL CONCERNS’ OVER MUNITIONS DUMP

South Scotland MSP Emma Harper has raised a motion in the Scottish Parliament to commend the Dumfries and Galloway Division of Police Scotland, the Royal Navy and HM Coastguard over their swift response to dealing with unexploded World War II ordnance which was picked up by a local scallop dredger and brought into Portpatrick Harbour.

In the motion, while absolutely thanking the emergency service response which led to a safe and successful controlled explosion of the device, Ms Harper has used the opportunity to again highlight what she has described as the very real dangers posed by the munitions dumping ground – Beaufort’s Dyke – situated in the Irish Sea between Scotland ad Northern Ireland.

In the motion submitted to the Parliament, the South Scotland MSP quoted official statistics from the Ministry of Defence which show that in excess of one million tonnes of surplus conventional and chemical weapons have been duped in the 300-meter deep, 3.5 kilometre wide, 50 kilometre long dumping ground.

The motion calls on the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Scotland – who have stated publicly their intention to build either a bridge or tunnel between Scotland and Northern Ireland – to publish plans on how they would deal with the dangers presented by this toxic and explosive trench which is also currently an active route for Trident Nuclear Submarines.

 

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Commenting, Ms Harper said:

“Firstly, I want to wholeheartedly thank the Dumfries and Galloway Division of Police Scotland, the Royal Navy and HM Coastguard for dealing with the unexploded world war II ordnance which was picked up by a local scallop dredger and brought into Portpatrick Harbour. The action led to a safe and controlled explosion of the device, which ensured the safety of the dredger’s crew and of people locally.

“However, given the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Scotland’s recent comments of their intention to build a bridge or tunnel connecting Scotland with Northern Ireland, it is important to point out that in the Irish Sea we have a 300 meter deep, 3.5 kilometre wide, 50 kilometre long trench – Beaufort’s Dyke – which, according to the Ministry of Defence, contains over 1 million tonnes of surplus conventional and chemical weapons. The site is also an active route of passage for trident nuclear submarines.

“I therefore think that it is only sensible for the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Scotland to publish plans on, should a bridge or tunnel be built, how they would deal with this underwater toxic and explosive dumping site and I look forward to their response on the matter.

“Again, I thank Police Scotland, the Royal Navy and HM Coastguard for dealing with the unexploded device in Portpatrick and would encourage anyone looking for any further information to contact me at any time.”

COLIN SMYTH ‘URGENTLY SEEKING CLARIFICATION’ ON HOW TWO DIFFERENT COVID-19 TRACING APPS WOULD WORK NORTH AND SOUTH OF THE BORDER

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has demanded answers from the Scottish and UK Government’s following news that two different Covid-19 tracing apps are currently being developed, one in Scotland and a different one south of the border.

The local MSP says using two different systems would be hugely problematic in regions such as the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway, where people frequently travel across the border for work, education and leisure.

Colin Smyth has warned that a co-ordinated approach between both Governments across the UK is vital, particularly for border communities.

The local MSP has also highlighted specific issues relating to Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders. In normal times, around 4,000 people in Dumfries and Galloway alone travel to Cumbria for work, education, health and leisure.

 

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Colin Smyth said: “Right now I am urgently seeking clarification from the Scottish and UK Governments about how two separate Covid-19 track and trace apps would work for people in my constituency who frequently travel between England and Scotland.

“There are serious practical issues for the thousands of people who live in Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders but who travel to Cumbria and Northumberland on a regular basis for work, education, health and leisure.

“While I understand we are in the early stages of development for both tracing apps, it is vital that there is a coherent approach. I am once again calling on both governments to bring forward the correct policy and the correct technology to ensure that those living in border areas are not put at risk.

“Right now, there are two different apps being discussed and it is unclear how both tools would work together.”

MP and MSP reflect on 75th anniversary of VE Day

THERE will be a series of special events across the UK this Friday (May 8) to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe during World War Two.


A revised programme of events, including extensive coverage by broadcasters, will take place allowing Covid-19 pandemic social distance safeguards to be maintained.


Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP David Mundell and his son Dumfriesshire constituency MSP Oliver Mundell have issued the comments below on the significance of the special anniversary.

 

 

David Mundell, MP

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Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP David Mundell said: "This Friday, I'm sure, people across the constituency will mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe with pride, sadness and a mixture of other emotions.


"For older generations especially, there may be memories of relatives or friends who served their country during the war whilst there are still some amongst our over-90s who were in the forces.


"Unfortunately, relief that victory in Europe had eventually been won was tinged with sadness for all the service people and civilians who had lost their lives and the fact the war in the Far East was still to be won.


"Most families will be thinking back to relatives and friends who were in the war and, in my case, my thoughts will fondly be drawn to my late mother Dorah Mundell, who served as a sergeant in the Women's Royal Army Corps.


"It will also be a time to express gratitude to our armed forces today, particularly their work in efforts to combat coronavirus in many ways, most recently locally in supporting testing efforts in our region."

 

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Oliver Mundell, MSP

 

Oliver_Mundell_war_memorial_.jpgDumfriesshire constituency MSP Oliver Mundell said: "It is important we mark VE day in an appropriate and safe way as a tribute to all those who did so much to preserve our freedom, including so many who lost their lives.


"I also believe it is a good thing to raise awareness of these difficult periods in our national life amongst younger generations so we can continue to learn from the lessons of history.


"I encourage people to take part in the series of Scottish and UK events on Friday, designed to allow participation at home, and also perhaps watch the BBC 'VE Day 75' programmes and those from other broadcasters.


"Parallels have widely been drawn between the current public health emergency and the wartime spirit experienced by many of our parents or grandparents in the war years.


"The wartime generation deserve to be recognised for their resilience and sacrifice over a number of years as do our amazing NHS staff, caring community and army of key workers in their battle against what is a hidden enemy, coronavirus."

UK - US Post Brexit Trade Talks Get Underway

Britain and the US will begin discussions on a post-Brexit free trade agreement later.

The first round of talks will continue for around two weeks, with 100 negotiators taking part on each side.

 

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Commenting on the news, Dr Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

“This is great news. While the majority of Scottish businesses are focusing on the immediate crisis which COVID-19 has presented us with, it is vital that we continue to balance the need to keep our foot on the accelerator with regard to International Trade negotiations. Europe and the USA are key targets for us to sell Scottish products therefore critical to supporting Scotland’s recovery.

“The government has set a high ambition for talks with the USA. The devil is in the detail and it is therefore important to increase the pace over the coming months to ensure tangible benefits for Scotland.

“SCC are part of the UK’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group and have been already contributing into this particular trade agreement, with others to follow.”

MP backs share scheme workers' tax battle​

LOCAL MP David Mundell has called for Treasury help in ensuring money owed for decades to former roadside services workers can be delivered.


He raised the case of members of an employee benefits scheme conceived in 1986 which gave members the opportunity to acquire shares in the then RoadChef company.


A 1998 change of ownership of the business, which currently operates Annandale Services on the M74 near Johnstonebridge, resulted in the workers' shares being lost to them.


It also emerged that £10 million tax was wrongly paid by the seller to HMRC on the sale of the employees' shares.


A subsequent court ruling resulted in a decision that the 4000 workers affected across the UK, including some of Mr Mundell's constituents, should be compensated for their lost shares.


But with a number of MPs' support, the RoadChef Employee Benefit Trust, which represents the ex-workers, is pressing for the £10 million tax money, plus interest, to be distributed to them tax-free.


Mr Mundell pointed out that workers had waited many years for their full entitlement and some had sadly passed away during that time.


He raised the issue by video link to the House of Commons during a Finance Bill debate on Monday last.


The Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP outlined the long history of the case, pointing out RoadChef had set up the first tax-exempt, all-employee share ownership scheme of its kind.

 

David Mundell 2018
But he said: "The funds cannot currently be distributed on a tax-free basis. I hope, either by an amendment to the Finance Bill or through the Financial Secretary's good offices with the HMRC that the issue can be satisfactorily resolved."


The current owners of RoadChef had no involvement in the share scheme.