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South Scotland MSP Emma Harper has raised a motion in the Scottish Parliament which notes the 30th anniversary of the Stranraer Campus of Dumfries and Galloway College, and of its many achievements since opening.

This month – August 2020 - marks three decades since the establishment of The John Niven Further Education Centre which went onto become an integral part of Dumfries and Galloway College. The site was originally home to Stranraer Academy and then Dalrymple Primary School before it later became The John Niven Centre.

Further education was pioneered in Stranraer by Vice Principal, Vicky Quinn, assisted by Robbie Armour and Margarete Smith, whose work was key to bringing a college presence to the town.

The college’s population in Stranraer originally consisted of 60 students and has since grown to 223 full time students.

Over the last ten years, 4,500 students have gained qualifications from classes taught at the Stranraer campus. The modern and state-of-the-art campus currently offers classes in construction, motor vehicle mechanics, beauty, business, hairdressing, care, childcare, hospitality, and Skillstart courses.

Her Majesty The Queen visited the campus in August 1996 during which she had lunch prepared by the college’s student chefs in the Training Restaurant. The Stranraer campus continues to provide first-rate learning and teaching and also represents Dumfries and Galloway College’s commitment, spearheaded by Principal Joanna Campbell, to playing a leading role in growing the skills, resources, and opportunities available in the South of Scotland.


The South Scotland MSP, who has visited and supported various schemes at the college – including the Princess Trust Awards – has welcomed the great work which has been achieved in her former home town, and noted the further potential for the site to be again developed in the future.

Commenting, Ms Harper said:

“I am extremely pleased to raise a motion in the Scottish Parliament to recognise the outstanding contribution Stranraer College has, and will continue to make to the area, particularly on its 30th anniversary.

“I have had the privilege of visiting the college, and a number of its classes, including supporting the Princess Trust Skillstart course and lecturers on a number of occasions. Each time I have visited, I have always been impressed by the knowledge and skills of the young people who are a credit to both the college and to Dumfries and Galloway.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the college campuses both in Stranraer and Dumfries, with the students and staff, to promote and support their work at a local and a national level.”

Principal Joanna Campbell said: “I am delighted to celebrate 30 years of further education in Stranraer and I’m personally incredibly proud of everything our presence in the town has achieved. “Dumfries and Galloway College students continue to enjoy a rich, rewarding, and productive education at our campus in Stranraer, thanks to the skilled and dedicated staff that go above and beyond each and every day.

“This anniversary is an opportunity to look back and reflect on the progress that our Stranraer campus has made and also to look forward to the bright future that it undoubtably has.


South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth is urging the Scottish Government to review the two-metre social distancing guidance for small cinemas and theatres.



A number of small venues have contacted the local MSP, asking why the rule for pubs, bars and restaurants is one metre, while cinemas and theatres still have to enforce two metres.

While two metres might allow large theatres and cinemas to operate effectively, smaller venues will suffer from the tiny numbers they are allowed to cater for and unless the guidance is reviewed urgently, many will not be able to continue to operate.

Colin Smyth said: “Our region boasts some amazing small theatres and cinemas, which are the lifeblood of their rural communities. You just need to look at the popularity of the Lonsdale Cinema in Annan or the Theatre Royal in Dumfries to see how important such places are to their local areas.

“However, a number of owners and operators of venues in the region have been in touch with me to say that they are seriously concerned about their future if the current guidance is not amended.

“Social distancing of two metres in big city theatres and cinemas may work, but in small venues in rural areas, it simply becomes financially unviable to open. 

“I am calling on the Scottish Government to urgently review the rules around the two-metre rule in small theatres and cinemas. It seems unfair that pubs and restaurants can operate at one metre and these venues are still being told to enforce two. We are told that the Government follows the science, but what science says social distancing should happen in a theatre not a restaurant?

“Unless the Scottish Government works fast, we will inevitably see some venues simply not opening until next year, if all and that means yet more job losses. Covid-19 started out solely as a public health crisis but as time has progressed, it is now also a serious economic crisis too with the arts and entertainment sector at the centre.”


Commuters across South Scotland are set to pay even more for their annual season ticket due to yet another fare rise.

Last week, the RPI (Retail Prices Index) announced that peak regulated rail fares will increase in price by 1.6 per cent.


colin smyth msp rail services

South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Colin Smyth brought the matter to the attention of the Scottish Parliament during First Minister’s Questions on Thursday.

Speaking in Parliament, he said: “Commuter rail fares have risen by 54 per cent under the Scottish National Party Government. 

“This week, it was confirmed that unless there is a change of policy from ministers, fares will rise by another 1.6 per cent. Does the First Minister agree that now is not the time for more fare hikes, and that we need at least a ticket price freeze and, ultimately, a new fares regime that is affordable and will encourage people back on to our rail network as it becomes safer to do so?”

Colin Smyth added: “It is simply wrong that because of decisions made by Scottish Government Ministers, commuters will be forced to pay even more for rail fares which have spiralled since the SNP came to power. Encouraging people back onto the network in the future will be important to getting the rail sector on a more stable footing and that won’t be helped by rising fares.

"This latest rip off rail fare rise is unwanted, unwelcome and unnecessary and will hit thousands of working people who use Scotland’s railways.

"The UK and Scottish rail franchise system is broken. Only Scottish Labour will bring our railways back under public ownership to ensure that these rip off rail fares end and that our railways provide better value for passengers and the taxpayer.

“In the meantime, I am calling on the Scottish and UK Governments to freeze fares as they are, and help support the thousands of people who use the railways. We also need a totally new ticket regime. For example, many people from our region travel to Edinburgh or Glasgow for work but not always five days a week especially now with an increase in working from home. We need to see season tickets that reflect this, covering not just travel for five days a week but two or three days a week to benefit commuters.”


South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has warned that the arts and entertainment sector in Dumfries and Galloway faces a ‘jobs crisis’ unless more action is taken soon.



The creative industry has been particularly hard hit by Covid-19 as the furlough scheme begins to wind down and with no quality jobs guarantee scheme in place, thousands of workers in creative industries look set to be laid off. 

Scottish Labour has calculated that the arts and entertainment sector employs at least 121,000 people across Scotland, including 2,500 in Dumfries and Galloway, as well as many seasonal jobs in the sector additionally.

The region would normally have been host to a range of major events and festivals during the summer, but many have either been cancelled or moved online. 

What support that is being provided to grassroots music venues by the Scottish Government won’t become available until September - more than two months after being promised. 

Colin Smyth believes the “triple whammy” from Government of a lack of specific financial support, the easing of lockdown for the sector being later than many others and social distancing rules of 2 metres, compared to one metre in pubs and restaurants, could lead to huge job losses in the sector.

Colin Smyth said: “Unemployment in our region has already doubled compared to this time last year and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, with that number set to rise as the furlough scheme winds down. Our region is facing an unemployment tsunami, and the creative sector is one industry which is set to suffer badly from the jobs crisis.

“Arts and entertainment venues are facing a triple whammy of a lack of support, being behind other sectors when it comes to easing from lockdown and tougher social distancing than pubs and restaurants. Social distancing of two metres in big city theatres and cinemas may work, but in small venues in rural areas, it simply becomes financially unviable to open. Unless the UK and Scottish Governments work fast, we will inevitably see closures and yet more job losses.

“Our region is standing on the edge of an unemployment crisis and without more Government help to support jobs, the number of families in our region who will find themselves out of work is going to rise significantly. 

“Covid-19 started out solely as a public health crisis but as time has progressed, it is now also a serious economic crisis too with the arts and entertainment sector at the centre.”


South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has called for urgent action after it was revealed five beaches in Dumfries and Galloway are in breach of sewage safety limits so far this summer.



Figures published by The Ferret at the weekend list Sandyhills; Rockcliffe; Dhoon Bay; Brighouse Bay; and Mossyard among 30 of Scotland’s worst polluted beaches.

Sepa samples bathing waters every summer to check whether concentrations of two faecal bacteria, E Coli and intestinal enterococci, breach European safety limits.

Due to Covid-19, fewer samples than usual are being taken this year because the official bathing season has been shortened by six weeks. 

As a result, Sepa told The Ferret that it would not be able to take enough samples to give bathing waters overall pollution classifications at the end of the 2020 season. Instead, the results from previous years will be used to rate bathing waters for 2021.

That means that the five bathing waters rated as “poor” this year on past performance will also be rated as poor next year. They include Rockcliffe, Dhoon Bay and Brighouse Bay in Dumfries and Galloway.

Colin Smyth said: “Dumfries and Galloway boasts one of the most beautiful coastlines in the country and especially during the summer months, people flock to its beaches to walk, swim and take part in water sports. 

“I was shocked to see five of our most popular and lovely beaches featured in this list of the most polluted in Scotland and I am calling for urgent action to help address these issues. In particular, we need more investment in sewer overflows to help prevent this issue getting any worse.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has meant a lot more people have been heading outdoors to enjoy fresh air and exercise along the coast, and also to swim and take part in water sports. They need to have confidence in the water they are using, which is why these issues must be resolved as quickly and safely as possible.

“These beaches are very important for tourism, which has already taken a terrible hit from Covid-19 and we cannot afford to see the industry which many people in our region rely on, suffer further.”