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

 

Unprecedented support for local in D&G

A survey published today by Dumfries & Galloway food brand, Savour the Flavours, has found ‘unprecedented’ levels of support in the region for buying local, but it has also revealed widespread concern about the restart of the tourism economy.

 

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1,450 people from every part of Dumfries & Galloway took part in the survey which ran from 2-11 June. Key findings were:

  •          Covid changed how almost everyone shopped for food and drink during lockdown.
  •          People shopped less frequently, but much more locally. This was partly driven by necessity.
  •          84% said they’d like to buy more local food and drink than they currently do.  
  •          81% said they’d prioritise ‘local’ in their shopping as lockdown eases, but people generally want ‘buying local’ to be made easier and more convenient.
  •          Comments highlighted that people want local businesses to prioritise local communities above the needs of visitors.
  •          79% said they were worried about tourism bringing Covid-19 back to D&G.

Lorna Young of Savour the Flavours, a marketing and economic development specialist, said:

“The survey provides a valuable snapshot of how shopping habits changed during lockdown and what people want as our region eases out of lockdown. It suggests unprecedented levels of support for local businesses within our communities, probably reflecting appreciation for the efforts of local businesses in keeping essential supplies flowing at the height of lockdown. 

“From a local food and drink point of view, it’s clear that if people in Dumfries & Galloway are serious about supporting local businesses, then businesses in Dumfries & Galloway need to get serious about making it easier for people to buy their produce.

“The data also evidenced tension between the concerns of local people and the needs of Dumfries & Galloway’s visitor economy – as a region we need to acknowledge and address that tension. So businesses need to reflect upon these concerns about covid and respond sensitively to them. Local businesses are perceived to be at the front line in defence against the virus.  People expect local businesses to be cautious – not just responsible, but actively cautious - in introducing covid-careful measures and adaptations.”

Rachel Findlay of Savour the Flavours, a data analyst and digital expert, said:

“Restarting our local economy was always going to be more difficult than shutting it down, and the findings of this survey reflect that, but there’s also room for cautious optimism.  The extraordinarily high level of support for local businesses appears to be more than just a lockdown response. Intention to buy local in the longer term was a consistent theme in both quantitative and qualitative responses.

“There’s a big opportunity for local businesses to respond to that change in buying behaviour by fast-tracking a transition to a more circular, local economy. For businesses in the foodservice sector, who have arguably been hardest hit by lockdown, the data suggests that customers will return. The purpose of this survey was to help local businesses plan for reopening, and the survey findings are invaluable in doing just that. Businesses can now work from a robust set of data to be able to make evidence based decisions as they reopen.”

The findings of the survey have been welcomed by local businesses.  Denyse Boyle, General Manager of The Boathouse in Glencaple, commented:

“I’m pleased that a good number of our guests are keen to come back to a clean, organised, socially distanced Boathouse for food and drink, both inside and outside. We have diversified during the past 12 weeks and will be integrating many of these changes into how we operate going forwards.  We intend to keep doing doorstep deliveries of good quality local products, restaurant prepared ready meals, and themed dining experiences.  We are excited about welcoming our customers back, but we are taking a careful approach to a phased reopening. We hope to have an extended outside area ready for the 16th of July followed by our inside tables reopening in early August.”

After consultation with the community, Moffat Farmers’ Market is to return on Sunday 12th July with a range of new measures including physically distanced outside stalls, covid-careful hygiene measures and pre-ordering encouraged to minimise queues. Sarah Burchell, organiser of Moffat Farmers’ Market, said:

“The survey results have reassured us that the measures we’re taking are what people want to see. Our goal is to create a safe trading environment but also an enjoyable way for people to shop and access local food and drink, and we have really valued the advice we’ve received from Trading Standards on how to do this.

“The feedback from the survey highlights the importance of working with others, which is what the markets are all about. As a producer we’ve also seen an increase in local collaboration more generally, and we really enjoyed working with The Boathouse on a recent menu showcasing our lamb. Every small business has been affected by covid, but the more we can work together, the faster our recovery will be.”

The survey findings also emphasised the need for local businesses to introduce new safety protocols. Wilma Finlay of Cream o’ Galloway near Gatehouse of Fleet said that risk management is one of her top priorities as she prepares for re-opening, she said:

“The guidelines that have been published for our industry are helpful, but like many local businesses we are going a few steps further than what’s required, following discussions with our staff and input from some regular customers.

“We could have opened our outdoor playground a few days ago, but we took the decision to delay. That’s partly so that we can introduce new electrostatic cleaning regimes on all hard surfaces, which is the same type of cleaning system that’s being used in hospitals. Being able to use technology like this reassures our staff and our customers that Cream o’ Galloway will be a safe place to visit.

“At the moment we expect to reopen some areas of the business next week. The survey findings are very useful, we had already addressed many of the points raised, such as online ordering to minimise queues and introducing a one-way system. So it’s reassuring to see that the data reflects the informal feedback we were already getting.”

Not all local businesses are planning on reopening in July. Paul O’Keeffe of Thomas Tosh in Thornhill explained why:

“We're planning to reopen on the 5th August; we think it’s the right thing for us and our community to wait a little while longer. This survey's findings are helping us make sure we fully address local customers' concerns about having safe surroundings.  And it's great to know that there seems to be even bigger customer support for local food and hospitality businesses as we come out of lockdown.”

The full report of the survey can be downloaded now on www.savourtheflavours.co.uk.  It is being shared widely with industry partners, public agencies and other regional food groups to help inform recovery planning. Lorna Young added:

“While it’s clear that there are concerns about our rural economy reopening for business, survey comments suggested that people are pragmatic. There is widespread understanding that many communities, and local jobs, are economically dependent on food service and tourism.

“It’s worth remembering that our rural economy in Dumfries & Galloway is mainly small, locally owned businesses who really do want to get it right for their local community.  The more we can pull together as a region, be sensitive to worries and look after each other, the more sustainable our economic recovery will be. The food and drink industry is so appreciative of the people of Dumfries & Galloway taking time to respond to this survey, the feedback from local people is absolutely invaluable.” 

SNP challenged on pupils facing poor broadband

Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell has accused SNP Connectivity Minister Paul Wheelhouse of completely dodging a parliamentary question surrounding broadband upgrades.

 

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The Scottish Conservative and Unionist constituency representative had questioned the South of Scotland MSP if the SNP Government would prioritise broadband upgrades for households with school-age children.

This was after many in Mr Mundell’s constituency had failed to access proper online home learning in recent months as a result of poor connections.

However, instead of answering his question, Mr Wheelhouse instead responded with common SNP lines around the responsibilities of broadband, despite the SNP being on course to fail to deliver the roll-out of their flagship R100 broadband programme by 2021.

In all, the word education was only mentioned once in the Minister’s response, prompting Mr Mundell to hit out.

Oliver Mundell said: “This was an extremely typical response from the SNP Minister when challenged on his Government’s commitment to upgrading broadband.

“Instead of even trying to address the issue which has arisen for many of my constituents during the period of home learning, he instead churns out the usual lines on who is responsible.

“The fact is it is the SNP Government who are failing to deliver their R100 flagship scheme on the ground in terms of infrastructure which they are fully responsible for.

“The response ran to almost 450 words, yet only refers to education once, which shows their lack of commitment on that specific issue.

“If there was a report card for the SNP on broadband, it would consistently read -- must do better.”

DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY RISKS A ‘LOST GENERATION’ UNLESS MORE IS DONE TO TACKLE YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT – SAYS COLIN SMYTH

South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has warned that Dumfries and Galloway risks losing an entire generation to unemployment unless more action is taken.

 

ColinSmythMSP

Statistics compiled by Scottish Labour have revealed that the number of young people (16-24) who are receiving social security payments has increased exponentially across Scotland between February and May of this year.

In Dumfries and Galloway, between February and May, the percentage of young people claiming social security rose by 64.2 per cent, from 600 in February to 985 in May. This is seven per cent of the region’s working population.

Colin Smyth is calling on the UK and Scottish Government to act now and implement a proper jobs guarantee scheme, or risk losing an entire generation to the ravages of unemployment.

The local MSP said: “These figures are shocking and show that youth unemployment in Dumfries and Galloway and across Scotland is spiralling out of control. 

"A rise locally of nearly two-thirds in just a couple of months is devastating for each and every one of those young people involved and as the UK Government furlough scheme comes to end that number is set to rise. 

"It shows that not only should that scheme be extended but we urgently need a quality jobs guarantee scheme to support business to retain and take on young people. 

"If that doesn’t happen we risk losing an entire generation to the ravages of unemployment. The UK and Scottish Government must act swiftly and decisively to provide a future for all of our young people.”

 

 

MSP HARPER WELCOMES CYCLING INVESTMENT IN DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY

South Scotland MSP Emma Harper has welcomed the announcement of £1.7million for Cycling Scotland’s Cycling Friendly initiative.

 

With Dumfries & Galloway being the natural place to cycle and enjoy the rural landscape, Ms Harper is encouraging workplaces, secondary schools, community groups and social housing providers across the region to apply to the £1.7 million fund from the Scottish Government which supports more people to cycle.

The Cycling Friendly fund aims to make it easier and more accessible to cycle in the places where people live, work, study and spend time – which this year will contribute to a greener recovery as the country continues to respond to the COVID-19 crisis which has seen a 50% increase in people cycling across Scotland, according to Transport Scotland.

Organisations can apply for a range of initiatives, such as installing cycle parking, upgrading shower facilities for the future or buying bikes and maintenance equipment. Campuses can also register their interest to receive funding that will make it easier for students at our colleges and universities to cycle.

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Ms Harper said;

“I have supported many local cycling initiatives in Dumfries & Galloway and I welcome this latest investment including for safer, segregated cycling routes. We have the most beautiful landscape to explore on our doorstep and hopefully investment into cycle routes will encourage even more people to choose to cycle.

“Cycling gets people into the fresh air and is a great way to exercise. It is also being used as a social prescribing opportunity by GPs to support weight loss programmes. E-bikes have also proven extremely popular and the additional support of a battery powered e-bike can help people to cycle who may never have considered getting back on a bike.  

“I’d like to encourage all eligible groups - workplaces, schools and community groups across Dumfries & Galloway, to apply for the funding to help people travel affordably and sustainably.”

Jeff Frew, Cycling UK Development Officer for Dumfries and Galloway, said:

 

“The last few years have been exciting for cycling in Dumfries and Galloway with new groups and activities emerging right across the region from Stranraer to Dumfries. We’ve seen growing collaboration and new developments like all-ability cycling for people with additional needs and cycling hubs. It’s no wonder that the pedal bicycle was invented here, as this region has some of the best cycling in Scotland.

 

During lockdown we have seen cycling levels more than double in Scotland, with many people in Dumfries and Galloway discovering or returning to cycling. This has been a glimpse of a healthier and more active future. We now need further investment and infrastructure to help keep those people cycling and encourage even more people to take to two wheels – hopefully this funding will do that.”

 

Sally Hincliffe of Cycling Dumfries said;

 

“During lockdown we carried out two cycle counts around Dumfries and found that on one rural road almost half of all traffic was people on bikes. In the town centre we counted almost 300 cyclists during six hours one Saturday. We are delighted to see so many more people walking and cycling around Dumfries and the surrounding areas but we do need more measures to provide dedicated space for cycling, whether temporarily or permanently, otherwise we fear that it will just be a temporary blip”.

 

The latest funding is additional to the £30 million distributed this year to help support temporary infrastructure for walking and cycling to better enable physical distancing and to keep people safe from traffic.

 The Cycling Friendly fund will make things easier for cyclists at either end of their journey through improved amenities.

 

Further information can be found on the Cycling Friendly Scotland initiative can be found on the Cycling Scotland website at: www.cycling.scot/cycling-friendly

South Scotland MSP Emma Harper has welcomed the announcement of £1.7million for Cycling Scotland’s Cycling Friendly initiative.

 

With Dumfries & Galloway being the natural place to cycle and enjoy the rural landscape, Ms Harper is encouraging workplaces, secondary schools, community groups and social housing providers across the region to apply to the £1.7 million fund from the Scottish Government which supports more people to cycle.

The Cycling Friendly fund aims to make it easier and more accessible to cycle in the places where people live, work, study and spend time – which this year will contribute to a greener recovery as the country continues to respond to the COVID-19 crisis which has seen a 50% increase in people cycling across Scotland, according to Transport Scotland.

Organisations can apply for a range of initiatives, such as installing cycle parking, upgrading shower facilities for the future or buying bikes and maintenance equipment. Campuses can also register their interest to receive funding that will make it easier for students at our colleges and universities to cycle.

Ms Harper said;

“I have supported many local cycling initiatives in Dumfries & Galloway and I welcome this latest investment including for safer, segregated cycling routes. We have the most beautiful landscape to explore on our doorstep and hopefully investment into cycle routes will encourage even more people to choose to cycle.

“Cycling gets people into the fresh air and is a great way to exercise. It is also being used as a social prescribing opportunity by GPs to support weight loss programmes. E-bikes have also proven extremely popular and the additional support of a battery powered e-bike can help people to cycle who may never have considered getting back on a bike.  

“I’d like to encourage all eligible groups - workplaces, schools and community groups across Dumfries & Galloway, to apply for the funding to help people travel affordably and sustainably.”

Jeff Frew, Cycling UK Development Officer for Dumfries and Galloway, said:

 

“The last few years have been exciting for cycling in Dumfries and Galloway with new groups and activities emerging right across the region from Stranraer to Dumfries. We’ve seen growing collaboration and new developments like all-ability cycling for people with additional needs and cycling hubs. It’s no wonder that the pedal bicycle was invented here, as this region has some of the best cycling in Scotland.

 

During lockdown we have seen cycling levels more than double in Scotland, with many people in Dumfries and Galloway discovering or returning to cycling. This has been a glimpse of a healthier and more active future. We now need further investment and infrastructure to help keep those people cycling and encourage even more people to take to two wheels – hopefully this funding will do that.”

 

Sally Hincliffe of Cycling Dumfries said;

 

“During lockdown we carried out two cycle counts around Dumfries and found that on one rural road almost half of all traffic was people on bikes. In the town centre we counted almost 300 cyclists during six hours one Saturday. We are delighted to see so many more people walking and cycling around Dumfries and the surrounding areas but we do need more measures to provide dedicated space for cycling, whether temporarily or permanently, otherwise we fear that it will just be a temporary blip”.

 

The latest funding is additional to the £30 million distributed this year to help support temporary infrastructure for walking and cycling to better enable physical distancing and to keep people safe from traffic.

 The Cycling Friendly fund will make things easier for cyclists at either end of their journey through improved amenities.

 

Further information can be found on the Cycling Friendly Scotland initiative can be found on the Cycling Scotland website at: www.cycling.scot/cycling-friendly  

COVID-19 Localised Restrictions statement

Scottish Government has today announced that following an outbreak of COVID-19 in the east of Dumfries and Galloway this area will have localised restrictions put in place immediately and will be reviewed on Monday 6th July. 

The areas affected are postcodes: DG1, DG2, DG11, DG12, DG13, DG14 and DG16. 

This decision made today by Scottish Government includes:

  • Continuing with the enforced travel restrictions of 5 miles from home for leisure and recreation in these postcode areas
  • The ongoing suspension of visiting to care homes in these postcode areas
  • Particular focus on encouraging people not to travel across the Scotland/England border to Cumbria 

Elaine Murray, Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council said:

“Dumfries and Galloway has done well so far in controlling coronavirus however some complacency has crept in recently. We know that a couple of social gatherings which shouldn’t have taken place may be implicated in the spread of this outbreak. It’s vital that we adhere to the guidance this weekend, including that which remains in place in part of our region but has been relaxed elsewhere in Scotland. This outbreak reminds us that the virus is still circulating. We know it is in the community in Cumbria so it essential that none of us travel to Carlisle for the reopening of the pubs this weekend, however tempting that may be” 

Rob Davidson, Depute Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council said: “This is certainly not where we wanted to be at this stage of the pandemic, but first and foremost, the safety of our residents is our first priority and our council agrees wholeheartedly with the Scottish Government’s advice. Please continue to follow that advice, this weekend in particular, to help keep everyone safe.

 It is unfortunate that we were just starting to see the first signs of a return to normality, but we always knew this was a precarious journey with no certainty of the road ahead.

 Our Council will work with our partners in Public Health, the NHS and Police Scotland to ensure that we take all steps possible to provide all the help we can to our residents in these areas for as long as is needed, as we have done previously. We hope for everyone’s sake that this time it will be for as short a period as possible.”

 Jeff Ace, Chief Executive of NHS Dumfries and Galloway said: “I would like to commend the multi-agency response we have seen to date to this cluster of COVID-19 cases in the Annan and Gretna areas of Dumfries and Galloway. Some excellent multi-agency working has taken place, and this continues as we seek to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Restrictions announced by the Scottish Government will affect certain postcode areas of our region, and we would ask everyone to recognise these and to act accordingly in support of this work.

 The people of Dumfries and Galloway have supported the work to reduce the impact of COVID-19 over recent months and we thank them for their continued vigilance.

 I would urge anyone experiencing symptoms of coronavirus to immediately self-isolate and arrange testing via the mobile testing unit.”

 Nick Morris, Chairman of NHS Dumfries and Galloway said: “A great deal of activity has been taking place to address the cluster of COVID-19 cases in the Annan and Gretna areas, and this is continuing today through our Test and Protect system. This action is necessary to limit the risk of further transmission.

 We would also highlight the decision made today by the Scottish Government not to ease restrictions on travel within certain of our postcode areas for leisure and recreation, and the ongoing suspension of visiting to care homes in these areas.

 We acknowledge the effects that the response will have on those individuals directly affected and wider communities, but it is vitally important that everyone follows the national guidance. Doing this will help to contain the virus and will continue to help save lives.”

 

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has described the decision by the Scottish Government to retain the advice on limiting travel for leisure to five miles over the weekend for residents who live in parts of Dumfries and Galloway as a “sensible measure”.

The announcement was made by the First Minister during her press conference today where she outlined that the advisory restriction on travel distance will be lifted for the rest of Scotland.

The areas covered by the retention of the restriction are those covered by postcodes DG1, DG2, DG11, DG12, DG13, DG14, DG16 namely the Dumfries, Annan, Gretna, Langholm and Lockerbie areas. The guidance continues to allow residents from these areas to travel for non-leisure activities such as work and essential shopping.

The decision is likely to be reviewed on Monday.

The measure comes as the number of confirmed new cases of COVID-19 in Dumfries and Galloway since Monday rose to ten. These are linked to contact with cases in three workplaces, Youngs Seafood Ltd,  Alpha Solway Ltd both in Annan and the Cumberland Hospital in Carlisle.

 

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Colin Smyth said, “This news will be disappointing for many people in Dumfries and Galloway who were looking forward to travelling a little bit further from this weekend. But it seems a sensible measure given the number of cases in our area and the fact that pubs and restaurants in Carlisle are re-opening on Saturday”.

“Until we know that the test and trace process has contained this outbreak, then a precautionary approach is needed and hopefully it will be lifted from Monday.”

“The big challenge will be enforcement because the travel limit is only advisory and has never been the law. The Government can only appeal to people to follow the guidance and remain vigilant. This virus has not gone away. Not only should we continue to follow the travel restrictions but socially distance by keeping two metres away from others where possible, maintain high levels of hand hygiene and wear face coverings on public transport and in shops. If anyone starts showing symptoms of Covid-19, they should self-isolate immediately and book a test as soon as possible. “

“This cluster of cases in our region won’t be the last and both our Governments need to focus on sensible measures to minimise and control those outbreaks rather than bickering over so-called border controls”. 

 

 

David Mundell 2018

Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP David Mundell and Dumfriesshire constituency MSP Oliver Mundell have issued the following joint-statement on the latest developments on the Annan and Gretna area coronavirus outbreak.

It reads: “We were grateful for a briefing we received from Scotland’s Medical Director Jason Leitch and Deputy First Minster John Swinney on the current situation in Dumfries and Galloway. 

 

"We believe the measures taken in the Annan and Gretna areas and surrounding postcodes are proportionate and appropriate in light of the local outbreak. 

"Hopefully, the 'Test and Protect' arrangements will be able to identify all those that could be affected and the outbreak can be contained quickly. 

"We urge all those contacted to give as full information as possible as that is the best way to minimise the risk to others. These arrangements will be temporary if the necessary progress can be made and will be reviewed on Monday if not earlier.”

 

joan Mcalpine

Commenting on the cross border outbreak of Covid-19, South Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:

“While this is unfortunate news for the people of Dumfries and Galloway, everyone should be reassured that everything that can be done is being done by the Scottish Government and local public health officials to contain this outbreak.

“But our health protection staff also need everyone in the affected areas to do the right thing and strictly adhere to the necessary measures to prevent any further spread.

“It is particularly unfortunate that this outbreak has happened while the rest of the country takes some further small steps out of lockdown.

“But we trust the people of Dumfries and Galloway to stick to the rules so we too can get back to a more normal way of life as soon as possible.

“If that means cancelling your planned trip across the border to visit a beer garden this weekend it’s a small sacrifice to help protect each other.”