OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY “A PROUD DAY FOR OUR REGION”

OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY “A PROUD DAY FOR OUR REGION”

Commenting on the Olympic torch’s passage through Dumfriesshire yesterday (Thursday), Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said:

“With the eyes of the world on us, this was a proud day for our region and we gave the torch a fantastic Scottish send off. Thousands of people came out to see the torch up close and cheer on the local heroes who were carrying the flame. After the disappointment of our area being missed out of the initial plans for the relay route, it was a real delight to see the torch on home soil.”

Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray said:

“The turnout right across Dumfriesshire was fantastic and everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves. I was especially pleased to see so many children watching the torch, as it was a moment they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

ENDS


CONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856

SNP FORCED TO CLIMB DOWN ON RAIL PLANS, BUT CONCERN REMAINS ABOUT FURTHER HIKES IN RAIL FARES

SNP FORCED TO CLIMB DOWN ON RAIL PLANS, BUT CONCERN REMAINS ABOUT FURTHER HIKES IN RAIL FARES

“DANGEROUS PRECEDENT” SET BY SNP’S PROPOSALS TO LEAVE D&G WITH SECOND CLASS RAIL SERVICE

Local Labour politicians have said that the SNP Government have been “forced to climb down” from their plans for a two-tier railway, that would have seen our region’s rail service downgraded. However, they cite fears that prolonged underinvestment could create a second class rail service “by the backdoor”.

Last year the SNP published proposals for the new ScotRail franchise, which would have led to a ‘two tier’ railway, where rural areas like Dumfries and Galloway would be expected to see a reduced quality of service as money was redirected towards the central belt. (1)

However, after an outcry from local people and businesses across Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown announced that the Government has u-turned on many of the proposals. During a statement to the Scottish Parliament yesterday (Thursday) he said that plans to split the franchise into two units had been dropped.

Reacting to the announcement, Dumfriesshire MSP and Labour’s Shadow Transport Spokeswomen, Elaine Murray, said: 

“The SNP have been forced to climb down from their ludicrous proposals for a two-tier railway. They would have been devastating for rail services in Dumfries and Galloway and it shows how out of touch the Government is that they even proposed it in the first place.

“I am deeply concerned that the SNP are refusing to be clear about rail fares. This will raise fears of further dramatic increases in the fares hard-pressed local people have to pay. At the start of this year commuters between Dumfries and Glasgow saw an annual price hike of up to £400 and they simply can’t take any more. What was disturbingly absent during the Minister’s statement was any concrete measure to protect passengers from future fare hikes.”

The Scottish Government have said that they will spend £30 million on developing stations (2). Elaine Murray will be campaigning for some of it to be used to re-open stations at Eastriggs and Thornhill, saying:

“The re-opening of Eastriggs and Thornhill train stations is long overdue. Dumfries and Galloway has missed out on so much investment under this Scottish Government and I want to make sure some of the station development fund is spent here. Improving our region’s transport network means making sure local communities have access to train stations.”

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said that he remains worried about the future of Stranraer railway station. He says that the fact the Scottish Government ever thought a “second class service” for our area would be acceptable sets a “dangerous precedent”. He said:

“The only reason the SNP have dropped their outrageous plans to downgrade our local rail service is because of the huge public outcry it caused. The fact they ever thought leaving us with a second class service would be acceptable sets a dangerous precedent and shows they aren’t interested in improving local services. While we have stopped the SNP from making the problems at Stranraer even worse with their two tier railway plans, I am still concerned that we will get that by the backdoor because of prolong underinvestment in the station. The Transport Minister has said little to reassure me that he is committed to fighting for the future of the station.”

Reacting to Keith Brown’s comments in his statement to Parliament about the temporary reduction in rail fares from Stranraer (3), Russell Brown said:

“While any reduction in the rail fares between Stranraer and Glasgow is welcome, the reality is that this is only for two months, after which they will go back to their sky high normal price. This reduction for a couple of months is a sticking plaster for the huge problems facing Stranraer’s rail line. The fares need to be cut permanently and we need a more regular, faster service.”

ENDS

CONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856


NOTES

1. The Scottish Government published their consultation document, Rail 2014, into the new ScotRail franchise in November last year. Their plans included:

- splitting the franchise into two units, one for the profitable parts of the railway and one for the routes that require subsidy.

- changing the performance monitoring process to take into account the number of passengers affected by delays and cancellations as well as the economic consequences, rather than treating all train passengers equally.

- increasing scheduled journey times to allow more trains to be classed as arriving on time.

The consequence of these changes would have been to create a ‘two-tier’ railway, that would have see investment re-directed towards the central belt and result in cuts to train services in our region.

However, due to overwhelming public outcry the Scottish Transport Minister Kieth Brown announced yesterday (Thursday) that these plans had been dropped.

Link to statement: http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/files/documents/rail/Rail_2014_-_Ministers_statement_to_Parliament_.pdf

2. £30 million will be spent on a ‘Scottish Stations Fund’, which is intended to ‘improve the public’s access to railway services’. The funded is expected to support the opening of new stations, however there is no information yet as to where these will be.

There have been long running campaigns to re-open the train stations at Eastriggs and Thornhill.

Link - http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/files/documents/rail/High_Level_Output_Specification_-_HLOS.pdf (page 8, point 3.22)

3. In his statement to the Scottish Parliament, Keith Brown spoke about the temporary fare reduction from Stranraer train station. However, the Minister failed to mention that the reduced fares will only run in August and September, with tickets then returning to full price.

“We will also look to the next franchisee to increase passenger numbers through innovative fares packages – building on the Stranraer promotion where fares will be reduced by 65%.”

Link – http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/files/documents/rail/Rail_2014_-_Ministers_statement_to_Parliament_.pdf (page 8 of statement)

“DELIGHTED” THAT GALLOWAY CHOIR IS TO CONTINUE

“DELIGHTED” THAT GALLOWAY CHOIR IS TO CONTINUE
Local MP Russell Brown has welcomed the “extremely positive” meeting between local parents and the Chief Executive of the National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCos), which took place yesterday (Wednesday) in Newton Stewart.
Local parents received letters in April stating that the Galloway Branch of the Choir was set to close this summer. Russell Brown called for the new Chief Executive, Morag Campbell, to meet with parents to discuss their concerns about the plans.
Yesterday’s meeting discussed options to keep the choir open, such as setting up two choirs – a Galloway Machars Choir in Newton Stewart and a Galloway Rhinns Choir in Stranraer, which would join up to perform as one for Summer and Christmas concerts.
Following the meeting, Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said:
“The meeting between the NYCoS Cheif Executive and local parents was extremely positive and I am delighted that we now have a way forward for the Galloway Choir. Given that it had been set to close, this is a fantastic achievement by everyone involved in the campaign to keep it going. It means so much to the children and I know that they are thrilled they will be able to continue singing. I am grateful for the new Chief Executive for coming down to Newton Stewart after only being in the job for 48 hours and it shows how determined everyone is to save the Choir.”
ENDS 

CONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856

LOCAL PEOPLE “PAYING THE PRICE” FOR SNP REFUSAL TO GIVE D&G OUR FAIR SHARE OF HELP TO TACKLE JOBS CRISIS

LOCAL PEOPLE “PAYING THE PRICE” FOR SNP REFUSAL TO GIVE D&G OUR FAIR SHARE OF HELP TO TACKLE JOBS CRISIS

LONG TERM UNEMPLOYMENT AT IT’S HIGHEST IN OVER A DECADE, “DEVASTATING” LOCAL FAMILIES

Local MP Russell Brown welcomed the small monthly fall in the total number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance in Dumfries and Galloway, but said that local families are being “devastated” as the number of long term unemployed increased to its highest in over a decade.The official figures for the number of people claiming unemployment benefit were released today (Wednesday) and showed that, in Dumfries and Galloway:

- There are over 230 more people out of work in May 2012 than May 2011
- Long term unemployment (those out of work for 12 months or more) is at its highest in over a decade
- Youth unemployment increased between April and May 2012

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said:

“While any fall in unemployment, however small, is welcome, there are still over 230 more people out of work than the same time last year.

“Long term unemployment is at its highest in over a decade, as our region is in the midst of a jobs crisis that is devastating local families.“I am deeply concerned that the number of young people out of work has continued to rise. We are facing the prospect of a lost generation, as thousands of local young people can’t get a job.”
“Local people are paying the price for the SNP Government’s refusal to give Dumfries and Galloway it’s fair share of help to tackle the jobs crisis. Just look at the facts: the Scottish Government has spent £9 million on youth unemployment and set up a network of Enterprise Zones, but our region received none of it. While I hope the youth jobs summit in Dumfries this week is useful, a meeting with a Government Minister doesn’t make up for the fact that when it comes to actual money being spent on the ground, our region always misses out.”ENDSCONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Total number of Job Seekers Allowance claimants

May 2011 – 3,119
May 2012 – 3,350

Increase year-on-year of 231

2. Long term unemployment

In May 2012:

1,525 people had been claiming unemployment benefit for 6 months or more
820 people had been claiming unemployment benefit for 12 months or more

3. Number of young people (aged 18-24) claiming unemployment benefit

April 2012 – 1,065
May 2012 – 1,070

LATEST DRUGS SEIZURE SHOWS GALLOWAY PORTS “INCREASINGLY BEING TARGETED BY CRIMINALS”

LATEST DRUGS SEIZURE SHOWS GALLOWAY PORTS “INCREASINGLY BEING TARGETED BY CRIMINALS”

Local MP Russell Brown has said the seizure of over £2 million of drugs at Lochryan port in Cairnryan highlights that the Galloway Ports are increasingly being targeted by criminals trying to smuggle drugs between the UK mainland and Northern Ireland.

Dumfries and Galloway Police revealed today (Wednesday) that on Tuesday they seized cannabis with a street value of £2.1 million from a vehicle about to embark the ferry to Belfast.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said:

“This latest drugs seizure at the Loch Ryan port is one of the largest in recent years, with a street value of over £2 million. The Galloway Ports are increasingly being targeted by criminals trying to smuggle drugs between the UK mainland and Northern Ireland. The route is well known within organised gangs as the soft underbelly of UK security. It highlights once again the recklessness of recent cuts to ports police by both the UK and Scottish Governments.”

ENDS

CONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856