Joan McAlpine MSP

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Joan McAlpine MSP

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Parliamentary Activities

Search for other Speeches made by Joan McAlpine (South Scotland) (SNP)

Meeting of the Parliament 18 December 2014 : Thursday, December 18, 2014
Joan McAlpine (South Scotland) (SNP)

Although I am now a member of the Welfare Reform Committee, I was not at the time that these reports were produced and I pay tribute to the MSPs who were involved, the committee clerks and all the organisations and individuals who gave evidence. These two comprehensive reports have raised awareness and understanding of extreme poverty and its causes.

I agree whole-heartedly with the food bank report’s conclusion that UK ministers are quite wrong to deny any link between welfare reform and the rising use of food banks. In fact, the distressing evidence that was taken by the committee demonstrates a strong link between the two. In their written and oral evidence, witnesses repeatedly referenced benefit sanctions and benefit delays as reasons for the increase in the use of food banks. As others have mentioned—this bears repeating—the Trussell Trust said in evidence that the three main problems that led people to Scottish food banks in 2013 and 2014 were benefit delays, benefit changes, including sanctions, and low incomes.

The rise in the use of sanctions by the Department for Work and Pensions is a moral outrage, as it leaves people completely destitute. Other members have talked about the figures that show how sanctions have risen, so I will not repeat those. However, I will repeat a piece of evidence that was taken by the committee that shows the absurdity and the cruelty of the sanctions regime:

“Annemarie was sanctioned in December 2012 for four weeks for failing to do the requisite number of job searches. She applied for 27 jobs instead of 28 within a two week period. This left Annemarie without the money she needed to heat her home or to be able to buy food. Annemarie could not access the hardship fund until the 15th day of her sanction, leaving her with no money for over 2 weeks. Annemarie felt her only option was to borrow money through a payday loan, enabling her to buy food as well as small Christmas gifts for her family. Fortunately, Annemarie was able to access seasonal part time work to assist her throughout this time. Annemarie is still paying back the loan ... 12 months after the initial sanction.”

It was perhaps not surprising that the Trussell Trust found that 19 per cent of its food bank users did so because of changes to their benefits. However, the same proportion of food bank users did so because of low income. That was confirmed by Mark Ballard of Barnardo’s, who told the committee that the driver of food poverty was not just the low and delayed benefits but the decline in the value of wages.

Carol-Anne Alcorn of FareShare and Edinburgh Cyrenians said that working people on low incomes cannot meet the rising cost of rent, food and fuel. That has been my experience when I have helped volunteers at the First Base Agency, a charity in Dumfries that distributes food parcels in Dumfries and Galloway. What shocked me—other members have mentioned this—was the large number of people who asked us to make up parcels that did not require cooking because they could not find the cash to pay for gas and electricity. I note that my first-hand observation was repeated in evidence to the committee.

Other members have talked about their local food banks and I want to pay tribute to the First Base Agency, whose work is remarkable. Its director, Mark Frankland, writes a blog, to which I direct anyone who wants to know more about the hard work and the effort that it takes to keep such lifeline services going. Mark’s current posting, “A December day in the life of a Scottish food bank”, makes for a very poignant read. Every Monday morning, he has to be at the back door of Greggs for 8 am to take delivery of 50 loaves. Last week, he ended one of his days at Kirkcudbright harbour, where a trawler that had taken a particularly good catch donated a large part of it to him. The haul of scallops was not for the food bank but for him to sell in order to use the money to buy other food for distribution.

I pay tribute to the generosity of those who contribute to food banks, in particular local businesses. In our area, church congregations are particularly generous and Mondays at the food bank are very busy as volunteers drop off collections taken during Sunday services.

In Mark Frankland’s blog, he talks of opening a Christmas card last week with a £200 cheque inside. It was from two pensioners who had decided to donate their winter fuel allowances as they felt that others were more in need of it than they were. He mentions that those pensioners were his

“fellow travellers from the ‘Yes’ campaign”.

Although people from all political backgrounds donate to and run food banks, I want to mention the yes movement’s action in that regard, particularly since the referendum. All over Scotland, local yes groups, deeply disappointed with the referendum result, wanted to channel their energy into making a positive difference to their communities and found that addressing food poverty is a very tangible way to do that.

Last weekend, my SNP branch in Dumfries east set up a food collection stall in the centre of town at the suggestion of two of our younger new members. By the end of the day, we had collected £600-worth of food and £200-worth of cash donations for the First Base Agency.

I think that there is a good reason why people who were part of the independence campaign want to throw their energy into that type of activity. As has been discussed, welfare is a reserved matter, and the two specific aspects of welfare that will stay reserved are sanctions, which cause many people to go hungry, and low wages. The Smith commission’s proposals will specifically keep the sanction regime in London and prevent our setting a minimum wage here in Scotland. Although I welcome the reforms that the Smith commission proposes, those key aspects of food poverty will remain reserved to Westminster, which is deeply disappointing.



Meeting of the Parliament 18 December 2014 : Thursday, December 18, 2014
Joan McAlpine

The cabinet secretary may be aware that Dumfries and Galloway has one of the highest levels—if not the highest level—of consultant vacancies in Scotland. Although many factors feed into that, I was alarmed to be told recently, by health board contacts, that the increase in the amount of private work that consultants in England can undertake is affecting Dumfries and Galloway NHS Board’s ability to recruit. Does the cabinet secretary agree that that illustrates clearly that changes to the NHS in England can have a detrimental effect on our independent NHS here in Scotland?



Meeting of the Parliament 18 December 2014 : Thursday, December 18, 2014
2. Joan McAlpine (South Scotland) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government whether the recruitment of consultants in Scotland could be affected by any move to privatise NHS services in England. (S4O-03842)



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Joan McAlpine

Will the member acknowledge the praise in the introduction to Sir Ian Wood’s report for the reorganisation of colleges, and particularly for the focus on employment outcomes as a result of that reorganisation?



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Joan McAlpine

Will the member give way?



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Joan McAlpine

Will the member take an intervention?



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Joan McAlpine

If even a small proportion of the 7,000 businesses there take on a young person, we would see a huge increase in youth employment, which I would whole-heartedly welcome.

16:07  

Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Joan McAlpine

The figures that Mr Findlay quotes are just not true. In addition, for the past two years, we have spent £522 million on colleges, which is more than Mr Findlay’s Labour Governments ever spent on them, so I will not take anything from him on that.

Dumfries and Galloway College also has the advantage of sharing the Crichton campus with the University of West Scotland and the University of Glasgow, and those three institutions are breaking down barriers between further and higher education and pioneering some excellent examples of articulation between the institutions and, of course, parity of esteem.

Working in hospitality, one of the key employment sectors in the region, can involve irregular hours, which means that young people, who often depend on public transport, face difficulties in travelling to and from work and college. I therefore welcome the cabinet secretary’s response to Tavish Scott’s earlier question about additional support for rural businesses in employing young people.

In preparation for this debate, I contacted local employers for their feedback on the barriers to employing young people. I am particularly grateful to Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce and its chief executive, Gordon Mann, and to Tricia Hunter of the training agency Minerva People, who gave me some very useful pointers.

In Dumfries and Galloway, around 6,500 registered businesses operate with fewer than 10 employees, a higher proportion of small and medium-sized enterprises and microbusinesses than do so in the rest of Scotland. Some of those businesses tell me that the time required to mentor, train and develop a young person is substantial and that employers in smaller organisations do not have much spare staffing capacity. Dedicating an experienced member of staff to mentor a new recruit can have a significant knock-on effect financially, and of course small businesses do not have human resources teams to direct that kind of work. I am told that that is one of the main reasons why employers in SMEs and microbusinesses do not offer opportunities to young people.

My contacts also identified prejudices with regard to young people that are similar to those identified in the Wood report and to which the minister alluded. However, that gives us even more reason to challenge such attitudes. I particularly welcome the Scottish Government’s investors in young people award, which sends a very strong message about the positive benefits of employing young people. I also welcome the commission’s recommendation 20, which states:

“A small business Modern Apprenticeship recruitment incentive package should be developed to equip and support smaller and micro businesses to recruit and train more young people.”

That is extremely good news for rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Joan McAlpine

As the member knows, the number of full-time equivalent students at our colleges is over 116,000.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Joan McAlpine (South Scotland) (SNP)

I welcome the Government’s recognition and will that we can go further in our efforts to tackle youth unemployment.

I represent South Scotland, which is a vast region that is made up of rural communities. Although young people in the region face many of the same problems associated with unemployment that their urban peers face, my constituents face an additional set of barriers because of their geographical isolation and poor infrastructure.

The region has many economic strengths—for example, in tourism, hospitality, agriculture-related business and energy. The latter has been seized upon by Dumfries and Galloway College, which now offers excellent courses in that field—in particular, wind turbine technician courses and training in the maintenance and replacement of the cables that are used for the distribution and transmission of electricity. Considerable potential remains in both areas as the electricity distribution system is upgraded. I therefore welcome the new emphasis on STEM opportunities and training that the cabinet secretary announced this week as part of the £6.5 million extra funding.

Those energy engineering sectors provide young people with invaluable opportunities to grow, develop and build a worthwhile career, and the chance to do so without forcing them to leave the communities in which they have grown up. Dumfries and Galloway College has been particularly effective at focusing its courses on employment-related outcomes.

On that note, I welcome the Wood report’s endorsement of the Government’s direction of travel on college reform. As Sir Ian Wood said in his introduction to the report,

“Colleges have come on immensely since the Commission’s work started in February 2013. They are re-energised ... They have some good new leadership and are clearly recognising their opportunity to migrate up the technology skills ladder and to enhance the focus on employability of the students.”

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11901.3 Neil Findlay: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
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NoDefeated

S4M-11901.1 Mary Scanlon: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11830.2 John Swinney: The Smith Commission—As an amendment to motion S4M-11830 in the name of Ru
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11830 Ruth Davidson: The Smith Commission—That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the Sm
>> Show more
YesCarried

Amendment 6 moved by Dr Richard Simpson on motion S4M-11826 Maureen Watt: Food (Scotland) Bill—That
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.3 Claire Baker: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.2 Jamie McGrigor: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.1 Tavish Scott: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825 Richard Lochhead: End of Year Fish Negotiations—That the Parliament welcomes the successfu
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11763.3 Margaret Burgess: Private Sector Rent Reform—As an amendment to motion S4M-11763 in the
>> Show more
YesCarried

Search for other Motions lodged by Joan McAlpine
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11150: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08987: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/02/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09405: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09341: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 13/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08990: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/02/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08709: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/01/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08705: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/01/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08592: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/12/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08577: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, On Behalf of Burrell Collection (Lending and Borrowing) (Scotland) Bill Committee, Date Lodged: 11/12/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08295: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 13/11/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Joan McAlpine
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-23695: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03842: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03796: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03757: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03670: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03657: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 27/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03603: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22755: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03572: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 29/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03549: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/09/2014 Show Full Question >>

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