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Wheelhouse Joins Minister for Community Empowerment at Burnfoot Community Hub

11th February 2016

Joining the Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment on a visit to Burnfoot Community Hub yesterday (Wednesday), Paul Wheelhouse MSP (SNP,South Scotland) has congratulated the team at the Hub for being singled out for praise by the Minister.

       

While visiting the Hub, the Minister, Marco Biagi MSP, announced the Strengthening Communities Programme funding increase of £500,000 - bringing the investment across Scotland to £2.5million. The Strengthening Communities Programme has already benefited Burnfoot Community Hub to the tune of nearly £85,000 in funding a post and investment in training local people to maximise the impact of the investment, including Scottish Government funding for the Community Hub refurbishment. Alongside a Big Lottery grant and joint local authority and Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant Fund totalling £585,000 this Scottish Government funding has allowed Burnfoot Community Futures to open the Hub.

Following the visit Paul said:

"I am delighted the Minister, Marco Biagi, chose to come to Burnfoot to announce a further £500,000 for the Scottish Government Strengthening Communities Programme, which aims to inject new life into some of Scotland's most disadvantaged areas. As the Minister said himself the Hub here is a brilliant example of what can be done with vision and enthusiasm and what
other parts of Scotland can aim to achieve and he expressed the hope that others would be inspired and learn from the community of Burnfoot.

"The Scottish Government is putting community-led change at the heart of Scotland's economic and social regeneration strategy, recognising that community involvement is vital to the success of the design and delivery of local economic and social regeneration initiatives - the Burnfoot Community
Hub delivers this brilliantly for Burnfoot and for the wider Hawick area.

"The aims and objectives of the Burnfoot Community Hub encapsulates perfectly the ethos of community empowerment and I have seen first-hand how beneficial the Hub will be to the local area with meeting rooms, a hairdressers, great café and soft play facilities and this can only be enhanced by the proposed child care facilities and I look forward to seeing it and the local community
go from strength to strength.
"

      

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Wheelhouse & Kerr Congratulates Hawick on Positive Ministerial Round Table Discussion

2nd February 2016

SNP MSP for South Scotland, Paul Wheelhouse, and Calum Kerr MP have congratulated all who organised and took part in today’s (Tuesday) round table discussion with Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing MSP, on the future of Hawick.

The meeting was convened in the wake of Hawick Knitwear going into administration, at the Minister’s request, and saw attendees from businesses and the community in and around Hawick to look at the needs of the textiles sector and wider economic needs of the town and wider community.

Following the meeting Paul said:

“One thing that was extremely clear from this meeting was the positivity towards making sure people know that Hawick is still open for business and ready to embark on its regeneration journey.

“Given recent events, there is perhaps is a danger of talking Hawick down but the meeting drew out that there are many opportunities for the town as well as many business success stories too and in terms of the textiles sector there is a good story to tell. We need to appreciate that perhaps the days of the large mills run by big companies is over and that smaller businesses are moving in to the industry and making a real go of it, with successful results, many of whom are getting involved in the apprenticeship schemes too.

“I was pleased to raise a number of points; including the importance of the proposals for extending the Borders Rail project to Carlisle via Hawick, the development of a strategy to develop the tourism infrastructure of the town
and to examine the physical regeneration opportunities arising from the flood protection scheme. In addition I raised the important consultation by the Scottish Government on redesignating the Scottish Borders as part of a new South Scotland ‘NUTS 2’ area for European funding purposes, given this could greatly increase the range of grants available to Borders businesses and communities to invest in a more sustainable economic future.

“I very much support calls from others to reuse empty buildings, as is proposed for the new distillery, and I was pleased to hear of the advanced discussions between the Scottish Government and SBC on the case for extending the railway to Hawick and Carlisle.

“I was also delighted to hear the thoughts on a blueprint for Hawick, similar to the work the Eyemouth and District Community Trust have taken forward in Berwickshire, that will require the community and businesses to get involved, do their bit and back any initiatives to spruce up the High Street and contribute to the plans.

“I look forward to the suggested follow up meeting later in the year to ensure progress is made and hope everyone who attended, from Hawick and other towns, felt this was as worthwhile an exercise as I did.”

Calum added:

“It was a well attended, well organised and productive session which generated some really interesting thoughts and ideas which the minister listened to carefully.

“Everyone recognised that there are challenges, but there are some great opportunities, including for the knitwear industry.

“It was agreed that we need positivity and improvements to local infrastructure - for instance, we have to have much better broadband and mobile phone coverage. This is something I'm already working hard on as chair
of an SNP group focussing on how to speed up change and extend service.

“We also agreed that the local economy also has to diversify. For instance, one idea suggested was to convert old and derelict mill buildings into smaller business units to encourage and accommodate start-ups.

“One of the people at the meeting was John Fordyce, who is behind the planned new Three Stills whisky distillery in the town. He's a big supporter of our high quality skills and hard infrastructure.

“It was a really positive session and we've all agreed to meet again and push this forward. I'll look forward to continuing to be part of these discussions.”

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End of Automatic Early Release Comes Into Force

1st February 2016

Paul Wheelhouse MSP (SNP South Scotland) has highlighted the end of granting automatic early release to serious offenders from today (Monday) – an unpopular measure introduced by the Tories.

Automatic early release was introduced in 1993, prior to the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament, by the Tory UK Government of John Major and this has now been reversed by the SNP.

The ending of automatic early release will mean that long-term prisoners will no longer be eligible for automatic release after two third of their sentence is served and there will be a mandatory period of supervision for the most serious offenders once they do complete their sentence.

Paul said:

“The people of Scotland expect those prisoners who pose an unacceptable risk to the public to serve an appropriate amount of their sentence, so today’s move is an important step in keeping our communities safer.

“Under the automatic early release system introduced by the Tories when in Government in 1993, prisoners were eligible for automatic early release even when they had committed serious crimes and they did not need to show remorse for their actions or demonstrate good behaviour prior to being released.

“I am sure that the public will be glad this has now been changed by the SNP and that long-term prisoners will serve more of their sentence in custody and be supervised upon their release.

“With crime in Scotland already at a 41 year low, it’s clear that the work of Scotland’s police officers is paying off – and this move by Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson MSP, of ending automatic early release, is another positive step that will further increase
public confidence in the justice system.”

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Wheelhouse Encourages Floodbank Repair Grant Scheme Applications

1st February 2016

SNP MSP for South Scotland, Paul Wheelhouse, is today (Monday) encouraging farmers in the Scottish Borders affected by flooding to apply for a grant to help repair man-made floodbanks.

The Agricultural Floodbank Repair Grant Scheme was announced by the First Minister earlier this year, with £1 million being set aside to fund the repair of man-made floodbanks on farms in nine local authorities, including the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway. The Scottish Government has worked in partnership with NFU Scotland to develop a scheme that will deliver targeted help with minimal red tape.

Paul said:

"I see for myself every time I am attending constituency events throughout the region, in areas of Teviotdale such as land alongside the A698 between Kelso and Hawick, the toll on farmland that recent storms and flooding has taken and we can only hope damage to winter crops is not too serious. "I would encourage any farmer who requires support to restore man-made floodbanks on their farms to apply for the Agricultural Floodbank Repair Grant Scheme as soon as possible and before the deadline of Monday 29th February.

"This £1 million scheme will cover the standard costs of repairs, up to a cap of £20,000 per business, and cover farmers affected by flooding in the Scottish Borders, and eight other council areas, during December and early January.

"The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Environment and Food, Richard Lochhead MSP, also recently announced a number of measures to complement this scheme, including flexibility on greening and cross compliance rules, having seen the scale and impact of the flooding across Scotland.

"It is heartening to note that SEPA will also take a pragmatic approach while farmers make an effort to getting things back to normal, with SEPA indicating it does not need to be contacted for repair of man-made floodbanks, although its officers are on standby to assist where needed. I hope this provides my constituents with reassurance that the Scottish Government and its agencies
are keen to assist in any way possible in getting our valued food producers in the agricultural sector back to their best."

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