January 2019

Keeping focus across wide constituency

With the twists and turns of Brexit an ongoing feature at Westminster just now, it is important for me to also keep focus on other developments affecting the constituency.

A priority must be protecting the status of the Port of Cairnryan, which handles around 45-per-cent of Northern Ireland's trade with the rest of the UK, and is an important employer in the Stranraer area.

Positives going forward will be the further development of the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency and the delivery of the Borderlands Growth Deal, which is supported by both the UK and Scottish Governments.

With much of the progress so far being made largely behind the scenes, I plan to press in the coming year for both initiatives to keep on their agenda the economy and job opportunities across the constituency from Dumfries to Portpatrick.

Improving infrastructure, both transport and digital, must all be part of the mix.


Celebrating Bard with wide appeal

National bard Robert Burns' strongest links are arguably with Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire but I find travelling round the constituency that his work appears equally as appreciated in the west as in the east.

This was demonstrated to me by the number of enthusiastically supported Burns Suppers held in Wigtownshire in recent weeks celebrating the life of the famous poet and lyricist.

They have been organised by both established Burns Clubs and other community groups and represent just one of many strands of the rich culture of Dumfries and Galloway.

I was pleased to learn from a Stranraer constituent, an enthusiastic Burnsian, that another excellent night with talented speakers was enjoyed at the town's Burns Club supper which attracted a company of around 50 to the North West Castle Hotel.

He pointed out, that whilst there were reliable accounts of Burns spending time in Galloway as far west as Gatehouse of Fleet, where he wrote some well-known verses, there was a strong probability he also had contacts and knowledge of Stranraer and Rhins of Galloway.


Supper in Downing Street

It was a privilege to join many Scottish colleagues and numerous other guests from north of the border at the Prime Minister's Burns Supper at 10 Downing Street last week.

It was good to listen to some excellent speakers in such an iconic setting together with appropriate music provided by a piper from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra and London-based Scottish singer Katy Thomson.

As the Prime Minister stated, the event was not purely a celebration of Robert Burns but the proud culture of all Scotland.


Protecting south west beauty spots

One of the many volunteer - driven initiatives in Dumfries and Galloway to have impressed me over the last year is the work of DG Eco Warriors.

As well as raising awareness of plastic pollution and other environmental issues they have held very successful beach cleans at beautyspots along the Solway Coast.

They have just celebrated their first anniversary gathering numerous sacks of rubbish from the shore at Powfoot whilst in February they plan to hold a clean-up in my constituency at scenic Rascarrel Bay, near Auchencairn. 

Details of future events are posted on the DG Eco Warriors website and I wish them more power to their elbows!