Dumfries Courier column - April 2020

Difficult times

My thoughts are with constituents whose lives have been touched by the coronavirus pandemic, especially those who have lost loved ones.

Amidst all the statistics and graphs outlining the twists and turns of this crisis, we must never forget that every individual lost to the disease represents a deep personal tragedy for family and friends.

We will get through these difficult times, constantly inspired by the amazing work of our NHS, carers and the army of other key workers, including many volunteers. 

There will be challenging times ahead but, like most other countries, both large and small economies, we will work together positively to deal with the consequences of this unprecedented global event.

Computer power

I've always been fascinated by the Galloway Hydro Scheme, which although it has its roots in the 1930s, still produces vital green energy today for the national grid from six power stations, eight dams, tunnels, pipelines and aqueducts.

It was taken over early last year by the Drax energy group whom I was delighted to learn this week are providing support to pupils from primary schools located near the hydro system as they adapt to working from home during the coronavirus emergency.

The company are funding 62 portable computers with prepaid internet access which will be made available to youngsters who are without a suitable laptop at home. 

Drax have been working with Dumfries and Galloway College on the project which should benefit Gelston, Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbright, Dalry and Kells together with Crossmichael schools.

My thanks go to Drax for this welcome gesture.

Different priorities?

Like all south of Scotland MPs, I'm pleased local businesses are taking advantage of the massive additional coronavirus support funding sent to Scotland by the Chancellor.

It is very much a UK-wide response to the pandemic although the Scottish Government, which has devolved responsibility, has chosen to stamp, as is their remit, their own mark on how some funding is targeted.

A number of constituents have expressed disappointment to me at differences that mean support available to certain small businesses a few miles south in Cumbria is not available in Scotland.

SNP Minsters at Holyrood should remember that creating even subtle differences, in sectors such as tourism for example, can within our region's cross-border economy have a negative impact on some enterprises' survival prospects.

Supporting the effort

Firms across Dumfries and Galloway have been stepping up to the mark to carry out services and manufacturing equipment for the UK's coronavirus response.

I would like to congratulate everyone involved in providing essential goods and equipment for the NHS and other agencies and assure them their efforts are greatly appreciated.

In the case of Gentex at Stranraer, the company have significantly increased production of their personal protection equipment including air purifying respirators, which safeguard eyes, wider face and hearing.

Elsewhere, boiler manufacturing and maintenance for NHS sites, protection products and sanitising solutions are amongst the items being produced in our region.

Ready to assist

If you believe I can be of help with an issue during the current covid-19 emergency, please do not hesitate to contact me and my team.

Whilst social distancing means I'm not able to hold my normal face-to-face surgeries, I can be reached in the first instance via my website by clicking here or by email to Alister.Jack.MP@parliament.uk