Spirit of collaboration needed within council
My best wishes to the newly-elected councillors and all the candidates — they provided healthy choice in the recent local authority elections.
The region faces many challenges and Dumfries & Galloway Council decisions will have a significant long-term impact on our lives.
From a political perspective I was pleased the Conservatives again secured most seats and largest share of the vote, but disappointed that a coalition or other arrangement was not agreed which included them within the administration.
I would like to see a spirit of collaboration prevail amongst Labour, SNP and independents, which also takes on board the views of the Conservative group, as the largest returned by voters.
As a local MP I look forward to working with all councillors and the authority’s new chief executive Dawn Roberts, who is joining from Cumbria County Council.
I’m keen to see the council, indeed every tier of government, work together and move forward as swiftly as possible to deliver ambitious plans for the regeneration of Stranraer and the waterfront.
Action required on roads
As a region we have to play to our strengths and they certainly include spectacular scenery, hills, fresh air and a friendly welcome for visitors.
That’s why it was not a surprise that the internationally televised Tour Series cycle racing stages' competitors and back-up crews were widely welcomed when they were at Stranraer recently.
Such events can have potential promotional value and it will be interesting to see cost-benefit analysis figures if they become available at a later date.
The arrival of so many cyclists reminded me of one of the most regular concerns which generates casework at my constituency office, which is, not surprisingly, the volume of potholes on our roads.
Whilst the Tour Series cyclists, I understand, experienced adequately maintained smooth surfaces that is not the case for all our roads — and not just B and C routes!
To be fair this is a problem built up over many years, sometimes accelerated by a trend towards heavier larger vehicles, and although we are amongst the worst regions, the issue is far from unique to south-west Scotland.
Repairing roads must be a greater priority for the incoming council, than that of past administrations.
Curlers at top of the world
I wish to warmly congratulate the Scottish team who beat Germany in the final of the 2022 World Curling Junior Men’s Championships at Jonkoping in Sweden at the weekend.
The talented line-up included well-known Stranraer player Niall Ryder, whose team mates were skip James Craik from Edzell; Angus Bryce, Kelso; Scott Hyslop and Jack Carrick, both Dumfries.
Great credit is due to the players, coaches and all those who over many years have ensured that south-west Scotland has remained well-served for a rural area when it comes to ice rinks and curling talent.
Looking for missing memorials
Most communities in Dumfries and Galloway constituency have a war memorial, often situated at a prominent location.
They are an important record of those who have lost their lives in the service of their country and a reminder of the continuing importance of our armed services today.
Some interesting statistics came across my desk recently showing that the Imperial War Museum (IWM) online register features 96,000 war memorials across the UK although researchers estimated that in reality the actual total could be closer to 110,000.
The museum has asked MPs to encourage constituents to go online to www.iwm.org.uk/memorials and check if there are any gaps in community listings from within their constituencies.
I can see from my own look through the records that Wigtownshire is well represented but should Free Press readers spot any omissions they are invited to send information and photos of unlisted memorials to www.iwm.org.uk/form/memorials-image-upload-form or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
With public help, the IWM team hope the vast free online resource can be brought up-to-date by Armistice Day, Friday, November 11.
Park plans caution necessary
There is little doubt that we live in one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland and, indeed, the whole UK.
So it is no surprise that the Scottish Government has announced a public consultation into the idea of Galloway becoming a designated National Park.
Tourism is an integral part of the region’s economy and I’m sure will continue to be so, whether or not part of the region receives a special designation.
It must not be forgotten that agriculture, forestry and other industries also play an important part in the region’s economy — perhaps more so than in existing National Parks — so it is important that potential restrictions, bureaucracy, costs and any negative impact on areas outside the park boundaries are taken fully on board.
I would encourage stakeholders to take part in any consultation process.
Food Train reaches milestone
It is hard to believe that it is 27 years since the Food Train charity started delivering essentials to those who struggled leaving home to shop for themselves.
Since then the organisation, founded in our region, has gone from strength to strength expanding their range of services -- and geographically.
I’m delighted they will soon move their regional HQ into a specially-adapted former council building in English Street, Dumfries, which will also include a hub for older people.
Locally, the charity’s Wigtownshire services are operated from Burns House in Harbour Street, Stranraer.
I look forward to taking up an invitation to meet chief executive Michelle Carruthers to learn more about new developments and the Food Train’s work across the region.
Citizens Advice Service’s vital role
Economies worldwide have been caught up in an almost perfect storm of pandemic disruption, the Russian attack on Ukraine, inflation, rising energy and fuel costs.
That means advice provided locally by the team of experts at Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service has never been more invaluable, appreciated and in demand.
I was grateful for an update recently from local staff and was impressed by the wide range of guidance on offer in these challenging times at offices across the south west, including Stranraer.
Information and advice is also available by telephone on 0300 303 4321 or online at www.citizenadvice.org.uk/scotland
Railway timetable u-turn essential
I know from inconvenienced Wigtownshire constituents there is wide concern about the erosion of train services from Stranraer.
A new ScotRail national ‘emergency’ temporary timetable has been introduced: meaning only two departures from the town each day.
The train operator highlighted as a factor the driver shortages caused by training delays during the pandemic and the threat of industrial action because of a pay dispute.
Stranraer is at the end of the line, serves a wide area and, as has been reflected in my casework over a lengthy period, has been receiving a far from satisfactory service causing too many people to travel on far from adequate roads.
ScotRail was nationalised by the SNP / Green Scottish Government and I urge them to live up to their responsibilities by resolving this crisis urgently and delivering greatly improved services to Wigtownshire.
Missing out on Pensioner Credit?
I welcome a campaign by the UK Department of Work and Pensions to boost the take up of Pensioner Credit.
There are 3,019 recipients currently in Dumfries and Galloway constituency but officials estimate more local people could be eligible for a top-up to their state pension, averaging £3,300 annually.
Recipients may also qualify for help with housing, council tax, heating and the over-75s free TV licence. Help is available from UK Government at www.gov.uk/pension-credit or on 0800 99 1234.
Marking Queen’s Platinum Jubilee
A wide range of events are planned across the constituency to celebrate The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee during the special extended bank holiday from June 2 to 5.
I commend organisers for their efforts — for example, those behind the impressive Port William programme of events and the energetic volunteers setting up the region’s highest official beacon on top of Criffel Hill — and hope as many people as possible have the chance to enjoy this landmark national and international occasion.
During the Platinum Jubilee weekend, in my role as Secretary of State for Scotland, I will attend a Service of Thanksgiving in St. Paul's Cathedral for The Queen’s 70 years of service.
I’m also looking forward to viewing a new exhibition at St.Paul’s documenting Jubilee celebrations across three centuries.