Dunbar Grammar pupils are standing up for human rights

Members of Dunbar Grammar’s Amnesty Group were joined by a speaker from Amnesty International Scotland and local MSP Iain Gray at their latest meeting to discuss the Write for Rights campaign.

As well backing Amnesty’s campaign, the group also discussed supporting the Scottish Youth Parliament’s human rights campaign, Right Here Right Now. The pupil-led group will be speaking to school assemblies and asking for support from fellow pupils for both campaigns.

Speaking after the meeting, Heather Cameron, Head Girl and one of the group leaders, said:

“Our group is keen to involve fellow pupils in both Amnesty’s Write for Rights and the Scottish Youth Parliament’s Right Here Right Now campaigns. This meeting was a good start and we were pleased to be able to welcome Elena and Iain to hear more about our plans for the campaigns.”

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I was pleased to join the Dunbar Grammar Amnesty group and Elena from Amnesty International Scotland to hear about their plans to promote the Write for Rights campaign in the school.

“Heather and her colleagues are planning to support Write for Rights and the Youth Parliament’s human rights campaign, Right Here, Right Now, as well. It really is good to see local youngsters passionate, and prepared to take action on such important global issues. They really are a credit to the town.”

Minister quizzed on support for community radio

Iain Gray MSP has used a question to the Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop MSP to raise the issue of support for community radio in general, and local stations like East Coast FM in particular.

Mr Gray pressed the minister, as he has on previous occasions, to consider providing some financial support for ECFM and other community radio stations.

Speaking after the questions Iain Gray MSP said:

“We are fortunate in East Lothian to have two excellent and very well supported local community radio stations in East Coast FM and Radio Saltire.

“They not only provide local broadcasting and valuable information to the community, but are also central to many of our local community events, through advertising them and participating too. They also train volunteers, and they have supported many young musicians trying to get started on a career in music.

“However, funding is a huge issue not only for our local stations but for others across Scotland. They often have to rely on their own fundraising efforts to keep going with precious little public funding available to support their core activity.

“Given this situation, the Minister’s response to my question on Government support was disappointing. She reeled off a list of support community radio stations can get, but the truth is none of these sources will fund core running costs rather than say one off purchases of equipment.

“She also referred to government advertising, but in fact this was years ago, and only benefited a very few stations. It really is time the government recognised the important role in local community life played by stations such as ECFM and Radio Saltire and provided them with some financial support.”

Holyrood motion marks local hero award success

Harlawhill Day Centre manager Fiona Mitchell’s success in being named Forth Local Hero at the 2017 Forth Awards has been marked in a motion at the Scottish Parliament.

Local MSP Iain Gray has laid the motion congratulating Fiona on her award and the huge part she has played in developing the centre during the 25 years she has worked there.

Iain Gray MSP said:

I was delighted to see Fiona receive a well deserved award as “Forth Local Hero” and wanted to acknowledge her success in Parliament. She is one of those people who through their dedication and commitment to a good cause make an outstanding contribution to their community. In her case that contribution has been over a 25-year period and has helped make a huge difference to the lives of so many local older people.”

Mr Gray’s motion reads as follows:

That the Parliament congratulates Fiona Mitchell, who is the manager of Harlawhill Day Centre in Prestonpans, on winning the Forth Local Hero Award at the Forth Awards 2017; believes that this is very well deserved recognition of Fiona’s amazing 25 years’ service at the centre, during which she has looked after and supported people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, and acknowledges that Fiona has been instrumental in making the centre a welcoming, respected and much-loved part of the community.

Join search for Scotland’s leading small business startup

Entrepreneurs and businesses in East Lothian are being urged to enter the search for Scotland’s startup Business of the Year.

Virgin Startup10: Scotland is open to startup businesses and entrepreneurs, the competition will offer ‘startup can’t buy prizes’ including mentoring and support from a leading Scottish law firm.

The top ten finalists will be shortlisted in February and recognised as Virgin StartUp’s 10 Scottish ambassadors. The overall winner will be revealed at an awards ceremony in March and will receive a mentoring session from an all-star judging panel of leading Scottish entrepreneurs.

The county’s MSP, Iain Gray, is hoping to see a finalist from East Lothian:

“Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of the Scottish economy and I want to see a finalist from East Lothian showcase the talent that we have here. I encourage local entrepreneurs to take the challenge and download the entry pack as soon as they can, and I wish them the very best of luck.”

Judging the process are four of Scotland’s most renowned entrepreneurs, who will also mentor the overall winner as part of the ‘money can’t buy’ prizes on offer to all ten finalists. They are:

  • Jackie Waring – the founder & CEO of Investing Women and leader of Scotland’s only all-female business angel group
  • Leah Hutcheon – the founder and CEO of Appointedd, an Edinburgh-based tech company revolutionising the way bookings are made online
  • Bob Kieller CBE – Chairman of Scottish Enterprise
  • Cally Russell, Founder and CEO of Mallzee, the UK’s leading multi-retailer shopping app

To find out more and submit an entry, visit www.virginstartup.org/10-scotland. The closing date for entries is 8th January 2018.

Yester pupils visit Scottish Parliament

P7 pupils from Gifford’s Yester Primary School were the latest group of county schoolchildren to visit the Scottish parliament and meet MSP Iain Gray.

The children attended Holyrood as part of the Parliament’s Education Service for schools and participated in a question and answer session with Mr Gray.

Speaking afterwards, Iain Gray MSP said:

“There has been a flurry of school visits to the Scottish Parliament over recent months, which is very welcome indeed. These organised trips to Parliament are fantastic opportunities for county youngsters to find out for themselves how our laws and decisions are made in Scotland.

“As is always the case with visits from East Lothian schools, the pupils came prepared with some great questions, although quite a few I had to bat off to the school, about wanting more clubs and golden time. I hope they found the visit helpful and went away having learnt a bit more about how our democracy works.”

Visiting Dunbar Boys Brigade company

Iain Gray MSP was the guest speaker at a recent meeting of 1st Dunbar Boys Brigade as part of the boys’ work towards their Community Badge.

Mr Gray was invited to speak to the group by Captain Sandy Mitchell. As well as giving a short presentation on his work as East Lothian’s MSP, Mr Gray also answered questions from the boys.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“As an ex-BB myself, I was delighted to be invited along to the 1st Dunbar company to talk to them about my work as East Lothian’s MSP.

“Captain Sandy Mitchell asked me to do this session as the boys have been working towards their Community Badge.

“Given the lively and well informed questions they had for me, they should have no trouble in gaining that badge when the time comes!”

County charity has starring role at Holyrood reception

Representatives of Home-Start East Lothian featured prominently in a Scottish Parliament reception hosted by Iain Gray MSP last week.

Mr Gray welcomed the guests to the well-attended event, which marked the launch of Home-Start Scotland’s “Big Hopes, Big Future” project, which is being introduced in only two areas in Scotland, including East Lothian.

Katy Pollock, Home-Start East Lothian Senior Co-ordinator, talked about the project’s early stages here, and Tranent resident Elizabeth Butler spoke about her experience working as a volunteer for the charity.

Others from East Lothian who were at the reception included Simon Davie, Area Manager for the Fa’side Area Partnership, and Councillor Shamin Akhtar, East Lothian Council’s Education and Children’s Services Spokesperson.

Speaking after the event, Iain Gray MSP said:

Home-Start is a great voluntary organisation which I always try to support whenever I can. This week I was able to help it by hosting a parliamentary reception to launch a new project “Big Hopes, Big Future”. This is designed to work with families with children from 3 – 5 to help ensure they are ready for school when they enter P1.

“There is very robust evidence that children’s different home experience means that by the time they reach school, some face a very significant developmental disadvantage over others when it comes to things like vocabulary or concentration. 

“The project has been developed successfully by Home-Start south of the border and now they are introducing the programme in Scotland, starting in two places, and I am delighted that East Lothian is one of the pilot areas.

“That is down to the track record of Home-Start East Lothian, and the foresight of East Lothian Council’s Fa’side Area Partnership, who have allocated funding to Big Hopes, Big Future.

“As a result, East Lothian had a starring role in the reception, with Co-ordinator Katy Pollock and local volunteers talking about the early stages of the project here. It was a great event, attracting MSPs and Home-Start colleagues from all over Scotland, and all very impressed with our local County Home-Start, and eager to follow in our footsteps.”

Katy Pollock, Senior Co-ordinator, Home-Start East Lothian, said:

“I am delighted that Home-Start East Lothian can be part of the pilot for Big Hopes, Big Future, enabled with funding from the Fa’side area partnership seeing the importance of early intervention.

“The evening was a great success sharing the theory behind the pilot as well as the real life needs and experiences so far. Thank you to Iain for hosting and his continued support for Home-Start East Lothian.”

Parliamentarians urge households to keep a step ahead of winter

County parliamentarians Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP are urging local people to take action to ensure their homes are winter-ready.

The call comes after new research has highlighted that having no heating or hot water would be the number one disaster for households this winter.

The national survey, conducted by Scottish Gas, shows that more than a third of households (35%) in Scotland have not checked that their central heating is working and nearly four in ten have not prepared their home for winter by getting their boiler serviced.

Having an annual boiler service carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer is crucial as it detects problems with the boiler and controls, including whether it is leaking poisonous carbon monoxide.

This can also be a good time of year to consider switching energy supplier and obtaining a smart meter to help reduce the cost of energy bills over the expensive winter period.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“It’s really important for local residents to keep a step ahead of winter. I want everyone in East Lothian to understand what help is available for them, and for their family and friends. Being prepared now can help avoid serious problems through the winter, especially if we experience extreme weather conditions.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“Now is a good time for people to start preparing for winter and checking things like boilers and pipes. Many energy companies offer advice and assistance with winter preparedness so residents should contact their supplier and find out what is available. Acting now can save headaches in winter and potentially save consumers money too.”

Parliamentarians are backing Small Business Saturday

Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP are supporting this year’s Small Business Saturday (2nd December), the annual campaign encouraging people to shop locally and support small businesses in their local community.

Now entering its fifth year, Small Business Saturday is the UK’s most successful small business campaign. Small Business Saturday 2016 had a huge impact, with customers spending £717m with small businesses on Small Business Saturday, an increase of 15 per cent on 2015 spending.

Over 140,000 tweets were sent on the day reaching 130 million people, trending on Twitter in the UK and globally, and over 80 per cent of local authorities across the UK actively supported the campaign.

Mr Gray and Mr Whitfield are encouraging businesses in East Lothian to take part and take advantage of the campaign, which aims to boost support for small business on a key shopping day in the run-up to Christmas, as well as give a long-term boost to trade.

They will be visiting some local businesses in the run-up to 2nd December and on the day itself.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I have been supporting Small Business Saturday since it was launched in 2013. It has grown every year and is clearly having a big impact on the way customers shop. By putting the spotlight on small and independent businesses and the choice they offer local people, the day has helped raise awareness of the importance of shopping locally.

“I’m confident that local people will support the initiative again this year and help make it an even greater success for our vital local small businesses. I will certainly be giving it my full support over the next few weeks.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“Small businesses are the bedrock of local economies and communities. Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity to celebrate this and promote what local businesses have to offer, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

“It can only be a good thing to encourage people to buy from small local firms and independent shops on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. I’ll be doing all I can to support local small businesses in the lead up to Small Business Saturday and look forward to meeting with business owners too.”

Find out more about this year’s Small Business Saturday and how to get involved at https://smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com

Knox Academy pupils visit Holyrood

Iain Gray MSP has welcomed a group of S1 pupils from Knox Academy to the Scottish Parliament.

The pupils were the latest from East Lothian to visit the Parliament via the School Visits programme run by the education outreach team to help inform and educate schoolchildren about the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Gray welcomed the Knox pupils to Parliament and answered their questions about how it works and the role performed by MSPs.

Speaking after the visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Schools from East Lothian are well versed in utilising the Parliament’s visits programme, and I always try and make time to meet them when they are at Holyrood. The pupils are invariably well prepared for these trips, and these visitors from Knox had some outstanding questions for me.

“I hope that they found the visit useful and of interest. I would certainly encourage other schools in East Lothian to consider taking advantage of the services the Parliament’s education outreach team have to offer.”