Constituency office moves to Haddington

I have now moved into a new constituency office in Haddington at 5a Mitchell’s Close. The phone number is 01620 822711.

Finding somewhere suitable has proven very difficult, but I know that the new office is ideal because it was previously the MP’s office. It is just off the High street in Haddington, close to the Council offices and bus routes, and, important in this day and age, secure for my staff when working there.

Of course my surgeries in other towns will continue, but if you need to contact me, please do email (iain.gray.msp@parliament.scot) or call the office, rather than waiting for the next surgery.

Highlighting local charity’s pioneering action on tackling plastic pollution

The pioneering work of East Lothian-based environment charity, Fidra, has been highlighted in the Scottish Parliament by Iain Gray MSP.

Speaking during a debate on single-use plastics, Mr Gray spoke about Fidra’s leading role in increasing awareness of the damage that is done to sea life and sea birds by plastic waste through it’s Great Nurdle Hunt project.

The MSP highlighted that the nurdle hunt project encourages volunteers to attend their local beaches and map out the small plastic pellets, known as nurdles, that they find, with 400 such hunts already having been organised.

Mr Gray also paid tribute to the work undertaken by the Scottish Seabird Centre on this issue, and also mentioned the role played by Gullane beavers, who wrote to the Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham to urge her to take action on plastic pollution.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I was delighted to take this opportunity to talk about how East Lothian is leading the way on raising awareness of the damage that is being done to our sea life and seabirds by plastic waste.

“Fidra’s pioneering Great Nurdle Hunt project has been instrumental in helping to drive forward the debate on this issue and the urgent need to curb this form of pollution in our seas. It has helped to inspire others to take action and forced it up the political agenda.

“I also used the debate to highlight Fidra’s suggestion that a Government backed certification scheme that allows companies throughout the supply chain to check for responsible handling, could help prevent this particular source of plastic pollution.

I believe that this is a proposal that the Government should explore as part of its plastic and marine strategies and was pleased to see the Cabinet Secretary respond positively to amendments from opposition parties.”

Mr Gray’s full speech can be found at http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11355&i=103264&c=2062963

Iain hosts university access event at Holyrood

County MSP Iain Gray has hosted a reception at the Scottish Parliament to highlight work being undertaken by Scotland’s universities to widen access to higher education.

Among the people attending the reception to tell their stories of overcoming barriers to attend university was Shelby Brown, from Tranent, who Mr Gray met some years ago at Young Carers of East Lothian and who is now studying criminology at Napier University.

The Universities Scotland reception came in the week that new statistics showed that university applications from 18-year-olds living in the most deprived communities in Scotland have fallen for the first time in 10 years.

Meanwhile applications from the most prosperous communities rose, meaning the gap has widened. It is already the case that a young person from a well off family is more than three times more likely to go to University than someone form the poorest.

Speaking after the reception, Iain Gray MSP said:

“There is no doubt that many of our universities are undertaking really innovative work to encourage more people from the most deprived areas to consider higher education. This reception highlighted some of this work and demonstrated how they are both cooperating to share good ideas, and vying with each other to show off success at wider access.

“The reception heard some great stories of successful students overcoming barriers to their study, but my own favourite was Shelby Brown from Tranent. A few years ago I visited the Young Carers of East Lothian Group, and one of the carers I met who was getting support from that group was Shelby, who was trying to juggle life, school and caring for her Mum.

“Now she is in her second year studying Criminology at Napier University, and working as a student ambassador mentoring other students to help them succeed too. Shelby had lots of reasons for thinking University was not for her, or that she had too many other things to deal with to be able to go. She has let nothing stop her and is a remarkable, confident young woman who is clearly going places.

 “So the bad news is those statistics showing us how much more there is to do to make sure other Shelbys coming through get that chance too – but her story shows that with the right help we can do it and just what widening access can achieve in transforming young people’s lives.”

 

Dementia Friendly Dunbar group welcomed to Holyrood

Visitors from local support group Dementia Friendly Dunbar were welcomed to the Scottish Parliament this week by Iain Gray MSP.

Mr Gray gave the visitors a tour of the Parliament building and answered their questions about his role and how laws are made at Holyrood.

Speaking after the visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“With every year more Scots face the challenge of living with Dementia, more families the struggle of supporting their loved ones as it takes its toll.

“Several towns in East Lothian now have very active “dementia friendly” groups, supporting those people and their families, and working hard to ensure that shops and other facilities in the town are more understanding and supportive at dealing with dementia too.

“Dunbar is one of those towns, and I was very pleased to host the Dementia Friendly Dunbar group as they visited the Scottish Parliament, before heading off for a high tea.”

Find out more about Dementia Friendly Dunbar on its Facebook page at @dementiafriendlydunbar or www.dfel.org.uk

Visit to Cockenzie primary school

Iain Gray MSP has made his first school visit of the new year to Cockenzie Primary School to speak to two classes of P7 pupils.

Speaking after the visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I have often talked about how much I enjoy visits to local schools. Last week I made my first visit of the new year, with an hour spent with two P7 classes at Cockenzie Primary School.

“Both classes are exploring democracy and what that means for us here in Scotland. They were well prepared with lots of very perceptive questions about my life and work as the local MSP.

“In these sessions I always like to ask a few questions of my own, and I quickly discovered that these pupils had already learned a great deal about the Scottish Parliament and how it operates.

“I know they plan to visit Holyrood in a few weeks, so I look forward to meeting up with them again then.”

Comment on child poverty statistics

Reacting to new statistics from the End Child Poverty coalition, Iain Gray MSP has said it is unacceptable that one in five children in East Lothian are still growing up in poverty.

Commenting on the figures, Iain Gray MSP said:

“These latest statistics from the End Child Poverty coalition show that nearly 4,000 children in East Lothian are growing up in poverty. This is an unacceptable situation which should concern all of us and which requires a concerted, multi-agency effort to tackle.

“Last November, all political parties at Holyrood came together to pass the Child Poverty Bill which sets new targets for reducing the number of children growing up in poverty. In doing so MSPs agreed that child poverty is unacceptable, that it is not inevitable and that it can be eradicated.

“The Scottish Government has said it will publish a three-year delivery plan to ensure that the targets will be met. However, to have any chance of achieving this Ministers must end cuts to local authorities and vital public services, which are hitting the poorest in our communities and pushing more people into poverty.”

Iain welcomes Preston Seton Gosford heritage funding

Reacting to the news that the Heritage Lottery Fund Great Place Scheme has awarded £249,000 to the Preston Seton Gosford Area Partnership for its Heritage Connections project, Iain Gray MSP said:

“This is great news for communities in the Preston, Seton, Gosford ward. The Area Partnership deserves great credit for initiating their Heritage Connections project and securing this funding from this ground-breaking new lottery scheme.

“I have already acknowledged this success in a motion at Holyrood and look forward to hearing more about the difference the funding will make through the project in the months and years ahead.”

Backing for Year of Young People activity

Iain Gray MSP attended an event at Holyrood to celebrate Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018 and the opportunities it provides for young people and their families to enjoy a trip to, and around Scotland.

Hosted by VisitScotland, the event provided MSPs with the opportunity to learn more about the Year and meet with some of the young people and tourism and events leaders, from across the country, working to make it a great success.

Speaking after the event, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Year of Young People 2018 is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate Scotland’s young people, and promote their talents, achievements and ambitions for the future.

“This event at Parliament was a welcome opportunity to learn more about how the Year is also set to give tourism in Scotland a boost by encouraging young people and their families from elsewhere to come and visit during 2018.

“I know that East Lothian is really embracing the opportunities presented by the Year, with various events and activities taking place throughout 2018 to support the involvement of our young people, and we can gain from the tourism too.

“It really is a wonderful chance for young people here to get involved, have their say and celebrate what makes Scotland and its young people great over the next 12 months.”

Fury as Rail Minister dismisses criticism of North Berwick Line services

Local MSP Iain Gray has reacted furiously to a parliamentary reply from rail minister Humza Yousaf in which he described criticism of ScotRail’s services on the North Berwick Line as “unrelenting” and “often unwarranted”.

Reacting to the minister’s reply, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Even by the standards of this complacent and out of touch SNP Government, this response from Humza Yousaf demonstrates incredible arrogance.

“In dismissing entirely legitimate criticism of ScotRail’s performance in East Lothian he appears to suggest that rail users here should just shut up and be happy with their lot, no matter how bad the service they have to endure.

“I have been highlighting flaws in the level of service for passengers in East Lothian for many years now, and have become accustomed to the platitudes of successive SNP rail ministers about plans to improve services here.

“This latest reply is a completely unacceptable way for a minister to respond to concerns about the genuine, ongoing problems faced by passengers on the North Berwick Line.

“Only days after the reply, passengers were left standing at Musselburgh again, with over 70 people packed into a carriage.”

Humza Yousaf clearly either fails to understand the experience of my constituents and others who use this line, or simply doesn’t care. Either way it is not good enough and rail users here deserve better.”

Visit to new Glenkinchie visitor centre

Iain Gray MSP has visited Glenkinchie Distillery to be shown its new £450,000 visitor centre.

Mr Gray met with staff at the distillery and was given a tour of the new centre and updated on other recent developments at the leading county attraction.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I have visited Glenkinchie a number of times in the past, but was keen to see its new visitor centre and also hear about other recent developments at the site.

“The visitor centre is hugely impressive and clearly helps to make visiting the distillery an even more informative and memorable experience for the many thousands who visit each year.

“Last year that was a record 47,000 visitors. This is good news for East Lothian as a whole as Glenkinchie is certainly a draw for tourists to come to the county.

“As well as enhancing the visitor experience and boosting tourism, the investment made will also help the distillery to grow in the future.

“Parent company Diageo use Glenkinchie to host delegations and VIP visitors too, as well they might. I welcome this commitment to the site’s future and the range of jobs it supports.”

Ramsay Borthwick, Glenkinchie Distillery Manager said:

“It was great to have Iain Gray visit the distillery to see the investment we’ve made in our visitor experience.

“Tourism is a hugely important part of what the Scotch whisky industry contributes to Scotland and we believe there’s a big opportunity for further growth in the future, and with the investment we’ve made at Glenkinchie we hope to bring even more tourists to East Lothian.”

Dazzled by Dunbar’s impressive lights display

County MSP Iain Gray is backing plans to expand and improve Dunbar’s already impressive Christmas lights display.

Mr Gray met with organisers over the festive period to discuss the current display and future plans. The team behind the lights took the MSP round the display to talk him through their plans, and to visit their storage/workshop where displays are maintained and created.

Mr Gray was highly impressed with what the group has achieved so far and agreed to support efforts to secure additional funding to implement their strategic plan to expand the display.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Every town and village in East Lothian is rightly proud of their Christmas lights and other festive displays. However, Dunbar was the first to invite me to come for a tour of their display.

“It was immediately clear that the lights sub-committee of the town’s Community Council really has been making a special effort. Now, as the lights are packed away for another year, it is the right time to acknowledge that, and recognise that these displays require an all year round effort, or we would not have them to brighten up the Christmas period at all.

“In fact, the Dunbar team are in the middle of a four-year strategic plan to expand and improve the town’s lights – and it shows. The team took me round the light display to talk me through their plans, and to visit their storage and workshop. They have made various improvements over recent years, paid for by grants and sponsorship from local businesses.

“Complementing other efforts, for example by local traders and the council, this programme is aimed at making Dunbar a destination for more visitors, and the longer term aim is to expand the display so it starts as visitors arrive at the railway station, and leads them beyond the High Street down to Dunbar’s historic harbour.

“We often talk in Parliament about the importance of maintaining the viability of our towns, but what will really do that is the determined efforts of local people like the lighting team in Dunbar. Their focus on developing a whole new winter attraction in the town is very commendable, and they were rewarded with a huge turnout of local people for the lights “switch on”.

“They certainly deserve that support as I know they are already working towards the next stage of their plans, towards an even more dazzling display in December this year.”