scrap the cap

Backing campaign to scrap cap on nurses’ pay

County MSP Iain Gray has given his backing the Royal College of Nursing’s campaign to scrap the one per cent cap on nurses’ pay.

Mr Gray attended the RCN Scotland rally at Parliament this week and signed up to support its campaign to end the pay restraint on nurses and other public sector workers, which has been in place since 2013.

Iain Gray MSP said:

I was delighted to join Labour colleagues in backing the campaign and urging an end to the pay cap for nurses. It cannot be fair that nurses and other public sector workers are effectively experiencing pay cuts when the cost of living continues to rise.

“I want nurses and other public servants in East Lothian to have fair pay increases that reflect the huge contribution they make to society. That has to mean scrapping the pay cap.

“The SNP and Tories have both been all over the place on this issue, with the Tories voting to block an end to the cap at Westminster and the SNP voting against ending it here at Holyrood.

“It is clear that only Labour really values public sector workers and will fight for them to get the fair pay they deserve.”

Mr Gray has also signed up to support the parliamentary motion, below, tabled by his Labour colleague Anas Sarwar, which not a single SNP MSP has supported:

That the Parliament notes the Royal College of Nursing’s scrap the cap campaign, which is asking the UK Government to end the 1% cap on nursing pay increases; understands that nursing pay has reduced by between 9% and 14% in real terms since 2011; notes that the Royal College of Nursing is reporting low levels of morale among its members; believes that the 1% cap on nursing pay devalues nursing staff and nursing, leading to challenges with recruitment and retention; further believes that these challenges with pay, recruitment and retention are putting patient care at risk; recognises that nursing staff’s loss of earnings is severely impacting on their quality of life, and supports the Royal College of Nursing’s scrap the cap campaign.


Iain spells out support for CHAS

Iain Gray MSP attended a drop-in event at parliament this week to pledge support for a new fundraising campaign from Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) called ‘Keep the Joy Alive’.

The campaign is calling on people across Scotland to spell out their names using alphabet stickers, designed by the children supported by CHAS services, and aims to boost awareness of the vital work the charity does as Scotland’s national children’s hospice service, supporting babies, children and young people with life-shortening conditions and their families.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I am delighted that CHAS has launched an ambitious new strategy that will mean many more families across Scotland will benefit from the world-class care and support it provides.

“I’m glad to support them and help to let more people know about the fantastic work they do. I also want to pay tribute to all who work for and volunteer for CHAS, including people in East Lothian, who make such a difference for so many families each and every day.”

CHAS teamed up with a group of creative youngsters supported by its services to design the organisation’s new look. The ‘CHAS Alphabet’ is made up of over 60 bright and beautiful letters, each with a unique story behind it relating to the designer.

The ambitious campaign aims to double the charities income over the next five years to help CHAS and the event was also opportunity for MSPs to learn more about the charities new strategy, Reaching Every Family in Scotland, which sets out the steps the charity will take over the next three years in order to reach every family in Scotland that needs its care.

CHAS Chief Executive, Maria McGill, said:

“It was great to see so many MSPs take time out to support our Keep the Joy Alive campaign by spelling out their names in the CHAS alphabet.  The drop-in session was a welcome opportunity to highlight the importance of high quality palliative care for babies, children and young people in Scotland and we can’t thank Miles Briggs enough for hosting the event.

“We believe that no family who is facing the heartbreak of losing a child should be without our support, but we cannot do this alone. We developed Reaching Every Family in consultation with individuals, organisations and most importantly the families we support and we will continue to work with them to deliver our vision.”

It is hoped that people across Scotland will back the campaign by spelling out their name in the new CHAS alphabet, which is available in sticker form, sharing it on social media and sending their CHAS name to the charity for them to collect. The names will be used to create a major event later this year.


Scotland one step closer to banning fracking

Parliament has moved a step closer to banning fracking in Scotland, following Scottish Labour Environment spokesperson Claudia Beamish’s announcement of her intention to press ahead with a Member’s Bill to outlaw the controversial practice across the country.

A public consultation ahead of the bill found that 87 per cent of respondents were in favour of a ban, with more than 1,000 people responding to the consultation – one of the highest response rates in Scottish Parliament history.

The SNP has failed to rule out introducing fracking, despite the overwhelming public opposition and environmental dangers.

Both Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Green Party MSPs have signed up to support Labour’s Bill, alongside Labour members, allowing the bill to proceed.

Last year, the Scottish Parliament backed a Labour motion to ban fracking in Scotland.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“The SNP has repeatedly failed to ban on-shore fracking in Scotland – so Labour will do it.

“The climate science is irrefutable. Scotland does not need a new fossil fuel as we shift towards a low carbon economy.

“Clean, green jobs of the future in renewables, by contrast, would be localised and could be public sector and co-operative in some cases, rather than multinational. There could also be jobs in retrofitting our homes to tackle fuel poverty.

“People in East Lothian are also rightly concerned about the potential health implications of unconventional oil and gas extraction. 

“This is about Scotland’s future, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the condition we leave our planet in for our children and our grandchildren. 

“The Scottish Parliament has already voted to ban fracking in Scotland, but the SNP has kicked the decision into the long grass. This bill will ban fracking – the people of Scotland do not want it and our environment does not need it.”


Helping to promote MND awareness at charity event

As part of this year’s Global MND Awareness Week activities, Iain Gray MSP attended MND Scotland’s reception at the Scottish Parliament.

There, Mr Gray had the opportunity to meet people who are affected by Motor Neurone Disease (MND), to discuss issues that are important to them.

MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness, which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles. This may cause someone to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink or breathe unaided.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“MND has affected people across Scotland, including here in East Lothian. MND Scotland does a brilliant job providing care and support to people affected by the illness as well as funding cutting edge research to try and find a cure.

“I am pleased to support MND Scotland’s efforts during Awareness Week, to raise the profile of MND and the important work of the charity. It has been really helpful to hear first-hand how I can help make a difference to improve the lives of those affected by MND in East Lothian.”

MND Scotland Chief Executive Craig Stockton said:

“MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness with no effective treatment and no cure. During MND Awareness Week 2017 we want to increase public awareness and understanding of MND. It is so important that MSPs understand how they can help those affected by this devastating disease now and in the future.

“Funding for MND research also continues to be a priority for MND Scotland. I am delighted to announce we are investing a further £583,000 into four new research projects, which will take us one step closer to finding a cure for this cruel disease. With your support we can do more! Text CUREMND to 70660 to donate £5 to MND Scotland.

“Join the MND fight today and help us create a world without MND tomorrow.”

Pans tapestry

Prestonpans Battle Tapestry exhibition launched at Holyrood

Iain Gray MSP was at the official opening of the Prestonpans Battle Tapestry exhibition at the Scottish Parliament this week, with Deputy Presiding Officer Christine Grahame, Chief Stitcher Dorie Wilkie, and Arran Johnston of the Prestonpans Battle Trust.

The tapestry, which will be on display at the Scottish Parliament from until 20th July, tells the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s triumphant passage to Scotland. It includes 10 million colourful stitches, took 25,000 painstaking hours to complete and depicts the journey of one of Scotland’s most famous historical characters.

The tapestry is one of the largest in the world and illustrates the Jacobite victory at the Battle of Prestonpans against the redcoat British Army on 21 September 1745.

The artist Andrew Crummy, who also created The Great Tapestry of Scotland, worked with hundreds of stitchers in Scotland, France, Australia and the USA to bring the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites to life in this piece of art.

Speaking about the Tapestry’s arrival at Holyrood, Iain Gray MSP said:

“A few months ago the Prestonpans Battle Trust asked me if I thought the Scottish Parliament would display the Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry. I made the approach, and was delighted to find out that they were very keen to do so.

“For one thing, the previous exhibitions of the Great Tapestry of Scotland were the most successful ever mounted in parliament. Furthermore, there is a major Jacobite Exhibition in the National Museum of Scotland right now, so exhibiting the tapestry in Parliament complements that very well for tourists (and Scots) alike.

“At 104 metres long, this is one of the world’s longest tapestries. It includes 10 million stitches, was created by 200 community stitchers and tells the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s journey from exile to victory on the battlefield in 1745.

“Work continues to try and find a permanent home for the tapestry in East Lothian, but in the meantime you can see it in the Parliament, free, from now until 20th July.”


Chippendale School graduation ceremony

Iain Gray MSP  has presented certificates to graduating students at the renowned Chippendale School of Furniture in Gifford, including Australian Nigel Goodwin who won Student of the Year.  

The retired tax inspector, from Murrumbateman near Canberra, was awarded the Student of the Year prize from Scotland’s only furniture design school, and is taking a little piece of Australia back home with him.

As well as presenting the certificates, Mr Gray is also sponsoring an exhibition of student works at the Scottish Parliament later this month.

The Chippendale school in East Lothian takes students from around the world for its immersive furniture design courses. This year, students came from the UK, USA, Germany, Austria, Poland, India, Singapore, South Korea and Australia.

Speaking after the graduation ceremony, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I was delighted to present the graduation certificates at the end of this year’s course.  Every year I am astonished by the originality and craftsmanship of the pieces produced by the School’s students, and this year was no exception.

“The remarkable work the Chippendale School does is known worldwide through ex-students and the furniture making community, but it deserves to be better known here in the County, and wider Scotland too.  It really is unique.

“That is why I am so pleased that for the second time, a selection of this year’s graduates’ work will be displayed in the Scottish Parliament in a week or so.”


School Proposals Ignore Local Views

County MSP Iain Gray has expressed grave concerns about a shakeup of Schools governance announced by Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney, in the face of opposition from local parents and teachers.

Iain Gray said:

“When John Swinney suggested centralising our schools and side-lining our democratically elected Council from the running of local schools, many County parent Councils expressed grave concerns, which I shared.

“In fact, Parents, teachers, head teachers, educationalists and councils from across Scotland all told John Swinney he was barking up the wrong tree.

“He has now refused to listen, and is pressing ahead.  He is planning to appoint “Regional Directors” for schools who will be answerable to Education Scotland, and ultimately himself, not our local councillors.

“Meanwhile Headteachers are to be given new responsibilities over staffing, budgets and curriculum, leading to fears they will become administrators rather than teachers.

“As in many parts of Scotland we have struggled in East Lothian to recruit head teachers for some schools, because many feel the job is impossible already.  This can only make that worse.

“The worst thing about this reorganising and new bureaucracy is that there is not a word of more resources or more teachers in our schools.

“Parents, teachers, and even Parliament has been telling John Swinney for many months now that more resources are what our schools need, but he refuses to listen.”


Debt for county students has doubled

Newly published figures have revealed that average student debt in Scotland has doubled under the SNP government.

The SNP promised to scrap student debt upon coming to power in 2007. Instead it has soared from around £6,000 to £11,740. Figures published by the Student Loans Company today also show that average student debt in Scotland rose by 13 per cent last year alone.

Labour said one of the key reasons for this is SNP cuts to student support, including bursaries and grants for students from poorer backgrounds. Hundreds of students in East Lothian are suffering under this increasing debt burden, which threatens to deter those from less well-off families from going to university.

Iain Gray MSP said:   

“The SNP came to power promising to abolish student debt, but instead ministers dumped their manifesto promise and doubled the debt. These numbers should shame John Swinney, who is no better than Nick Clegg when it comes to breaking promises to students. 

“Local students have told me that the SNP’s decision in 2013 to slash support grants and bursaries available to those from poorer backgrounds means more and more students have to turn to loans to get through their studies. 

“Students need much better financial support to get through university when they get there, and graduates should have a higher threshold for wages before they have to repay debt. 

“Today in Scotland it is the poorest students who rack up the highest debts in Scotland. Those who start with the least end up owing the most. That’s not fair and it stops far too many young people getting a degree.”


Backing Malawi partnership and championing the Global Goals

Iain Gray MSP has pledged his support for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a recent exhibition in the Scottish Parliament.

The exhibition, “Scotland, Malawi and the Global Goals”, created by the Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP), aims to create awareness of the SDGs in every constituency across Scotland and is asking MSPs to help them achieve this.

Scotland was amongst the first to sign up to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (or ‘Global Goals’) when they were launched in 2015. Each of Scotland’s major political parties has committed to the delivery of these goals which will fight inequality, poverty and climate change in every country over the next 15 years.

Today, more than 94,000 Scots are actively involved in a civic link with Malawi and some 46% of all Scots can name a friend or family member personally involved. This is one of the world’s strongest people-to-people relationships, with more than £40m a year being contributed by Scottish civic society for the benefit of more than 4 million Malawians and 300,000 Scots a year.

MSPs continue to be twinned with Malawian MPs, the Scottish Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has an active link with the National Assembly in Malawi, and the Parliament’s Malawi Cross Party Group continues to be active in briefing and engaging MSPs.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“The Scottish Parliament has been at the forefront of the bilateral relationship since 2005 when the then President of Malawi was the first Head of State to visit the reconvened Parliament, to sign the historic Cooperation Agreement.

“Our partnership with Malawi has grown year on year and been a huge success. Partnerships and civic links have developed at national, regional and community level, and East Lothian has certainly played its part in this work.

“The “Scotland, Malawi and the Global Goals” exhibition highlighted the spirit of dignified partnership behind these bilateral people-to-people links, as a powerful example of how Scotland can take a distinctive and effective approach to implementing the Global Goals.

“I am confident that the links with groups across Scotland, including those here in East Lothian, will continue to grow in ways that are beneficial to both Malawian and Scottish society.”

David Hope-Jones, Chief Executive of the Scotland Malawi Partnership said:

“It’s inspiring to see more and more communities across Scotland becoming involved in the SDGs in Scotland.

“An estimated 46% of Scots personally know someone with a Malawi link. This is a unique whole-nation effort: an example of civic activism and partnership which has gathered significant interest in the UN as the Global Goals are launched.”

Tranent Juniors

Motion applauds Tranent Juniors’ double cup success

Iain Gray MSP has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating Tranent Juniors on the club’s recent double cup success.

Mr Gray’s motion highlights the team’s outstanding achievement in winning both the Fife and Lothians and East of Scotland cups, and also congratulates Dunbar United on winning the South Division title. His motion also wishes all of the county’s clubs success for the forthcoming 2017/18 season.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Tranent has been buzzing following the club’s double-cup success. Everyone at the club deserves great credit for this outstanding achievement, which is good not only for the club and the town, but also for Junior football across East Lothian.

“I am pleased to help support Tranent Juniors’ cup celebrations, as well as Dunbar United’s title success, with this motion at Holyrood, and hope that all of our local clubs will enjoy further success next season.”