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Motion welcomes Gifford Community Woodland’s award success

Iain Gray MSP has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament welcoming Gifford Community Woodland’s success at a prestigious national awards ceremony.

The community-owned woodland won in the Large Community Woodland of the Year category at this year’s Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards, which were presented at the Royal Highland Show last Friday.

Commenting on the success, Iain Gray MSP said:

“This is fantastic and very well deserved recognition for everyone involved in Gifford Community Woodland. The fact that they have been presented with this award only two years after the community bought the woods is a huge tribute to the hard work that has gone into developing the area for local people and visitors.

“I was keen to welcome this outstanding achievement in Parliament and wish all of the group’s volunteers continued success with developing the woods for the local community.”

The full motion is as follows:

Gifford Community Woodland Success at Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards

That the Parliament welcomes Gifford Community Woodland’s outstanding success in being named Large Community Woodland of the Year at the 2019 Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards; notes that this achievement comes only two years after the woods were purchased by the local community; congratulates the volunteers, board and steering committee on this fantastic achievement, and wishes them continued success with their work developing the woodland as a valuable resource for the whole of the local community.

Celebrating Armed Forces Day in East Lothian

Iain Gray MSP joined councillors, including Provost John McMillan, council officials, other dignitaries and veterans at East Lothian’s Armed Forces Day flag raising ceremony today at Haddington Town House.

The Council is flying the special flag to help mark this year’s UK Armed Forces Day which takes place on Saturday 29th June.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I was pleased to join dignitaries, including Provost Councillor John McMillan, and local veterans at East Lothian’s flag raising ceremony for Armed Forces Day this morning in Haddington.

“Our county has a close association with the UK’s Armed Forces, with many local families proud of their connection to the Services. It is right that we honour their contribution and thank them for all they for us on this special day.”

Find out more about this year’s Armed Forces Day

Visiting award-winning local games studio

Iain Gray MSP and Iain Gray MSP have visited the East Linton office of award-winning games developer 4J Studios following its key role in Minecraft becoming the best selling game of all time.

Established in 2005, 4J has its Headquarters in Dundee, while most of the software development work is undertaken in East Linton. It has an extremely experienced core team of designers, technology and games programmers and artists. The company’s ethos is to combine innovation, creativity and technical excellence with efficient production practices.

Minecraft has now sold over 176 million copies worldwide, making it the best selling game ever. 4J is best known for developing Minecraft Console Edition which is a version of the game released on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Wii U and Nintendo Switch, and this version has contributed over 66 million sales to the overall figure.

Following this remarkable milestone, Mr Whitfield and Mr Gray tabled motions in their respective parliaments marking the achievement and congratulating the 4J team in East Linton on their part in this success. The pair were welcomed to 4J’s East Linton office by CEO Paddy Burns to meet the team and hear more about the work undertaken there and at the company’s HQ in Dundee.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“There are many remarkable success stories in East Lothian and 4J Studios is right up there with the best of them. Staff in the East Linton office have played a central role in Minecraft’s stunning worldwide success and can rightly be very proud of their achievement.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to meet the team in East Linton and discuss how they developed Minecraft for consoles, as well as some of the company’s plans for developing new games. Its clear that 4J is set to go from strength to strength and it’s great that East Lothian is a part of the company’s success.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“It is wonderful that a business located here in East Lothian has enjoyed such phenomenal global success with Minecraft. It is a game that has brought so much enjoyment to children across the world and has also been an inspiration to anyone interested in gaming technology.

“I was pleased to help mark the game’s international success and the contribution of the team in East Linton with a motion at Westminster and look forward to continuing to follow 4J’s innovative work in the future.”

Paddy Burns, CEO of 4J, said:

“It’s been incredible to have played a part in the Minecraft phenomenon for the past eight years, and to be able to do this from East Linton in East Lothian shows anything is possible!”

Find out more about 4J Studios at

New planning rights for communities blocked in Parliament

Local MSP Iain Gray has slammed the ‘SNP-Tory’ stitch up of the Planning Bill, warning that it has become a missed opportunity to deliver transformative change for local communities.

The SNP and Scottish Conservatives joined forces to block Labour’s plans to secure the power for a community right of appeal as well as remove key changes made by MSPs at an earlier stage.

Scottish Labour has been pushing for amendments that would rebalance power in the planning system, and give communities a right of appeal with developers to level the playing field and make the system fairer.

Iain Gray MSP has said that such a move would have ensured that more planning decisions for East Lothian would be taken in East Lothian, where we have seen so many local planning decisions overturned by Scottish Ministers in recent years.

But SNP and Tory MSPs voted against the proposals to reform the planning appeal system, choosing instead to side with big developers, and keep power in the hands of Ministers rather than local people.

Scottish Labour pushed for amendments to:

  • Give communities a right of appeal on proposed developments
  • Secure more protections for live music venues
  • Require the Scottish Government to legislate for land value sharing to allow for more public sector led development and increasing land values to be invested in communities
  • Put public health at the heart of the planning system

In the final vote, Labour MSPs opposed the Bill as a whole, but once again SNP and Conservative MSPs combined to push it through.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“The Planning Bill has become an SNP-Tory stitch up which fails to deliver the transformative change our local communities in East Lothian need.

“The SNP teamed up with the Tories to push through their timid approach to planning reform, blocking the chance to give local people more say in decisions about our local area.

“Communities across East Lothian have suffered more than anyone from planning decisions being overturned by Scottish Ministers, so it’s a shameful missed opportunity.

“SNP Ministers have failed to read the public mood on planning, and have chosen to side with big developers over local people.”

Remembering Srebrenica in North Berwick

Iain Gray MSP has joined Chair of Remembering Srebrenica Scotland, Lorna Hood, and fellow MSP Kezia Dugdale at the Lothian East Guilds Together Summer Rally in North Berwick.

Speaking after the event, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Last November I visited Bosnia on a delegation led by the Chair of Remembering Srebrenica Scotland, Lorna Hood, a former moderator of the Church of Scotland, and Kezia Dugdale MSP.

“I was pleased to join Lorna and Kez at this event at St Andrews Blackadder Church. Lorna gave a moving account of what happened at Srebrenica 24 years ago when 8000 Bosniak men were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb Paramilitaries.

“Kez used the life story of four Bosnian women to illustrate how women were victims too, subjected to rape as a weapon of war and genocide, and how they have fought back, working to this day for justice and to see the guilty punished.

“It was a powerful and emotional evening, with many present remembering the Bosnian refugees who were welcomed to the reception centre in North Berwick all those years ago.

“Lorna’s message as always was a very direct one – we must never tolerate hate, prejudice or division , because if this happened in Bosnia, it can happen anywhere.”

Quizzed by PL Modern Studies students

Iain Gray MSP has visited Preston Lodge High School for a Q & A session with a Modern Studies Higher class.

The visit came about because the class is visiting the Scottish Parliament next week but Mr Gray will not be available to meet them at that time.

Speaking after his visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Whenever local schools visit the Scottish Parliament, I make time to meet with them and answer their questions as part of their programme. Unfortunately, when Preston Lodge Modern Studies Higher class visit next week that just will not be possible, so instead I went into the school.

“That meant they got an hour to grill me instead of 30 minutes, and some of the N5 and Advanced Higher class joined in too! As you might expect from students who have been working on democracy for a few months, the questions were searching and wide ranging from Brexit to the importance of parliamentary committees.

“I wish them all good luck with the visit and with their essays and exams!”

Motion welcomes local success at ScotRail community awards

Iain Gray MSP has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament welcoming the success of Rosie Oberlander at the first ever ScotRail community awards.

Rosie, who led the work of North Berwick in Bloom’s station adopters group, was the winner in the Station Adopter of the Year award category.

Mr Gray’s motion congratulates Rosie on her success and also praises the work of her fellow volunteers in North Berwick in Bloom who have done such a wonderful job in the town for many years.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Rosie’s success in being named Station Adopter of the Year at these inaugural awards is a fantastic achievement and one I was delighted to acknowledge in Parliament.

“The award is very well deserved recognition of the huge effort she and her fellow volunteers in North Berwick in Bloom make year in year out to ensure the town looks at its very best for local people and visitors.”

The full motion is as follows:

That the Parliament congratulates Rosie Oberlander, head of North Berwick in Bloom’s station adopters group, on her success in the Station Adopter of the Year category at the first ScotRail Community Awards; understands that, as the head of the group, Rosie’s tasks included ensuring the annual planting schedule was followed and watering all the planters at the station; notes that North Berwick station was one of three shortlisted for a national station award in 2018 and that the appearance of the station has made a significant contribution to North Berwick in Bloom’s success in Beautiful Scotland and Britain in Bloom, and pays tribute to Rosie’s dedication, leadership and enthusiasm, as well as all of her fellow volunteers in North Berwick in Bloom for their hard work throughout the year.

Carers Week visit to Leuchie House

Iain Gray MSP has visited Leuchie House to discuss the issues faced by carers as part of the charity’s activities to mark Carers Week.

Leuchie House is the leading Scottish destination for those with long term conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease, Stroke and Parkinson’s and seeking a short break care. It provides invaluable respite for carers from their day-to-day caring responsibilities.

Speaking after his visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Leuchie House provides exceptional service for its guests and their carers. It has always focused on the needs of both those living with MS and other long term conditions and those with caring responsibilities.

“As well as providing excellent holiday experiences and specialised care, staff and volunteers at Leuchie are also powerful advocates for carers’ rights and have helped give voice to the needs of unpaid carers, especially during Carers Week.

“I welcomed this latest opportunity to meet with carers at Leuchie and thank them for taking the time to talk to me about their own experiences of caring for a loved one. There is still much to do to ensure that carers receive the support and resources they deserve.”

Chief Executive of Leuchie House, Mark Bevan added:

“Caring for a loved one may be thought of as a duty. It is one which can be as demanding as it is rewarding, with one in five carers not having had a break for more than five years, it can also be exhausting. Leuchie House is all about giving people with long-term conditions an outstanding holiday experience as well as offering a respite break to those with caring responsibilities.

“Carers Week gives us the opportunity to raise the issues faced by carers and those in receipt of care whilst their carer has a break. We are pleased to see and receive Scottish Government support and it is absolutely right that the experience of carers is heard, loud and clear.

“However, for many, the experience of respite care can be a difficult choice: the exhaustion of caring or the guilt of placing a loved one, in their 40’s and 50’s in a wholly inappropriate, temporarily available bed in an older people’s nursing home. The right to respite has to be met with resources which are appropriate to the need. We are delighted to have the chance to discuss these issues with Iain here at Leuchie, where we are trying to make respite a truly positive choice.”

Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.

Motion congratulates Scott Glynn on MBE award

A motion marking the award of the MBE to Scott Glynn in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List has been tabled at Holyrood by local MSP, Iain Gray.

As well as congratulating Scott on his success in being awarded the honour, the motion also highlights the outstanding achievements made through his Walk with Scott Foundation fundraising activities for which he received the MBE.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Scott Glynn has been a high profile and well liked local character for many years. Since 2013, his Walk with Scott Foundation fundraising activities have resulted in significant benefits for local charities, community groups and good causes.  

“Scott’s own personal health struggle has also been well documented in recent years, but he never let that stop his charitable work. He is a genuine local hero and fully deserves this recognition of everything he has done to support people in need across East Lothian.”

The full motion reads:

That the Parliament congratulates the Tranent resident, Scott Glynn, on being appointed an MBE for services to charity in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List; notes that Scott started his Walk with Scott fundraising activities in 2013 to assist local causes and organisations, before formally establishing the Walk with Scott Foundation in 2017; further notes that the foundation has now raised over £300,000 in support of dozens of different community groups and charities, and believes that Scott’s outstanding efforts on behalf of communities and individuals across East Lothian makes him a very worthy appointment of an MBE.

Raising awareness of cervical screening

To mark Cervical Screening Awareness Week (10-16th June), local MSP Iain Gray has teamed up with charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, to encourage people to attend their smear test in order to prevent cervical cancer.

Around 220,000 women are diagnosed with cell changes (abnormalities) every year in the UK following a smear test.  Treatment for cell changes, given to prevent development of cervical cancer, is highly successful and 80% treated will not experience a recurrence.

However, new research by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has found that some women having treatment for cervical cell changes are not being informed about potential side effects. Many are unprepared for impacts such as pelvic pain, bleeding, anxiety and even loss of sex life, with the severity of some far greater than the current literature suggests. High numbers remain fearful of their cancer risk many years after treatment.

The new report ‘Not so simple. The impact of cervical cell changes and treatment’ highlights one in five (20%) of the 1,622 women surveyed said possible impacts of treatment were not explained to them.  There was variation in the number aware of specific side effects. While 86% experienced bleeding or spotting for up to 6 weeks, one in seven (15%) were unaware of this common side effect.  The charity wants to see standardised information about potential side effects.

Iain Gray MSP said: 

“I am pleased to support Cervical Screening Awareness Week to highlight the importance of cervical screening, a 5 minute test that can prevent cervical cancer.  220,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with cell changes from their smear test every year which can be a confusing and distressing diagnosis.   

“Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust have published a useful ‘jargon buster’ to explain what all the terms mean and are calling for more support for those affected.”

Rebecca Shoosmith, Head of Support Services, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said:

“While treatment for cell changes remains highly effective, we must start to see it as more than just a simple procedure and acknowledge the impact diagnosis and treatment can have on women. There has been lots of focus on the needs of those attending screening, and of those with a cancer diagnosis, but this is a group who have previously been overlooked. Better information provision and support for those having treatment is essential.

 “While for many women diagnosis and treatment is relatively straightforward, it is clear that for others it is the opposite. The psychological impact can be significant and feeling uninformed will only add to women feeling less able to seek support. While appointment time in colposcopy is limited, there is a clear need for greater discussion about side effects. Other health professionals such as GPs and practice nurses should also take the time to ask questions and ascertain if further support is needed.”

Marianne Wood, Nurse Colposcopist said:

“This report provides an opportunity for Colposcopists to look at their existing practice and identify where improvements are needed.

“This includes looking at the written information provided and how much time is dedicated to talking with patients before and after treatment. It is vital that women fully understand what is happening to them and feel able to manage any side effects. We must remember that every woman is different and will need an individualised approach to their treatment.”