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.

Helping to raise awareness of Lyme disease

May is Lyme Awareness month and local MSP Iain Gray is supporting efforts to increase awareness of the disease, which affects around 3,000 people per year in the UK.

Mr Gray met with representatives of Lyme Disease UK at Holyrood to discuss the charity’s work campaigning for better awareness, research, testing and treatment of the disease, the most common human tick-borne infectious disease in the northern hemisphere.

The disease causes widespread symptoms which can often be mistaken for various other illnesses such as ‘summer flu’, fibromyalgia, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, MS and Parkinson’s.

Iain Gray MSP said:

 “There are at least 3,000 cases of Lyme disease across the UK each year. People have a much better chance of recovering from the disease if they are treated early. If left untreated, there can be severe complications.

“Lyme Disease UK wants to ensure the public are more aware of the danger of ticks, as well as learning prevention and correct tick removal techniques to help minimise the chances of contracting the disease in the first place.

“As the disease is particularly prevalent in rural, especially woodland areas, people in East Lothian need to be conscious of the threat it poses. I also want to see better support and treatment options on the NHS for patients who have Lyme disease.”

Find out more about Lyme disease at http://lymediseaseuk.com/

‘Edinburgh People’ exhibition at Holyrood

A local man’s unique vision of Edinburgh, as seen through the lens of his work as a city taxi driver, has been on display in the Scottish Parliament this week.

The ‘Edinburgh People’ photography exhibition in Holyrood’s Garden Lobby tells the story of the people who live and visit the capital, with pictures taken by Tranent resident Ryan Walls using his black cab as a mobile studio.

A reception to mark Mr Walls’ work was also hosted by Lothian MSP Kezia Dugdale, who has taken a taxi ride and was photographed as part of the exhibition.

Iain Gray MSP met Mr Walls at Holyrood and heard more about the work that went into creating his photographic exhibition.

Speaking afterwards, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Ryan’s exhibition provides a unique insight into the lives and stories of some of the people who live and visit Edinburgh. Using his cab as a mobile studio, he has produced a fascinating look at life in the capital, which has been on display at Holyrood this week.

“The exhibition has proved popular with MSPs, staff and visitors and Ryan deserves great credit for his innovative and interactive idea which explores Edinburgh in a way never seen before.”

Find out more about the exhibition and Ryan’s other work on his Facebook page –  www.facebook.com/edinburghcabby/

Iain submits ‘Hands off Cockenzie’ petition to minister

Iain Gray MSP met with campaigners from East Lothian today to collect the ‘Hands off Cockenzie’ petition demanding the SNP Government returns the planning application for a substation on the former Cockenzie power station site to East Lothian Council.

The county’s MSP was joined by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard MSP who added his support to the petition before Mr Gray took it away to submit to Kevin Stewart MSP, the planning minister.

Speaking after he submitted the petition, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Sadly, East Lothian is well used to SNP ministers interfering in local planning issues and imposing unwanted applications on communities here. We have seen it with numerous applications for new housing, as well as with the waste incinerator plant outside Dunbar.

“But Ministers have really overstepped the mark with the call-in of the substation on the former Cockenzie power station site. They claim it is because the site is of national importance, but even the leader of the SNP group on the Council has condemned the decision as unnecessary.

“By signing our petition in such large numbers local people have sent a clear message to ministers that they want East Lothian to make decisions about the future of the Cockenzie site. I hope that the SNP will now for once listen to local communities and return this decision to local councillors and communities.”

Surgeries cancelled on 25th May

Please note that due to a Scottish Parliament holiday on Friday 25th May, Iain’s regular surgeries in Prestonpans and Tranent will not take place.

If you have a query or issue to raise with Iain, please either phone his office on 01620 822711 or email iain.gray.msp@parliament.scot

Push the boat out this May

Last Saturday, Iain Gray MSP North Berwick Yacht Club to help support the Royal Yachting Association’s #Pushtheboatout campaign, which is encouraging people to try sailing this May.

Speaking after his visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I was delighted to join members of North Berwick Yacht Club in helping to promote the RYA’s #Pushthe boatdout campaign.

“It was a perfect afternoon for sailing and I hope the message gets out to as many people as possible in East Lothian that they should consider giving sailing a try this month.”

You can find out more about the campaign and how to try sailing at www.rya.org.uk//programmes/push-the-boat-out/Pages/hub.aspx

Backing fresh calls for halt to RBS closures

Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP are backing fresh calls for RBS branch closures to be halted, following the appearance of Group Chief Executive Ross McEwan and Personal & Business Banking CEO Les Matheson in front of the Scottish Affairs Committee yesterday.

Labour MP Ged Killen pressed Mr McEwan and Mr Matheson on claims that the bank had been involved in “horse-trading” and guarantees to save a limited number of branches in order to avoid Mr McEwan being asked to appear in front of the committee again.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Midlothian MP Danielle Rowley questioned Mr McEwan on provision of mobile banking to replace lost branches and challenged RBS on its failure to promote those mobile banking services.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“RBS has completely misjudged the level of opposition to its latest round of closures. Bank officials have been thrashing about looking for something to soften the blow and lift the political pressure, but the fact is that pressure is not going away.

“We have already seen the bank fail to live up to its promises on mobile banking, with several communities facing a marked decrease in the time available. The impact of the branch closures will be much more widespread and permanent.

“The only way for them to salvage something out of this mess and rebuild some faith with local customers and communities is to drop the planned closures and start investing in proper community banking in East Lothian and across Scotland.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“The horse-trading with members of the Scottish Affairs committee over the numbers of branches which would remain open in the run up to this appearance suggests that the criteria RBS were using was more about avoiding political pressure rather than reflecting the true needs of Scottish consumers.

“The answers given by Mr McEwan to the committee were vague when members wanted specifics and focused on specifics when they asked for the bigger picture.

“Labour has been clear that the RBS branch closure programme must be halted and reversed. It is wishful thinking on RBS’s part to think that online, telephone and mobile banking can fill the gap left by lost branches. East Lothian has suffered enough on branch losses. It’s time for RBS to think again and halt the closure of its Dunbar and North Berwick branches.”

 

Iain congratulates Grace on Points of Light Award

Iain Gray MSP has added his congratulations to local campaigner Grace Warnock, from Prestonpans, following the news she has been awarded a prestigious Points of Light Award for promoting disability awareness across Scotland through her Grace’s Sign campaign.

Grace is the latest recipient of the Points of Light award, which is given by the Prime Minister and recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.

Speaking about Grace’s success, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I have been honoured to help and support Grace and her campaign from the outset. She has been instrumental in raising awareness about disabilities that cannot always be seen and the needs of the people living with these conditions. She showed great insight in coming up with the idea of Grace’s Sign in the first place, and her dedication to carrying it out has been exceptional.

“Throughout the campaign Grace has had to cope with all the usual pressures of growing up as well as managing her own condition. Her commitment to this cause is truly inspirational and she fully deserves this latest recognition for her work.”

Martin Whitfield MP, who presented Grace with her award on behalf of the Prime Minister, said:

“Grace has received many accolades and awards for her amazing ‘Grace’s Sign’ campaign, all of which are very well deserved. It has had a profound and far-reaching impact on awareness about the lives of people with ‘invisible’ disabilities and understanding of their need to use accessible toilets.

“This Points of Light award puts Grace in a very select group of outstanding volunteers across the UK. It is an honour to be able to present her with the award and I wish Grace and her family continued success with the campaign.”

Grace Warnock said:

“Thank you so much for my Point of Light Award and for raising awareness of my Grace’s Sign Campaign. It is awesome to receive this award in the Year of Young People here in Scotland. I promise to continue with my campaign and raise awareness of all invisible disabilities.”

Ongoing local rail issues highlighted at public meeting

Yesterday’s rail public meeting, organised by Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP, saw a wide range of points and questions raised by audience members about ongoing problems with local services.

Key issues highlighted at the meeting included overcrowding and delays, especially on peak time services, ticket machine failures, passenger ‘holding’ at Waverley station, fare increases, lack of parking at some stations, access for disabled people and future capacity on the line.

Responding to the concerns raised, ScotRail representatives confirmed plans they claimed will finally tackle the problems, including new, longer trains and other service improvements, by the end of this year.

Speaking afterwards, Iain Gray MSP said:

“This was a worthwhile event which offered local rail users the opportunity to have their say on services on the North Berwick line. It was clear from the number of people attending and the questions asked that many serious problems remain, not least persistent overcrowding on peak services.

“We were pleased that the ScotRail representatives attended the meeting and listened to the concerns raised. They will certainly have been left in no doubt about the ongoing problems local rail users continue to experience. Now we need to ensure that the changes ScotRail outlined at the meeting are actually delivered and passengers see real improvements in the months and years ahead.

“As well as the immediate problems of overcrowded trains there was a lot of concern about what would happen when the County has 10,000 more houses in place.  Scotrail were clear that they do not have plans in place for this, and the implication was that the longer trains they are promising will just become overcrowded all over again thanks to these developments.

“As one speaker pointed out, it was the Scottish Government who imposed 10,000 houses on East Lothian, and the Scottish Government should be funding the transport improvements we need. That is a point I intend to make as strongly as possible in Parliament, and I have already put a question down for ministers.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“I was delighted to see so many local rail users at this important meeting. Many of the problems raised, such as overcrowding and ticketing failures, have been ongoing for years and were highlighted at last year’s public meeting. The fact that people were complaining again shows how little progress has been made on many of these issues.

“ScotRail did use the meeting to set out new commitments that they claim will deal with some of the main problems. But, as was mentioned frequently by audience members, we have heard such promises before here in East Lothian and they have largely failed to materialise.

“I will continue to work with Iain and others locally to keep up the pressure for change and fight for the delivery of the modern, reliable rail services that local passengers need and deserve.”

Iain backs campaign to protect pets sold online

National animal charity Blue Cross is calling on the Scottish Parliament to urgently change legislation to protect the tens of thousands of pets sold online each year in Scotland.

The invisibility of pet sellers who advertise through websites allows vendors and breeders to avoid legislation and breed pets in unregulated and often poor conditions.

Research conducted by Blue Cross found 588 adverts for dogs, cats and rabbits on the leading three classified websites in East Lothian last year. In Scotland the total number of adverts was 40,997.

Blue Cross wants to see a system where all breeders and sellers are registered and licensed and that local authorities have the tools, training and budget needed to properly protect pets being sold online.

Iain Gray MSP met with the charity’s representatives at Parliament last week and gave his backing to its call to make much needed changes to legislation to ensure all pets are bred, sold and rehomed responsibly.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“The scale of pets being advertised and sold online is a real cause for concern. Many sellers are unlicensed and some prioritise profit over animal welfare. It is essential that the Scottish Government look at outdated pet sales legislation and ensure all sellers are part of a system of registration and licensing to maximise legal protection for pets.”

Becky Thwaites, Head of Public Affairs at Blue Cross, said:

“We know there is already appetite among MSPs to improve legislation regarding the sale of animals sold in pet shops and we hope they agree that the next step is to examine regulations around pets sold online in Scotland.”

Backing for local man’s epic cycling challenge

County MSP Iain Gray is backing Gordon Paterson’s fundraising cycling challenge for Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS).

Mr Gray met up with Gordon at Haddington Farmers’ Market as he promoted his epic journeys, which will seem him cycle the length of Britain and breadth of his native Canada.

The MSP has also been helping Gordon and CHSS co-ordinate awareness activity at the Scottish parliament ahead of the start of his challenge on 30 May.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Gordon’s cycling challenge is a huge undertaking but having chatted to him about his great commitment to the cause, I have no doubt he will complete it and raise vital funds for Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland.

“It is a really remarkable effort and I am very pleased to support his challenge and wish him the very best of luck with completing it.”

Find out more about Gordon’s challenge at www.theroadipedal.com