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ScotRail reply still not good enough

Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP have vowed to keep up the pressure on ScotRail and the Transport Secretary to deliver the modern, reliable rail service commuters in East Lothian need.

The renewed commitment to campaigning for rail change follows another disappointing response from ScotRail to the parliamentarians’ letter last month challenging ScotRail’s chief to meet promises made by the company on the county’s rail services.

ScotRail’s reply reiterates the same excuses the company has used before, including the late arrival of new and refurbished trains and industrial action, and outlines the measures it is taking to improve local services. It also offers another apology for the inconvenience caused to constituents.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“East Lothian rail users are rightly fed up with ScotRail’s litany of excuses and hollow apologies for their ongoing service failures.

“Actions always speak louder than words. I will not let up in highlighting the problems experienced by constituents and demanding change until we see sustained improvements in the way ScotRail delivers local services.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“Once again, ScotRail’s reply to our service challenge says all the right things about delivering more staff and investing in new and upgraded trains to improve performance. The problem is that we have heard it all before but things never seem to get better.

“We need to see clear and continuous progress on the county’s rail services before anyone can take ScotRail’s promises seriously.”

Local rural leaders join Iain at Holyrood

Two prominent local businesspeople have met with Iain Gray MSP at a Holyrood reception organised through a prestigious Scotland-wide rural leaders programme.

Helen Gray, from Smeaton Nursery Gardens and Tearoom at East Linton, and Graham Miller, of Prora Farm near Drem, visited the Scottish Parliament as part of their participation in this year’s Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership programme.

The annual leadership programme for rural business owners and managers offers participants 13 days of activities, including leadership coaching workshops, one-to-one business focus sessions, a business strategy workshop and team working on rural innovation projects.

The programme also includes visits to Holyrood, as well as to the UK and European Parliaments.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Given the rural nature of the East Lothian constituency, the Scottish Enterprise rural leadership programme is particularly valuable for business owners and managers. I know that several local people have participated and benefited from the programme over the years.

“The programme is an intensive opportunity for rural leaders to develop their skills and explore ways of growing their business, as well as offering the chance to network with colleagues from across Scotland.

“Helen and Graham are already working in well-established and successful enterprises, but I hope that they have found the programme, including the visit to Parliament, helpful in developing their leadership skills and giving them new business ideas.”

Graham Miller from Prora Farm said:

“I would like to express my thanks to Iain Gray MSP for making time in his busy schedule to meet with us.  My participation in the Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programme has been a challenging and rewarding experience.  It has provided support and encouragement, and has helped to develop the skills needed to allow a rural business to grow and thrive.”

Aberlady Primary School mock election

Iain Gray MSP has visited Aberlady Primary School to participate in a mock election organised by P7 pupils.

Mr Gray, who had welcomed the pupils to Holyrood last month, listened to the pupils’ election speeches and pledges before they cast their votes, with the Aberlady Eco Party winning.

Speaking after the event, Iain Gray MSP said:

“It was a privilege to help with the P7’s mock election, when all five “parties” really did themselves, and Aberlady Primary proud.  I met the class a few weeks ago and they quizzed me on many aspects of politics and being a politician.  Their policies, election leaflets and speeches clearly showed they had been listening hard. 

“In particular they were all very passionate in their arguments about improvements to the school, the village and the planet.  Perhaps the Aberlady Eco Party were thinking biggest, with their well thought out programme to act local, but think globally, and that vision may have been the secret to their election success.  Well done to everyone involved.”

Iain welcomes commitment to CPR training in local schools

Iain Gray MSP has welcomed the announcement that secondary school pupils in East Lothian will all have access to CPR training before they leave school.

The decision follows a nationwide campaign by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland charity encouraging councils across Scotland to make the life-saving commitment.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I’m really pleased that East Lothian is among the local authorities to commit to training all secondary pupils in CPR. This move will bring about significant educational and health benefits for the pupils and their local communities.

“It’s important not only because it means they could potentially help save the life of a loved one, friend or someone else in their community, but also because it gives them new skills and knowledge for life. I commend East Lothian Council for this initiative and BHF Scotland for their outstanding campaigning on the issue.”

Mr Gray has also marked the news in a motion in the Scottish Parliament:

“That the Parliament welcomes East Lothian Council’s announcement that it will be providing lifesaving CPR training for every secondary pupil; understands that this decision has been taken with the aim of tackling poor Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest survival rates, both in East Lothian Council and across the whole of Scotland, where only 1 in 12 people can expect to survive a cardiac arrest; recognises that international best practice from Denmark, Norway and Seattle indicates that training all secondary pupils in this vital skill has the potential to greatly improve cardiac arrest survival rates; notes that this decision sees East Lothian Council join with 22 other Local Authorities across Scotland in pledging to equip all secondary pupils with this skill; and acknowledges that, if the nine remaining councils were to make a similar commitment, Scotland would see approximately 50,000 young people trained in lifesaving CPR every year.”

Cockenzie P7s quiz Iain at Holyrood

A group of P7 pupils from Cockenzie Primary School are the latest schoolchildren from the county to visit the Scottish Parliament.

The visit was organised through the Parliament’s excellent Education Service, which helps to inform and engage young people from across Scotland who are interested in finding out more about the work of Parliament.

As well as having a tour of Parliament and learning more about the way it works, the pupils also had the opportunity to quiz local MSP, Iain Gray.

Speaking after the visit Iain Gray MSP said:

“Barely a week goes by without a school group from East Lothian visiting Holyrood via the education service. It’s always a pleasure to welcome them to the building and answer their questions.

“This latest group from Cockenzie Primary School were well prepared with a range of good questions about both the mechanics of Parliament and the legislative process and topical policy and political issues.

“I look forward to welcoming many more pupils from East Lothian to Holyrood during the rest of this parliamentary term.”

Welcoming success of support for blind and partially sighted pupils

A ground-breaking partnership between the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh and East Lothian Council has been welcomed by Iain Gray MSP for East Lothian as he visited the school to learn more about its success.

Mr Gray met with pupils and teachers at the Royal Blind School to learn about the work of the East Lothian Vision Impairment Service (ELVIS) which delivers specialist education and support to pupils with vision impairment across the local authority.

The partnership enables pupils to access learning through the use of braille, large print, specialist technology and adapted learning materials, such as tactile diagrams. Pupils are also given support in developing independence skills and social skills. ELVIS also assists pupils and staff at crucial times of transition.

The partnership between the Royal Blind School and East Lothian Council began in 2017 and has been welcomed by pupils, parents and staff.

After his visit to the School, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I was pleased to visit the Royal Blind School to find out more about its important work with young people with vision impairment. I was especially interested in its unique partnership with East Lothian Council.

“East Lothian Vision Impairment Service (ELVIS) is a pioneering project delivering specialist education and support to pupils in East Lothian in a way not currently being undertaken anywhere else in Scotland.

“This is a great service for pupils, parents and teaching staff in East Lothian, and I commend both the Royal Blind School and East Lothian Council for this excellent initiative.”

Elaine Brackenridge, Head Teacher of the Royal Blind School said:

“We are delighted that our partnership with East Lothian Council has been such a success and that pupils with vision impairment are benefitting from this collaboration. 

“We were pleased to welcome Iain Gray to the Royal Blind School, giving us an opportunity to tell him how we are supporting pupils in East Lothian to make the most of their educational opportunities.”

Chris, aged 11, was one of the first pupils to be supported by the service.  His deteriorating vision had left him worried about the future and struggling to keep up with his schoolwork.  Now, in addition to one-to-one support provided in-school, he is supported four days per week by his ELVIS teachers, is learning braille, and has regained his confidence.

Chris’ mum Heather, said:

“It’s difficult to express in words how grateful I am of this partnership between the Royal Blind School and East Lothian Council. The year before the partnership began, Chris’ sight had deteriorated quite quickly and he had no confidence whatsoever.  We were all really struggling.  His sight loss was impacting on absolutely everything.  He was constantly worrying about the future. 

 “The difference in Chris in just a year has been amazing.  He has two very dedicated, knowledgeable and very professional members of Royal Blind School staff providing support to him through the partnership. It was recognised that there was a need for Chris to learn braille before starting high school and knew that time was a factor so everything was in place very quickly and he was up and running in no time.  They provide support by adapting materials for Chris and ensuring he is able to fully access his classes as well as his sighted classmates can.”

Appeal launched to support Foundation’s work with local communities

Iain Gray MSP is helping to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Hibernian Community Foundation, which he Chairs, with the launch of a new funding appeal to support its work.

Hibernian Football Club established the Foundation in 2008 as a registered Scottish charity to help improve the lives of disadvantaged people and communities across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Now in its tenth anniversary year, the Foundation is continuing to reach out and deliver programmes to those most in need, including various activity in communities throughout East Lothian.

The ‘Famous Fiver’ appeal, which evokes a golden era in the club’s history, is encouraging Hibernian supporters to donate at least £5 to assist the Foundation’s programmes.

Speaking about the appeal, Iain Gray MSP said:

“The Hibernian Community Foundation was established 10 years ago to harness the power of football to improve the lives of disadvantaged people and communities across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

“I am very proud to have been the Chair of the Foundation since 2013 and help oversee the development of its innovative programmes. In order for the Foundation to continue and build on this very important and much-needed work, we need to raise additional funds, which is why we have launched this Famous Fiver appeal.

“The target for the appeal is £25,000 and I hope Hibernian supporters and others who support the Foundation’s work will get behind it and make a donation. Every penny raised will be used to assist positive change in local communities and with people of all ages.”

First-team star Lewis Stevenson, who was on hand to help with the launch, said:

“I know first-hand the great work the Community Foundation does in deprived communities across the Lothians and I would ask everyone who can to donate to the Famous Fiver appeal.”

More about the Famous Fiver Appeal, including how to make a donation, can be found at


Iain discovers more about unique local enterprise

Iain Gray MSP has visited East Linton-based social enterprise Viarama, Scotland’s first virtual reality (VR) company and the world’s first social enterprise working in VR, to find out more about its work.

Viarama founder Billy Agnew uses the cutting-edge VR technology as a force for good within communities across Scotland, with a strong focus on improving quality of life for people of all ages.

He has been taking his equipment into schools, nursing homes, hospices, hospitals and respite centres with the aim of using it to help enhance learning, aid quality of life and help deliver training and employment in the process.

The social enterprise is located at the Mart in East Linton, where the public can visit and try out the powerful technology for themselves.

Speaking after his visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I enjoyed the opportunity to visit Viarama and find out more about the VR technology and how it can be used for the good of local communities and individuals. Billy gave me a demonstration of his state-of-the-art VR equipment which enabled me to experience being at the bottom of the ocean and at the peak of Mt Fuji in a matter of minutes!

“It is a truly immersive experience and I can certainly see the potential benefits of using the technology with the audiences he is targeting. In fact, I know from a friend’s experience how powerful the service Viarama provides can be for those facing terminal illness.

“It’s great to have such an innovative enterprise based here in East Lothian and I wish Billy well with developing the company.”

Billy Agnew from Viarama said:

“I was very happy to welcome Iain to Viarama and let him try the world’s best virtual reality. Iain’s enthusiasm and support are very welcome indeed, and we will use this support to continue to use VR to benefit schoolchildren, senior citizens, and young people in the local area and beyond”.

Find out more at

Iain pledges support to ban electric shock collars

Scotland and the UK’s largest dog welfare organisations and positive trainers came together with MSPs this week to urge the Scottish Government to ban the use of electric shock collars and other aversive training devices.

Iain Gray MSP attended a drop-in event at the Scottish Parliament to pledge his support to help encourage a ban on the use of these devices a year after the Scottish Government announced it would ban them, but instead only issued guidance on their use.

84% of people know that shock collars cause a dog pain, but the sad reality is that they are still readily available to buy at the click of a button. These torturous devices can send between 100 to 6000 Volts to a dog’s neck, and have the capacity to continuously shock a dog for up to 11 terrifying seconds at a time.

Research shows that physical effects can include yelping, squealing, crouching, and physiological signs of distress in direct response to an electric shock. It’s not just shock collars – spray and sonic collars are also widely for sale.

Whilst the use of electronic shock collars is banned in Wales, and Westminster has confirmed it will introduce a ban on the use of these cruel devices in England, Scotland continues to avoid introducing a ban.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I’m delighted to pledge my support calling for a ban on the use of electronic shock collars. These aversive training methods are outdated and cruel, and there is no need for them to be used when there are so many positive training methods available. This is a hugely important issue for dog welfare and I hope my support will help make a difference.”

Rachel Casey, Director of Canine Behaviour and Research at Dogs Trust, said:

“We are disappointed that despite previously committing to effectively ban the use of electronic and other aversive training devices, a year later the Scottish Government has only issued guidance about their use. This means that Scotland’s pets are not protected from the negative impacts of using these cruel devices.

“This type of device is not only painful for a dog, it can have a serious negative impact on their mental and physical wellbeing. As well as distress at the time of use, dogs can develop anxiety and other problem behaviours as a longer-term consequence. We know from our Dog School classes that positive reinforcement training can give both dogs and their owners the skills they need to understand each other and build a rewarding life-long relationship.”

Lindsay Fyffe-Jardine, Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home Director of Operations and Deputy to the CEO, said:

“Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home does not feel there is a place in today’s Scotland for the use of shock collars. This cruel and unnecessary practice has, for too long, caused pain and suffering to dogs across the country on a daily basis. We strongly believe that an outright ban on the use of shock collars is the only outcome that will ensure dogs are protected from the fear and misery these collars bring.”

Bob Elliot, OneKind Director said:

“Electric shock collars are cruel and unnecessary, and we believe it’s time for the Scottish Government to follow Wales by introducing a real ban on the use of shock collars to protect dogs from pain and suffering caused by their use. Not only are these collars cruel, but aversive training is ineffective which is why 91% of the dog trainers surveyed by OneKind in 2016 supported a shock collar ban.”

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

“Electric shock collars are a serious animal welfare issue. They are outdated, cruel and have no place in modern dog training. Blue Cross strongly believes that the only effective way to train a dog is through positive reinforcement. We were pleased to come together with colleagues from across the animal welfare sector in Scotland today to ask MSPs to push the Scottish Government to introduce a complete ban on electronic shock devices and other aversive training methods.”

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said:

“We are disappointed that one year on from announcing that there would be an effective and prompt ban of electric shock collars in Scotland that such a ban has not come to fruition. Recently published guidance condoning shock collars is proving to be insufficient in deterring their use and we believe that given this, only a legislative ban will be effective. Scotland is now lagging behind the Welsh and Westminster Government’s in their approach to dealing with shock collars and we hope that this will soon be put right.”

Dee McIntosh, Director of Communications at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, said:

“Battersea believes banning the use of electronic shock collars on dogs is long overdue. It’s clear that positive reinforcement techniques, such as reward-based training, are far more effective at changing a dog’s behaviour without inflicting unnecessary pain. So when the Scottish Government reviews animal welfare legislation around electronic shock collars, we hope they’ll finally ban the use of these cruel devices.”

Parliamentarians help celebrate 300 years of Belhaven brewery

The county’s MSP and MP are helping to acknowledge and celebrate Belhaven Brewery’s 300th anniversary at their respective parliaments.

Iain Gray MSP is hosting a reception at Holyrood on 26th February to give MSPs an opportunity to join in with the Dunbar brewery’s anniversary celebrations, which will take place throughout 2019.

Meanwhile, Martin Whitfield MP has marked the anniversary with a parliamentary Early Day Motion (EDM) at Westminster setting out the site’s history and welcoming 300 years of brewing innovation at Belhaven.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Belhaven Brewery is an important local employer as well as an internationally-renowned brand. The brewery’s 300th anniversary is a significant milestone and I’m very happy to be hosting a parliamentary reception on behalf of Belhaven to join the celebrations.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“Belhaven is Scotland’s oldest working brewery and one of its most iconic and recognisable brands. 300 years of continuous brewing is a major achievement and I’m pleased to be able to celebrate it with this EDM in Parliament.”