Iain is backing #TimetoTalk Day

Iain Gray MSP is supporting Time to Talk Day on Thursday 4th February, the annual day when everyone across the UK is encouraged to have a conversation on mental health.

Time to Talk day is running across the whole of the UK and Ireland and is led here in Scotland by mental health campaign group See Me.

The day is a chance for all of us to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives – and this year the theme is The Power of Small.

Speaking about his support for the day, Iain Gray MSP said:

The pandemic and lockdown have undoubtedly brought additional stress and strain for many people. It means that talking about mental health is more important than ever before.

“But the message from Time to Talk day is that small gestures can make a big difference, even when we have to be socially distanced.

“I’m pleased to support the day on 4 February and encourage East Lothian residents to consider the Power of Small and what they can do to talk, to listen and to help change lives.”

As part of the activities for Time to Talk Day this year, See Me is also encouraging the public to get involved in a big game of digital mental health bingo.

Find out more about the day, including the digital bingo and other resources at www.seemescotland.org/movement-for-change/campaigns/time-to-talk/time-to-talk-day-2021

VisitScotland support for tourism and hospitality

Yesterday VisitScotland announced details of nine business support funds it is administering on behalf of the Scottish Government.
This follows the announcement at the end of last year that tourism and hospitality businesses across Scotland were to benefit from a £104.3 million Scottish Government package. It is proposed that this funding will help a number of tourism and events businesses in key sectors.
The Funds they are delivering on behalf of Scottish Government and the go live dates are as follows:
  • Pivotal Event Businesses Fund – in progress, closed to Expressions of Interest.
  • The Sector Destination Operational & Market Readiness Fund – live.
  • Scotland Inbound Tour Operators – COVID-19 Business Support and Continuity Fund – Expressions of Interest open 22 January.
  • Outdoor Fund, which has two strands: marine tourism and outdoor tourism – last week of January.
  • Event Industry Support Fund – late January/early February.
  • Coach Operators Fund – first week of February.
  • Visitor Attractions Fund – week commencing 8 February.
  • Hostels Fund – week commencing 15 February.
Further information about the support VisitScotland has been providing to the industry through the pandemic can be found at www.visitscotland.org/supporting-your-business/advice/coronavirus/sterg/updates

Iain welcomes new impartial Brexit advice service to support consumers

Iain Gray MSP has welcomed a new online advice service launched to help Scots consumers with free, impartial and practical advice following Brexit.

The brexitadvice.scot website from Advice Direct Scotland includes information on household expenditure, transport and travel, banking, and roaming charges.

Examples include the additional documentation needed if driving abroad, limits on alcohol that can be brought back to the UK, and steps to take if travelling with a pet.

The site is operated by the charity Advice Direct Scotland, which runs Scotland’s national advice service – advice.scot.brexitadvice.scot includes a freephone number for advice – 0808 800 9060 and live webchat options.

Mr Gray is encouraging local residents to visit the website for information and free advice on any consumer rights or any legislation questions they may have following Brexit:

“Brexit is creating uncertainty in various aspects of our lives and consumers are looking for impartial and practical advice on how to deal with some of the issues they are facing.

“I welcome this new service and the advice and information it provides and hope that people in East Lothian will find it helpful as we adapt to life outside the EU.”

Andrew Bartlett, chief executive of Advice Direct Scotland, said:

“While people are advised against all but essential travel at the moment, the UK’s departure from the EU will have a lasting impact on holidaymakers and consumers when life returns to normality – as well as those who buy goods from the EU.

“We’ve launched brexitadvice.scot to help consumers understand the practical changes caused by Brexit, with impartial information on its impact and free advice. 

“This is particularly important when it comes to issues such as travel insurance, travelling with pets, and driving abroad.

“As always, the experts at advice.scot are available to provide free advice to anyone in Scotland.”

Supporting Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

18-24 January is #CervicalCancerPreventionWeek and Iain Gray MSP is helping support and promote the week and the work of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.
Cervical screening is the best protection against cervical cancer, but it is not always an easy test. Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns have made it even harder for many.
Research from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust shows that one in 10 (9%) say they definitely would not attend cervical screening currently and 22% are feeling less likely to attend.
Iain Gray MSP said:
“I’m supporting Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, because I want everyone to know where to find support, information and tips about cervical screening (smear tests), and reliable resources about cervical cancer.
“Cervical screening can be life-saving but it isn’t always easy, especially this year. We know that Covid-19 has created additional barriers and uncertainty for some people, and access to trustworthy support and information is more important than ever.”
Visit https://www.jostrust.org.uk/ for more information, and check out the #SmearForSmear hashtags to see more about the campaign.

Farming community and COVID-19 compliance

East Lothian’s farmers and other rural workers have continued to operate throughout lockdown and other restrictions to help ensure the continuity of our food supply. However, this brings many challenges, not least the potential for farmers and others in the rural community to be more exposed to the virus.
NFU Scotland is running a campaign to help raise awareness about compliance among farmers and those living and working in rural areas. The NFUS President has written a blog about the union’s key messages on this issue https://www.nfus.org.uk/news/blog/call-for-covid-19-compliance–13-january-2021, while the latest Scottish Government guidance can be found here

Big Energy Saving Month launched

Today Citizens Advice Scotland has launched Big Energy Saving Month 2021, a campaign that seeks to help people save time, money and energy through everyday actions.
Energy bills are a real struggle for many people and falling temperatures alongside ongoing coronavirus restrictions means people will really be starting to feel the squeeze.
Research by YouGov for Citizens Advice Scotland reveals that 15 per cent of people who have run out of money before payday since Covid restrictions began have missed an energy payment.
The nationwide campaign will run until Sunday 31 January and encourages people to get energy advice, with a special focus on five key consumer groups:
· People on electric only heating
· People on prepayment meters
· People struggling with energy bills
· Those who frequently turn off the heating to save money
· People who can’t access deals and support online
Find out more about the CAS campaign and how you can make savings on your energy at www.cas.org.uk/BESM2021

Holiday closure dates

Please note that Iain’s office will be ‘closed’ from 5pm today (Wednesday 23rd December) until 9am on Monday 11th January.

However, emails will be checked from the w/b Monday 4th January and any urgent enquiries responded to.

The Scottish Government’s guidance for the festive period can be found here.

If you have an emergency Council-related issue over the holiday period, the relevant contact information can be found here.

For health queries over the holidays please consult NHS24 at www.nhs24.scot or call 111.

We wish all constituents a Merry Christmas and peaceful New Year!

Iain thanks posties for going the extra mile this year

With the usual festive visits prohibited by public health restrictions this year, Iain Gray MSP has written to Royal Mail delivery offices across his constituency to thank them for going the ‘extra mile’ during this incredibly difficult year.

Mr Gray has traditionally visited a local delivery office to thank staff personally for pulling out all the stops to sort and deliver mail in the forthcoming busy Christmas period as well as for their hard work throughout this exceptional year.

But with lockdown restrictions making visits impossible this year, Mr Gray has instead sent Scottish Parliament Christmas cards to each delivery office to thank staff who have been among the crucial key workers keeping the country going during the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

The Festive Season is Royal Mail’s busiest period, as millions of people shop online for gifts as well as sending Christmas cards and parcels. Royal Mail also plays a key role in e-commerce for many businesses sending goods to customers throughout Christmas shopping season.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Our postmen and women were among the heroic key workers who kept society going during lockdown. The festive period is always extremely busy for them, but with the likelihood of a significant increase in mail and parcels, this year is set to be even busier than usual.

“A huge amount of effort will again go into delivering a first-class Christmas all over the country, and I wanted to take the opportunity to thank our postal workers for their dedication now and throughout the year.”

The last recommended posting dates for Christmas are:

Second Class – Friday 18 December 2020

First Class – Monday 21 December 2020

Find out more about Christmas posting dates and other Christmas mail issues at www.royalmail.com/christmas/last-posting-dates

Crohns and Colitis Awareness Week 2020

Some 500,000 people across the UK live with a life-long, incurable and often debilitating condition affecting almost every part of the body and every aspect of life: from digestion and joints to energy levels, mental health and the ability to work.
It causes many people to experience symptoms such as severe pain, fatigue and urgent diarrhoea. For some this condition may also have resulted in emergency admission to hospital and life-saving and life altering surgery.
Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week 1-7th December aims to highlight the issues facing people living with these conditions, including availability of public services, guidance and protection for those at high risk of COVID-19 and access to toilets.
Find out more about the week at https://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/

Age Scotland’s Friendship Line will help tackle loneliness this winter

Iain Gray MSP does not want anyone in East Lothian to be alone this winter and is working to promote Age Scotland’s national friendship line to older constituents who might be needing a chat to help them know someone is there to listen to them.

New research from Age Scotland, the national charity for older people, shows that more than 157,000 over 65s in Scotland are expecting to feel lonely over the festive season. This could be as many as two older people on every street in East Lothian.

Their free 0800 12 44 222 service offers older people the chance for a good chat, support and friendship. Volunteers are available to chat with people over the age of 50 about anything they want to discuss, and they can even schedule a regular weekly call. It is open from 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“We know that older people are at greater risk of experiencing isolation and loneliness at the best of times, but with public health restrictions continuing to reduce opportunities for social interaction for months to come, that risk is set to increase dramatically this winter.

“No-one should have to be lonely and this initiative from Age Scotland means that older people looking for some social contact know that a friendly chat is just a phone call away. It is a great service and I’m pleased to help promote it to constituents over 50 experiencing loneliness.”

Age Scotland’s chief executive Brian Sloan said:

“We know that the Christmas period is the loneliest time of the year for many older people in Scotland but this one will be like no other. It’s heart-breaking that more than 157,000 over 65s expect to feel lonely this year, which could be as many as two older people on every street in East Lothian. 

“The impact coronavirus has had on all of our lives has been drastic and as a result levels of loneliness throughout this year, among people of all ages, have been rising at an alarming rate. It has been particularly felt by the hundreds of thousands of older people who live alone, have no local support networks and who do not have access to the internet.”

Find out more at www.agescotland.org.uk/friendship.