What the election recess means for constituents

I am retiring from the Scottish Parliament at this election. Under normal circumstances, Parliament would have been expected to dissolve on 25 March, prior to the official start of the election campaign. However, in order to ensure that the election can take place fairly and safely, the Scottish General Election (Coronavirus) Act 2021 provides for the dissolution of Session 5 of the Parliament on 5 May 2021 instead.

However, while this means I will remain East Lothian’s MSP until dissolution on 5 May, I am unable to take on any new casework for constituents during the election period. My office will continue to deal with existing casework and also try and signpost people to alternative sources of help if possible. This website will also remain live and emails will be monitored during the campaign.

New campaign to help overcome vaccine hesitancy

The British Red Cross has launched a nationwide campaign to help tackle vaccine hesitancy and encourage families to talk openly about the benefits of having the Covid vaccines.

East Lothian MSP Iain Gray has welcomed the new campaign and is helping the Red Cross promote its key messages, including facts about the Coronavirus vaccines, to constituents.

Speaking about the campaign, Iain Gray MSP said:

“There are many myths and a lot of conflicting advice and information about the vaccines, which can lead to some people feeling worried and unsure about what to do when invited for their vaccination.

“The British Red Cross has decades of experience of supporting vaccination programmes, so their encouragement to anyone hesitating to have the Covid vaccine will be vital. 

“Their latest video features families talking openly about the Covid vaccines and encourages people to have more informed conversations with loved ones about their safety and the protection vaccines offer for individuals and communities.

“I welcome these vaccine voices and the important work being done by the Red Cross and others to support the NHS and encourage people who may be feeling nervous to go ahead and get vaccinated.”

Find out more about the campaign and information about the vaccines at https://www.redcross.org.uk/coronavirus-vaccine

Iain backs #Hand2Hold campaign to support young people with cancer

Iain Gray MSP is supporting the efforts of Teenage Cancer Trust and CLIC Sargent to ensure young people with cancer, aged 16 – 25, do not continue to face appointments or treatments alone during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, the two charities have worked tirelessly to support children and young people with cancer. However, it became clear that due to precautions that had to be taken as a result of coronavirus, many young people aged 16-25 with cancer have faced, and continue to face, attending appointments or treatments alone.

Now, Teenage Cancer Trust and CLIC Sargent are working in partnership, calling for young people with cancer, wherever safe and possible, to have a hand to hold through this challenging time.

Backing the Hand2Hold campaign, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Understandably, healthcare settings have had to take extra precautions to protect the vulnerable and reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19. However, it is equally understandable that young people living with cancer will sometimes just need someone by their side.

 “As we move forward with overcoming this virus, we need to look at different ways young people with cancer can be supported throughout appointments, scans, treatment and beyond.

“That’s why I’m supporting the call from Teenage Cancer Trust and CLIC Sargent for governments to commit to ensuring, where possible, young people have a Hand 2 Hold through their appointments and treatment.”

Find out more and pledge your support for the Hand2Hold campaign here.

World Cancer Day 2021

Today is #WorldCancerDay and Macmillan Cancer Support Scotland is working hard to ensure cancer is not the forgotten C.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“It’s clear that COVID-19 is taking a growing toll on people with cancer, with many facing rising anxiety, disruption to care, or the prospect of going through their cancer journey alone.

“But Macmillan Cancer Support is here every step of the way to help people, and on World Cancer Day, they are trying to ensure that those that need it can access their free support.”

Get in touch via the Macmillan Support Line (open 7 days a week, 8am-8pm) on 0808 808 00 00 or visit https://bit.ly/3cjGcV1 for more information.

OU’s Flexible Workforce Development Fund launched

Open University Scotland have this week launched a new programme which Small to medium-sized businesses across Scotland can benefit from by up to £5,000.
The Flexible Workforce Development Fund offers tailored training plans to help SME companies to upskill and retrain their existing workforce to maximise the opportunities to restart and recover.
Find out more about the fund and how to apply at http://www.open.ac.uk/business/flexible-workforce-development-fund

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