Iain helps launch Hibs Class with local pupils

Hibs Class is an initiative designed to support young people in primary schools and encourage a healthy lifestyle, while helping pupils gain confidence and raise attainment.

The new project will also help develop life skills – like communication, leadership and teamwork.

The programme will see Hibernian Community Foundation staff embedded in three schools across East Lothian Council – St Gabriel’s Primary, Elphinstone Primary, and Preston Tower Primary.

Foundation staff will commit to curriculum time in each of the schools and will use the unique power of football and the Hibernian brand to engage with the pupils and bring the message to life.

To celebrate the launch, pupils and teachers from St Gabriel’s Primary School in Tranent were invited to the Hibernian Training Centre for an introductory session, where they participated in an exercise class followed by a nutrition talk. Marc McNulty was on hand to meet children at the launch of the programme.

Iain Gray MSP, Chairperson of the Hibernian Community Foundation, said:

“We are really excited about the potential Hibs Class offers in regard to supporting young people to develop and improve their life skills. 

“The Foundation has worked with primary school children over a number of years and Hibs Class allows us to extend this work significantly. 

“We are also very pleased to be working with primary schools in East Lothian, where the club has its training centre. It’s good that we continue to give back and support local communities.”

East Lothian Council’s Cabinet member for Education and Children’s Services, Councillor Shamin Akhtar, said:

“This is a great chance for our children to work with a Premiership club and really enhance their learning experiences.

“The lessons for healthy and active lifestyle, teamwork and cooperation are essential both on and off the pitch. 

“With its training facility based in East Lothian it’s great that Hibernian, through its Community Foundation, is committed to sharing the benefits of having a top-flight team in our midst.

“We hope to continue working with them on partnerships like this one.”

Marking Holocaust Memorial Day at Holyrood

Local MSP Iain Gray has been involved in a range of activities commemorating this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps and the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.

Mr Gray joined fellow MSP Daniel Johnson in sponsoring the National Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration in the Scottish Parliament on the day itself (27th January), which was hosted by Interfaith Scotland.

At the event, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, welcomed to the Parliament, Janine Webber, survivor of the Holocaust and Hasan Hasanovic, survivor of the Bosnian Genocide.  Both told their heart breaking and moving stories to an audience of guests from across Scotland, including pupils from North Berwick High School.

As well as co-sponsoring this event, Mr Gray also sponsored a stunning exhibition of Holocaust Memorial Day Lanterns created by schoolchildren from across the Lothians, spoke in the parliamentary debate marking Holocaust Memorial Day and signed the Book of Remembrance at Holyrood.

Iain Gray MSP said:

Holocaust Memorial Day is an essential reminder of the millions of people who were murdered, or whose lives were changed forever, during the Holocaust and in subsequent genocides around the globe.

“This year is particularly poignant as we observe the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and 25 years since the genocide in Srebrenica. The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day – ‘Stand Together’ – underlines the vital importance of communities uniting against hatred and prejudice in all forms and working to promote a strong, inclusive and respectful society.

“I have never visited Auschwitz but I have met Hasan Hasanovic a couple of times at the Genocide Memorial centre in Srebrenica, so it was good to welcome him to Holyrood and help him tell his story more widely.

“The various activities at Holyrood over the last week have helped to mark these anniversaries in a respectful way but to also help ensure that the lessons are remembered. I’m especially pleased that so many children have been involved in marking Holocaust Memorial Day this year and hope it has helped to inform them about these vital issues.”

Iain receives accreditation as a Living Wage Employer

Local MSP Iain Gray has received formal accreditation as a real Living Wage Employer from Living Wage Scotland.

Mr Gray is a long-standing supporter of the campaign for a living wage. He has paid at least the real Living Wage, which is currently £9.30 an hour, to all the staff in his office for many years, but this accreditation formally recognises this for the first time.

Living Wage Scotland was established in April 2014 with the aim of increasing the number of employers in Scotland who are recognised for paying their staff the Living Wage. Hosted by The Poverty Alliance, the Initiative works in partnership with the Living Wage Foundation and is funded by the Scottish Government.

The vast majority of MSPs are now accredited as Living Wage employers, helping to set an example within their constituencies and encouraging other employers to sign up.

Speaking about the accreditation, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Throughout my time in Parliament I have always been a strong supporter of the Living Wage and ensured that all my staff have been paid at least the Living Wage.

“Significant progress has been made in Scotland over recent years with more than 1700 employers now accredited Living Wage employers. Much of the credit for this must go to Living Wage Scotland for the work it has done with employers.

“There is no doubt that paying the real Living Wage changes people’s lives. It’s a principled stance which shows staff that their employer values them and wants to reward them properly for their contribution.

“But it’s also good for business, with research showing that paying the real Living Wage helps businesses recruit and retain better staff, reduce absenteeism, and encourage higher productivity.

“I want to encourage more employers in East Lothian to explore the various benefits of paying the real Living Wage and seeking accreditation for it.”

For more information about the real Living Wage and how to apply for accreditation, visit https://scottishlivingwage.org/

“Some” reassurance from Minister on East Linton rail station

Iain Gray MSP has cautiously welcomed a response from the Transport Secretary Michael Matheson on progress towards the delivery of a new rail station at East Linton.

The Cabinet Secretary’s replies to written parliamentary questions from Mr Gray, which he submitted in light of the decision to end the Abellio ScotRail contract three years early, indicated that Network Rail are progressing with the station designs with the intention of submitting a planning application later this year.

This is in line with the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver the station as early as practicable within Transport Scotland’s current rail funding period, which runs from 2019 to 2024.

Alongside the work required for completing the station, the Cabinet Secretary also highlighted that an industry working group is developing plans for the December 2021 East Coast Main Line timetable, including services for East Linton.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Following the government’s decision to cut short Abellio’s ScotRail franchise, I asked parliamentary questions about progress on delivering East Linton’s new rail station in order to ensure the franchise decision will not affect the project.

“Thankfully, while the replies from Mr Matheson have not provided an exact date for the completion of the project, they have offered some reassurance that the project is progressing and the new station should be delivered by 2024 at the latest.

“That is good news for people in East Linton who have been waiting such a long time for this important new infrastructure.

“However, while the progress is welcome, there is still a significant way to go to before it is finalised and benefiting the local community. Given all the delays we have endured, I’m fully committed to maintaining the pressure on Ministers to ensure the station is delivered.”

Call for better support to keep people with arthritis in work

Iain Gray MSP has attended an exhibition of artwork produced by young Scottish people with arthritis at Holyrood. Mr Gray heard about the impact pain associated with the condition can have on young people, and how it affects their future opportunities to gain skills and employment.

At the exhibition, healthcare charity Versus Arthritis also highlighted its work in Scotland to identify the barriers people with arthritis face in seeking and remaining in employment. Arthritis can make work more difficult, with tasks such as commuting, carrying equipment or even typing becoming challenging.

In Scotland, only 60% of working age adults with a musculoskeletal condition like arthritis are in work compared to 80% of people with no health conditions. The charity also held a reception for MSPs on the impact of arthritis on work in Scotland, attended by the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, Jamie Hepburn MSP.

The Scottish Government has pledged to halve the employment ‘gap’ between disabled people and the rest of the working age population by 2038. For this target to be met it is vital that people with arthritis have the support they need to stay in or return to work. For example one-third of people with rheumatoid arthritis will have stopped working within two years of diagnosis. This increases to half being unable to work after 10 years.

However, the charity found that in Scotland people with arthritis experience negative attitudes from colleagues and employers about their condition and its impact on work. People with arthritis also face difficulties accessing support and need better coordination of health, social security and employment services to help them be in work. This means too many people with arthritis in Scotland go without the support they need and are unnecessarily struggling or dropping out of work.

Versus Arthritis is calling for increased awareness of the impact of musculoskeletal conditions on work and earlier access to interventions that can help people with arthritis manage their condition and remain in employment.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Almost 1.5 million people in Scotland are living with arthritis and related conditions. I wanted to show support in Holyrood for my constituents and highlight the steps we can all take to make life easier for people with arthritis who want to work.

“It is important that people with arthritis in South Scotland are aware of the help available, such as the NHS 24 Musculoskeletal Helpline and Fair Start Scotland, and can access support when they need it.”

Angela Donaldson-Bruce, Scotland Director at Versus Arthritis, said:

It was fantastic to see Iain Gray at our exhibition in Parliament, hearing about the impact of arthritis on working lives and the support that can make a difference.

“Arthritis and the pain it causes slowly intrudes on everyday life, affecting someone’s quality of life, independence, mental health and ability to work. But we know that most people with arthritis want to work, and many can with the right support. MSPs like Iain can help to shine a light on what more can be done.”

Achieving youth advocacy award

Iain Gray MSP has risen to the challenge and completed his Scouts Scotland Youth Advocacy Award.

Just as Scouts have to earn their badges, Iain Gray MSP earned his badge by completing a number of actions that were chosen by young people in Scouting to help MSPs experience the skills for life that Scouts has to offer.

Iain earned his badge by meeting Scouts from North Berwick where they taught him how to be prepared to go to camp. He also met with Scouts at the Scottish Parliament to hear about their social impact project, A Million Hands, which will tackle some of Scotland’s biggest social issues including ending homelessness and protecting the environment.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I’m delighted to have achieved my Scouts Scotland Youth Advocacy Award. I’ve been able to see first-hand the difference that Scouting in East Lothian. Young people who are involved in Scouts are a third more likely to help out in their local area and volunteer to help others and it has been great to see this community spirit while I have been working towards earning my award. I’ll be proud to wear my badge in the Parliament.”

Tudor Westwood, Chair of the National Youth Advisory Group for Scouts Scotland said:

“The exciting thing is that this badge encourages politicians to see and engage with, first-hand, the extraordinary work Scouts Scotland does every single day in Scotland.

“Each week, we give almost 40,000 young people in Scotland the opportunity to enjoy fun and adventure while developing the skills they need to succeed and I believe this advocacy award helps to inspire more of our young people to engage with democracy and work towards social change.”

The award is also designed to give politicians a greater insight into the work that Scouts Scotland is undertaking week in week out in Scotland.

Scouts Scotland believe in preparing young people with skills for life by encouraging young people to do more, learn more and be more.

You can help Scouts Scotland to support more young people in Scotland by donating on the website www.scouts.scot.

Showing support for brain injury survivors

Brain injury charity Headway welcomed Iain Gray MSP during a recent exhibition at the Scottish Parliament to discuss the need for local support for those affected by the devastating consequences of brain injury.

Speaking after the exhibition, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I was delighted to meet with representatives from Headway and learn more about how the local community can better support survivors and their loved ones.

“The wide-ranging effects of an acquired brain injury can be devastating and last a life-time. Rehabilitation and support is absolutely vital to survivors and for their families and carers.  

“Headway East Lothian does excellent work supporting local people with the impact of brain injury and I’m always pleased to support it.”

Headway’s Public Affairs Manager, Dr Clare Mills, said:

“We are very grateful to Iain Gray MSP for coming to talk to us in Parliament and for showing their support.

“Whether as a result of trauma, stroke, brain tumour, illness or infection, a brain injury has a profound impact not only on the survivor, but on their family, friends, colleagues and the wider community too.”

Latest figures show that in the NHS Lothian area alone, just over 3,000 people were admitted to hospital with an ABI related diagnosis.

Thankfully, survivors and their loved ones are able to access local support at Headway East Lothian.

Residents can also call Headway’s freephone, nurse-led helpline – call 0808 800 2244 or email helpline@headway.org.uk or visit the award winning website, www.headway.org.uk for more information.

Iain criticises TSB decision to close Dunbar branch

Iain Gray MSP has criticised TSB Bank following its announcement that it intends to close it’s branch on Dunbar High Street on May 6th 2020.

The branch which opens twice a week (Monday and Thursday) offered a number of services and facilities which included access to a mortgage advisor, a counter service, free Wi-Fi and was the charity partner for Leuchie House.

The announcement of the TSB closure comes just 18 months after the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) branch on the High Street also closed its doors.

This leaves Bank of Scotland as the only bank remaining in Dunbar.

Expressing concern over the impact of the closure of the branch, Iain Gray MSP said:

“People living in Dunbar and the surrounding area will rightly be outraged that TSB Bank have taken the decision to close this local branch. Local bank branches are a vital local services and the decision to close this branch is short-sighted and wrong.

“We know that all the evidence suggests that local bank closures can have a devastating impact on communities and can hurt local small businesses.

“East Lothian has an ageing population and ensuring that our older people can still access face-to-face banking is hugely important. As more and more banking services move online there is a risk that those without internet or smartphone banking will struggle to access their money and banking services easily without a local branch to visit.

“Following the spate of bank closures over the past 18 months this leaves Dunbar with a third of the banking service provision it previously had and TSB should urgently reverse this decision and continue to operate this vital branch service in Dunbar.”

Iain backs Firework Dog Code

Iain Gray MSP has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament and given his backing to the Dogs Trust, Firework Dog Code ahead of this year’s firework season and bonfire night.

Dogs feel safe and secure when they can predict and control their environment, so when unexplained noises happen unexpectedly, such as those caused by fireworks, this can be extremely stressful for dogs. Because of this the Dogs Trust have created the Firework Dog Code to help protect dogs during the firework season and in the build-up to bonfire night.

The Code recommends that members of the public attend local displays where possible, and if they are holding their own private display, to follow some simple steps to reduce the impact on pets in their local area. They are also providing advice through their website to dog owners on how they can make fireworks less stressful for their dogs.

Commenting on the Firework Dog Code, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I’ve lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament encouraging as many people as possible to observe the Dogs Trust, Firework Dog Code, to help make the firework season and bonfire night as enjoyable for as many people as possible.

“I know first-hand that the fireworks season can be upsetting and traumatic for dogs and their owners. Many people are left concerned about their pet’s welfare and the challenging behaviours associated with noise created by fireworks.  That’s why I am backing the Code to ensure that people can enjoy fireworks responsibly without causing fear and alarm to pet owners.

“The Firework Dog Code asks people to follow five simple steps to help protect dogs and I am encouraging everyone in East Lothian to support it.”

Small businesses urged to join national campaign day

Small Business Saturday, the annual campaign to celebrate small businesses across the UK, is back again on 7th December, and Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP are urging local small businesses to get involved in the day this year.

Now in its seventh year, Small Business Saturday encourages customers across the UK to go out and support all types of small businesses, online, in offices and in stores. Many small businesses take part in the day by hosting events and offering discounts.

Mr Gray and Mr Whitfield are encouraging businesses in East Lothian to take part in the campaign and help promote what they do. They are planning to use their social media to help highlight local businesses in the run-up to the day and want to hear from them now.

They paid a visit to George Thomson’s newly-opened cafe in Tranent to thank him for his contribution to the community and help spread the message about the important role of small businesses.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I have always supported Small Business Saturday and have watched it grow into an important campaign promoting the crucial role small businesses play in our local economy and communities.

“This year I am keen to do more to help promote local businesses in the run-up to the day, either by visiting to find out more about the business and what they offer or just by promoting them via my social media.

“I hope that this will help to increase interest in the day and raise awareness of what is available and why people should shop locally. I’m sure that people in East Lothian will support the campaign again this year and help boost our crucial local small businesses.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“Small Business Saturday is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the vital contribution small businesses make in their local areas and help give them a boost at this crucial time of the year.

“The campaign’s efforts to encourage people to shop locally and support small businesses in their locality have enjoyed great success and has undoubtedly helped businesses here and across the UK.

“I’m delighted to be supporting the day again this year and am urging businesses that want to be involved to contact me so that we can do something to help promote them in the run-up to 7th December.”

Businesses and consumers can find out more about Small Business Saturday and how to get involved at https://smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com