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

Call for powerchair football support

Iain Gray MSP has met with representatives of the Scottish Powerchair Football Association (SPFA) and Lothian Wolves Powerchair Football Club at the Scottish Parliament and is backing their call to give more people across Scotland the chance to play powerchair football.

Powerchair football is a growing sport in Scotland with teams competing in the Scottish Powerchair Football Association Leagues. Players can either compete by having special bumpers attached to their own wheelchairs or, for more serious competition, they can use specially modified chairs sports Powerchairs that are faster and more responsive.

Currently, Scotland has six powerchair football clubs with nine teams, all of which are giving disabled people the chance to take part in exciting competition as well as helping to reduce isolation, improve mental wellbeing and build the self-confidence of players.

Played by 4-a-side teams on a pitch roughly the size of a basketball court, the sport is open to powered wheelchair users and is currently the only team sport open to disabled athletes who use a powered chair.

Scotland has its own national league with two divisions and two cup competitions. In addition, a national powerchair football team, formed from players across the country will be hosting a tri-nations tournament against Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland at the sportscotland National Centre in Inverclyde.

After signing a pledge in Holyrood to support powerchair football in Scotland Iain Gray MSP said:

“The SPFA is doing great work in giving power wheelchair users in Scotland the opportunity to play football and to participate in a team sport has so many benefits. Powerchair football allows people to develop skills, discipline and friendships as well as giving players a focus that benefits them both physically and mentally.

“I welcome the decision by the Scottish Government to require Changing Places toilet facilities in all new-build sport centres. However, many existing sports facilities across Scotland are not accessible to powerchair footballers. By improving disabled facilities and supporting the work of the SPFA, the Scottish Government has the chance to make a real difference to Scottish Para footballers.

“I will be writing to Joe FitzPatrick MSP, the Minister for Sport, and asking him to consider greater funding and support for powerchair football and other sports aimed at disabled individuals in East Lothian. I would also encourage all local authorities and sportscotland to consider their current facilities and ask if they meet the needs of all Scottish Para athletes.”

Iain celebrates World Porridge Day with a smile

Iain Gray MSP has helped promote World Porridge Day (Thursday, 10 October) with a delicious mug of porridge from Mary’s Meals at Holyrood.

The charity, which feeds more than 1.5 million children around the world every school day, is also asking people in East Lothian to share their #PorridgeSmiles to help raise awareness of its life-changing work.

Karen Gray, UK Director of Communications and Fundraising at Mary’s Meals, said:

“We celebrate World Porridge Day because it is a mug of vitamin enriched maize porridge that Mary’s Meals serves to thousands of children every school day in countries including Malawi, Zambia and Liberia. 

“I hope that people in East Lothian will share their #PorridgeSmiles today too and help us to reach even more hungry children around the world.” 

Mary’s Meals sets up school feeding programmes in some of the world’s poorest countries. The food attracts children into the classroom, where they receive an education that can, in the future, be their ladder out of poverty.

Martha, eight, from Malawi receives porridge from Mary’s Meals in school each day, and loves playing netball with her friends. She said: “School is important because it teaches me how to read. Porridge helps me concentrate. I’m able to pass my exams because I’m not hungry in class”.

Mary’s Meals supporters across the UK are marking World Porridge Day by sharing their #PorridgeSmiles on social media and throwing Porridge Parties to raise funds for the charity. Mary’s Meals has also published a collection of porridge recipes from celebrities and chefs on its website – with Joanna Lumley, Tom Kitchin and Melissa Hemsley all taking part.

To share your #PorridgeSmiles simply post a photo of yourself on 10 October smiling with your porridge bowl on social media using #PorridgeSmiles and tagging @marysmeals.

To find out more, visit worldporridgeday.com

Rotary visitors welcomed to Holyrood

Iain Gray MSP has welcomed visitors from Dunbar Rotary Club and their Indian guests from Kalimpong to the Scottish Parliament.

The Indian visitors had come from Kalimpong in North-East India as part of a twinning visit arranged by Lothian Presbytery.

They are also involved in a long-term collaborative humanitarian project with Dunbar and other clubs, the Sadhu Sundar Singh Project.

The project, which began in 2011, has been undertaking activity aimed at helping to support sustainable work for local residents and tackle the trafficking of girls and young women in the Kalimpong area.

It aims to create awareness and sensitise the community on anti-trafficking (including HIV and AIDS), provide vocational training for a sustainable livelihood for young people and establish a shelter home for vulnerable young women and girls.

Mr Gray met the group at Holyrood, gave them a tour of the Parliament building and answered their questions about the work that goes on there.

“I was delighted to welcome the members of Dunbar Rotary Club and their guests from Kalimpong to Holyrood. They have been working in partnership, along with other clubs and the Church of Scotland, to help tackle the trafficking of local girls and women.

“It is a really important initiative supporting vulnerable young women and girls in that area and I’m proud that a group from East Lothian has been so instrumental in developing such a successful project. I was very pleased to give them a tour of Parliament and chat to them about this fantastic collaborative project.”

Robin Hamilton of Dunbar Rotary Club, said:

“I thank Iain Gray for welcoming us and our guests from NE India to the Scottish Parliament. Since 2011 Kalimpong and Dunbar Rotaries have been working together on a humanitarian project focused on vocational training and trafficking and we welcomed the opportunity to tell Iain more about the positive difference it is making to the lives of people in the area.”

Pledging to get alongside communities as they turn ideas into action

Iain Gray MSP has hosted Corra Foundation at a Scottish parliament reception to allow MSPs to hear from people across Scotland who are changing their communities for the better.

Through its People in Place programme, Corra Foundation works alongside nine communities in Scotland, engaging with local people and partners to understand their aspirations, challenges and shared priorities. The People in Place team uses a place-based approaches to get alongside people, listen to their ideas and support the change that matters to them.

The reception was an opportunity to bring members of the nine communities together. Guests heard the stories of community members, as they reflected on what inspires them to get involved in their local area and the difference their involvement has made, including through local events, community gardens, food shares, community bakeries and projects working to empower parents.

Iain Gray MSP said:

 “I was delighted to attend this reception and hear inspiring stories from people who are changing their communities for the better. I know from my own constituency what a powerful force for good local people are. When they are listened to and given flexible support, people can shape solutions that bring communities together, improve local areas and meet the challenges they face.”

Find out more about Corra Foundation at www.corra.scot/

Iain visits local primary schools

Iain Gray MSP has visited West Barns and East Linton primary schools to speak to P6 pupils about his role as East Lothian’s MSP and the work of the Scottish Parliament.

The visits were part of the county MSP’s ongoing programme of local school visits and meetings with school visitors at Holyrood.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Last week I was pleased to visit two local schools to answer a huge range of questions from pupils about the work of the Scottish Parliament.

“The first stop was to West Barns and the P6 class there, who have been working with the Scottish Parliament’s Education Department Outreach team.

“Then it was over to East Linton for a real grilling by P6 pupils, who had warmed up last week by quizzing my MP colleague, Martin Whitfield, about the workings of the Westminster Parliament.

“These schools visits are always one of the most enjoyable parts of the job, and it is reassuring to know that we have such enthusiastic and engaged young people here.”

No end in sight for Sheriffhall Roundabout chaos

Iain Gray MSP has raised the issue of ongoing congestion and delays at the Sheriffhall Roundabout with the Transport Secretary on the floor of the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Gray raised the issue following numerous complaints from East Lothian residents about the situation, which creates chaos for commuters and businesses using the Edinburgh City Bypass.

Speaking after his question, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Like many East Lothian residents, I have lost count of the time I have spent waiting in queues at the Sheriffhall Roundabout over the years.

“Improvements have been promised for many years now, and, earlier this year, Ministers indicated that work aimed at easing congestion at the roundabout would be happening in the near future.

“However, when I asked the Transport Secretary when work on the proposed improvements will begin, the answer I got was less than clear, with no date for the work forthcoming.

“This is not good enough and it’s time for the Scottish Government to deliver its commitment to carry out the improvements and solve this endemic problem once and for all.”

The full exchange in Parliament was as follows:

Sheriffhall Roundabout (Planned Improvements)

  1. Iain Gray (East Lothian) (Lab):

To ask the Scottish Government what progress has been made with the planned improvements to the Sheriffhall roundabout on the A720. (S5O-03558)

The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity (Michael Matheson):

The Scottish Government remains committed to undertaking improvements at the Sheriffhall roundabout, and Transport Scotland continues to progress the detailed development and assessment of the preferred option for the grade separation of the roundabout with a view to publishing draft orders later this year for formal comment.

As part of the essential preparatory work, Transport Scotland has undertaken ground investigation and environmental survey work, with the output informing the design of the scheme. In addition to that, extensive consultation with active travel stakeholders has been undertaken to ensure that the proposed improvements include suitable provision for all users, including cyclists.

Iain Gray:

The improvements have been promised for years, and it sometimes seems to commuters from my constituency that they have spent those years waiting in a queue at the Sheriffhall roundabout. Will the minister please give us a date on which the work will start?

Michael Matheson:

The member will be aware that the improvements were committed to through the Edinburgh and south-east Scotland city region deal, which was agreed back in 2017. Progress has been made since then, and the development assessment work on the preferred option is being taken forward by Transport Scotland.

It is difficult to give a specific date for completion because, once the draft orders are issued, individuals are allowed to comment on the matter, which could trigger a local public inquiry, and that could have an impact on the timeframe. I assure the member that we are committed to taking the project forward. I wish to see the project moving as quickly as possible, but certain issues could have an impact on the finalised timescale for completion of the project.

Motion welcomes funding boost for community kitchen project

A £100,000 lottery funding award for the Our Community Kitchen project has been welcomed in a parliamentary motion tabled by Iain Gray MSP.

The project, which has been based in Haddington Bowling Club, was developed as an intergenerational project by Dementia Friendly East Lothian, to provide home-cooked food for local people in the community who are isolated and vulnerable. It is also helping tackle “holiday hunger” by working with schools to offer free freshly cooked food to children and families during the holidays.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“This is a really welcome funding boost for a fantastic community project which has made a significant difference to the lives of local people. I’m delighted that the project has received the award and congratulate everyone involved in developing and running Our Community Kitchen on this success and for everything they are doing to support the local community.”

Title: Lottery Funding for Our Community Kitchen

Motion Text: That the Parliament congratulates the Our Community Kitchen project in Haddington on securing £100,000 of funding from the National Lottery Community Fund Scotland; understands that the service, which was developed as an intergenerational project by Dementia Friendly East Lothian, will use the funding to deliver its community kitchen, which brings people of all walks of life together to eat home-cooked food; notes that the project aims to benefit local people in the community who are isolated and vulnerable, and also contributes to helping to reduce “holiday hunger” by working with schools and the local area partnership to offer free freshly cooked food to children and families during the holidays, and commends all those involved in designing, delivering and supporting the project for the positive difference that it is making to the local community.

Iain urges local businesses to take part in Autism Hour

From Saturday 5th to Saturday 12th October hundreds of shops around Scotland are turning down music and dimming the lights, as well as providing staff with information about autism to enable them to help and understand autistic customers.

Iain Gray MSP is calling on local businesses to take part in Autism Hour to encourage shops to be more autism-friendly. Autism Hour highlights that small changes can make a big difference to autistic customers and families. National Autistic Society Scotland hope that, after participating in Autism Hour, shops will introduce regular autism-friendly sessions.

There are around 58,000 autistic people in Scotland. Being autistic means seeing, hearing and feeling the world in a different, often more intense way to other people. Autistic people often find social situations difficult and can struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience, which can make busy public places, like shops, overwhelming.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I think Autism Hour is a great initiative and I’d encourage shops, cafes and other businesses to get involved. Creating an autism friendly environment by dimming lights, turning music down having a quiet space can be easy to do and go a long way to making autistic people and their families feel welcome.”

Nick Ward, Director of National Autistic Society Scotland, said:

“I’m delighted Iain is supporting Autism Hour and encouraging businesses to take part.

“We know that 66% of autistic people in Scotland avoid the shops. And, shockingly, 27% have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism. They and their families want and deserve to have the opportunity to go to the shops, just like anyone else.

“Holding an Autism Hour is the first step to creating a more autism-friendly Scotland. Small changes can make a big difference for autistic people and their families.”

Major names from high streets across Scotland are taking part in Autism Hour, including The Entertainer, Morrisons, Lloyds Banking Group, Home Bargains and intu Group.

Further information about the campaign, including a full list of participating shops in Scotland, can be found at www.autism.org.uk/autismhour.

Iain welcomes opening of surf centre

Iain Gray MSP has welcomed the official opening of the Belhaven Surf Centre in Dunbar in a motion laid at the Scottish Parliament.

The new £275,000 Centre, the brainchild of local man Brian Allen, is Scotland’s first community surf facility and will accommodate surf school Coast to Coast and other community groups, including the Wave Project, as well as having two rooms available for community use.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Surfing has become an increasingly important sport in East Lothian in recent years, especially at Belhaven, one of the best beaches in the country in my view, but it has lacked this kind of facility.

“The Surf Centre is therefore a fantastic addition to Belhaven, and the building looks great and fits in beautifully.”