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

Call for Ministers to stop “dithering” on future agriculture support scheme

Iain Gray MSP has backed a colleague’s call for the Scottish government to stop “dithering” on setting out plans to support Scottish agriculture as the country deals with the fallout from Brexit.

The call comes after the Scottish Government gave a statement on the impact on Scotland’s rural economy of leaving the European Union – but failed once again to provide any details on what would replace the Common Agricultural Policy at the end of the transition period in 2024.

Responding in Parliament to the Scottish Government’s statement, Scottish Labour Rural Economy Spokesperson and South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth called on the Scottish Government to set out a framework for Scottish agriculture for the post-Brexit period.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Although farmers and crofters across Scotland are relieved that a catastrophic No Deal exit from the EU was avoided, the trade deal cobbled together falls short of what was needed and promised and leaves a huge amount of uncertainty. 

“East Lothian’s farmers need clarity from the Scottish Government on what support scheme will replace the Common Agriculture Policy from 2024.

“The UK and Scottish Governments must provide more answers on what progress is being made in the development of a set of common frameworks to protect the integrity of the UK-wide single market. 

“The rest of the UK is Scottish agriculture’s biggest market. It’s vital we ensure there is adequate consistency and alignment between nations, and that it is done sooner rather than later.”

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

Iain demands action on cost of living crisis

Iain Gray MSP has demanded action to protect families and households across East Lothian who are staring down the barrel of a ‘cost of living crisis’ caused by the pandemic.

Statistics published by the Scottish Government last week have revealed the extent of the cost of living crisis facing the people of East Lothian with many thousands seeking help with council tax exemptions.

Scottish Government statistics have revealed as of last November almost half a million Scots – 497,170 people – were receiving council tax exemption due to financial pressures.

In East Lothian more than 7,000 households have been forced to apply for council tax exemption.

Statistics have also revealed that by the end of December 2020, 1,207 people had applied for debt moratoria under emergency measures brought forward by Scottish Labour and contained in both the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 and the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020.

On top of the pressures of council tax and personal debt, millions of Scots are set to be hit by inflation-busting water prices – despite Scottish Water and its subsidiaries holding reserves of over half a billion pounds.

Local MSP Iain Gray is challenging the Scottish Government to take action to support thousands of Scottish families facing a cost of living crisis due to collapsing earnings and spiralling costs.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“The economic shockwaves of this pandemic have rocked families and households in East Lothian, with many thousands facing falling earnings and rising costs.

“Make no mistake, the people of East Lothian are facing a cost of living crisis. It is simply unacceptable that 7,130 people in East Lothian have been forced to apply for council tax exemption.

“The SNP has been too slow to act to support businesses, protect workers and protect family finances – at the coming budget, Scottish Labour will fight for a fair economic recovery for all that puts the people of Scotland first.

“It’s time to put households and families across East Lothian at the heart of our economic recovery.” 

Congratulating local firefighters on calendar success

Iain Gray MSP has welcomed the success of a fundraising calendar produced by firefighters from East Linton Community Fire Station.

The images in the calendar capture some famous local landmarks including Preston Mill, which featured in the recent TV drama Outlander. The photographs were taken throughout 2020 by local photographer Murray Thomson.

The calendars, which sold out by the end of 2020, have raised funds for various local charities and community groups.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“East Linton is one of many picturesque villages across East Lothian. Using images of the village for this fundraising calendar was a great idea by the local firefighters and I’m not surprised they proved to be so popular with local people.

“Charities and community groups need all the help they can get at this difficult time, so I congratulate the firefighters on their initiative and thank everyone who supported them by buying a calendar.”

Iain pledges support for students facing hardship

Iain Gray MSP has pledged his support for students facing hardship ahead of this year’s Scottish budget.

Responding to NUS Scotland’s Students Deserve Better campaign, Mr Gray has joined them in calling for specific additional support for students in need, as well as pledging his support for the wider campaign.

The union’s two specific budget demands are for a doubling of further and higher education discretionary funding, with new, additional funding available to support students facing hardship and an additional £5 million to address ongoing digital poverty in our colleges and universities.

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

“We know that Covid-19 has increased existing inequalities and reduced opportunities for many in society. Students, especially those from poorer backgrounds, are among those who have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, with everything from their accommodation and living costs to learning and exams affected.

“Many have lost the part-time jobs they rely on and their student status means they can’t access the same social security support as wider society. Others have lost family support over this time due to parents and household incomes being negatively impacted by the pandemic.  

“NUS Scotland is doing a good job standing up for students in need of financial support ahead of this year’s budget being agreed, and I’m pleased to support the campaign and sign up to their pledge.”

Find out more about the #StudentsDeserveBetter campaign at www.nus.org.uk/campaign-hub/students-deserve-better

Nominate for this year’s Young Scot Awards

Iain Gray MSP is urging East Lothian residents to consider nominating young people from their local community in this year’s Young Scot Awards.

These annual awards seek to recognise the contribution of individual or groups of young people who go the extra mile to help others and make a difference in their communities or in a particular area of life.

Since being launched in 2006, they have been Scotland’s only national awards for the young people of Scotland and this year the Young Scot team are once again seeking nominations for awards to celebrate the inspirational contributions of young Scots.

Previous local award winners include local hidden disabilities campaigner Grace Warnock from Prestonpans, who won in the health category at the 2017 awards.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“There are many outstanding and inspirational young people in East Lothian doing some amazing things in and for their local communities and to help local people. The Young Scot Awards are a great chance to recognise the contribution of some of these young people and it would be great to see them represented this year, so please get nominating!”

The awards cover 14 different categories including education, sport and entertainment, and nominations can be made until 14th February https://young.scot/campaigns/national/young-scot-awards