Local pupils urged to enter plastic waste competition

Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP are urging local schools and pupils to help tackle the problem of plastic waste in the UK.

Their call follows the launch of a new UK-wide National Schools Partnership poster competition, where schools can win up to £20,000 for a sustainability project.

Asda and the National Schools Partnership are inviting all primary school pupils to design a poster that spreads awareness of plastic waste and what can be done to help solve it. Up for grabs are:

  • 1stprize – A cheque for £20,000 to the school of the winning pupil to promote sustainable living and a £1,000 Asda Gift Card for the winning pupil.
  • 2ndprize – A cheque for £10,000 to the school of the winning pupil to promote sustainable living and a £500 Asda Gift Card for the winning pupil.
  • 3rdprize – A cheque for £5,000 to the school of the winning pupil to promote sustainable living and a £250 Asda Gift Card for the winning pupil.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I know that many schools in East Lothian have already been exploring the problem of plastic waste and how everyone can play their part in helping tackle it. This competition is a fantastic opportunity to build on that work and potentially win funds to promote sustainable living initiatives locally.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“In many ways, East Lothian has been pioneering in promoting action against plastic pollution. This includes our schools and pupils who have taken a huge interest in the issue. I hope that local children will now take the opportunity presented by this competition to further increase awareness of plastic waste.”

Schools can find out more about the competition and how to enter at https://nationalschoolspartnership.com/initiatives/asda/. Entries must be submitted by 5pm on 24th July.

Iain backs local college lecturers in pay dispute

County MSP Iain Gray has challenged the First Minister to intervene in the college lecturers pay dispute in order to help bring about a fair resolution for staff.

Mr Gray raised the issue with Ms Sturgeon on the same day as EIS-FELA (Further Education Lecturers’ Association) members from across Scotland held a rally at the Scottish Parliament, which he addressed as Sottish Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary.

Speaking after the rally, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Our colleges are a critical part of Scotland’s education sector. Several lecturers from East Lothian have asked for my backing with their pay dispute. I gave them my unequivocal support when I addressed the EIS-FELA rally at Holyrood this week.

“At FMQs I also challenged Nicola Sturgeon to intervene in the dispute and help resolve it with a fair cost of living increase for lecturers, which they have been denied for three years. Unfortunately, she refused to get involved.

“I will continue to support EIS-FELA members in their pursuit of a fair pay increase and also keep urging Ministers to do the right thing and intervene on their behalf to settle the dispute.”

Iain welcomes Haddington Probus Club to Holyrood

Members of Haddington Probus Club have been welcomed to the Scottish Parliament by Iain Gray MSP.

Mr Gray welcomed the group to Holyrood for their annual club outing. He gave them a tour of the building, explaining how Parliament operates and the role of MSPs, before answering some of their questions.

Speaking after the visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I was delighted to welcome the members of Haddington Probus Club to Parliament and provide them with a tour of the building. They were clearly very interested in how Parliament operates and had many questions about its history and the way in which decisions are made there.

“I always try and accommodate requests for visits and give a tour myself whenever possible. Any other local groups or organisations looking to visit Parliament should contact my office for help and advice with making the necessary arrangements.”

Meeting Poppyscotland at Holyrood

Poppyscotland representatives were exhibiting in the Members’ Lobby of the Scottish Parliament this week, where Iain Gray MSP stopped to chat and find out more about its services.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Poppyscotland provides vital services to support those who have served and are still serving in our Armed Forces and their families. This includes a range of practical advice, assistance and support and I was pleased to hear more about the charity’s new Welfare Support Service and the Armed Services Advice Project it is delivering with Citizens Advice Scotland.”

Poppyscotland is best known for running the iconic Scottish Poppy Appeal, but the charity works all year round to help those who have served, those still serving and their families receive the care and support they need.

Find out more about its work and services at www.poppyscotland.org.uk

Leading debate on anniversary of Rwandan genocide

Iain Gray MSP has led a debate in the Scottish Parliament commemorating the 25th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi people in Rwanda.

As an Oxfam official at the time of the genocide, Mr Gray spent time with the charity’s emergency team in eastern Zaire, before going into Rwanda itself.

Today, he told MSPs that the country is currently observing 100 days of national mourning, to mark the anniversary of the day in 1994 when the Hutu people turned on their friends and neighbours.

By the end of the massacre, which lasted 100 days, around 70 per cent of the Tutsi population were dead and, fearing retribution, millions of the Hutu population fled.

Speaking after the debate, Iain Gray MSP said:

“25 years ago I was working as a campaigns organiser for Oxfam, and we were desperately lobbying the international community to intervene in Rwanda and end the wholesale murder of Tutsis by Hutus which began on 7th April 1994. We failed, and over the next 100 days around a million people were slaughtered.

“Later that year I spent some time with the Oxfam emergency team in the refugee camps in Eastern Zaire, and a few days in Rwanda itself.

“As the commemorations of the genocide take place this year, I was honoured to led a debate at Holyrood on my reflections of those events 25 years ago and the lessons I think we must learn from what happened then.”

You can watch the full speech here.

Giles wins ‘pawblic’ vote in ‘Holyrood Dog of the Year’ contest

Iain Gray MSP’s nine-month-old Labrador/Retriever cross Guide Dog Puppy, Giles, has been declared the winner of the public vote in the ‘Holyrood Dog of the Year’ contest.

Iain and Giles were competing against a range of other MSPs and their dogs at the annual competition, which is organised jointly by the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust.

Mr Gray had entered Giles to help raise awareness of the role of Guide Dog Puppies and the search for new puppy walkers to help train the next generation of guide dogs.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“We’re delighted that Giles has won the public vote to be crowned the Holyrood Dog of the Year. I want to thank everyone who took the time to vote for Giles and support him on social media. 

“Of course, the main reason for entering him in the contest was to help raise awareness of the vitally important role of guide dogs and the need for more puppy walkers. I hope that by highlighting the difference dedicated Guide Dog Puppies like Giles can make to people’s lives we can encourage others to consider coming forward as puppy walkers to help train more dogs in the future.”

Details of MSPs and dogs entered for Holyrood Dog of the Year can be found at www.thekennelclub.org.uk/events/holyrood-dog-of-the-year/

Celebrating the OU at 50

Iain Gray MSP has joined parliamentary colleagues in helping to mark and celebrate 50 years of the Open University (OU).

Mr Gray spoke in a Member’s debate, led by Labour colleagues Claire Baker MSP, marking the OU’s 50th anniversary and the huge contribution it has made to opening up opportunities for lifelong learning.

The county’s MSP acknowledged and congratulated the institution and the idea of the Open University, but it is also the students, some 200,000 from Scotland across those 50 years, who have seized the opportunity offered by the OU.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“As I said in the debate, there is great pride in the role played by the Labour movement in establishing the Open University, and on Scotland’s pride in the role that we played through Jennie Lee and Walter Perry.

“It is an institution which has opened doors for generations of returning learners, many from the poorest backgrounds who could not have dreamed of accessing university through more traditional routes.

“The OU is worthy of great praise as an institution, but all of those who have studied at the OU, including the many who have caring responsibilities or who are living with disability and still have the self-discipline and determination to make their study work and succeed, are also to be admired and congratulated.

“As I concluded in Parliament, the OU comes up with new ideas all the time, so I congratulate it on the past 50 years and look forward to the 50 years to come.”

Iain pledges to fight MS during annual Awareness Week

This Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Week (22-28 April), MS Society Scotland were in the Scottish Parliament to raise awareness of the important role research plays in the lives of people affected by MS.

MS affects more than 11,000 people in Scotland and can cause problems with how we walk, move, see, think and feel. But the MS Society is driving research into more – and better – treatments.

The charity currently funds 10 research projects in Scotland with the studies receiving over £3.56million over their lifetimes.

Iain Gray MSP, who pledged his support for the crucial research being conducted in Scotland to stop MS, said:

“MS affects a large number of people in East Lothian and right across Scotland. The condition can have a highly debilitating impact on those living with it, affecting every aspect of their lives and those of their families.

“Research into the cause of MS and better treatments are essential to help improve the lives of people living with the condition. Scotland is already a leading location for MS research and I was pleased to pledge my support to the ongoing fight against MS.”

Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland, said:

“This MS Awareness Week we are highlighting the importance of MS research.

“For more than 11,000 people in Scotland, living with MS is a daily reality. This is why the MS Society is driving cutting-edge research into more and better treatments to ultimately stop MS.

“By contributing and joining a global group of fundraisers people can help us find new treatments for people living with the often painful and exhausting condition.”

MS is an unpredictable condition that is different for everyone. It affects how a person thinks, feels and moves. For support and information, please contact the helpline on 0808 800 8000.

Iain visits Teapot Trust project

Iain Gray MSP joined Founder of Teapot Trust, Dr Laura N Young MBE, during a visit the charity’s art therapy service at the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh.

Teapot Trust is Scotland’s largest employer of art therapists with 22 art therapists, running 27 projects in 12 hospitals, from Inverness to London. It has also recently expanded, with art therapists supporting children at hospitals in Liverpool and Cambridge.

The charity provides professional art therapy to support the wellbeing of children, young people and their families in hospitals across the UK. Teapot Trust exists to encourage self-expression, reduce anxiety and build resilience in children with chronic conditions through the therapeutic process of art.

Following his visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“It was great to see first-hand the Teapot Trust’s open group art therapy service in action. It is clear the positive changes Teapot Trust are making to the lives of children with chronic conditions throughout the UK, supporting both physical and emotional wellbeing and providing them with healthy methods of coping at what can be an incredibly difficult time.”

Speaking about the visit, Laura Young said:

“I am delighted that Iain took the time to visit our service in Edinburgh and see the positive impact art therapy can have on the wellbeing of children and young people with chronic conditions and their families. There is a great need for the service provided by Teapot Trust and I am grateful that Iain recognised this.”

Teapot Trust has been promoting the idea of ‘Do Art Daily’. They believe that incorporating some form of art or creativity into the daily routine, whether that be knitting, journaling or even a daily doodle, can be beneficial for mental health and wellbeing, helping to reduce stress.

Contending for prestigious Holyrood Dog of the Year title

On Monday 29th April, Iain Gray MSP and his nine-month-old Labrador/Retriever cross Guide Dog Puppy, Giles, will compete with other politicians and their pooches to win the coveted title of ‘Holyrood Dog of the Year’.

Dogs of all shapes and sizes, regardless of breed, creed or ‘pawlitical’ persuasion, will be helping their MSP owners to strut their stuff as they head to the Scottish Parliament gardens at Horse Wynd, Edinburgh, to see who will be crowned top dog.

Organised jointly by the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust, the competition offers the unique chance for Iain to show off his loyal canine companion, Giles.

Much like its long-running English counterpart Westminster Dog of the Year, Holyrood Dog of the Year aims to promote responsible dog ownership and encourage open dialogue on dog welfare issues in Scotland, as well as providing an opportunity for MSPs to meet with dog welfare experts to discuss all aspects of the canine world. This year’s competition will raise awareness of the negative impact that fireworks can have on dog welfare, and how both dog owners and non-dog owners can help reduce this.

Proud puppy walker Iain explains:

“Giles is a dedicated Guide Dog Puppy, so one day will transform someone’s life. He loves cuddles, jumping around and jumping in the sea when he gets a free run! He’s also a big supporter of campaigns to end pavement parking, ban puppy farms  and restrict sales on fireworks.

“This fun event will be a great opportunity to celebrate the essential work MSPs are doing to improve dog welfare and to highlight the importance of responsible dog ownership.”

MSPs will also be calling for their supporters to vote for them, in a bid to win the ‘pawblic’ vote, with additional judging on the day which will review the contestants on their good dog deeds and winning personalities. This will then determine which political pooch will take home the ultimate parliamentary privilege of the ‘Holyrood Dog of the Year’ title.

The judging panel to determine which dog wins the crown includes Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director at the Dogs Trust, Bill Lambert, Senior Health and Welfare Manager at the Kennel Club, and special guest judge Maurice Golden, MSP. The competition starts at 10.00am on Monday 29th April at the Scottish Parliament Gardens, Horse Wynd, Edinburgh, EH8 8DX.

Details of MSPs and dogs entered for Holyrood Dog of the Year can be found at www.thekennelclub.org.uk/events/holyrood-dog-of-the-year/ and to vote for Iain and Giles please visit www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/HDOTY2019