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

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 or visit the award winning website, 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

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

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