Iain gets the needle at Holyrood

Iain Gray MSP was needled by health campaigners this week, but it was all in the cause of learning first-hand how our local pharmacies can help deliver a vital health service to the public more effectively.

Unlike in England, highly qualified pharmacists are unable to administer flu vaccinations for the NHS – despite being well able to do so.

And, in the view of Community Pharmacy Scotland, that means that Scotland’s hard-pressed GP services are coming under ever-greater pressure in their battle to balance a whole range of services.

The pharmacists maintain that allowing them to help administer the flu jabs would help significantly in getting much closer to target levels amongst the most vulnerable populations who qualify for the vaccination, such as the elderly, pregnant women and people with specific conditions.

This has prompted Community Pharmacy Scotland clinicians to take to the Scottish Parliament to show MSPs first-hand just how easily they could help, using a dummy medical arm just in case nervous politicians found their aim was off!

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Our NHS is facing unprecedented pressures and this only gets worse over winter. Letting pharmacists administer flu jabs seems like an easy way to increase the number of vulnerable people receiving vaccinations, and at the same time reduce some of the pressure on GPs and other NHS services.

“I was pleased to pledge my support for Community Pharmacy Scotland’s campaign to get NHS vaccines into community pharmacies and hope that Scottish Ministers are listening.”

Harry McQuillan, CEO of Community Pharmacy Scotland, said:

“Last year the number of people suffering flu doubled from the previous year. Our vaccination rates fall well below World Health Organisation targets, and we’ve never managed to vaccinate more than 61% of ‘at risk’ adults under the age of 65.

“Meanwhile we have a network of 1250 pharmacies staffed by qualified clinicians throughout our communities, often open six days a week. We need the required change in legislation to allow us to come into line with England, where pharmacists delivered 1.17 million flu vaccinations between September and January last winter.”

Parliamentarians are supporting Small Business Saturday

Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP are helping to promote this year’s Small Business Saturday, the annual campaign to highlight small businesses and encourage consumers to ‘shop local’.

On Small Business Saturday, customers across the UK are encouraged 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 and take advantage of the campaign, which aims to promote small business on a key shopping day in the run-up to Christmas, as well as give a long-term boost to trade.

This year the day itself is taking place on Saturday 1st December, but the campaign aims to have a lasting impact on small businesses throughout the year. Last year’s campaign was the most successful yet with an estimated £748 million spent on the day.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I have been a supporter of Small Business Saturday since it was launched back in 2013. It has grown considerably over the years and is now established as a popular annual fixture for promoting the importance of small businesses.

By highlighting small and independent businesses and the choice they offer local people, the day has helped 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 great opportunity to celebrate and promote the contribution small businesses make to local economies and communities. Local businesses and independent shops are mainstays of our high streets and smaller communities and deserve to be supported.

“The campaign’s efforts to encourage people to shop locally and support small businesses in their area have enjoyed great success and the campaign is growing every year. I’m delighted to be supporting the day again this year and look forward to promoting it in the coming weeks.”

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

Comment on latest Foodbank statistics

Commenting on the latest figures from the Trussell Trust, which show a 15 per cent increase in foodbank use across Scotland compared with the same period last year, Iain Gray MSP said:

“The 15% increase in the number of food parcels distributed across Scotland compared with this period last year is a significant jump. It underlines just how desperate the situation is for many families. The staff and volunteers at East Lothian Foodbank do an amazing job providing emergency help to those facing food poverty but I know they are stretched to the limit.

“The blame for the failures of Universal Credit, which is causing this Foodbank crisis, lies with the UK Government. However, the Scottish Parliament now has a range of new powers over welfare. We must quickly determine how these can be best used to reduce the need for Foodbanks by increasing support for carers, older people and disabled people.”

Grace Warnock presented with prestigious Diana Award

Campaigning Prestonpans schoolgirl, Grace Warnock, was presented with the prestigious Diana Award at a ceremony in Edinburgh earlier this week.

Grace invited local MSP Iain Gray, who has been a supporter of her Grace’s Sign campaign on invisible disabilities and accessible toilets from the beginning, to join her at the presentation, which took place at the National Museum of Scotland.

Established in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, The Diana Award is the most prestigious accolade a young person aged 9-25 years can receive for their social action or humanitarian work.

The Award is the longest running award for young people presented to individuals and groups through a retrospective nomination process only. Young people do not work towards the award, but rather demonstrate their suitability through their actions, without any expectation of reward.

The Diana Award follows numerous other recognition of Grace and her campaign, including a British Citizen Youth Award (BCyA), Young Scot Award and a Points of Light Award from the Prime Minister.

Speaking about Grace’s latest success, Iain Gray MSP said:

“The Diana Award is a very prestigious accolade which only a handful of young people around the world are presented with each year.

“It recognises outstanding social action and humanitarian work, with some truly remarkable children and young people receiving the award over the last 19 years.

“Grace’s campaigning for greater awareness and understanding of issues around invisible disabilities, and particularly the use of accessible toilets, is one of the most inspiring I’ve seen during my time in politics.

“Her compassion, determination and inventiveness has had a significant and lasting impact on the issue and she fully deserves this latest recognition for her efforts.”


Find out more about The Diana Award at https://diana-award.org.uk/


Parliament Week at Gladsmuir brownies

County MSP Iain Gray joined the 2nd Gladsmuir Brownies at their weekly meeting to discuss parliament and his work representing East Lothian.

The unit had invited Mr Gray to attend as they explored Scottish politics and this year’s Parliament Week.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“2nd Gladsmuir brownies are an active and engaged group, who meet at Macmerry primary school. They were participating in Parliament Week, and I was delighted to join them to answer questions about what I do in the Scottish Parliament.

“After some questions about my work, they held their own election between parties, based on manifesto promises for new rules for the Brownie unit.

“The Blue party, won a bit of a landslide, not a result I would normally welcome, but well done to all involved, including leader Hayley who has the unit buzzing!”

Comment on spending watchdog report

Commenting on the Accounts Commission’s Best Value Assurance Report on East Lothian Council, Iain Gray MSP said:

“This Accounts Commission report is overwhelmingly positive about the progress East Lothian Council has made over recent years. A great deal of the credit for this must of course go to the Council’s management and dedicated workforce for continually striving to provide a better service, even under very difficult financial circumstances and with fewer staff.

“However, the leadership shown by my Labour colleagues on the Council, and especially Cllr Willie Innes, since they returned to office in 2012 is undoubtedly also an important factor in the Council’s success. I know that councillors of all parties work very hard for their local communities and they deserve their share of the credit when things work well.

“I hope the Scottish Government will reward East Lothian’s success by reversing their recent funding cuts and giving the county a fair financial settlement in the forthcoming Scottish budget.”

State of roads direct result of funding cuts

Reacting to a report showing that a third of the road network in East Lothian is in need of repair, Iain Gray MSP has insisted that the blame lies at the door of the Scottish Government, following cuts of £25m to East Lothian Council’s central funding over the last five years.

Commenting on the report, Iain Gray MSP said:

“The condition of roads is a problem across Scotland. A report earlier this year confirmed that local authorities have cut road maintenance budgets by 20% since 2011. This is a direct result of the Scottish Government slashing council funding over this period, with East Lothian Council having suffered cuts of around £25 million in the last five years.

“However, I know that while many other authorities have had to cut spending on roads, East Lothian Council has done its utmost to protect the budget. The Scottish Government needs to recognise the impact its cuts are having and give local authorities the funding they need to protect services, including road maintenance.”

Iain gets on his bike for Poppy Appeal

Iain Gray MSP has joined parliamentary colleagues in participating in this year’s Poppy Ride at Parliament in support of the Scottish Poppy Appeal.

More than 30 MSPs from across the political spectrum took part in the Poppy Ride, which invited members to spend five minutes on a static bike with the aim of riding a mile – or more – in that time.

Poppyscotland is the only officially recognised charity of the Scottish Parliament. It is best known for running the annual Scottish Poppy Appeal, Scotland’s largest annual street collection, and last year raised £2.9 million.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“The Poppy Ride at the Scottish Parliament is a great way of supporting and promoting the Poppy Appeal and I was very pleased to again support and participate in it.  Given that I followed a genuine Olympic athlete and a marathon runner, I was pretty pleased with my distance this year.”

Find out more about Poppyscotland’s fundraising activities at www.poppyscotland.org.uk/

Parliamentarians host ‘Thank You’ event

Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP have hosted a fundraising ‘Thank You’ coffee morning event as part of activities in the run-up to this year’s Remembrance Day, 100 years since the end of the First World War.

The event was held in partnership with the Royal British Legion in Prestonpans and enjoyed fantastic support from local people raising a total of £368.90 which will be donated to this year’s Scottish poppy appeal.

The ‘Thank You’ movement has been led by Poppyscotland and Legion Scotland and encourages everyone to show their appreciation for a generation that served, sacrificed and changed our world a century ago.

Highlights of the coffee morning included the attendance of local resident, Jozef Czech, who was born in 1918 and recently celebrated his 100th birthday, and a poppy cake baked by campaigning schoolgirl Grace Warnock.

Speaking after the event, Iain Gray MSP said:

“The ‘Thank You’ movement is a really important way of thanking and remembering everyone who was involved in World War One and made sacrifices for future generations.

“I’m really pleased we were able to play our small part in these commemorative activities with this event. The support from the local community was outstanding and helped us raise a decent amount towards this year’s Scottish Appeal.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“I had been really looking forward to this event and the opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues from Prestonpans. We were delighted that so many people joined us to say ‘Thank You’ to the generation who lived through World War One.

“I also want to say thanks to the Prestonpans Legion and everyone who donated at the event for helping us mark the centenary and raise vital funds for the poppy appeal.”

Find out more about the ‘Thank You’ movement at www.legionscotland.org.uk/royal-british-legion-scotland-says-thank-you

Mineworkers’ home celebrates 70th anniversary

Scottish Labour Leader, Richard Leonard MSP, and local parliamentarians, Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP, have helped celebrate the 70th anniversary of Whatton Lodge, the Lothian Mineworkers’ Convalescent Home,

The celebration event held at the lodge in Gullane, marked 70 years of the home providing free respite breaks for former miners and their families from the Lothians.

Mr Leonard was the special guest speaker, with around 60 guests and supporters from mining communities across the Lothians also attending the event.

Speaking after the event, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Whatton Lodge has provided an amazing service to former miners and their families over the last 70 years. It has a very significant role in the history of our coalfield communities and is fondly remembered by many hundreds of families across East Lothian.

“I was pleased that Richard was able to join the celebration and speak about the importance of Whatton Lodge and our mining heritage. He is very knowledgeable about the history of mining in Scotland and it was fitting to have the Scottish Labour leader at the event.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“It was an honour to join the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the wonderful Whatton Lodge. It has done an outstanding job over this long period, offering a very special haven for men who spent their working lives in some of the most dangerous environments imaginable.

“I know from having spoken to many of the former miners and families who enjoy holidays there just how loved and valued it is. I hope it will be able to continue providing these valuable respite breaks for many years to come.”