Iain backs call for airport testing to save aviation sector

Iain Gray MSP is backing calls for the Scottish Government to introduce a comprehensive system for testing air passengers on arrival, as well as direct support to the sector, in order to save thousands of jobs in the aviation sector.

At Holyrood today (Wednesday), Scottish Labour led a debate calling for ministers to secure a sustainable post-Covid future for a sector that has been thrown into crisis by the pandemic.

The Fraser of Allander Institute has predicted that proposed cuts in the Scottish civil aviation and aerospace engineering sectors may cause the loss of around 5,000 jobs in total in Scotland.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Scotland’s aviation sector is among the industries hit the hardest by Covid-19, with many jobs already lost and thousands more now at risk as we approach the end of the furlough scheme.

“This will have a knock-on effect on our tourism sector, which is especially important for East Lothian, in the short and long terms, and we simply can’t afford to stand by and watch the sector collapse.”

Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP said:

“Scottish Labour is calling the Scottish Government to work with the aviation sector and the relevant Trade Unions in Scotland to agree on a specific package of support for the industry.

“We are also calling for an urgent review of the existing quarantine system, which is clearly not fit for purpose. It’s time for the Scottish Government to introduce a robust regime of airport testing on arrival – with follow up testing at home.”

Iain hails FCA’s test case as welcome news for local businesses

Iain Gray MSP has hailed today’s High Court judgment backing the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) business interruption insurance test case.

Mr Gray has represented a number of local businesses over this problem of the insurance sector failing to pay out for business interruption insurance due to Coronavirus and thus “wriggling out of their obligations” to businesses.

The FCA brought the case “in order to resolve the lack of clarity and certainty that existed for many policyholders making business interruption claims and the wider market”.

The court found in favour of the arguments advanced for policyholders by the FCA on the majority of the key issues.

Speaking about the outcome of the test case, Iain Gray MSP said:

“At the start of this pandemic I began to hear from local businesses who had their claims for business interruption insurance turned down. Companies were being put at risk of going under sooner because of this and that was potentially damaging for the whole local economy.

“This judgment is welcome news and a win for all those small and medium sized businesses who had no chance of taking on the big boys of the insurance world. I hope that insurance companies will now reconsider some of the claims they rejected, and I would advise businesses in this situation to get back to their insurers in the light of this judgment.”

Mr Gray added that he hoped there would not be an appeal by the insurance sector but if there was that it would be dealt with swiftly.

The FCA said that most small and medium sized businesses policies were focused on property damage and only had basic cover for Business Interruption as a consequence of property damage. But some policies also covered Business Insurance from other causes, in particular, infectious or notifiable diseases (‘disease clauses’) and non-damage denial of access and public authority closures or restrictions (‘denial of access clauses’). In some cases, insurers had accepted liability under these policies.  In other cases, insurers had disputed liability while policyholders considered that it existed, leading to widespread concern about the lack of clarity and certainty.

The FCA’s aim in bringing the test case was to urgently clarify key issues of contractual uncertainty for as many policyholders and insurers as possible. The FCA did this by selecting a representative sample of policy wordings issued by eight insurers. The FCA’s role was to put forward policyholders’ arguments to their best advantage in the public interest. 370,000 policyholders were identified as holding policies that may be affected by the outcome of the test case.

Failure to tackle attainment gap laid bare by new statistics

The SNP’s failure to close the attainment gap has been laid bare today by new statistics which have shown that for adults living in the most deprived areas of Scotland, the commonest level of qualification is no qualifications at all.

The statistics, from the Scottish Household Survey, have revealed that almost 3 in 10 adults in the 20 per cent most deprived areas had no qualifications: the most common educational qualification for this deprivation level.

Scottish Labour has said that this ‘shameful’ statistic has demonstrated the SNP’s complete failure, after well over a decade in office, to tackle the attainment gap.

Commenting, Iain Gray MSP said:

“This shocking statistic has laid bare the SNP’s complete failure in tackling the attainment gap.

“With educational inequalities set to rise due to the effects of the pandemic, the Scottish Government must get to grips with this situation immediately.

“For too long a postcode lottery has determined the educational attainment of thousands of people living in Scotland. This simply cannot continue.

“The time has come for the SNP to face up to their abysmal record on education and work with other parties to help bridge this substantial attainment gap.”

Gas Safety Week 2020

2020 marks the tenth anniversary of Gas Safety Week, the annual campaign to promote key messages around gas safety.

Coordinated by the Gas Safe Register, Gas Safety Week provides a platform for the gas industry, consumer organisations and individuals to focus communications about gas safety in one week, generating interest in the media and having a greater impact among the public.

This year’s week runs from Monday 14th September to Sunday 20th September.

Find out more about the week and how you can ensure gas safety in your own home at www.gassafetyweek.co.uk

Make your nominations in this year’s Scottish Health Awards

Nominations are open for this year’s Scottish Health Awards, the annual opportunity to recognise and celebrate those that go that extra mile to improve the health and wellbeing of others in our hospitals and communities.
The public have until 30 September to nominate their local choices in sixteen award categories, including a People’s Choice Award which will be open to a public vote from 19 October.
Iain Gray MSP said: 
“The last few months have given all of us an even greater appreciation of the lifesaving role of our wonderful NHS staff who have been at the frontline of the pandemic in hospitals and communities.
“The Scottish Health Awards are another timely opportunity to recognise the efforts of these staff, as well as projects and initiatives aimed at making our communities healthier and I urge local people to get nominating!”
Find out more and make your nominations at www.scottishhealthawards.com/

Iain backs campaign to save Scotland’s outdoor centres

Iain Gray MSP is backing a new campaign to save Scotland’s outdoor residential centres from closure.

Campaigners including Scouts Scotland, Girlguiding Scotland and the Outward Bound Trust have come together to warn that unless action is taken urgently, the country could face losing the centres forever.

They have launched a petition calling on Scottish Government ministers to review their decision not to provide financial support to the outdoor education sector while it remains unable to operate as normal because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Without support, the campaigners warn that many outdoors centres will suffer the same fate as Girlguiding Scotland’s Netherurd House, which has been closed permanently after 70 years of operation.

The Scottish Government has advised local authorities that school residential trips should not take place until at least the spring term in 2021, with no review date set to reassess this position.

Iain Gray MSP said:
“Outdoor education centres have been playing a vital role in young people’s learning for decades, with the importance of outdoor learning even being embedded in the Curriculum for Excellence. As well as the educational benefits, the outdoor residential sector also supports thousands of jobs both within the sector and the rural economies where many are based.
“Despite the obvious importance of this sector, we are now in a situation where Scotland’s outdoor centres are in crisis. This warning from the sector must be taken seriously by the Scottish Government. That’s why I’m pleased to support the outdoor education sector’s campaign and petition calling on Ministers to save Scottish outdoor residential centres.”
Please sign and share the petition now at http://chng.it/XNwgDKfg

Iain celebrates community’s efforts to cure blood cancer

To mark Blood Cancer Awareness Month this September, Iain Gray MSP is participating in a digital ‘Day of Action’ to celebrate the number of potential stem cell donors in East Lothian on the Anthony Nolan register and raise awareness of the urgent need for more donors to come forward.

The day of action is taking place today (Wednesday 9th September) and is part of Anthony Nolan’s Communities vs Blood Cancer campaign, which shines a spotlight on vital work being done locally to ensure that every patient in need of a stem cell transplant can find a donor.

Anthony Nolan’s lifesaving work has been greatly enhanced at a local level by the charity’s eleven-year partnership with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, who undertake vital work in schools through the SFRS Education Programme.

In East Lothian, 945 potential stem cell donors are registered with Anthony Nolan. 20 per cent of these donors are men aged 16-30, and the average age is 34. In total, more than 800,000 people in the UK are on the Anthony Nolan register, any of whom could be a match for someone with blood cancer and asked to donate their stem cells to give a patient a second chance of life.

Now, Iain Gray is encouraging more people from East Lothian, particularly men aged 16-30 and people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds, to register as stem cell donors and make sure that a match is available for everyone in need of a transplant.

While anyone on the register could be a match for someone with blood cancer, men aged 16-30 are most likely to be asked to donate. They provide more than 50 per cent of donations yet make up just 18 per cent of the register. There is also a shortage of donors from non-white and mixed-race backgrounds.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I’m a long-term supporter of Anthony Nolan’s vital work and am very proud that my constituency now has 945 registered donors, any one of whom could offer the only chance of giving someone with blood cancer a second chance at life.

“Donating stem cells is straightforward but it could make an enormous difference to someone with no other chance of a cure, which is why I’m urging more people, especially men aged 16 to 30, to come forward and join the register.”

Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan, said:

“In the last year 58 selfless Scots from Iain’s constituency joined the Anthony Nolan register, each one representing hope for patients with blood cancer, and blood disorders, in need of matching stem cell donors.

“This Blood Cancer Awareness Month residents can be proud of all the lifesavers in your community. To everyone from East Lothian who has taken the decision to join the register, thank you. It is vital we recruit more ethnically-diverse, young, male, donors to ensure everyone who needs a transplant can access one. Without you, there is no cure.”

For more information on Anthony Nolan visit www.anthonynolan.org/join

Anthony Nolan uses its register to match potential stem cell donors to blood cancer patients in desperate need of a stem cell transplant. It also carries out vital research to make stem cell transplants more successful and supports patients through their transplant journeys.

Remember A Charity Week

Remember A Charity Week is the nation’s annual public awareness campaign, which sees almost 200 charities come together to celebrate and inspire gifts in wills.

With law firms, financial advisers and charities reporting a surge in will-writing enquiries during the pandemic, Remember A Charity in your Will Week (7 to 13 September) is aiming to boost and grow legacy giving at a time where this income stream has never been more important.

This year’s campaign is supported by the consortium’s network of 1,200 solicitors and will-writers, who commit to making their clients aware of the option of leaving a gift in their will.

Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity, said:

“Legacies have been truly transformative for so many organisations over the years, but the pandemic has shown just how important this income stream can be for charities’ financial resilience. At a time when the sector is facing urgent funding shortfalls, legacies have played a key role in helping to sustain front line services, and they will surely be a critical part of so many charities’ recovery plans.

“Although it’s not been easy for fundraisers to open up conversations about gifts in wills during the pandemic, Remember A Charity Week is a great springboard enabling everyone across the charity to get those conversations started. With the charity and legal sector reporting high levels of demand for will-writing, this could be a unique opportunity to help normalise this vital income stream.”

Find out more at www.rememberacharity.org.uk

National celebration helps showcase county’s food and drink excellence

As this year’s Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight (5-20 September) gets underway, Iain Gray MSP has visited two local businesses to show his support for the county’s excellent food and drink sector.

Mr Gray visited Edinburgh Preserves and Buck & Birch, which produces Aelder Elixir, both based at Macmerry Industrial Estate, to learn more about their development as businesses, how they have been getting on during lockdown and their plans for the future.

The local MSP will make further visits to local businesses during the remainder of the campaign and is also encouraging county residents to support East Lothian’s producers and retailers during the annual Fortnight.

Speaking after the visits, Iain Gray MSP said:

“East Lothian already has a wide variety of food and drink producers and retailers offering some of the finest produce to be found anywhere in the UK. Food and Drink Fortnight is a great opportunity for these local businesses to showcase what they have to offer, build their relationships with customers, as well as find new ones.

“I was pleased to make physically distanced visits to two of them at the start of the two-week campaign to show my support for it and local businesses. Edinburgh Preserves and Buck & Birch are fantastic examples of East Lothian businesses that are innovating and thriving, and I enjoyed hearing more about their journeys. 

“I’m urging local consumers to get behind the county’s food and drink industry by finding out more about the incredible range of products that are available on our doorstep and shopping locally during the Fortnight and beyond.”

Graeme Ford, Chair of East Lothian Food and Drink Ltd, said:

“We are extremely lucky to have such a diverse food and drink offering on our doorstep. Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight is a great opportunity for East Lothian’s residents to find out more about produce from the region. It has never been easier to shop local and support East Lothian’s wonderful producers, whilst enjoying some of Scotland’s best food and drink.”

Find out more about this year’s Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight at https://fooddrinkfort.scot/#scotfoodgoals

Local partnership’s success celebrated at Holyrood

The success of the partnership developed between Our Community Kitchen and Haddington Bowling Club has been praised in a motion tabled at the Scottish Parliament.

Iain Gray MSP’s motion highlights the national recognition received by the partnership and the work undertaken by volunteers from the two organisations to support local people during lockdown.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I was delighted to hear about the national recognition for the unique partnership developed between Our Community Kitchen and Haddington Bowling Club. The partnership had already been making a positive impact before the pandemic but fulfilled a really important role during lockdown.

“Those involved have achieved a huge amount in a relatively short period of time and I felt their contribution and the recognition they have rightfully received was worthy of being acknowledged at Holyrood. I thank all of those involved for their efforts and wish them all the best with the future of their partnership.”

The full wording of the motion is as follows:

Title: National Recognition for Our Community Kitchen and Haddington Bowling Club

Motion Text:

That the Parliament welcomes the national recognition given to the partnership between Our Community Kitchen and Haddington Bowling Club for the work that they have undertaken to help tackle social isolation and support people in the town during the COVID-19 pandemic; notes that Bowls Scotland and sportscotland have highlighted the success of the partnership approach adopted by the two organisations, which resulted in 300 hot meals a week being delivered to residents’ homes during lockdown; congratulates the volunteers involved in both for everything that they have achieved together over the last two years and especially for their role during lockdown, and wishes them continued success with their collaboration.