Parliamentarians back Second Hand September campaign

Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP have visited Oxfam’s Haddington shop to find out more about the charity’s new Second Hand September campaign.

The campaign aims to draw attention to the increasing pressure fast fashion is putting on the environment and asks the public to buy second hand instead of new for at least one month.

The textile industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the shipping and aviation industries combined and, to keep prices low, throwaway fashion is often made by garment workers from the world’s poorest communities who are paid below the living wage.

This type of fashion is unsustainable, with 11 million items of clothing in the UK ending up in landfill every week. Buying second hand is a fun and easy alternative to fast fashion as it helps to slow the relentless consumer cycle by giving garments a second chance to be sold and re-used.

By shopping at Oxfam, people can also do their bit to raise money to help the world’s poorest people fight for their right to be paid a fair wage, be protected against climate disasters and access the basics like clean water. £10 spent in an Oxfam shop could buy clean water for 10 people.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I am joining Oxfam in sending a message that fashion is currently unsustainable and that we want retailers to produce clothes in a way that is better for our planet and for the people who make them.

“I regularly shop at Oxfam and other local charity shops and am pleased to support Second Hand September. I also spent twelve years working for Oxfam before entering politics and I have seen first hand what a difference the funds raised by Oxfam shops can make.

“I’m calling on people across East Lothian to get behind the campaign and do their bit to help people and the planet.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“By taking Oxfam’s Second Hand September pledge I’m saying no to fast fashion and yes to a more sustainable approach to the clothing industry. Oxfam and other charity shops offer a wider range of clothing than ever before making it much easier to shop second hand.

“However, I also recognise that for many people buying new clothes is simply not an option because of the ongoing squeeze on incomes and cuts in benefits. We need a fairer and greener society that improves people’s lives but also protects the planet.”

Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland, said:

“The harm throwaway fashion is doing to our planet and people is a worry for us all. But it’s especially alarming for the young generation who will increasingly suffer the effects of the climate emergency, as well as the world’s poorest communities whose lives are already being devastated by extreme and unpredictable weather caused by climate change.

“We need to rethink the way we consume now, and Second Hand September is a fun and easy way for everyone to do their bit to help slow down the fashion cycle while supporting the world’s poorest people.”

People can take the pledge to slow down fast fashion, and get access to shopping tips and styling tricks to make their month of no new a breeze, at:

Iain backs campaign against rural crime

Iain Gray MSP has given his support to the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC) at Parliament after a new report revealed a huge increase in the cost of crime in rural areas over the last year.

Launched in East Lothian, SPARC is a partnership between The Scottish Government, Police Scotland, NFU Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates, The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and many other agricultural organisations.

The partnership aims to help to educate and inform farmers and those working within Scotland’s agricultural sector on the action they can take to help prevent crime on farms.

The awareness raising at the Scottish Parliament followed the publication of a report by NFU Mutual last month showing the cost of rural theft in the UK hitting a seven-year peak, with the biggest percentage increase – 62 percent – in Scotland.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“The NFU Mutual report on rural crime in Scotland makes for alarming reading. A 62% increase in the cost of rural crime in just one year is a startling figure, and clearly very worrying for those who are affected.

“It also highlights the importance of the SPARC initiative and doing everything possible to help rural communities fight crime in their areas. I was delighted to support the partnership at Holyrood and agree to help promote it to rural communities in East Lothian.

“Rural crime covers a wide range of activities and is becoming more sophisticated all the time. It is vital that farmers, landowners and others in Scotland’s agricultural community understand what steps they can take to help prevent rural crime from happening.

“SPARC was launched here in East Lothian so I hope farmers and others in our agricultural sector will take heed of its message and take steps to protect their farms, livestock and equipment being targeted by rural crime.”

Children and young people waiting too long for mental health treatment

Children and young people in East Lothian, and across the Lothians, are waiting too long for mental health treatment, new figures have revealed.

Official figures show 41% of those young people seen by Children and Young People’s Mental Health services between April and June 2019 in NHS Lothian had to wait more than 18 weeks.

Across Scotland during this period, a total of 1,217 children and young people had to wait more than the four-and-a-half month waiting time target.

Meanwhile thousands more had their referral for mental health treatment rejected in year since SAMH’s report on CAMHS rejected referrals was published.

The figures underline the mental health crisis in our NHS is getting worse under the SNP government.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Young people in East Lothian seeking help for mental health problems are being failed by the Scottish Government.

“Despite endless pledges from this SNP government, progress on mental health services for young people remains too slow – with thousands of children still being rejected from treatment and many more facing waits of over four months to be seen.

“This is simply not acceptable.

“Our young people need early intervention, and a year on from the last Programme for Government, thousands of children are still waiting on the roll out of school-based counselling.

“It’s not good enough. With the number of young people dying by suicide increasing last year, it’s more vital than ever that the SNP Health Secretary gets to grips with this mental health crisis and ensures our young people get help when they need it.”

Iain hosts reception to support parents with learning disabilities

Iain Gray MSP has hosted a reception at the Scottish Parliament to promote a campaign to support parents with learning disabilities and help end stigma towards them.

Leading charities, including Aberlour, Parenting Across Scotland and the Scottish Commission for Learning Disabilities (SCLD) have said that support is needed instead of judgement, as they highlighted the No Place Like Home campaign.

The charities have said there needs to be a focus on what parents with learning disabilities can do, rather than what they cannot. According to recent research, parents with learning disabilities are twenty times more likely to have their child removed from them and placed into care.

In a bid to address this, Aberlour, the Scottish children’s charity, held the parliamentary reception as part of its No Place Like Home campaign, during which parents who had first-hand experience of such trauma inflicted on their families spoke about their ordeal.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I welcome the No Place Like Home campaign’s aim of ensuring that service provision for parents with a learning disability is widely available throughout Scotland.

“The research on the experience of parents with learning disabilities is shocking and should be a wake-up call to decision-makers everywhere in Scotland.

“The reception highlighted the important role that the voluntary sector can play in providing this support but we know the resources available to charities are severely stretched.

“We have a duty to ensure that these parents receive the help and support they need to reduce the chances of children being taken into care, and that must include finding the resources to fund local services.”

SallyAnn Kelly, chief executive of Aberlour, said:

“We still have a journey to travel. The third sector and Aberlour continue to provide early intervention and prevention services for families but on a shoestring.

“These services provide substantial savings to local authorities but we still cannot shift their expenditure from intensive support upstream to instead supporting families earlier – we absolutely need to nail that as a nation.

“We believe it’s in the interests of children to remain with their families, and for the vast majority of families that is the case.”

Charlie McMillan, chief executive of SCLD, said:

“To say that someone’s future is already ancient history is not acceptable. Too many parents in Scotland with learning disabilities feel that their future is already ancient history and we have to change that.”

MSP and MP visit successful local bakery

Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP have visited the Premium Bakery factory in Prestonpans to find out more about the successful local business’s progress since it relocated to the county in 2017.

The family business, started in 2007 by Peter Ford and his son Graeme, was initially located in Loanhead and moved to its new purpose-built factory in Prestonpans two years ago. The bakery provides a range of over 60 different products to customers in the Edinburgh and Lothians area and beyond.

It is also a strong supporter of community activity, sponsoring a number of local teams, societies, organisations and initiatives with a percentage of its profits being allocated each year to these causes.

Speaking after the visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Peter is a successful businessman who has a very genuine commitment to the wellbeing of the local community. He has given a huge amount back to the area over the years and continues to do so with the support the business provides for various different clubs and projects.

“I’m very pleased to see the bakery employing so many local people and doing so well, and hope it continues to go from strength to strength.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“I was delighted when Peter and Graeme announced their plans for relocating their bakery business to Prestonpans. Given their longstanding connection to East Lothian it obviously made sense for them to bring their new factory here and it has clearly been a great success.

“Having the business here is good for the local economy and jobs. It has also helped to boost local community activity thanks to the sponsorship provided by Premium Bakery.”

Parliamentarians given tour of award-winning local distillery

County parliamentarians Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP have visited NB Distillery for a tour of the award-winning business and an update on its recent progress.

The NB Gin brand was launched by husband and wife team Steve and Viv Muir in 2013, with NB Vodka and NB Rum following the opening of their custom-built distillery last year.

Mr Gray and Mr Whitfield met with the distillery manager Steve Ross and colleague Rhona Hartley and were given a tour of the facility.

As well as producing the various spirit brands, the distillery can also provide tours, corporate events and private parties, while its little ‘cellar door shop’ offers a range of gifts unique to the distillery.

Speaking after the visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“East Lothian’s reputation for food and drink excellence has been further enhanced by the fantastic success of NB Distillery, with its NB Gin, NB Vodka and NB Rum brands, over the last few years.

“Having been started at home only six years ago by husband and wife team Steve and Viv Muir, the business is a remarkable success story and another great asset for the local economy.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“NB Distillery has made incredible progress in a relatively short space of time, so it was a pleasure to meet Steve and Rhona and have a tour of their fantastic facility.

“As well as offering a great visitor experience here in East Lothian, its first-class products are breaking into new markets, helping to boost the county’s outstanding reputation for high quality food and drink.”

Rhona Hartley, NB Distillery’s Corporate and Retail sales manager, said:

“It is fantastic that our politicians are taking such a proactive approach to understanding the success and challenges of local businesses. NB Distillery has grown from strength to strength and is now actively seeking an investor to continue to grow locally and internationally.”   

Praise for walled garden’s remarkable progress

The historic Amisfield Walled Garden has been praised by local parliamentarians Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP following a visit this week.

The politicians visited the garden on the outskirts of Haddington to meet Amisfield Preservation Trust Chairperson, Kate Rycroft, and volunteer co-ordinator, Alasdair McDougall, and discuss the latest progress on site and its future development plans.

Speaking after the visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I have had the privilege of following the remarkable progress at Amisfield Walled Garden for a number of years now. Kate and the Trust’s other volunteers have worked incredibly hard to bring the garden back to life and make it a real asset for Haddington and the whole of East Lothian.

“It is now a really fantastic local attraction and focus for learning and wellbeing at the heart of the county, and I can thoroughly recommend it to anyone who has not yet visited.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“Over the last few years a dedicated team of volunteers have transformed the walled garden from its previously sadly neglected state into a beautiful community garden with a venue for education and training for people of all abilities.

“It was clear that all the hard work they have undertaken has helped the garden become increasingly popular as a visitor destination, with an annual programme of events and activities helping to attract well over 1,000 visitors a year.”

Kate Rycroft, Chairperson, Amisfield Preservation Trust, said:

“It was a pleasure to meet Martin and to welcome back Iain to the garden. We were delighted to have the opportunity to show them the work that has been carried out by our volunteers and to discuss ways that our project can further benefit the local community.”

Find out more about Amisfield Walled Garden at

Update on Seabird Centre’s progress

Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP have visited the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick to catch up on the latest developments at the prestigious local charity.

The parliamentarians met with the Centre’s Chief Executive, Susan Davies, and received an update on the improvements she has overseen since coming into post at the start of this year.

One of the county’s most popular visitor attractions, the upstairs of the Centre underwent significant refurbishment earlier in the year. Plans are also under way for a significant upgrading of the discovery centre, and the classroom, all happening later this year

The meeting was also a chance to chat about the Centre’s plans for celebrating its 20th anniversary next year – which coincides with Scotland’s “Year of Coasts and Waters”.

Speaking after the visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I have long been a supporter, and member, of the Scottish Seabird Centre. It is some time now since Susan took over as Chief Executive, so summer was a good time to visit with Martin to catch up with her and learn about recent changes and future plans for the Centre.

“The new more open layout of the shop and Cafe area really do give it a “bigger” feel, and, as always, the views from the cafe are spectacular. If you are in North Berwick, don’t forget to drop in to the Centre, and if you are not already a member, please do join!”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“The Scottish Seabird Centre is an important local visitor attraction and education facility. As well as its important local role, the Centre also has a well-deserved national reputation for its conservation activities.

“I’m pleased that the prestigious Centre is located here in East Lothian and welcomed the opportunity to meet Susan and chat to her about recent developments and its plans for the future, including next year’s 20th anniversary celebrations.”

Susan Davies, Chief Executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre, said:

“We were delighted to host Martin and Iain for a visit at the Scottish Seabird Centre and to talk through our plans to develop our wider marine conservation, education, community activities for 2020-2025. 

“We were also able to show them around the first phase of our refurbishment and give an overview of the exciting changes ahead for our discovery experience later this year.

“Their ongoing support and encouragement for our activities is welcomed and much appreciated; especially as we approach our 20th anniversary in 2020.”

Local charity leader receives Points of Light Award

Iain Gray MSP joined his Westminster colleague Martin Whitfield MP as he formally presented Beach Wheelchairs charity founder Alison Brown with her Points of Light Award for improving accessibility to beaches for wheelchair users.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May gave Alison the award, which recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others, last month before her premiership ended.

Gray and Whitfield visited the charity’s beach hut at North Berwick harbour to congratulate Alison and her team on the award and catch up on its latest activity.

Speaking afterwards, Iain Gray MSP said:

“It’s always a pleasure to visit Beach Wheelchairs and hear about their latest activity. It’s clear from chatting to Alison and the volunteers that the charity is going from strength to strength, with its new electric chair proving to be particularly popular, and I wish them continued success in the years ahead.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“It was a real honour to formally present Alison with her Points of Light Award. Beach Wheelchairs has had a powerful impact over the last few years by facilitating access to the beach for those who could not previously enjoy the experience. It’s exactly the kind of volunteer-led initiative that the award was designed to recognise and celebrate.”

Alison Brown said:

“This award is very much a reflection of the masses of hours so many people dedicate in North Berwick and Portobello and our joint project in Seton Sands. I can’t believe how far we’ve come and wonder what the future holds for us! I’m delighted that it raises the profile of our charity on a national platform and indeed highlights access issues for people with disabilities.

“Thank you to all volunteers, supporters and customers and here’s to many more years of picnics on the beach and first paddles!”

Alison is the 1231st winner of the Points of Light award, which has been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the USA. Over 6,000 Points of Light have been awarded in the USA, and former Presidents have publicly supported the partnership with Points of Light UK.

There is a similar cross-party approach to the UK programme and MPs from different parties often present their constituents with their Points of Light awards.

Toasting Port Seton pub’s revival

Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP have visited The Seaglass Inn in Port Seton to toast the pub’s revival following a £425,000 refurbishment by Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars and new licensees, mother and daughter team Christine O’Brien and Sarah Couch.

The development of the pub – formerly called The Wemyss Hotel – has turned it into a quality, family friendly pub and created 16 new jobs. The overhaul has given The Seaglass Inn a stylish contemporary look, created a stunning outdoor area for alfresco eating and drinking, added BT and Sky Sports and installed a kitchen.

A new drinks selection ranging from barista coffee to craft beer and cocktails has been introduced, as well as freshly prepared food. Ingredients are locally sourced, and dishes include pub classics such as home-made steak pie as well as more unusual options such as pan-fried sea bass with salsa.

Christine O’Brien – who grew up in Prestonpans and also runs The New Plough Inn at Tranent – said:

“The pub looks beautiful, and they can’t believe the transformation. They love the new design and ambience and having a family-friendly pub that caters for all in Port Seton.

“We’re seeing a real mix of ages and people who never visited the pub before: groups of ladies for prosecco; guys watching the football and families enjoying a meal out. The community has backed us right from the early planning stages, and we’re very grateful for their support.”

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Good pubs play an important social role as hubs for the communities they serve. With so many people moving into this part of East Lothian, it’s good news to see a local pub given a new lease of life.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“It’s great to see such major investment in an East Lothian pub and new jobs created. The Seaglass Inn is a welcome addition to the area for local residents and another attraction for visitors to the county’s coast.”

Star Pubs & Bars area manager Jeremy Williams said:

“We’re delighted that The Seaglass Inn has been so well received and is proving a popular meeting place for the whole community and those from further afield. Christine and Sarah are passionate about giving Port Seton a pub it can be proud of, and we wish them every success.”

The Seaglass Inn’s refurbishment is part of Star Pubs & Bars’ £4 million investment programme for Scotland’s pubs in 2019.