ScotRail ‘Licence to Fail’ a slap in the face for local commuters

Local MSP Iain Gray has slammed the Scottish government for handing ScotRail a ‘licence to fail’ until June 2019.

Mr Gray believes that rail users in East Lothian will be outraged at the Minister’s decision to let the company off the hook like this, when local commuters continue to experience regular delays, cancellations and overcrowding.

A parliamentary question has revealed that Transport Secretary Michael Matheson will allow the private company to breach the franchise performance levels in a “temporary waive” until June 2019.

The Transport Secretary, who has only been in post since June, reached this deal with the firm after they had already hit breach level, without informing Parliament.

Iain Gray MSP, said:

“It is shocking that ScotRail have been given licence by Transport Scotland to fail for an entire year. ScotRail have been failing to hit their agreed targets for years.

“Now their performance has got so bad they would have breached the franchise agreement had Transport Secretary Michael Matheson not let them ignore the targets.

“But instead of demanding ScotRail deliver what they are paid to by the taxpayer, the SNP government is going to let them off the hook and allow them to keep missing their targets.

“I believe this is an insult to the passengers who have to put up with late, overcrowded, overpriced trains and completely undermines the aim of the franchise agreement. 

“Rail users in East Lothian will rightly be outraged at the government’s failure to stand up for their interests in this way.

“It really is a slap in the face for County commuters who suffer the failings of ScotRail day in and day out.”

Iain speaks to East Linton pupils

Iain Gray MSP has made his latest visit to a local school, this time to speak to P6 and P7 pupils at East Linton Primary School.

Mr Gray met the pupils fresh from their daily mile to talk about his work representing the East Lothian constituency at Holyrood. He then held a question and answer session with them about his role, the way the Parliament works and Scotland’s democracy.

Iain Gray MSP said:

It was a pleasure to be invited to East Linton Primary School to speak about my work as their MSP and answer some of the pupils’ questions.

“They have been studying our democracy and the different issues covered by the Scottish and UK parliaments. Indeed, I discovered that my Westminster colleague, Martin Whitfield, had visited just the previous week, underlining their dedication to learning more about the subject!

“I hope they found both visits informative and look forward to seeing the pupils at Holyrood later this year.”

Week highlights support for families who experience baby loss

9-15 October is Baby Loss Awareness Week and Iain Gray MSP has joined campaigners at the Scottish Parliament to help promote it.

The week is a collaboration between more than 60 charities across the UK to raise awareness about the key issues and the support that is available for families who have experienced pregnancy loss or baby death.

Throughout the week bereaved parents, their families and friends, unite with each other and others across the world to commemorate the lives of babies who died during pregnancy, at or soon after birth and in infancy.

Now in its 16th year, Baby Loss Awareness Week calls for tangible improvements in research, care and policy around bereavement support and highlights bereavement support and services available for anyone affected by the death of a baby at any stage.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Every year, thousands of people in the UK are affected by the death of a baby or experience pregnancy loss. It is one of the most tragic and heart-breaking things that can happen to a family.

“The key message this year is that all families affected should get the support they need. With over 60 charities involved in Baby Loss Awareness Week there is plenty of expert advice and support available.”

Find out more about the week, the charities involved and events that are taking place at https://babyloss-awareness.org/

National week urges people to ‘Heart my Hospice’

Hospice Care Week (8-14 October) is an annual week of activity to raise the profile of hospice care across the UK.

Ahead of this year’s week, which has the theme ‘Heart my hospice’, Iain Gray MSP met representatives of Hospice UK at Holyrood to discuss the campaign and the work of hospices.

Speaking afterwards, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I was pleased to meet with representatives of Hospice UK ahead of this year’s Hospice Care Week to discuss the work hospices are doing in communities across Scotland and how we can get more care to more people.

“The ‘Heart my hospice’ theme is apt because so many people do have great affection for hospices and the work they do. Hospice Care Week is a good time for people to consider volunteering, donating or just showing their support for the difference hospices make.”

Find out more about Hospice Care Week at www.hospiceuk.org/

Motion heralds Josh Taylor’s award success

Iain Gray MSP has tabled a parliamentary motion congratulating Prestonpans boxer, Josh Taylor, on being named Boxer of the Year 2018.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Josh Taylor has really taken his career up to another level over the last year or so, with a stunning victory over former world champion Viktor Postol in June. 

“His success in beating some household names in British boxing at these awards is the latest indicator that he is going places, with a world title shot now very much on the cards.

“I was pleased to table this motion welcoming his latest success, and will continue to follow the progress of his career with great interest.”

The full text of Mr Gray’s motion is as follows:

That the Parliament congratulates the Prestonpans boxer, Josh Taylor, on being named the British Boxing Board of Control Boxer of the Year 2018; notes that Josh beat several big names in British boxing, including current and former world champions, to pick up the award; believes that this award recognises the significant progress that he has made this year, including his victory over the Ukrainian former world champion, Viktor Postol, in June, which was also shortlisted in the Contest of the Year category at the awards, and wishes Josh continuing success with his career.

Iain backs fight against modern slavery

Iain Gray MSP has given his support to the Scottish Co-operative Party’s month of action highlighting the growing problem of modern slavery.

The month of action is taking place between 13 September and 18 October to amplify the efforts of the Co-operative Party and wider co-operative movement to highlight the need for more to be done to tackle human trafficking and modern slavery.

The Co-operative Party is looking for councils to sign up to their Charter Against Modern Slavery and for MSPs to show their support for the campaign by signing the motion in the Scottish Parliament tabled by Johann Lamont MSP.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Modern slavery is a growing problem across Scotland and the rest of the UK, with an estimated 160,000 people affected. I agree with the Co-operative Party’s charter that there should be “no place to hide for modern slavery” in public sector supply chains.

“Local authorities have an important part to play on this issue but the Scottish Government also need to support efforts in the public and private sector to prevent human trafficking and modern slavery.”

Find out more about the Co-operative Party’s campaign at https://party.coop/local/councillors/modern-slavery-charter/

Promoting Wear Red Day 2018

Iain Gray MSP has joined colleagues at Holyrood in showing support for this year’s Wear Red Day on Friday 5th October.

Anti-racism educational charity Show Racism the Red Card called on all MSPs to show their support for Wear Red Day, a national day of action which encourages schools, businesses and individuals to wear red and donate to the campaign.

Show Racism the Red Card was established in January 1996. It utilises the high-profile status of football and football players to help tackle racism in society.

The majority of the campaign’s output is the delivery of education to young people and adults in their schools, their workplaces and at events held in football stadiums. Across Britain, Show Racism the Red Card delivers training to more than 50,000 individuals per year.

Speaking ahead of Wear Red Day, Iain Gray MSP said:

“The whole country can stand in solidarity and take anti-racism action by wearing red and supporting the Show Racism the Red Card campaign on 5th October. This is a one-day show of solidarity, but the struggle to build a more tolerant society is all-year-round.

“The fight against all forms of prejudice and hate is a fight for all of us. Show Racism the Red Card plays a huge role in raising awareness and educating people about anti-racism. I hope East Lothian residents will join me in supporting this year’s Wear Red Day.”

Find out more about Wear Red Day at www.theredcard.org/wear-red-day/

Motion highlights county success at beer awards

The success of local brewers Belhaven and Eyeball at this year’s Scottish Beer Awards has been celebrated at Holyrood in a motion tabled by Iain Gray MSP.

Mr Gray’s motion congratulates the two brewers on their successes at last week’s awards, which included Belhaven’s Twisted Grapefruit IPA being named Scottish Beer of the Year.

Speaking about the awards success, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I visited Belhaven and Eyeball over the summer and it’s great to see them enjoying this success and further enhancing East Lothian’s reputation as a centre of excellence for the food and drink sector.

“They are different in many ways, with Belhaven being a large, well-established business set to celebrate its 300th anniversary next year, while Eyeball is very much the ‘new kid on the block’ and still a fairly small operation. However, they share a commitment to innovation and to getting the best out of fantastic local natural ingredients.

“I was very pleased to table this motion acknowledging their achievements at the awards and wish everyone associated with both businesses continued success.”

The full text of Mr Gray’s motion is as follows:

Title: East Lothian Success at Scottish Beer Awards for Belhaven and Eyeball

Motion Text:

That the Parliament congratulates the brewers, Belhaven and Eyeball, which are both in East Lothian, on their success at the Scottish Beer Awards 2018; understands that the Dunbar-based Belhaven Brewery won the Beer of the Year title for its Twisted Grapefruit IPA, which was also awarded gold in the Best Fruit Forward category; notes that it won the Exporter of the Year award, had two finalists in the Best British Style Ale category, with its 80 Shilling taking silver, had a further two finalists in the Best Stout category and one each in the Best Pale Ale and Best Fruit Forward sections; acknowledges that Eyeball Brewing, which is in West Barns, had two finalists in the Best Lager or Pilsner category, Eyeball Yellow and Eyeball Black, with the Yellow being awarded silver; congratulates all at Belhaven and Eyeball on their success, and praises both businesses and all of the other winners and finalists.

Supporting Haddington Thistle Project

Iain Gray MSP has participated in Haddington Community Council’s WW1 Thistle Project, carrying a thistle for Gunner Patrick McCartan who died on this day 100 years ago.

Speaking after carrying the thistle from Kilpair Street, Iain Gray MSP said:

“It was a great honour to carry the latest of the Haddington Thistles through the town this afternoon.

“In this project, initiated by Haddington Community Council, 130 thistles will be mounted on the thistle memorial, each one named for one of the men of Haddington who gave their life in World War 1. A 131st Thistle will commemorate those who are not named on the town’s war memorial.

“Each thistle (some 116 so far) is piped from the last known address of the fallen soldier, behind the burgh flag, to the memorial where it is installed.

“Today we remembered Gunner Patrick McCartan of Kilpair Street, who died on this day 100 years ago. We will remember them.”

Find out more about the project at www.haddingtoncc.org.uk/ww1-thistles/

Coffee morning raises £250 for Macmillan

A Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee morning event organised by Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP raised a total of £250.35 to assist the charity’s vital work supporting people living with cancer.

Held at the Loch Centre in Tranent, the event was well supported with over 50 people attending. As well as selling coffee, tea and cakes, a raffle was also held to maximise the amount raised for the charity.

Speaking after the event, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I want to thank everyone who came along and joined us at our Macmillan coffee morning. We were delighted with how it went and the amount raised, which will all go towards supporting the vital work Macmillan does for people with cancer.”

Martin Whitfield MP added:

“We really appreciate that local people came to give the coffee morning fantastic support. It was a thoroughly enjoyable way to raise funds for such an important cause and I’m grateful to everyone who came along and donated.”