Iain Gray

Iain welcomes local school’s success in business competition

Iain Gray MSP and Fiona O’Donnell MP have welcomed Dunbar Grammar School’s success in reaching the Scottish Finals of a prestigious business competition.

The school competed successfully against 150 other Scottish schools in the Coca-Cola Enterprises ‘Real Business Challenge’ to be judged as one of the 10 best teams in the country.

The Scottish Finals of the competition, when Dunbar Grammar will compete against nine other schools from across Scotland, are to be held at Murrayfield Stadium on Wednesday 4th February.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“East Lothian’s schools continue to go from strength to strength, and Dunbar Grammar’s success in reaching these business challenge finals is yet another example of their many outstanding achievements. I want to congratulate everyone at the school and wish all the students involved in the competition the very best of luck in the Scottish Finals next month.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP said:

“Raising young people’s awareness and understanding of business and enterprise is now recognised as an essential part of their educational experience. Local schools have a great record for involving their pupils in these kind of activities. I’m delighted that Dunbar Grammar has reached these finals and hope they can go on to represent Scotland at the GB Finals.”

The Real Business Challenge is an annual secondary schools competition, where school teams of 6-8 students compete against other schools by completing various ‘business challenges’. The teams come from all types of schools, from every part of the country and several thousands of students are entered each year. Students are usually 13-14 years of age and, if past competitions are a guide, will be a very diverse group of young people.

This year’s challenge will be for the student teams to create a campaign, to raise awareness and funding, for athletes going to the ‘Special Olympics’ in Los Angeles (July 2015).

The winning team from the Murrayfield event will go on to represent Scotland in the GB Finals in London in March.

Let’s celebrate our young people

Local parliamentarians Iain Gray MSP and Fiona O’Donnell MP are urging people in East Lothian to make nominations for this year’s Sunday Mail Young Scots Awards.

The Awards, which are now in their tenth year, recognise and celebrate the outstanding achievements of Scotland’s young people. Nominations are now open for the 10 categories that feature in the Awards. Anyone can nominate an outstanding young person or group of young people who are aged 11-26.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“The Young Scot Awards have become established as an important annual opportunity to recognise and celebrate the achievements of young people across Scotland. If you know a friend, family member or someone in your community who you feel deserves recognition for their contributions, now is the time to nominate them.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP said:

“There are many young people across East Lothian making outstanding contributions to their communities. These Awards offer the chance for those who go the extra mile to be acknowledged for all that they do. I urge local residents to think about which young people in their community deserve recognition and put their names forward now.”

The 10 award categories are:

Sport (sponsored by sportscotland)

The Arts

Health

Entertainment (Sponsored by Megabus)

Volunteering

Unsung Hero (sponsored by Solace)

Environment (sponsored by Scottish Gas)

Enterprise (sponsored by Skills Development Scotland)

Community (sponsored by The Scottish Government)

Cultural Diversity

For further information about the awards or to make a nomination, visit the Young Scot Awards website at www.youngscotawards.com

Nominations will close at midnight on Friday 27th February.

Iain slams Justice Secretary’s response to court closure plea

Iain Gray MSP has slammed Michael Matheson’s response to his call for the new Justice Secretary to reconsider the decision to close Haddington’s Sheriff and JP courts.

The Justice Secretary’s response simply re-iterates the Scottish Government’s closure decision and refuses to consider re-examining the evidence for retaining the courts. The response also suggests that the court building could be replaced with a hair salon, bookshop or restaurant, as has happened in Peebles following the closure of its court.

Mr Gray said:

“I am very disappointed with the Justice Secretary’s response to my plea to think again on our court. He is new into post and this was an opportunity for him to re-examine this flawed decision and look again at all the available evidence. However, Mr Matheson seems content to simply make excuses for his predecessor’s decision.

“The Cabinet Secretary also seems to misunderstand the importance of local justice to a community like East Lothian. The idea that 800 years of local justice can be replaced by a hair salon, bookshop or restaurant, is quite frankly to treat this county with contempt. Fellow court campaigners and local people will no doubt feel aggrieved with this attitude to the end of our local court.”

Iain backs national reading campaign

Iain Gray MSP met with ‘Read On. Get On.’ campaigners at Holyrood this week and gave his backing to the campaign to get every child in Scotland reading well.

Launched earlier this year, Read On. Get On. is a national campaign to get all our children reading well by the age of 11. Campaigners say that at the moment far too many kids are leaving primary school without this key skill – including 40 per cent of all our poorest children.

The coalition of organisations behind the campaign are aiming to change this for good so that by 2025 all our children will start secondary school as confident readers. It is enlisting the support of parents, family members, teachers, business, volunteers and politicians to help raise the importance of reading for young children.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Reading is the essential building block for children to be successful in life. And for our poorest kids it’s one of the best routes out of poverty. Children who read well by 11 tend to do better at school, get better exam results and achieve greater success in the workplace. They’re also better placed to give their own children the best start in life.

“However, far too many children leave primary school every year without being a confident reader. This includes 40 per cent of children from our poorest families. This can have terrible knock on effects for these kids’ future life chances.

“Campaigns like ‘Read On. Get On.’ and local initiatives such as Dunbar Reads Together and Ross Rocks Reading can have a huge impact on attitudes towards reading. I welcome the campaign’s objective of encouraging everyone to do something to help. Just ten minutes reading a day with a child makes a huge difference and helps them fall in love with reading.

“It’s time for all of us to embrace these community-wide campaigns and help ensure that all our children are reading well by the age of 11.”

Find out more about the campaign at www.readongeton.org.uk/homepage

Praise for county’s only malt whisky distillery

Iain Gray MSP and Fiona O’Donnell MP visited the county’s only malt whisky distillery at Glenkinchie today to discuss its important contribution to the local economy and community.

The parliamentarians were given a tour of the facility by Site Operations Manager Scott Sneddon, and chatted to staff about various aspects of the business, including its burgeoning role as a local tourist attraction.

Speaking after the visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“As well as its contribution to Scotland’s thriving whisky industry, Glenkinchie distillery also has a first class visitor centre and attracts thousands of tourists to East Lothian each year. I was pleased to hear more about its plans for further developing this aspect of the business.

“I also welcome Glenkinchie’s strong and longstanding links with other local businesses and communities, which it is also continuing to enhance. I enjoyed visiting the distillery again and wish all the staff there continued success for the future.”

“There are so many reasons this is the best County in Scotland, and Glenkinchie is one of them.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP said:

“This was my first visit to Glenkinchie and I enjoyed learning more about the distillery and the process involved in making the whisky. It makes an important contribution to the local economy as a high profile business and employer, as well as a vital tourist attraction.

“It is also important to remember that Scotch whisky makes a huge contribution to the Scottish and UK economies. I was keen to hear about the growth markets for premium whiskies like Glenmorangie.

“The history of the site is fascinating and the enthusiasm of the staff for the product they make was infectious. I want to thank all of them for taking the time out to talk to us and make us so welcome. I’m sure it won’t be long before I return for another visit.”

Scott Sneddon, Glenkinchie Site Operations Manager, said:

“It was a real pleasure to show Fiona and Iain around the distillery and to discuss the part we play in the local economy and community.

“As the only malt whisky distillery in East Lothian we have a strong role in the local tourist economy and we’ve had a fantastic year in 2014. We look forward to working with our local stakeholders, including Fiona and Iain to build on that in the New Year.

“We would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone in East Lothian a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

County parliamentarians thank Royal Mail staff

County parliamentarians Iain Gray MSP and Fiona O’Donnell MP paid a visit to the Royal Mail sorting office in Tranent today to meet staff and thank them for their hard work at this busy time of year.

The politician were shown around the depot and introduced to the staff who are working hard sorting and delivering mail for local people in the run-up to Christmas.

Speaking after the visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“With just over a week before the last posting date for First Class Christmas delivery, I know that postal staff are working around the clock to make sure everything is delivered on time. They do a brilliant job handling so much additional mail and parcels in this hectic period.

“So I was pleased to meet some of them at the Tranent sorting office. The increased workload that comes with the Christmas rush was very evident, and I want to thank them for their skill and sheer hard work in sorting and delivering our letters, cards and parcels.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP said:

“Our postal workers do such an important job at this time of year. I heard from the posties that the increasing number of people doing their Christmas shopping online makes this an even busier time of year. Royal Mail staff are all working flat out to make sure people receive them on time.

“I was glad to have the opportunity to meet the staff in Tranent and see firsthand the hard work they are doing. I would like to thank them for all their efforts throughout the year and wish them all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.”

The recommended last posting date for Christmas delivery for Second Class postage is Thursday 18 December and for First Class it is Saturday 20 December.

For further details about Christmas post and deliveries visit www.royalmail.com/greetings

MSP speaks out on energy park at Holyrood petitions committee

County MSP Iain Gray attended the Scottish Parliament petitions committee today to speak in support of the CRA petition presented by Shona Brash. The petition calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to abandon the proposal for the development of an Energy Park at Cockenzie.

Iain Gray said:

“The CRA made the case powerfully for the halting of the current energy park proposal, and I was pleased to speak in their support. I made clear to my colleagues on the committee that the petition has the support of the local community, and that local people feel they have been neither consulted or considered.

“The site is one of national strategic significance but it is also of local strategic significance, at the very heart of the three towns of Cockenzie, Port Seton and Prestonpans. Those communities have supported Scottish Power and the power station’s contribution to Scotland’s energy needs for over forty years. They built the power station, worked in it and lived next door to it. Now that it has closed Scottish Power should take their interests into account when they dispose of the site.

“Only a part of the site is currently industrialised, and it includes considerable green space which the community do not want to lose. The Scottish Government proposal for an energy park, is not just an energy park burt the biggest facility they could possibly imagine on the site. It would hugely increase the industrial footprint, and worst of all cut these communities off from each other. I believe that we do need to see jobs provided on this site, but not at any cost.

“I do hope that this site can come into some form of public ownership, because if Scottish Power simply sell to a private developer then who knows what plans they might have. But we must abandon the current proposal, start all over again and this time work with the community to develop a plan for the site which addresses their interests as well as providing jobs.

“The committee agreed to write to Scottish Power, Scottish Enterprise and East Lothian Council for their response in the first instance. This is a good sign, because it means committee members believed that there was merit in the petition and a case to answer. It could well lead to further evidence being considered in committee. Several members of the committee expressed the view that it should be possible for interested parties to work together, with the community and I would expect them to seek answers as to why this has not happened.

“I have asked the convenor of the committee to keep me fully informed of the committee’s consideration of the petition.”

Scientists meet MSPs with warning for future of physics in Scotland

East Lothian MSP Iain Gray hosted the Institute of Physics at the Scottish Parliament last week, who came with a warning for parliamentarians.

The event marked the launch of the institute’s latest report, which surveyed over 1000 recent physics graduates from eight Scottish universities.

But while many of its findings were positive about the contribution of current graduates to the economy, the situation for physics in Scotland in future was cause for concern.

It cited the gender pay gap in physics jobs as a problem, potentially putting women off particular career routes in science. There was also a notable shortage of qualified physicists, and a seven per cent decrease in physics teachers since 2007.

The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society, working to advance the understanding of physics with the public and policymakers, and has a worldwide membership of over 50,000.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“It’s no secret that the future of our economy is through success in maths and science, with some reports putting these skills as being essential to over seven million jobs in the UK by 2030.

“That means that our future science graduates are at school now, and we can’t afford to put them off through lack of choice or resources.

“I welcome the Institute of Physics’ report and congratulate them on their work, but we can’t leave them to do all of the heavy lifting.

“The Scottish Government must take these warnings seriously, and I’ve asked for a parliamentary debate as soon as possible on this issue.”

Parliamentarians celebrate county’s small businesses

County parliamentarians Iain Gray MSP and Fiona O’Donnell MP spent the morning in Dunbar on Saturday to support this year’s national day for celebrating and promoting small businesses.

The pair visited some local businesses on Dunbar High Street and then went to the Townhouse to give their support to local traders’ events and activities for this year’s Small Business Saturday.

Speaking after the visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“We had a really enjoyable morning in Dunbar and I was pleased to pick up some Christmas presents while I was there. The Dunbar Trades’ Association deserve great credit for the effort they put into the day. I want to thank them and everyone else who was involved in the activities for making Small Business Saturday such a success in Dunbar, and urge local people to continue to shop locally in the days up to Christmas.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP said:

“Local traders in Dunbar made a terrific effort for Small Business Saturday this year. The activities and promotions they put on really helped to raise the profile of local retailers and businesses. They add a huge amount to the character and local economies of the county’s towns. I’m delighted that Iain and I have again this year had the opportunity to celebrate and promote the choice on offer to customers in our towns and the benefits of shopping local.”

Bus Regulation Bill gains cross-party support to proceed

Within hours of launching his Private Member’s Bill to create new powers for transport authorities over bus services, the county’s MSP Iain Gray has gained the support he needs for the Bill to proceed.

Over 18 MSPs have signed the proposal, including Patrick Harvie (Green) and Tavish Scott (Liberal Democrat). This gives the Bill the cross-party support it needs to continue to its next stage in Parliament.

Mr Gray’s members’ bill, which was inspired in part by the local bus chaos experienced in 2012 after Firstbus withdrew most of its services in East Lothian, would give more power to local authorities in running bus services in their area. Currently, bus operators choose the most profitable routes, leaving local authorities to subsidise the remaining services.

Although the local problems from 2012 are largely resolved, Mr Gray still receives a lot of complaints from constituents about bus services on commercial routes in the county.

The situation has improved markedly since East Lothian Council established its local bus forum, in partnership with campaign group RELBUS, which has helped to resolve many of the more straightforward problems. However, there is still a need for new legislation to deal with the bigger concerns.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“The merits of this bill are clear: more power for authorities over local bus services will mean better services for passengers. The knock-on effects of that for our towns and cities, including communities here in East Lothian, could be revolutionary.

“I’m delighted to have the support of some Green and Liberal Democrat MSPs too, which shows a strong cross-party consensus as to how we improve bus services for the communities that rely on them. The last time someone tried this was Charlie Gordon’s bus bill in the last Parliament. That foundered because only Labour MSPs supported it. Now time has moved on and bus service problems across Scotland have convinced colleagues that the deregulated market is not delivering for passengers.”

“Indeed even George Osborne has suggested that he believes city regions in England should have these kinds of powers, as London already does.”

“I sincerely hope that the Scottish Government will now come on board so that we can work together to improve bus services and give communities a democratic say in their own public transport. They have always resisted such moves previously, but that now leaves them trailing even George Osborne when it comes to reform of bus services. Surely they will see sense now.”

“Deregulation is clearly not working for bus passengers, and the time has come to change that.”

Barry Turner, Chair of the Rural East Lothian Bus Users campaigning group (RELBUS), said:

“RELBUS, the Rural East Lothian Bus Users campaigning group, supports in principle Iain Gray’s proposed parliamentary bill on bus regulation.

“Based upon local experience we agree with the premise that current arrangements for the provision of commercial bus services are letting down some communities and that the unregulated market has failed to protect those who depend on local services.

“We see the benefits of the proposed bill as giving a degree of democratic control over what is a key public service, greater public involvement in service provision and improved networks with better integration of services.”