MSP delighted at ‘major step forward’ for East Linton station campaign

County MSP Iain Gray has welcomed a ‘major step forward’ in the campaign for a new train station in East Linton and improved services between Dunbar and Edinburgh after the project was included in an important rail franchise renewal document published last week.

Mr Gray has been campaigning with RAGES (Rail Action Group, East of Scotland), East Lothian Council, Scottish Borders Council and other politicians for a proper local train service from Dunbar to Edinburgh with a new new rail halt in East Linton, for a number of years.

The MSP believes that the inclusion of the project in this draft franchise renewal document for Scottish rail services, which means companies that tender for the franchise must include a price for delivering the improved Dunbar-Edinburgh services, is a real coup and brings the project closer to being realised than it has ever got before.

However, Mr Gray has also warned that the campaign is not over yet and that pressure must be maintained on the Scottish Government to provide the funding necessary to secure the delivery of the station and service improvements.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I am delighted that plans for a new rail halt at East Linton and improved services between Dunbar and Edinburgh have been included in this document. To have the service we have been campaigning for included in the draft franchise is undoubtedly a huge step forward and gets us closer than ever to achieving the goal of reopening the station in East Linton.

“It’s a real victory for RAGES, the Councils and everyone else who has campaigned on this issue for so many years. It’s also the clearest sign yet that the Scottish Government is serious about the project and will ensure that bidders for the franchise have to include figures for delivering a new station and service improvements for Dunbar.

“However, there are still some further important hurdles to get over before the project is realised, and the key issue that remains outstanding is Scottish Government funding. Despite the inclusion of the project in the franchise document, Ministers have still not committed to make funding available to pay for the improvements.

“In fact, we need to redouble our efforts now to push the project all the way to a successful conclusion and secure the delivery of a new rail station in East Linton and improved services between Dunbar and Edinburgh. That is exactly what I intend to do.”

Land in East Linton, adjacent to Orchardfield, has already been designated by East Lothian Council for a new rail halt and car park. A study commissioned by East Lothian and Scottish Borders Councils to explore the projected cost of reopening the two stations is almost complete and will help inform the submissions of bidders for the Scotrail franchise.

The ScotRail Franchise Draft Invitation to Tender document issued by Transport Scotland invites companies to bid to run a range of inter-city, regional and suburban rail services on the Scottish Rail Network from 1 April 2015. The full document can be downloaded at

Iain welcomes community council’s backing for station counter campaign

Members of Tranent and Elphinstone Community Council have voiced their concerns about the impact of proposals to close the front counter at Tranent police station and withdraw local traffic warden services to local MSP Iain Gray.

The community councillors spoke out at their most recent meeting when Mr Gray attended to listen to their concerns and tell them about the work he has been doing to oppose the Police Scotland plans. Mr Gray was joined at the meeting by Fa’side ward councillors Donald Grant, Jim Gillies and Shamin Akhtar.

There was universal agreement that the plans are bad news for the town and risk setting back local policing. Members were also content to give their backing to the campaign that Mr Gray and Labour’s Fa’side ward councillors have been running against the proposals.

Speaking after the meeting, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I welcomed the opportunity to speak to members of Tranent and Elphinstone Community Council about how the Police Scotland proposals will impact on the town and surrounding communities. They agreed that closing Tranent police station’s front counter and withdrawing traffic wardens is bad news for the local area. I will continue to do all I can to defeat the plans and keep Tranent’s police station open and accessible to local people.”

Colin Martin, Chair of Tranent and Elphinstone Community Council, said:

“I’ve yet to speak to anyone in the town who agrees with these damaging proposals on local policing. Tranent needs a police station that is open to the public and it’s good to know that our MSP and local councillors are fighting for that. I also want to thank Iain for attending the meeting to discuss this important issue with us.”

Mr Gray and his Labour colleagues continue to collect signatures for their petition against the closure of the front counter at Tranent police station and withdrawal of local traffic warden services. The petition can be downloaded at or copies are also available to sign at 65 High Street, Tranent.

Gullane residents thanked for supporting fire college campaign

Iain Gray MSP and Councillor Jim Goodfellow have expressed their thanks to people in Gullane for supporting their campaign against plans to close the Scottish Fire Service College.

Well over 100 local people have returned a campaign postcard calling for a rethink on the planned closure, which it is widely agreed will have an adverse effect on the village and the wider local economy.

Mr Gray will now pass the postcards on to members of the Board of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and ask them to consider local people’s concerns about the impact of its closure proposal.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“People in Gullane have clearly demonstrated their opposition to the proposal to close the Fire Service College. Most local people agree that it would be bad for the village and want the Scottish Fire and Rescue Board to rethink its plans and keep the college open. I hope that Board members will listen to the clear view expressed by local people, the council, and elected representatives, and look again at its options.”

Cllr Jim Goodfellow said:

“The Fire College has been a fixture in Gullane for some 60 years and if the closure goes ahead there’s no doubt it will damage the local economy. The number of postcards returned certainly underlines the strength of feeling locally about this issue. The Council has made a strong case for the college to be retained, but it now remains to be seen whether the Fire and Rescue Service will reconsider the closure.”

Gray and O’Donnell highlight concerns on county payday lending debt

Iain Gray MSP has voiced his concerns about the growing scale of payday lending in the county after new figures revealed East Lothian is among the top ten constituencies for the highest levels of payday loan debt.

A report published by the StepChange Debt charity on the circumstances of the 4,500 clients it helped across Scotland last year, shows that people in East Lothian seeking debt advice are now saddled with average payday loan debt of £1864. This is over £450 more than the Scottish average and is also up on the figures for 2010 and 2011, demonstrating the growth of the problem.

The average total debt of StepChange clients in East Lothian last year was £14,633, nearly £500 above the client average across Scotland. Figures on rent and mortgage arrears for clients in East Lothian were also above average, while energy bill and Council Tax arrears were slightly better than the Scottish average.

These latest figures echo statistics released earlier this year by Haddington Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) which showed that the number of cases relating to debt it took on increased from 43.58 per cent of the total enquiries for the quarter April-June 2012, to 51.4% in the same period for 2013.

The Scottish Government has launched the “12 Days of Debtmas” campaign to warn people against the dangers of payday lenders, promote debt advice services and highlight credit unions as a low cost alternative to these legal loan sharks. The campaign comes after concerted pressure by the ‘Debtbuster’ campaign on high cost credit led by Labour MSP for the Lothians, Kezia Dugdale.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“This new debt report makes for worrying reading in East Lothian, especially on the growing problem of payday loan debt. It shows overall debt here is nearly £500 more than the Scottish average, while payday loan debt is £466 more than average across Scotland. High levels of rent and mortgage arrears are also a real concern.

“While the figures only relate to StepChange clients in the county, I fear that they are only the tip of the iceberg and that many more county households are struggling with high levels of debt. With local families preparing for Christmas, the temptation to borrow money is ever-present and debt problems can quickly get out of control.

“I am glad that the Scottish Government have listened and acted with its “12 Days of Debtmas” campaign to warn people about the danger of payday lending and other high cost credit. There are better alternative sources of credit, such as credit unions, but we need to raise public awareness of them and try to reduce the number of people trapped in a spiral of debt.

“I also urge anyone in East Lothian who is struggling with debt or needs advice on how to manage their debt to seek immediate help from StepChange or their local CAB. Free help and advice is available by calling 0800 138 1111 or online at”

As the worrying new debt figures came to light, the county’s MP Fiona O’Donnell has given her backing to the Charter to Stop the Payday Loan Rip-off. The Charter calls for tougher regulation of payday lenders and is supported by some of Britain’s biggest debt, consumer and anti-poverty organisations – including Which?, Citizens Advice, StepChange, Church Action on Poverty, and the Centre for Responsible Credit.

MPs from all parties and campaigners are urging the Financial Conduct Authority to back the Charter and introduce tougher regulation of payday lenders to stop millions of people being ripped-off. Over 70 MPs and Peers have backed the Charter and members of the public can add their support at

Fiona O’Donnell MP said:

“I’ve signed the Charter because payday lenders are ripping off thousands of people, trapping them in spirals of debt. The Financial Conduct Authority’s proposals for regulation are a step in the right direction, but they don’t go far enough.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to get the proper regulation and enforcement of payday lenders that we badly need. If the opportunity is missed then payday lenders will be able to carry on exploiting people.

“I’d encourage people in East Lothian to add their voice to the growing calls for tougher regulation of payday lenders by signing the Charter at”

Respect county’s shopworkers this Christmas

Iain Gray MSP has given his backing to Respect for Shopworkers Week which, at the start of the very busy Christmas shopping period, aims to remind shoppers that retail staff are real people who do not deserve to be abused, threatened or assaulted.

The annual awareness week (11-15 November) is organised by the Usdaw union, which represents shopworkers and other retail and distribution workers. Its retail crime annual survey shows that every minute of every day another shopworker is verbally abused, threatened or physically attacked.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“We all know that Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year and that Christmas shopping is one of the key reasons for that. Too often shopworkers here in East Lothian and across the country are confronted with violence, threats and abuse and it is really important we stand together and ask people to ‘keep their cool and respect shopworkers’.

“I support Usdaw’s call for a change in the law to provide stiffer sentences for those who assault workers. It was very disappointing the SNP Government blocked Hugh Henry’s Workers (Aggravated Offences) Scotland Bill 2010 in the last Parliament. That Bill would have included all workers serving the public in the protections we have already given to emergency service workers.

“I hope that we will get an opportunity in this Parliament to vote on such a measure and that the Government will have a change of heart and offer more than warm words this time. There is a real need to address the scourge of workers being assaulted and I am concerned that assailants are getting away with it too easily.

“Cases like Val, a Scottish shopworker, who was punched on the jaw when she asked a persistent shoplifter to leave, because the thief had been barred from the store. Val gave a statement and the police saw the CCTV footage. The attacker was arrested but nothing more has happened.

“I am not convinced that the issue of violence against shopworkers is being taken seriously. I will continue to campaign with Usdaw for a change in the law to ensure that proper punishments are given out and to send a clear message that assaulting workers who are serving the public is totally unacceptable.”

Lawrence Wason, Usdaw’s Scottish Divisional Officer said:

“We are grateful for the support of MSPs like Iain Gray who support our campaign to keep our members safe at work.

“Often, in the course of their duties, shopworkers are expected to enforce the law, whether that is preventing under-age purchases or detaining shoplifters until the police arrive, they can be put in real danger. Parliament passes these laws and expects shopworkers to enforce them, so we are asking Parliament for better protection for these workers.”

Iain celebrates Parkinson’s UK research and work of county support group

Iain Gray MSP joined Parkinson’s UK supporters from East Lothian at a Holyrood event to meet researchers funded by the charity and people affected by the condition to find out more about the charity’s groundbreaking work to improve lives and find a cure for Parkinson’s.

10,000 people in Scotland have Parkinson’s – about 1 in every 500 people. The brain condition currently has no cure. Parkinson’s UK is Europe’s biggest charity funder of research into the condition, and has already invested more than £60million. The charity has £5million committed to research taking place in Scotland.

Mr Gray met Dr Tilo Kunath from the University of Edinburgh, who is using stem cells from people with Parkinson’s to understand more about the condition and develop new treatments. The work of Dr Kunath and other Parkinson’s researchers is supported by the fundraising activity of the East Lothian Support Group of Parkinson’s UK, which is very active in the county.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I welcomed this opportunity to receive an update on the groundbreaking research that Parkinson’s UK is funding. It has a first class research programme and has helped to make important discoveries that have contributed to greater understanding of the condition and more effective treatments.

“However, this research would simply not be possible without the tireless efforts of local Parkinson’s groups, including the East Lothian Support Group. Its members work incredibly hard to raise vital funds, as well as promote awareness of Parkinson’s and provide essential support to people in East Lothian affected by the condition.”

Katherine Crawford, Scotland Director of Parkinson’s UK, said:

“We were proud to be able to showcase our approach to research at such a lively event. We were delighted that our funded researchers were so prepared to give up their time to spread the word about their work, and to see so many people with Parkinson’s and carers from throughout Scotland were able to convey their passion and knowledge about research.

“Scotland’s universities are doing an increasing amount of research into neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s, MS and Motor Neurone Disease, and Parkinson’s UK wants to be at the centre of these developments both in Scotland, the UK and worldwide.”

Scotland is a major centre for global health research. It is the first country in the world in terms of its ratio of research citations to GDP. It is ranked fourth in the world for impact in clinical medicine and first for stem cell research. Medical research charities spend about 13% of their total funding on research in Scotland – yet Scotland has only 8% of the UK population.

MSP and MP welcome plans for future of key county attraction

Iain Gray MSP and Fiona O’Donnell MP have visited the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune to learn more about its multimillion pound redevelopment plans.

The politicians were given a tour of the site and an update about the attraction’s plans for restoring two Second World War hangars. At the same time as restoring the war-time hangers, the museum will also create vibrant new exhibitions in them with items which have never been on display before. The restoration will also allow objects currently in storage to be put on display, including uniforms, documents and photographs.

Built in 1940 and 1941, the hangars were only designed to last ten years and are now in significant need of repair. The project will conserve the buildings and restore them to their original condition.

Speaking after the visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“East Lothian is blessed with several really high quality visitor attractions and the National Museum of Flight is right up there with the best of them. The plans the museum has to restore two of its Second World War hangars and create new exhibitions in them are hugely impressive and will certainly take the visitor experience to another level.

“This is great news for the county and particularly our children and young people who have a fantastic learning experience right on their doorstep. I really appreciate the time the General Manager, Steve McLean took to update us on the progress the museum is making and wish him and his team every success with their future plans.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP said:

“This was my first visit to the National Museum of Flight. I was fascinated to find out more about the history of the site, the progress the museum has made in recent years, and its exciting plans for the future. The enthusiasm of Steve McLean and his team for making the museum an even better visitor experience was clear to see.

“The museum is already attracting over 70,000 visitors a year, making an important contribution to the county’s economy in the process. The restoration plans it is set to implement over the next few years will enable it to expand its appeal as an attraction and grow visitor numbers, which will bring further benefits to the local economy.”

Steve McLean, General Manager at The National Museum of Flight said:

“We are currently working on detailed plans for the next phase of our Development Plan to transform the National Museum of Flight and restore our two Second World War hangars. Creating two vibrant new display spaces will let us share our internationally significant aviation collections with our visitors and we’re delighted that Fiona O’Donnell MP and Iain Gray MSP are so enthused by our plans.”

Parliamentarians underline opposition to police proposals

Iain Gray MSP and Fiona O’Donnell MP have submitted a joint response to the Police Scotland consultation on the future of police public counters, in which they reiterate their strong opposition to the proposal to close the public counter at Tranent police station.

Mr Gray and Ms O’Donnell’s response to the public counter review highlights their concerns about the potential impact of closing the public counter in Tranent. Apart from the short consultation period, the parliamentarians also raised concerns about the methodology of the review and the figures produced by Police Scotland on the current usage of the county’s stations.

They also highlighted fears about the potential impact on vulnerable adults who rely on access to police services, and local people’s concern that closing the station to the public could be the ‘thin end of the wedge’ with the next step being to close it entirely. Their submission also raises various concerns about the proposals for withdrawing the county’s two police traffic wardens.

Mr Gray and Ms O’Donnell also welcomed the decision by Police Scotland’s Chief Constable Stephen House to agree to accept further submissions to the consultation beyond the 31 October deadline.

The move followed pressure from Labour MSPs, including Mr Gray, who had made it clear that a one month consultation period was insufficient to allow meaningful engagement with local communities on such important and far-reaching decisions.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“With almost £140 million being cut from the police budget over the next two years by the SNP, I fear that counter closures will be only the beginning. If Tranent police station public counter closes now, will the station itself be next in line for the axe? I know from speaking to local people that the more they hear about the closure the more concerned they are.

“I am pleased that the Chief Constable has listened to the widespread concerns expressed about this review and decided to extend the period for submitting views. But this concession simply highlights what a muddle the consultation has been from the start. Now we have won more time, I urge the public to make their feelings known about the planned closure of the public counter in Tranent.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP added:

“Closing Tranent counter is a major step and has caused significant concern among local communities in Fa’side. We have already made our concerns clear to Police Scotland, particularly on the reliability of the figures produced by Police Scotland to support their proposals and the many unanswered questions about the impact of closing the public counter in Tranent.

“However, a month was never a realistic consultation period and could not possibly allow local communities time to properly consider the implications for local policing. So I welcome Stephen House’s decision to extend the consultation on the public counter review. I will continue to work with Iain and our Fa’side councillors to ensure that local people’s views are heard.”