Hospitality industry facing unemployment crisis

East Lothian could face a hospitality unemployment crisis if SNP ministers do not step up the fight for jobs following the re-opening of restaurants and cafes.

Scottish Labour has warned that if the furlough scheme ends before a quality Jobs Guarantee Scheme is in place, thousands of workers in restaurants, bars and cafes could be laid off. And the furlough scheme must be extended in the hospitality sector too.

Around 3,500 people in East Lothian are directly employed in the hospitality sector, so this issue is vitally important for thousands of local households.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Across East Lothian, many chefs, waiting and kitchen staff are now back at work for the first time since lockdown began, while many local people have been enjoying their first meal out since March.

“But necessary social distancing measures mean businesses are unable to trade at normal levels. The effects of this are already being seen, with some workers having been laid off regardless of government support.

“The UK Government has responded to pressure and offered restaurants support – but only in the short-term. Otherwise a hospitality unemployment crisis could cause serious damage – not just for the workers laid off, but for everyone in East Lothian.

“With around 3,500 people employed in the sector here, our local economy depends on hospitality jobs, and East Lothian’s hospitality sector needs jobs for good. Extending the furlough scheme in this sector could provide a lifeline to thousands of workers.

“The Scottish Government must step up the fight to save these jobs. Businesses need greater support to make the adaptations they need to accommodate greater social distancing, allowing them to keep more staff on their books.

 “A quality Jobs Guarantee Scheme could stimulate demand as well, so that when the furlough scheme ends in other sectors workers can still afford to visit restaurants and bars.”

Local people urged to have their say on National Care Service Plan

Iain Gray MSP is calling on East Lothian residents to share their thoughts on the future of Scotland’s care service by taking part in an online consultation launched by Scottish Labour.

The survey seeks to engage members of the public, especially those with direct experience of the care system, and allow them to help shape Scottish Labour’s developing plans to improve care for people at home or in care homes, and for those who care for them, as part of their national campaign: It’s Time to Care About Care.  Scottish Labour is also engaging with the workforce, trade unions and various experts as part of the campaign.

Scottish Labour has a longstanding policy commitment on developing a National Care Service to address fragmentation, and put dignity and respect for those receiving care, their families and care workers, at the heart of the social care system.

Iain Gray MSP said: 

“People right across Scotland value social care, but they know the current system is broken.

Scotland’s fragmented care system needs radical reform and we are urging people here and across Scotland to be part of a conversation on the future of care.

“For too long people have been stuck in hospital because social care wasn’t available, care home residents have been let down, families haven’t been properly supported and staff have not received the pay and conditions they deserve. 

“This pandemic has only made the need for reform more urgent. Scottish Labour’s plans for a National Care Service are needed now more than ever.

“Throughout the summer we will be working closely with those receiving care, their families and workers, trade unions, experts and the wider public to develop a blueprint for the National Care Service. It is vital that the people of East Lothian have their say. 

“Together, we can turn the page and deliver the care service that people here deserve.” 

Scottish Labour’s care survey can be found at https://scottishlabour.org.uk/where-we-stand/campaigns/careaboutcare/

Right to Food Bill will help tackle growing problem of food insecurity

As East Lothian Foodbank revealed that it has experienced a significant increase in demand for its service during lockdown, Iain Gray MSP is calling on local people to back plans for legislation to enshrine the Right to Food into law in Scotland.

Figures for the period March to June 2020 show that the foodbank fed 2762 local people, including 1110 children, a 48% increase on the same period in 2019. Meanwhile, national foodbank charity The Trussell Trust recently reported an 89% increase in need for emergency food parcels during April.

The dramatic surge in food insecurity has already led to food poverty groups joining forces to call for an end to Scotland’s increasing reliance on foodbanks.

In a letter sent last month to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, workers and volunteers from foodbanks, community food groups, and poverty organisations have outlined their concerns over the country’s reliance on charity amid a sharp increase in the number of people experiencing food insecurity.

Last month, Mr Gray’s colleague Elaine Smith MSP lodged a proposal in the Scottish Parliament for a Right to Food bill which would aim to tackle the growing problem of food poverty and insecurity.

Supporting the proposal, Iain Gray MSP said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought Scotland’s food system into sharp focus. Food insecurity and poverty has been experienced by record numbers of families in East Lothian and across Scotland over recent months.

“For some people this has been caused by losing their income suddenly and being left with too little to meet their basic needs. Others have experienced food insecurity because the normal methods by which they acquire their food have been disrupted, for example if they have been shielding.

“We all have a right to food, but while it is recognised internationally, it is a right so many people in Scotland are seeing go unfulfilled. This proposed bill is an opportunity to shape the approach that Scotland takes to food going forward.

“The outcome of this consultation will play a big role in helping shape the principles which guide the future of our food system, and I’m urging local groups and individuals concerned with food poverty to submit their views on the proposal.”

To find out more information, including how to respond to the consultation, please visit https://righttofoodscotland.wixsite.com/righttofood or www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/115201.aspx

My Life and Me website launched for single parents

One Parent Families Scotland has unveiled a new website dedicated to sharing advice and tips for single parents, all in one place.

The charity says that single parents often tell it that they would like to know how to make time for themselves, look after themselves better and feel less tired and lonely, all hard when you are raising a child on your own.

Designed with single parents, My Life and Me features advice and tips on health, wellbeing and more all in one easy to access place. Take a look now at https://mylifeandme.opfs.org.uk/

You can find out more about the work of One Parent Families Scotland and the wider support it offers to single parents at https://opfs.org.uk/

Call for action to protect music and theatre jobs

Iain Gray MSP is backing calls for a clear plan to be announced to protect jobs within Scotland’s music and theatre industry.

The call comes as musicians from around the UK signed an open letter this week, warning that mass redundancies among key production and crew staff due to COVID-19 may mean fans could have to wait years for live gigs to return. Theatre and music venues are still without a date for when doors can be reopened and there is no clarity over required social distancing measures for venues to open safely.

Scottish Labour’s culture and tourism spokesperson Claire Baker has repeatedly pressed the Scottish Government to announce plans to protect jobs within the industries and make sure venues are supported as they still face months of closure. Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has announced a £10m fund but it is only for not-for-profit performing arts venues.

Mr Gray is backing Ms Baker’s call for an industry specific ‘Creative Arts Recovery Package’ to provide the financial support needed to ensure the survival of venues, performers, staff and companies. This has not been put in place and several venues have already been forced to postpone or cancel Christmas shows and events this year. For many, these ticket sales are a financial lifeline.

Backing the urgent need to support Scotland’s creative sector, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Businesses and venues in the creative sector were the first to close when the lockdown began, and the pressures they face are mounting every day. While most staff were furloughed, with no end in sight, many jobs in the sector are now at risk. 

“We know the recovery from COVID-19 for these industries will be particularly difficult, and they cannot afford to lose out on the vital revenue they need from ticket sales and bookings over the next few months.

“I have already raised the issue of support for local music festivals with the Culture Secretary, but it’s clear that we need a Scotland specific creative arts recovery package, with wide ranging avenues of support, or the arts sector will not recover.

“The lack of action is risking many creative jobs and the future of much-loved performance venues, and the Scottish Government must now take serious and immediate action to support the sector through this crisis period.”

The call for an arts recovery package comes as music industry body, UK Music, declared that the Scottish live music industry is currently in crisis. From TRNSMT to Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival and the Barrowlands to The Lemon Tree, the sector faces closures.

Without urgent action, UK Music claim over 90% of the country’s much-loved grassroots live music venues face closing their doors permanently and a sector worth £494 million per annum to the Scottish economy which supports over 4,300 jobs will be irretrievably damaged.

UK Music, along with the rest of the music industry, has launched a new campaign, Let The Music Play. It is calling for:

  1. A clear conditional timeline for reopening venues without social distancing.
  2. An immediate comprehensive business and employment support package.
  3. Full VAT exemption on ticket sales.

Find out more about the campaign at www.ukmusic.org/policy/let-the-music-play/

Iain says thank you to staff on NHS’s 72nd anniversary

As the National Health Service celebrates its 72nd anniversary on 5 July, Iain Gray MSP is joining Labour colleagues across the UK in saying thank you to NHS staff for all that they do for us.

In 1948, rebuilding from the devastation of World War Two, ​the Labour ​Government created our National Health Service, still one of the party’s greatest and longest lasting achievements.

This year, the coronavirus crisis has shown us how the NHS is there for us when we need it most. Through this crisis, it is the care workers, doctors, nurses, NHS staff and key workers who are putting themselves on the line to protect us all.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Labour created the NHS and we will always protect it so that it can protect you. Today, the NHS remains our proudest achievement – and a shining example of what we can do when we come together.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen NHS staff working tirelessly to care for those most affected by the virus. The service has kept going through the toughest of times and proved once again what a uniquely special institution it is.

“On the NHS’s 72nd birthday, we say thank you for all that its dedicated staff do to keep our nation healthy and cared for. Please join me in adding your name to our card and sending thanks to our brilliant NHS.”

The NHS ‘Thank You’ card can be signed and shared online via https://secure.scottishlabour.org.uk/ThankYouNHS

Charity offers new COVID-19 mediation service

A new conflict resolution service for individuals or organisations experiencing difficulties resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions has been welcomed by Iain Gray MSP.

The service has been launched by charity Scottish Mediation, with support from the Wellbeing Fund. The nature of the conflict can be wide ranging – it can be a personal relationship that is under duress as a result of self-isolation or a dispute with an employer about returning to work during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Welcoming the service, Iain Gray MSP said:

“The last few months have caused great stress and anxiety for many people, across many different aspects of our lives. This has inevitably resulted in conflict, both within personal and family relationships, and in work environments. 

“This new COVID-19 mediation service provides the opportunity to try and resolve problems through dialogue facilitated by independent professional mediators, and I’m sure many local people will find it useful.”

Anyone is eligible for the service if:

  • They live in Scotland
  • The conflict is connected to social distancing or self-isolation
  • The conflict is not part of a pre-existing dispute e.g. divorce proceedings or formal contact arrangements
  • All of the people in the conflict agree to participate in mediation.

Provided by a group of professional volunteer mediators, the service is free to individuals and organisations with up to five employees. Organisations with more than five employees will be charged at £300 for up to one day’s mediation.

The service can be accessed by visiting Scottish Mediation’s website at bit.ly/covid19mediation.

Iain welcomes campaign to ‘Stay Safe, Support Local, Love East Lothian’

As some more lockdown restrictions are eased and businesses start to re-open their doors, Iain Gray MSP has welcomed a new East Lothian Council campaign called ‘Stay Safe, Support Local, Love East Lothian’.

Scotland has now moved into the second phase of the ‘route map’ aimed at gradually easing the lockdown while continuing to suppress the virus, allowing shops of all sizes to open from 29 June as long as they have outdoor entrances and exits.

Indoor shopping centres will remain closed except for essential retailers such as supermarkets and pharmacists. It has been provisionally announced that self-catering accommodation will be permitted from 3 July, with all holiday accommodation being able to open from 15 July.

With many businesses having been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the council’s campaign is highlighting that East Lothian has an abundance of creative and innovative businesses working in a variety of sectors across and within our local communities.

The campaign aims to encourage people to purchase goods and services in East Lothian. There will also, as further restrictions are eased and it becomes safe for tourism-related businesses to re-open, be a focus on promoting visitor attractions and the county’s acclaimed hospitality.

Welcoming the campaign, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Over the last few months, many of East Lothian’s shops and other businesses have experienced a uniquely difficult time as the impact of the pandemic and lockdown have hit them hard. As restrictions ease and the economy opens up again, I welcome East Lothian Council’s campaign to encourage people to shop locally in the coming weeks. 

“Our local retailers offer such a diverse range of products that shopping locally here is easy, as well as being safer at the current time. I have always championed East Lothian’s local businesses, but now, more than ever, it is vital that we all do our bit to support the local economy to recover from the crisis and help shops get back on their feet.”

Councillor John McMillan, East Lothian Council’s Cabinet Spokesperson for Economic Development and Tourism, said:

“East Lothian’s shops and local businesses have had to face particularly challenging circumstances over the last few months, but, as our high streets start to open up again, they are keen to welcome existing and new customers. 

“I’m delighted to support the launch of East Lothian Council’s new campaign – Stay Safe, Support Local, Love East Lothian. It’s about sending out a message that East Lothian is getting back open for business – whatever products or services you’re looking for, you’re very likely to find them here in East Lothian.

“East Lothian is well loved by its people and known for its abundance of diverse shops and local businesses, from unique gift shops to the many outlets and markets that sell East Lothian’s fantastic produce.  Local businesses are essential for our economy. They bring growth and innovation, provide employment and support the local economies and communities. They also care about their community.

“By continuing to stay safe and shop locally the people of East Lothian can help local businesses, so integral to the fabric and character of our community, to not only survive but thrive.”

Find out more on East Lothian Council’s website.

Iain welcomes #FirstStrike campaign against animal abuse

The return of a campaign on the significant link between animal abuse and human violence has been welcomed by Iain Gray MSP.

First launched 22 years ago, the Scottish SPCA’s First Strike campaign is back with the aim of highlighting the link between animal cruelty and violence towards humans and encouraging those who may be suffering abuse and own a pet to seek help.

For many people, the mistreatment of animals can be the start of a dangerous path leading to abuse towards humans and other violent acts, with those who are cruel to animals being five times more likely to be violent towards other humans.

The SSPCA have programmes like Animal Guardians which are there to intervene at an early stage, working with children as young as four to help them understand the power of positive human-animal interactions and the emotions and sentience animals have.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Research shows that people who are cruel towards animals are five times more likely to be violent or abusive towards people. These startling figures underline the crucial importance of identifying people and animals who are being mistreated and helping to break the link between animal cruelty and harm to humans.

“The SSPCA also want to help those who may own a pet and be suffering abuse to get help. In households where one person is abusive to another, a family pet can be exploited as a method of control, with the threat of violence towards the pet often being used to force the victim to stay or do what they want.

“In many cases, the person who is being abused will not leave that environment for fear of the consequences the pet could face. Anyone facing these circumstances can contact the SSPCA in full confidence if they and their pet need help.

“I welcome the work the SSPCA is doing with their partners in the police, social work and other key services to highlight these important issues and provide support for people and animals in abusive situations.”

Find out more about the campaign and the help the SSPCA can provide at www.scottishspca.org/firststrike

Celebrating unique local charity’s ninth anniversary

This Saturday, Leuchie House in North Berwick will be celebrating its ninth anniversary as an independent respite charity.

Leuchie is a national respite charity dedicated to supporting people from across Scotland living with the long term effects of a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or motor neurone disease through individualised respite breaks, and by providing an essential break for their carers.

Congratulating the charity on its latest anniversary, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I’m delighted to join the wonderful Leuchie House in celebrating 9 years as an independent charity. Throughout that time Leuchie has been providing essential respite for people from across Scotland living with a neurological conditions, and the loved ones who care for them. 

“It has always been a real pleasure to support this unique and much-loved local facility, and I wish all of the staff, trustees and volunteers many years of continued success providing their excellent service to people across Scotland.”

Find out more about Leuchie’s anniversary activities and all its other news at www.leuchiehouse.org.uk