Iain visits local primary schools

Iain Gray MSP has visited West Barns and East Linton primary schools to speak to P6 pupils about his role as East Lothian’s MSP and the work of the Scottish Parliament.

The visits were part of the county MSP’s ongoing programme of local school visits and meetings with school visitors at Holyrood.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Last week I was pleased to visit two local schools to answer a huge range of questions from pupils about the work of the Scottish Parliament.

“The first stop was to West Barns and the P6 class there, who have been working with the Scottish Parliament’s Education Department Outreach team.

“Then it was over to East Linton for a real grilling by P6 pupils, who had warmed up last week by quizzing my MP colleague, Martin Whitfield, about the workings of the Westminster Parliament.

“These schools visits are always one of the most enjoyable parts of the job, and it is reassuring to know that we have such enthusiastic and engaged young people here.”

No end in sight for Sheriffhall Roundabout chaos

Iain Gray MSP has raised the issue of ongoing congestion and delays at the Sheriffhall Roundabout with the Transport Secretary on the floor of the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Gray raised the issue following numerous complaints from East Lothian residents about the situation, which creates chaos for commuters and businesses using the Edinburgh City Bypass.

Speaking after his question, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Like many East Lothian residents, I have lost count of the time I have spent waiting in queues at the Sheriffhall Roundabout over the years.

“Improvements have been promised for many years now, and, earlier this year, Ministers indicated that work aimed at easing congestion at the roundabout would be happening in the near future.

“However, when I asked the Transport Secretary when work on the proposed improvements will begin, the answer I got was less than clear, with no date for the work forthcoming.

“This is not good enough and it’s time for the Scottish Government to deliver its commitment to carry out the improvements and solve this endemic problem once and for all.”

The full exchange in Parliament was as follows:

Sheriffhall Roundabout (Planned Improvements)

  1. Iain Gray (East Lothian) (Lab):

To ask the Scottish Government what progress has been made with the planned improvements to the Sheriffhall roundabout on the A720. (S5O-03558)

The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity (Michael Matheson):

The Scottish Government remains committed to undertaking improvements at the Sheriffhall roundabout, and Transport Scotland continues to progress the detailed development and assessment of the preferred option for the grade separation of the roundabout with a view to publishing draft orders later this year for formal comment.

As part of the essential preparatory work, Transport Scotland has undertaken ground investigation and environmental survey work, with the output informing the design of the scheme. In addition to that, extensive consultation with active travel stakeholders has been undertaken to ensure that the proposed improvements include suitable provision for all users, including cyclists.

Iain Gray:

The improvements have been promised for years, and it sometimes seems to commuters from my constituency that they have spent those years waiting in a queue at the Sheriffhall roundabout. Will the minister please give us a date on which the work will start?

Michael Matheson:

The member will be aware that the improvements were committed to through the Edinburgh and south-east Scotland city region deal, which was agreed back in 2017. Progress has been made since then, and the development assessment work on the preferred option is being taken forward by Transport Scotland.

It is difficult to give a specific date for completion because, once the draft orders are issued, individuals are allowed to comment on the matter, which could trigger a local public inquiry, and that could have an impact on the timeframe. I assure the member that we are committed to taking the project forward. I wish to see the project moving as quickly as possible, but certain issues could have an impact on the finalised timescale for completion of the project.

Motion welcomes funding boost for community kitchen project

A £100,000 lottery funding award for the Our Community Kitchen project has been welcomed in a parliamentary motion tabled by Iain Gray MSP.

The project, which has been based in Haddington Bowling Club, was developed as an intergenerational project by Dementia Friendly East Lothian, to provide home-cooked food for local people in the community who are isolated and vulnerable. It is also helping tackle “holiday hunger” by working with schools to offer free freshly cooked food to children and families during the holidays.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“This is a really welcome funding boost for a fantastic community project which has made a significant difference to the lives of local people. I’m delighted that the project has received the award and congratulate everyone involved in developing and running Our Community Kitchen on this success and for everything they are doing to support the local community.”

Title: Lottery Funding for Our Community Kitchen

Motion Text: That the Parliament congratulates the Our Community Kitchen project in Haddington on securing £100,000 of funding from the National Lottery Community Fund Scotland; understands that the service, which was developed as an intergenerational project by Dementia Friendly East Lothian, will use the funding to deliver its community kitchen, which brings people of all walks of life together to eat home-cooked food; notes that the project aims to benefit local people in the community who are isolated and vulnerable, and also contributes to helping to reduce “holiday hunger” by working with schools and the local area partnership to offer free freshly cooked food to children and families during the holidays, and commends all those involved in designing, delivering and supporting the project for the positive difference that it is making to the local community.

Iain urges local businesses to take part in Autism Hour

From Saturday 5th to Saturday 12th October hundreds of shops around Scotland are turning down music and dimming the lights, as well as providing staff with information about autism to enable them to help and understand autistic customers.

Iain Gray MSP is calling on local businesses to take part in Autism Hour to encourage shops to be more autism-friendly. Autism Hour highlights that small changes can make a big difference to autistic customers and families. National Autistic Society Scotland hope that, after participating in Autism Hour, shops will introduce regular autism-friendly sessions.

There are around 58,000 autistic people in Scotland. Being autistic means seeing, hearing and feeling the world in a different, often more intense way to other people. Autistic people often find social situations difficult and can struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience, which can make busy public places, like shops, overwhelming.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I think Autism Hour is a great initiative and I’d encourage shops, cafes and other businesses to get involved. Creating an autism friendly environment by dimming lights, turning music down having a quiet space can be easy to do and go a long way to making autistic people and their families feel welcome.”

Nick Ward, Director of National Autistic Society Scotland, said:

“I’m delighted Iain is supporting Autism Hour and encouraging businesses to take part.

“We know that 66% of autistic people in Scotland avoid the shops. And, shockingly, 27% have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism. They and their families want and deserve to have the opportunity to go to the shops, just like anyone else.

“Holding an Autism Hour is the first step to creating a more autism-friendly Scotland. Small changes can make a big difference for autistic people and their families.”

Major names from high streets across Scotland are taking part in Autism Hour, including The Entertainer, Morrisons, Lloyds Banking Group, Home Bargains and intu Group.

Further information about the campaign, including a full list of participating shops in Scotland, can be found at www.autism.org.uk/autismhour.

Iain welcomes opening of surf centre

Iain Gray MSP has welcomed the official opening of the Belhaven Surf Centre in Dunbar in a motion laid at the Scottish Parliament.

The new £275,000 Centre, the brainchild of local man Brian Allen, is Scotland’s first community surf facility and will accommodate surf school Coast to Coast and other community groups, including the Wave Project, as well as having two rooms available for community use.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Surfing has become an increasingly important sport in East Lothian in recent years, especially at Belhaven, one of the best beaches in the country in my view, but it has lacked this kind of facility.

“The Surf Centre is therefore a fantastic addition to Belhaven, and the building looks great and fits in beautifully.”



Iain encourages colleagues to #DoArtDaily at Holyrood drop-in

Iain Gray MSP has hosted a drop-in event at the Scottish Parliament for locally-based arts therapy charity, the Teapot Trust.

The event tied in with World Suicide Prevention Day by speaking to MSPs about the impact physical health conditions have on mental health and wellbeing, and the benefits of art therapy in order to encourage a more joined-up approach in arts and health policy.

As well as giving Mr Gray’s Holyrood colleagues a chance to learn more about the charity’s work, add to the teapot artwork and help celebrate the Trust’s art therapy provision for children with chronic illness.

Speaking after the event, Iain Gray MSP said:

“The Teapot Trust is a brilliant local charity which makes a positive difference to the lives of children with chronic illness and their families.

“I was very pleased to host this drop-in at Parliament to enable the charity to chat to colleagues about its work and its message of the importance of a more joined-up approach to policy on arts and health.

“I hope it helped raise awareness and understanding about the Trust’s work and the positive impact that art therapy can have on everyone’s health and wellbeing.”

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: www.oxfam.org.uk/SecondHandSeptember.

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.”