Iain welcomes commitment to CPR training in local schools

Iain Gray MSP has welcomed the announcement that secondary school pupils in East Lothian will all have access to CPR training before they leave school.

The decision follows a nationwide campaign by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland charity encouraging councils across Scotland to make the life-saving commitment.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I’m really pleased that East Lothian is among the local authorities to commit to training all secondary pupils in CPR. This move will bring about significant educational and health benefits for the pupils and their local communities.

“It’s important not only because it means they could potentially help save the life of a loved one, friend or someone else in their community, but also because it gives them new skills and knowledge for life. I commend East Lothian Council for this initiative and BHF Scotland for their outstanding campaigning on the issue.”

Mr Gray has also marked the news in a motion in the Scottish Parliament:

“That the Parliament welcomes East Lothian Council’s announcement that it will be providing lifesaving CPR training for every secondary pupil; understands that this decision has been taken with the aim of tackling poor Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest survival rates, both in East Lothian Council and across the whole of Scotland, where only 1 in 12 people can expect to survive a cardiac arrest; recognises that international best practice from Denmark, Norway and Seattle indicates that training all secondary pupils in this vital skill has the potential to greatly improve cardiac arrest survival rates; notes that this decision sees East Lothian Council join with 22 other Local Authorities across Scotland in pledging to equip all secondary pupils with this skill; and acknowledges that, if the nine remaining councils were to make a similar commitment, Scotland would see approximately 50,000 young people trained in lifesaving CPR every year.”

Ministerial meeting brings mixed news for county rail users

County MSP Iain Gray joined Tom Thorburn and Barrie Forrest from the RAGES campaign group to meet the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson, about rail issues in East Lothian.

The meeting was ostensibly to discuss progress on the delivery of new stations at East Linton and Reston, but Mr Gray took the opportunity to highlight ongoing deep concerns about the failure of Abellio to deliver the level of service required by rail users in East Lothian.

Mr Gray told Mr Matheson of constituent complaints about a range of problems, including cancelled and overcrowded trains, passengers left on the platform, and ticket machines not working.

Speaking about this part of the meeting, Iain Gray MSP said:

“This meeting was arranged some time ago, primarily to discuss progress on East Linton station. However, with no let up in the difficulties experienced by my constituents on services on the North Berwick Line, I had promised many I would raise their problems directly with Mr Matheson, and I did exactly that.

“The various problems, including cancelled, delayed and overcrowded services, have been regular occurrences for County commuters throughout Abellio’s tenure as ScotRail franchisee, especially on the North Berwick line, but recently they have been happening literally every day.

“Mr Matheson acknowledged and agreed that the service has been unacceptable.  However, he did also go through the usual list of excuses, which many commuters are familiar with from their complaints to ScotRail, i.e. late delivery of new trains, crew shortages, and problems with training for new trains.

“He did also say that he has initiated a “forensic” investigation into how training for new trains could have created staffing problems given the company knew that this training would be necessary. He also referred to the “Improvement Notice” he has issued, as reported in the press.

“None of this changed my mind that Abellio should have run out of chances by now, and the Scottish Government should have begun the process of removing the franchise from them with a view to bringing ScotRail into public ownership.

“I also realise that long suffering rail users will find it hard to believe that an “improvement notice” is going to turn ScotRail’s performance around.  I can only promise that my colleagues and I will continue to raise the unacceptably poor performance of this service at every possible parliamentary opportunity.”

There was, however, some more positive news from Mr Matheson on progress around the delivery of a new station in East Linton.

The Transport Secretary confirmed that the project remains in the “Control period 6” infrastructure plan for the next five years, that design work for the station is underway, and a capacity study looking at services between England and S-E Scotland is considering what timetable would be possible.

He also confirmed that the project has moved from the “Planning” department in Transport Scotland to the “Delivery” department.

Commenting on the East Linton progress, Mr Gray said:

“Delivering the station and new services at East Linton is a vital local infrastructure project, and it is quite ridiculous that we have had to wait (and RAGES have had to campaign) for so long for this much needed station.

“We cannot get back the many years of delay, but setting that aside it was good to make sure that (yet another) new Transport Minister is fully aware of how important this project is, and to hear from him that there are no new barriers to its delivery currently on the horizon.

“Indeed, the suggestion that both the design work and capacity study should be complete by the summer, potentially making it possible to give a date for work on the station to begin, is a positive sign.

“That said, Ministers have failed to deliver on previous promises on moving this project forward, so Mr Matheson was left in no doubt that RAGES and I will stay on his case regarding this critical project, and if we do not hear the expected progress by summer, we will be back at his office door then!”

Cockenzie P7s quiz Iain at Holyrood

A group of P7 pupils from Cockenzie Primary School are the latest schoolchildren from the county to visit the Scottish Parliament.

The visit was organised through the Parliament’s excellent Education Service, which helps to inform and engage young people from across Scotland who are interested in finding out more about the work of Parliament.

As well as having a tour of Parliament and learning more about the way it works, the pupils also had the opportunity to quiz local MSP, Iain Gray.

Speaking after the visit Iain Gray MSP said:

“Barely a week goes by without a school group from East Lothian visiting Holyrood via the education service. It’s always a pleasure to welcome them to the building and answer their questions.

“This latest group from Cockenzie Primary School were well prepared with a range of good questions about both the mechanics of Parliament and the legislative process and topical policy and political issues.

“I look forward to welcoming many more pupils from East Lothian to Holyrood during the rest of this parliamentary term.”

Welcoming success of support for blind and partially sighted pupils

A ground-breaking partnership between the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh and East Lothian Council has been welcomed by Iain Gray MSP for East Lothian as he visited the school to learn more about its success.

Mr Gray met with pupils and teachers at the Royal Blind School to learn about the work of the East Lothian Vision Impairment Service (ELVIS) which delivers specialist education and support to pupils with vision impairment across the local authority.

The partnership enables pupils to access learning through the use of braille, large print, specialist technology and adapted learning materials, such as tactile diagrams. Pupils are also given support in developing independence skills and social skills. ELVIS also assists pupils and staff at crucial times of transition.

The partnership between the Royal Blind School and East Lothian Council began in 2017 and has been welcomed by pupils, parents and staff.

After his visit to the School, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I was pleased to visit the Royal Blind School to find out more about its important work with young people with vision impairment. I was especially interested in its unique partnership with East Lothian Council.

“East Lothian Vision Impairment Service (ELVIS) is a pioneering project delivering specialist education and support to pupils in East Lothian in a way not currently being undertaken anywhere else in Scotland.

“This is a great service for pupils, parents and teaching staff in East Lothian, and I commend both the Royal Blind School and East Lothian Council for this excellent initiative.”

Elaine Brackenridge, Head Teacher of the Royal Blind School said:

“We are delighted that our partnership with East Lothian Council has been such a success and that pupils with vision impairment are benefitting from this collaboration. 

“We were pleased to welcome Iain Gray to the Royal Blind School, giving us an opportunity to tell him how we are supporting pupils in East Lothian to make the most of their educational opportunities.”

Chris, aged 11, was one of the first pupils to be supported by the service.  His deteriorating vision had left him worried about the future and struggling to keep up with his schoolwork.  Now, in addition to one-to-one support provided in-school, he is supported four days per week by his ELVIS teachers, is learning braille, and has regained his confidence.

Chris’ mum Heather, said:

“It’s difficult to express in words how grateful I am of this partnership between the Royal Blind School and East Lothian Council. The year before the partnership began, Chris’ sight had deteriorated quite quickly and he had no confidence whatsoever.  We were all really struggling.  His sight loss was impacting on absolutely everything.  He was constantly worrying about the future. 

 “The difference in Chris in just a year has been amazing.  He has two very dedicated, knowledgeable and very professional members of Royal Blind School staff providing support to him through the partnership. It was recognised that there was a need for Chris to learn braille before starting high school and knew that time was a factor so everything was in place very quickly and he was up and running in no time.  They provide support by adapting materials for Chris and ensuring he is able to fully access his classes as well as his sighted classmates can.”

Appeal launched to support Foundation’s work with local communities

Iain Gray MSP is helping to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Hibernian Community Foundation, which he Chairs, with the launch of a new funding appeal to support its work.

Hibernian Football Club established the Foundation in 2008 as a registered Scottish charity to help improve the lives of disadvantaged people and communities across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Now in its tenth anniversary year, the Foundation is continuing to reach out and deliver programmes to those most in need, including various activity in communities throughout East Lothian.

The ‘Famous Fiver’ appeal, which evokes a golden era in the club’s history, is encouraging Hibernian supporters to donate at least £5 to assist the Foundation’s programmes.

Speaking about the appeal, Iain Gray MSP said:

“The Hibernian Community Foundation was established 10 years ago to harness the power of football to improve the lives of disadvantaged people and communities across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

“I am very proud to have been the Chair of the Foundation since 2013 and help oversee the development of its innovative programmes. In order for the Foundation to continue and build on this very important and much-needed work, we need to raise additional funds, which is why we have launched this Famous Fiver appeal.

“The target for the appeal is £25,000 and I hope Hibernian supporters and others who support the Foundation’s work will get behind it and make a donation. Every penny raised will be used to assist positive change in local communities and with people of all ages.”

First-team star Lewis Stevenson, who was on hand to help with the launch, said:

“I know first-hand the great work the Community Foundation does in deprived communities across the Lothians and I would ask everyone who can to donate to the Famous Fiver appeal.”

More about the Famous Fiver Appeal, including how to make a donation, can be found at www.hibernianfc.co.uk/news


Iain discovers more about unique local enterprise

Iain Gray MSP has visited East Linton-based social enterprise Viarama, Scotland’s first virtual reality (VR) company and the world’s first social enterprise working in VR, to find out more about its work.

Viarama founder Billy Agnew uses the cutting-edge VR technology as a force for good within communities across Scotland, with a strong focus on improving quality of life for people of all ages.

He has been taking his equipment into schools, nursing homes, hospices, hospitals and respite centres with the aim of using it to help enhance learning, aid quality of life and help deliver training and employment in the process.

The social enterprise is located at the Mart in East Linton, where the public can visit and try out the powerful technology for themselves.

Speaking after his visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I enjoyed the opportunity to visit Viarama and find out more about the VR technology and how it can be used for the good of local communities and individuals. Billy gave me a demonstration of his state-of-the-art VR equipment which enabled me to experience being at the bottom of the ocean and at the peak of Mt Fuji in a matter of minutes!

“It is a truly immersive experience and I can certainly see the potential benefits of using the technology with the audiences he is targeting. In fact, I know from a friend’s experience how powerful the service Viarama provides can be for those facing terminal illness.

“It’s great to have such an innovative enterprise based here in East Lothian and I wish Billy well with developing the company.”

Billy Agnew from Viarama said:

“I was very happy to welcome Iain to Viarama and let him try the world’s best virtual reality. Iain’s enthusiasm and support are very welcome indeed, and we will use this support to continue to use VR to benefit schoolchildren, senior citizens, and young people in the local area and beyond”.

Find out more at www.viarama.co.uk

Iain pledges support to ban electric shock collars

Scotland and the UK’s largest dog welfare organisations and positive trainers came together with MSPs this week to urge the Scottish Government to ban the use of electric shock collars and other aversive training devices.

Iain Gray MSP attended a drop-in event at the Scottish Parliament to pledge his support to help encourage a ban on the use of these devices a year after the Scottish Government announced it would ban them, but instead only issued guidance on their use.

84% of people know that shock collars cause a dog pain, but the sad reality is that they are still readily available to buy at the click of a button. These torturous devices can send between 100 to 6000 Volts to a dog’s neck, and have the capacity to continuously shock a dog for up to 11 terrifying seconds at a time.

Research shows that physical effects can include yelping, squealing, crouching, and physiological signs of distress in direct response to an electric shock. It’s not just shock collars – spray and sonic collars are also widely for sale.

Whilst the use of electronic shock collars is banned in Wales, and Westminster has confirmed it will introduce a ban on the use of these cruel devices in England, Scotland continues to avoid introducing a ban.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I’m delighted to pledge my support calling for a ban on the use of electronic shock collars. These aversive training methods are outdated and cruel, and there is no need for them to be used when there are so many positive training methods available. This is a hugely important issue for dog welfare and I hope my support will help make a difference.”

Rachel Casey, Director of Canine Behaviour and Research at Dogs Trust, said:

“We are disappointed that despite previously committing to effectively ban the use of electronic and other aversive training devices, a year later the Scottish Government has only issued guidance about their use. This means that Scotland’s pets are not protected from the negative impacts of using these cruel devices.

“This type of device is not only painful for a dog, it can have a serious negative impact on their mental and physical wellbeing. As well as distress at the time of use, dogs can develop anxiety and other problem behaviours as a longer-term consequence. We know from our Dog School classes that positive reinforcement training can give both dogs and their owners the skills they need to understand each other and build a rewarding life-long relationship.”

Lindsay Fyffe-Jardine, Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home Director of Operations and Deputy to the CEO, said:

“Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home does not feel there is a place in today’s Scotland for the use of shock collars. This cruel and unnecessary practice has, for too long, caused pain and suffering to dogs across the country on a daily basis. We strongly believe that an outright ban on the use of shock collars is the only outcome that will ensure dogs are protected from the fear and misery these collars bring.”

Bob Elliot, OneKind Director said:

“Electric shock collars are cruel and unnecessary, and we believe it’s time for the Scottish Government to follow Wales by introducing a real ban on the use of shock collars to protect dogs from pain and suffering caused by their use. Not only are these collars cruel, but aversive training is ineffective which is why 91% of the dog trainers surveyed by OneKind in 2016 supported a shock collar ban.”

Becky Thwaites, Head of Public Affairs at Blue Cross, said:

“Electric shock collars are a serious animal welfare issue. They are outdated, cruel and have no place in modern dog training. Blue Cross strongly believes that the only effective way to train a dog is through positive reinforcement. We were pleased to come together with colleagues from across the animal welfare sector in Scotland today to ask MSPs to push the Scottish Government to introduce a complete ban on electronic shock devices and other aversive training methods.”

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said:

“We are disappointed that one year on from announcing that there would be an effective and prompt ban of electric shock collars in Scotland that such a ban has not come to fruition. Recently published guidance condoning shock collars is proving to be insufficient in deterring their use and we believe that given this, only a legislative ban will be effective. Scotland is now lagging behind the Welsh and Westminster Government’s in their approach to dealing with shock collars and we hope that this will soon be put right.”

Dee McIntosh, Director of Communications at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, said:

“Battersea believes banning the use of electronic shock collars on dogs is long overdue. It’s clear that positive reinforcement techniques, such as reward-based training, are far more effective at changing a dog’s behaviour without inflicting unnecessary pain. So when the Scottish Government reviews animal welfare legislation around electronic shock collars, we hope they’ll finally ban the use of these cruel devices.”

Parliamentarians help celebrate 300 years of Belhaven brewery

The county’s MSP and MP are helping to acknowledge and celebrate Belhaven Brewery’s 300th anniversary at their respective parliaments.

Iain Gray MSP is hosting a reception at Holyrood on 26th February to give MSPs an opportunity to join in with the Dunbar brewery’s anniversary celebrations, which will take place throughout 2019.

Meanwhile, Martin Whitfield MP has marked the anniversary with a parliamentary Early Day Motion (EDM) at Westminster setting out the site’s history and welcoming 300 years of brewing innovation at Belhaven.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Belhaven Brewery is an important local employer as well as an internationally-renowned brand. The brewery’s 300th anniversary is a significant milestone and I’m very happy to be hosting a parliamentary reception on behalf of Belhaven to join the celebrations.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“Belhaven is Scotland’s oldest working brewery and one of its most iconic and recognisable brands. 300 years of continuous brewing is a major achievement and I’m pleased to be able to celebrate it with this EDM in Parliament.”

Iain visits county quarry

Iain Gray MSP has visited a local quarry which is approaching its fiftieth year of producing sand and gravel for the construction industry and individual consumers.

Longyester Quarry has been in operation since 1970, and is now run by family business Tillicoultry Quarries, which owns a number of other quarries across Scotland.

The relatively small site, located near Gifford, specialises in sand and gravel. It has seen significant investment since Tillicoultry bought it four years ago.

Commenting on his visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“There are a surprisingly diverse range of small and medium sized businesses located in some of the more rural parts of our county. Longyester Quarry near Gifford is one such business, which I was pleased to visit for the first time. This site, producing sand and gravel, has been in operation for close to 50 years.

“The quarry’s small workforce is mostly local, with vast experience of the industry. It was clear from the visit that the owners are eager to work harmoniously with their neighbours and the local community. This includes ongoing efforts to restore disused parts of the site to usable agricultural land.

“Thanks to Tillicoultry boss Wallace and his team for taking the time out to show me around the site and tell me a bit more about the challenges facing the mineral industry in Scotland.”

Aberlady pupils visit Holyrood

A group of P7 pupils from Aberlady Primary School have become the first schoolchildren from the county to visit the Scottish Parliament in 2019.

Local MSP Iain Gray met with the pupils during the visit, which was organised via the Parliament’s Education Outreach service. He talked about his role as East Lothian’s MSP and answered some of their questions about the way Parliament works.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“East Lothian schools have a great record for visiting the Scottish Parliament, with the majority now having attended at some point during my time as the local MSP. It was a pleasure to welcome this latest group from Aberlady, the first local pupils to visit this year, and answer some of their questions.

“I know they have been very busy over recent months learning about Scottish politics, including a recent visit to the school from my Westminster colleague, Martin Whitfield. I hope they found the visit to Holyrood useful and enjoyed finding out more about the way Parliament functions.”