Iain visits Teapot Trust project

Iain Gray MSP joined Founder of Teapot Trust, Dr Laura N Young MBE, during a visit the charity’s art therapy service at the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh.

Teapot Trust is Scotland’s largest employer of art therapists with 22 art therapists, running 27 projects in 12 hospitals, from Inverness to London. It has also recently expanded, with art therapists supporting children at hospitals in Liverpool and Cambridge.

The charity provides professional art therapy to support the wellbeing of children, young people and their families in hospitals across the UK. Teapot Trust exists to encourage self-expression, reduce anxiety and build resilience in children with chronic conditions through the therapeutic process of art.

Following his visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“It was great to see first-hand the Teapot Trust’s open group art therapy service in action. It is clear the positive changes Teapot Trust are making to the lives of children with chronic conditions throughout the UK, supporting both physical and emotional wellbeing and providing them with healthy methods of coping at what can be an incredibly difficult time.”

Speaking about the visit, Laura Young said:

“I am delighted that Iain took the time to visit our service in Edinburgh and see the positive impact art therapy can have on the wellbeing of children and young people with chronic conditions and their families. There is a great need for the service provided by Teapot Trust and I am grateful that Iain recognised this.”

Teapot Trust has been promoting the idea of ‘Do Art Daily’. They believe that incorporating some form of art or creativity into the daily routine, whether that be knitting, journaling or even a daily doodle, can be beneficial for mental health and wellbeing, helping to reduce stress.

Contending for prestigious Holyrood Dog of the Year title

On Monday 29th April, Iain Gray MSP and his nine-month-old Labrador/Retriever cross Guide Dog Puppy, Giles, will compete with other politicians and their pooches to win the coveted title of ‘Holyrood Dog of the Year’.

Dogs of all shapes and sizes, regardless of breed, creed or ‘pawlitical’ persuasion, will be helping their MSP owners to strut their stuff as they head to the Scottish Parliament gardens at Horse Wynd, Edinburgh, to see who will be crowned top dog.

Organised jointly by the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust, the competition offers the unique chance for Iain to show off his loyal canine companion, Giles.

Much like its long-running English counterpart Westminster Dog of the Year, Holyrood Dog of the Year aims to promote responsible dog ownership and encourage open dialogue on dog welfare issues in Scotland, as well as providing an opportunity for MSPs to meet with dog welfare experts to discuss all aspects of the canine world. This year’s competition will raise awareness of the negative impact that fireworks can have on dog welfare, and how both dog owners and non-dog owners can help reduce this.

Proud puppy walker Iain explains:

“Giles is a dedicated Guide Dog Puppy, so one day will transform someone’s life. He loves cuddles, jumping around and jumping in the sea when he gets a free run! He’s also a big supporter of campaigns to end pavement parking, ban puppy farms  and restrict sales on fireworks.

“This fun event will be a great opportunity to celebrate the essential work MSPs are doing to improve dog welfare and to highlight the importance of responsible dog ownership.”

MSPs will also be calling for their supporters to vote for them, in a bid to win the ‘pawblic’ vote, with additional judging on the day which will review the contestants on their good dog deeds and winning personalities. This will then determine which political pooch will take home the ultimate parliamentary privilege of the ‘Holyrood Dog of the Year’ title.

The judging panel to determine which dog wins the crown includes Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director at the Dogs Trust, Bill Lambert, Senior Health and Welfare Manager at the Kennel Club, and special guest judge Maurice Golden, MSP. The competition starts at 10.00am on Monday 29th April at the Scottish Parliament Gardens, Horse Wynd, Edinburgh, EH8 8DX.

Details of MSPs and dogs entered for Holyrood Dog of the Year can be found at www.thekennelclub.org.uk/events/holyrood-dog-of-the-year/ and to vote for Iain and Giles please visit www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/HDOTY2019

Comment on Cockenzie land agreement

Commenting on the announcement that East Lothian Council has reached an agreement with Inch Cape Offshore Limited (ICOL) on the sale of a small part of the former Cockenzie power station site, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I am still of the view that the Scottish Government should not have imposed this planning permission on the Cockenzie site.  However, with permission for the substation granted by ministers, this is a good outcome, with the size of the construction significantly reduced and the actual site moved away from the waterfront. 

“East Lothian Council have minimised the area they had to sell, and hopefully that means progress can now be made on finding the right opportunity to create jobs and boost the local economy.”

Iain pledges support for pension funds to divest from fossil fuels

Iain Gray MSP has signed up to a pledge supporting calls for the Scottish Government and Parliament to divest from fossil fuels and invest in a just transition to a zero carbon economy.

Mr Gray’s support for the Divest Scotland pledge comes as Scottish Labour has committed to ambitious amendments to the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill, including a target of net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest and robust interim target – all underpinned and safeguarded by a Just Transition Commission that is statutory, independent, and well resourced.

Speaking about his pledge, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I fully agree that the time has come for the Scottish Government and Parliament to make ethical environmental investments for a sustainable future, for workers, communities, children and grandchildren.  

“My colleagues have argued for environmental investment criteria to be central to the Scottish National Investment Bank. It would show leadership and solidarity if the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme led the way in introducing an ethical finance policy.

“These actions will give assurance that, when planned for over an appropriate timescale, we can all confidently see divestment from fossil fuels, and positive investment in a just transition to a net zero emissions economy and society.”

Parliamentarians welcome step forward on East Linton station

County parliamentarians Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP have welcomed the inclusion of East Linton station in a newly-published rail delivery plans for the next five years.

The Network Rail Control Period (CP) 6 Delivery Plan for Scotland, which covers the period 2019 to 2024, mentions enhancement of the East Coast Main Line corridor “including early deliverable of new stations at East Linton and Reston”.

While no specific date is mentioned for the completion of the project, Mr Gray and Mr Whitfield hope its inclusion in the plan means the important infrastructure will now go ahead by 2024 at the latest.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I have been campaigning for the delivery of the new rail station at East Linton since I first became East Lothian’s MSP in 2007. Successive Rail Ministers have delayed the project over the years, resulting in fears that it would never be implemented.

“With the publication of this delivery plan we finally have something more concrete to aim for. I hope that we can now finally see the new station, and consequent local rail services, completed and available for local people as rapidly as possible.

“RAGES and other local campaigners deserve great credit for their persistence in pressing the Scottish Government and Network Rail to deliver this important piece of rail infrastructure.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“I have raised East Linton station with UK Ministers in Parliament and in ministerial meetings and asked them to press Network Rail to ensure that it is delivered, so I’m pleased to see it in black and white in the new plan.

“The station at East Linton will not only bring great benefits to the village itself but should also lead to improved local services between Berwick and Edinburgh, benefiting the whole of the County.”

Introducing “Our Daily Bread” lecture

This morning Iain Gray MSP introduced a lecture, “Our Daily Bread”, given by Scott Shirreff about the innovative work of his relative Patrick Shireff at Mungoswells farm.

Scott explained how exactly 200 years ago, in the face of a terrible harvest, Patrick noticed one wheat plant which had thrived in spite of the weather. He used that single shoot to breed a new and hardier variety which ended up revolutionising wheat production worldwide.

Later, through a similar process he produced Hopetoun Oats, and in the end 70 more strains of cereal some of which are still grown today, and many of which have developed into modern crops.

Shirref’s work was acknowledged by Charles Darwin in his publications which led eventually to “The Origin of Species”, and is considered by many to be comparable to the research of Gregor Mendel, decades later.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I was pleased to introduce this lecture by Scott Shirreff on his ancestor Patrick Shirreff’s development of modern strains of wheat and oats at Mungoswells farm 200 years ago. 

“This is very much an East Lothian Story and one which deserves greater attention than it has had in recent years – all credit to Scott for his efforts to make that happen.

“It is also a thread which continues through to the present day, because on Saturday, at Haddington Farmers’ Market, only yards from the lecture it was possible to buy flour milled from heritage wheat crops grown on the very Mungoswells Farm where Patrick had his great idea 200 years ago.”

Iain visits “hugely impressive and moving” cancer survival tapestry

Iain Gray MSP has visited the studio of local artist Andrew Crummy in Cockenzie to find out more about the progress of his new Tapestry about Cancer Survival.

Mr Crummy announced his idea for the tapestry last year following his own treatment for cancer. During his treatment and after, he was sketching about his experience, the people he met and the support he received.

At this time, it was suggested to Andrew that he should produce a Cancer Tapestry, depicting the treatment, the science and the care involved. He took the idea and ran with it and work on the tapestry began last month.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Andrew and the many volunteers he has worked with have really put East Lothian at the heart of tapestry making in Scotland over recent years, with several amazing pieces of work being produced here.

“This new Cancer Tapestry is set to be as spectacular as his previous ones. The tapestry will help to tell the story of those who have survived cancer and celebrate the science and care that goes into treating people with the condition. 

“It is a hugely impressive and moving piece of work and it was a privilege to do a little stitching under the guidance of Andrew and his team of volunteers. I commend Andrew on this latest project and look forward to seeing the completed tapestry.”

Anyone interested in participating in the tapestry work should either look for the Cancer Tapestry public group on Facebook or email cancertapestry@gmail.com.

Motion marks county sprint star’s latest award success

Dunbar athletics star Maria Lyle’s latest success in being named the first-ever Evening Times’ Young Scotswoman of the Year has been recognised in a motion at the Scottish Parliament.

The local sprinter’s accolade followed her outstanding success which has seen her become a World and Paralympic medallist and world record holder, as well as adding European gold and a Commonwealth Games silver to her medal collection last year.

Iain Gray MSP, who has tabled the motion, said:

“I first met Maria when she had only just embarked on her athletics career and it’s been a real privilege to follow her growing success since. Her determination and commitment to her sport has been inspirational to many other young people in Scotland. She thoroughly deserves this latest recognition of her efforts and I’m pleased to be able to mark her success in the Scottish Parliament as well.”

The full motion reads as follows:

That the Parliament congratulates the Dunbar athlete and Public Petitions Committee team member, Maria Lyle, on being named the first-ever Evening Times Young Scotswoman of the Year; notes that the award was made in recognition of her outstanding achievements in athletics over recent years, which has seen her become a World and Paralympic medallist and world record holder, as well as adding European gold and a Commonwealth Games silver to her medal collection in 2018; notes that Maria has also become patron of the excellent local charity, East Lothian Special Needs Playscheme, and has been a role model in speaking out about living with cerebral palsy and her own experiences with mental health issues, and commends her on this latest significant achievement.

Hearing how early diagnosis can beat cancer sooner

Iain Gray MSP met Cancer Research UK staff at the Scottish Labour party conference in Dundee last week, to learn about the charity’s priorities for beating cancer sooner in Scotland.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Like everywhere in Scotland, cancer has a huge effect on families in East Lothian, so it has been fantastic to meet with the Cancer Research UK team to hear more about their priorities for diagnosing patients sooner in Scotland.”

Mr Gray heard about Cancer Research UK’s latest campaign, which urges the Scottish Government to address shortages in the diagnostic workforce in Scotland.

The earlier a cancer is diagnosed the more likely it is to be treated successfully. For some of the most common types of cancer, survival is more than three times likely higher when the disease is diagnosed at its earliest stages.

Yet statistics show that more than 18,000 patients in Scotland waited more than the target time of six weeks to receive a diagnostic test in the quarter ending 38 December 2018.*

The report also shows that, during the same quarter, only 78.1% of patients received the tests they needed within six weeks. The target is that no one should be waiting longer than six weeks for a test.

Gordon Matheson, Public Affairs Manager for Scotland at Cancer Research UK, said:

“The NHS is under continued strain with too many patients still waiting too long for tests, some of which could detect cancer. 

“With a welcome focus on screening and early detection of cancer, there’s an urgent need to comprehensively address workforce shortages.

“Much needed investment in this area is beginning to emerge and it’s vital we see a strong emphasis on making sure we have enough staff to meet increasing patient need, and that existing staff are being used to their best potential.”

Iain backs Marie Curie call

Iain Gray MSP has lent his support to help improve the lives of people in Scotland living with terminal illness.

Meeting with representatives from Marie Curie, the terminal illness charity recently, Iain was interested to hear about efforts to ensure that everyone should get the care and support they need at the end of life.

Marie Curie supported over 8,600 people in Scotland last year through their hospices, nursing care and support services. Every five minutes someone dies without the care they need, often missing out on care because they have a condition other than terminal cancer such as organ failure or Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and frailty. In Scotland 1 in 4 people (11,000) are still missing out on palliative care at the end of their lives.

Coinciding with their annual Great Daffodil Appeal in March, Marie Curie is asking people to donate and wear a daffodil pin to show support for people with all terminal illnesses. Every donation and daffodil worn helps Marie Curie provide vital care for people living with a terminal illness and support for their families.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Throughout my time as East Lothian’s MSP I have always supported the work of Marie Curie. I know what a great difference the care and support it provides makes to individuals at the end of their life and their families. I would encourage local people to support Marie Curie and share their experience during the Great Daffodil Appeal.”

Susan Brown, Marie Curie said:

“We believe everyone should get the care and support they need at the end of their life, regardless of their condition. We appreciate the support of Iain to highlight that people are still missing out. We hope people will join in by sharing their story on social media using #StillMissingOut.”

To find out more about the Great Daffodil Appeal, visit mariecurie.org.uk/daffodil or call free on 0800 304 7025. To donate £5 to Marie Curie, text DAFF to 70111