Iain backs #Hand2Hold campaign to support young people with cancer

Iain Gray MSP is supporting the efforts of Teenage Cancer Trust and CLIC Sargent to ensure young people with cancer, aged 16 – 25, do not continue to face appointments or treatments alone during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, the two charities have worked tirelessly to support children and young people with cancer. However, it became clear that due to precautions that had to be taken as a result of coronavirus, many young people aged 16-25 with cancer have faced, and continue to face, attending appointments or treatments alone.

Now, Teenage Cancer Trust and CLIC Sargent are working in partnership, calling for young people with cancer, wherever safe and possible, to have a hand to hold through this challenging time.

Backing the Hand2Hold campaign, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Understandably, healthcare settings have had to take extra precautions to protect the vulnerable and reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19. However, it is equally understandable that young people living with cancer will sometimes just need someone by their side.

 “As we move forward with overcoming this virus, we need to look at different ways young people with cancer can be supported throughout appointments, scans, treatment and beyond.

“That’s why I’m supporting the call from Teenage Cancer Trust and CLIC Sargent for governments to commit to ensuring, where possible, young people have a Hand 2 Hold through their appointments and treatment.”

Find out more and pledge your support for the Hand2Hold campaign here.

‘Critical’ role of local newspapers recognised in Parliament

Speaking during a Holyrood debate on the role of local newspapers in the response to COVID-19, Iain Gray MSP highlighted the critical part played by the East Lothian Courier and other local newspapers across Scotland over the last year.

The debate, which was focused on the draft Scottish budget’s failure to extend business rates relief to newspapers during 2021-22, ranged over various aspects of the important work undertaken by the local press through the pandemic, including its role in providing information to the public and supporting local businesses.

Mr Gray spoke specifically about the Courier’s long-established contribution to East Lothian, and its essential role in the pandemic, especially during the first lockdown, in printing important information about the work of local resilience groups and other support for communities and individuals.

MSPs approved a motion recognising the vital work of local newspapers over the last year, urging the Scottish Government to extend business rates relief and to ensure that its advertising budget spend is invested in a way that supports innovative journalism and regional and local news.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I welcomed the opportunity to speak in this debate on local newspapers and the response to COVID-19. It allowed me to highlight and commend the critical role that has been played by the East Lothian Courier and other local newspapers across Scotland during the pandemic.

It’s not overstating it to say that newspapers have been a lifeline for many in our communities, particularly those without access to the internet. They have helped people to access the local information and advice needed on things like the work of local resilience groups and the support available from the Council and community organisations.

“I was pleased that my parliamentary colleagues were in broad agreement about the importance of local newspapers. I hope that the motion we passed will help ensure that the Scottish Government does more to support the industry now and after the pandemic.”

Active travel campaign welcomed

Iain Gray MSP has welcomed the launch of a new campaign seeking to build on the rise in walking, cycling and other forms of active local travel that has occurred since the start of the pandemic.

The #WheelsinMotion campaign has been developed by a group of active travel organisations comprising Sustrans Scotland, Public Health Scotland, Paths for All, Cycling Scotland, Cycling UK and Scottish Cycling, with funding from Transport Scotland, with the aim of encouraging people to stay active over lockdown and beyond.

Welcoming the campaign, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Over the last year, and especially during lockdown restrictions, more of us have started walking, cycling, and exploring what’s available in our own local area, with many being pleasantly surprised by the results.

“This increase in activity has a variety of benefits including improving mental health and wellbeing, fostering family bonding, supporting local businesses and connecting more with local communities and the environment. 

“It is certainly something positive and worth encouraging, so I’m pleased that this new campaign has been launched to help build on the progress that’s been made and encourage people to continue with their increased activity levels after the pandemic.”

Find out more about the Wheels in Motion campaign at www.sustrans.org.uk/about-us/our-work-in-scotland/how-we-can-keep-the-wheels-in-motion


Complacent First Minister fails to reassure on vaccine travel concerns

Following numerous queries from East Lothian residents about the distance they have been asked to travel for a vaccination appointment, Iain Gray MSP today raised the issue with the First Minister at Holyrood.

Mr Gray outlined the extent of the travel involved for some – up to an 80-mile round trip for Dunbar residents asked to go to Ingliston – and asked Nicola Sturgeon to intervene and ensure that people are not asked to travel so far for an appointment in future.

Commenting afterwards, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Everyone appreciates the scale of the Covid vaccination programme and the complexity of implementing it. However, the number of people from East Lothian who are being asked to travel to vaccination centres in Edinburgh or beyond has emerged as a real concern over recent days.

“While many are content to take up the offer of an appointment in Edinburgh, for others it is simply not an option either because they do not have a car, do not want to travel that far on public transport or cannot afford the cost of a taxi.

“I took the opportunity today to tell the First Minister about the frustration felt by many East Lothian residents when faced with the prospect of travelling to the other side of Edinburgh for their jag and ask her to intervene and ensure such travel is minimised.

“Unfortunately, as with so many of her answers on the vaccination programme, Ms Sturgeon fell back on complacent stock answers and offered little in the way of either reassurance or practical help for those affected.

“I hope that the opening of the new centre at QMU will make it easier for people to get an appointment locally in the coming weeks and months. But the fact remains that this is an issue that must be addressed as we move into the later phases of the vaccination programme.” 

Iain supports care home relative visiting campaign

Iain Gray MSP is backing a campaign by relatives of care home residents for the reintroduction of meaningful indoor contact with their loved ones.

Care homes have been in lockdown since March last year with approximately 35,000 residents largely cut off from their friends and family and restricted to the four walls of their home. Most are still only allowing indoor visits for essential reasons, for example, to residents receiving palliative care or whose health has deteriorated rapidly.

The Care Home Relatives Scotland ‘Our hearts are breaking – it’s time to let us in’ campaign is calling for the Scottish Government, local public health directors and care home owners to take immediate action to facilitate safe, close contact care home visiting with loved ones.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“After almost a year of separation, it’s heart breaking that so many families across the country are still unable to visit loved ones in a care home. Some of my constituents have been in touch over recent days to explain their circumstances and the negative impact this ongoing isolation is having on their family members in care homes.

“With the vast majority of residents and staff now having received their first dose of the vaccine, I support the Care Home Relatives Scotland campaigners’ call for the Scottish Government, local public health directors and care home owners to take action to facilitate the restart of safe, close contact care home visiting with relatives.

“Care home residents and their families have gone through more than most during the pandemic. I believe decision-makers have a duty to prioritise the resumption of safe indoor visits as quickly as possible and help ease the suffering of residents and their families.”

Motion marks first anniversary of Independent Care Review

Iain Gray MSP has tabled a motion at Holyrood to mark the first anniversary of the publication of the findings of the Independent Care Review and welcome the progress that had been made on implementing its recommendations.

Launched in 2017, the Review spoke with around 5,500 people from across the care system as part of its comprehensive work, with 2,500 of those being children and young people with lived experience in care.

After three years, the Review delivered its verdict on Scotland’s care system and was damning in its condemnation of the current situation. Its six reports contain five “foundations for change”: voice, family, care, people and scaffolding, with 80 specific changes to “transform how Scotland cares for children and families”.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“One year ago, I was pleased to speak in Parliament and welcome the publication of the Independent Care Review’s far-reaching conclusions on the state of Scotland’s care system for children and young people.

“While the pandemic has been an obstacle to making the kind of progress that was envisaged a year ago, the care sector and all organisations involved have shown unwavering support and dedication to deliver on the review and important steps forward have been made.

“I’m pleased to be able to mark this progress in the parliamentary motion and point the way forwards on the work delivering the ambition that all young people grow up loved, safe, and respected so that they can realise their full potential.

“This first anniversary is also an important opportunity for everyone involved to restate their commitment to #KeepThePromise to deliver change in Scotland’s care system and transform the wellbeing of children, young people and families.”

Details of The Promise’s work driving the change demanded by the Independent Care Review can be found at https://thepromise.scot/

The full motion reads as follows:

Title: 1st Anniversary of the Independent Care Review – Keeping the Promise

Motion Text:

That the Parliament notes the first anniversary of the publication of the Independent Care Review and welcomes the progress made to date on the report’s 80 recommendations as a positive step towards keeping the promise to children and families; considers that, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic since the launch of the review, the care sector and all organisations involved have shown unwavering support and dedication to deliver on the review, and wishes to see the hope and optimism of the launch continue into the review’s second year, as Scotland works towards delivering the ambition that all young people grow up loved, safe, and respected so that they can realise their full potential.

County school tutoring initiative raised with First Minister

At this week’s First Minister’s Questions, Iain Gray MSP highlighted the newly launched East Lothian tutoring initiative to support 300 senior years’ pupils and help mitigate the effects of lockdown on learning.

With lockdown continuing for most pupils, Mr Gray asked the First Minister why the Scottish Government and Education Scotland are not making this kind of one-to-one online tutoring available for pupils in every part of Scotland.

Mr Gray posed his question in the context of a new report from The Poverty Alliance, which is the latest to confirm that remote learning, whilst necessary in the current circumstances, has widened the poverty related attainment gap.

Speaking after his question, Iain Gray MSP said:

“East Lothian can be very proud of the tutoring initiative between the Council, Queen Margaret University and the STV Children’s Appeal to develop one-to-one online support for senior pupils needing extra help during lockdown.  

“I believe it is an excellent example of the kind of dedicated support that should be made available across Scotland. However, the First Minister did not seem to grasp the nature of the scheme here and suggested that tutoring support is already available.

“Having checked out the online support she referenced, I found that it seems to fall far short of the tailored, individualised support being rolled out in East Lothian. I also raised the matter with the Education Secretary and he gave me the same complacent stock answer.

“It’s a crying shame that Ministers are passing up the opportunity to learn from this best practice from East Lothian. Without more proactive government support now, the poverty related attainment gap will only get bigger in the months and years ahead.”

The full exchange at First Minister’s Questions can be watched at www.facebook.com/iaingrayeastlothian/videos/457244632117653

World Cancer Day 2021

Today is #WorldCancerDay and Macmillan Cancer Support Scotland is working hard to ensure cancer is not the forgotten C.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“It’s clear that COVID-19 is taking a growing toll on people with cancer, with many facing rising anxiety, disruption to care, or the prospect of going through their cancer journey alone.

“But Macmillan Cancer Support is here every step of the way to help people, and on World Cancer Day, they are trying to ensure that those that need it can access their free support.”

Get in touch via the Macmillan Support Line (open 7 days a week, 8am-8pm) on 0808 808 00 00 or visit https://bit.ly/3cjGcV1 for more information.

Government cuts risk deepening housing inequality for younger people

Iain Gray MSP is warning that the Scottish Government is deepening inequality in housing by scrapping the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme without providing an alternative and cutting the More Homes budget – representing a double blow for those seeking affordable homes.

Earlier this week the Scottish Government announced its intention to scrap the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, claiming it is no longer financially viable. Last week in the Budget Statement, Kate Forbes announced a cut of almost £268m to the More Homes budget.

With the pandemic deepening income inequality, the cuts to the More Homes budget and the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme risk deepening housing inequality and freezing a generation of young people out of the housing market.

Commenting, Iain Gray MSP said:

“These SNP Government cuts risk deepening inequality in our already unequal housing market and freezing an entire generation of young people in East Lothian and across Scotland out of the housing market.

“We are in the midst of a housing crisis in Scotland, made worse by the pandemic, and yet the SNP responds with more cuts and by completely scrapping help for first-time buyers without offering any replacement.

“It’s all too clear that these cuts will prevent thousands from getting a start on the property ladder and will deny many a warm, affordable home. It’s time for SNP Ministers to rethink their foolish and damaging cuts and do right by younger people and first-time buyers.”

OU’s Flexible Workforce Development Fund launched

Open University Scotland have this week launched a new programme which Small to medium-sized businesses across Scotland can benefit from by up to £5,000.
The Flexible Workforce Development Fund offers tailored training plans to help SME companies to upskill and retrain their existing workforce to maximise the opportunities to restart and recover.
Find out more about the fund and how to apply at http://www.open.ac.uk/business/flexible-workforce-development-fund