Respect county’s shopworkers this Christmas

Iain Gray MSP has given his backing to Respect for Shopworkers Week which, at the start of the very busy Christmas shopping period, aims to remind shoppers that retail staff are real people who do not deserve to be abused, threatened or assaulted.

The annual awareness week (11-15 November) is organised by the Usdaw union, which represents shopworkers and other retail and distribution workers. Its retail crime annual survey shows that every minute of every day another shopworker is verbally abused, threatened or physically attacked.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“We all know that Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year and that Christmas shopping is one of the key reasons for that. Too often shopworkers here in East Lothian and across the country are confronted with violence, threats and abuse and it is really important we stand together and ask people to ‘keep their cool and respect shopworkers’.

“I support Usdaw’s call for a change in the law to provide stiffer sentences for those who assault workers. It was very disappointing the SNP Government blocked Hugh Henry’s Workers (Aggravated Offences) Scotland Bill 2010 in the last Parliament. That Bill would have included all workers serving the public in the protections we have already given to emergency service workers.

“I hope that we will get an opportunity in this Parliament to vote on such a measure and that the Government will have a change of heart and offer more than warm words this time. There is a real need to address the scourge of workers being assaulted and I am concerned that assailants are getting away with it too easily.

“Cases like Val, a Scottish shopworker, who was punched on the jaw when she asked a persistent shoplifter to leave, because the thief had been barred from the store. Val gave a statement and the police saw the CCTV footage. The attacker was arrested but nothing more has happened.

“I am not convinced that the issue of violence against shopworkers is being taken seriously. I will continue to campaign with Usdaw for a change in the law to ensure that proper punishments are given out and to send a clear message that assaulting workers who are serving the public is totally unacceptable.”

Lawrence Wason, Usdaw’s Scottish Divisional Officer said:

“We are grateful for the support of MSPs like Iain Gray who support our campaign to keep our members safe at work.

“Often, in the course of their duties, shopworkers are expected to enforce the law, whether that is preventing under-age purchases or detaining shoplifters until the police arrive, they can be put in real danger. Parliament passes these laws and expects shopworkers to enforce them, so we are asking Parliament for better protection for these workers.”

Iain celebrates Parkinson’s UK research and work of county support group

Iain Gray MSP joined Parkinson’s UK supporters from East Lothian at a Holyrood event to meet researchers funded by the charity and people affected by the condition to find out more about the charity’s groundbreaking work to improve lives and find a cure for Parkinson’s.

10,000 people in Scotland have Parkinson’s – about 1 in every 500 people. The brain condition currently has no cure. Parkinson’s UK is Europe’s biggest charity funder of research into the condition, and has already invested more than £60million. The charity has £5million committed to research taking place in Scotland.

Mr Gray met Dr Tilo Kunath from the University of Edinburgh, who is using stem cells from people with Parkinson’s to understand more about the condition and develop new treatments. The work of Dr Kunath and other Parkinson’s researchers is supported by the fundraising activity of the East Lothian Support Group of Parkinson’s UK, which is very active in the county.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I welcomed this opportunity to receive an update on the groundbreaking research that Parkinson’s UK is funding. It has a first class research programme and has helped to make important discoveries that have contributed to greater understanding of the condition and more effective treatments.

“However, this research would simply not be possible without the tireless efforts of local Parkinson’s groups, including the East Lothian Support Group. Its members work incredibly hard to raise vital funds, as well as promote awareness of Parkinson’s and provide essential support to people in East Lothian affected by the condition.”

Katherine Crawford, Scotland Director of Parkinson’s UK, said:

“We were proud to be able to showcase our approach to research at such a lively event. We were delighted that our funded researchers were so prepared to give up their time to spread the word about their work, and to see so many people with Parkinson’s and carers from throughout Scotland were able to convey their passion and knowledge about research.

“Scotland’s universities are doing an increasing amount of research into neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s, MS and Motor Neurone Disease, and Parkinson’s UK wants to be at the centre of these developments both in Scotland, the UK and worldwide.”

Scotland is a major centre for global health research. It is the first country in the world in terms of its ratio of research citations to GDP. It is ranked fourth in the world for impact in clinical medicine and first for stem cell research. Medical research charities spend about 13% of their total funding on research in Scotland – yet Scotland has only 8% of the UK population.

MSP and MP welcome plans for future of key county attraction

Iain Gray MSP and Fiona O’Donnell MP have visited the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune to learn more about its multimillion pound redevelopment plans.

The politicians were given a tour of the site and an update about the attraction’s plans for restoring two Second World War hangars. At the same time as restoring the war-time hangers, the museum will also create vibrant new exhibitions in them with items which have never been on display before. The restoration will also allow objects currently in storage to be put on display, including uniforms, documents and photographs.

Built in 1940 and 1941, the hangars were only designed to last ten years and are now in significant need of repair. The project will conserve the buildings and restore them to their original condition.

Speaking after the visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“East Lothian is blessed with several really high quality visitor attractions and the National Museum of Flight is right up there with the best of them. The plans the museum has to restore two of its Second World War hangars and create new exhibitions in them are hugely impressive and will certainly take the visitor experience to another level.

“This is great news for the county and particularly our children and young people who have a fantastic learning experience right on their doorstep. I really appreciate the time the General Manager, Steve McLean took to update us on the progress the museum is making and wish him and his team every success with their future plans.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP said:

“This was my first visit to the National Museum of Flight. I was fascinated to find out more about the history of the site, the progress the museum has made in recent years, and its exciting plans for the future. The enthusiasm of Steve McLean and his team for making the museum an even better visitor experience was clear to see.

“The museum is already attracting over 70,000 visitors a year, making an important contribution to the county’s economy in the process. The restoration plans it is set to implement over the next few years will enable it to expand its appeal as an attraction and grow visitor numbers, which will bring further benefits to the local economy.”

Steve McLean, General Manager at The National Museum of Flight said:

“We are currently working on detailed plans for the next phase of our Development Plan to transform the National Museum of Flight and restore our two Second World War hangars. Creating two vibrant new display spaces will let us share our internationally significant aviation collections with our visitors and we’re delighted that Fiona O’Donnell MP and Iain Gray MSP are so enthused by our plans.”

Parliamentarians underline opposition to police proposals

Iain Gray MSP and Fiona O’Donnell MP have submitted a joint response to the Police Scotland consultation on the future of police public counters, in which they reiterate their strong opposition to the proposal to close the public counter at Tranent police station.

Mr Gray and Ms O’Donnell’s response to the public counter review highlights their concerns about the potential impact of closing the public counter in Tranent. Apart from the short consultation period, the parliamentarians also raised concerns about the methodology of the review and the figures produced by Police Scotland on the current usage of the county’s stations.

They also highlighted fears about the potential impact on vulnerable adults who rely on access to police services, and local people’s concern that closing the station to the public could be the ‘thin end of the wedge’ with the next step being to close it entirely. Their submission also raises various concerns about the proposals for withdrawing the county’s two police traffic wardens.

Mr Gray and Ms O’Donnell also welcomed the decision by Police Scotland’s Chief Constable Stephen House to agree to accept further submissions to the consultation beyond the 31 October deadline.

The move followed pressure from Labour MSPs, including Mr Gray, who had made it clear that a one month consultation period was insufficient to allow meaningful engagement with local communities on such important and far-reaching decisions.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“With almost £140 million being cut from the police budget over the next two years by the SNP, I fear that counter closures will be only the beginning. If Tranent police station public counter closes now, will the station itself be next in line for the axe? I know from speaking to local people that the more they hear about the closure the more concerned they are.

“I am pleased that the Chief Constable has listened to the widespread concerns expressed about this review and decided to extend the period for submitting views. But this concession simply highlights what a muddle the consultation has been from the start. Now we have won more time, I urge the public to make their feelings known about the planned closure of the public counter in Tranent.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP added:

“Closing Tranent counter is a major step and has caused significant concern among local communities in Fa’side. We have already made our concerns clear to Police Scotland, particularly on the reliability of the figures produced by Police Scotland to support their proposals and the many unanswered questions about the impact of closing the public counter in Tranent.

“However, a month was never a realistic consultation period and could not possibly allow local communities time to properly consider the implications for local policing. So I welcome Stephen House’s decision to extend the consultation on the public counter review. I will continue to work with Iain and our Fa’side councillors to ensure that local people’s views are heard.”