Iain welcomes campaign for crackdown on nuisance calls

County MSP Iain Gray has welcomed the launch of a new campaign calling for the Scottish Government and businesses to do more to crackdown on the menace of nuisance calls.

The campaign has been launched by consumer champion Which? following new research which revealed that nine in 10 Scots (91%) have received nuisance calls on their landline in the last month. The Which? research also found three quarters (75%) said receiving cold calls had actually discouraged them from picking up their home phone when it rings.

People said they received an average of 10 cold calls on their landline last month, with the most common calls being about Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) (66%), silent calls (55%) and the Green Deal or energy efficiency measures including boilers and double glazing (52%).

The Which? research also found that:

  • 92% of people agreed that nuisance calls are an annoying interruption to their daily life and four in 10 (40%) said they felt intimidated by them.
  • Eight in 10 (79%) say they have taken steps to minimise cold calls on their home phone including registering with the TPS (48%), screening their calls (37%) and a quarter (27%) had even registered their number as ex-directory.

Speaking about his support for the new campaign, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Nuisance calls are an everyday menace for the vast majority of Scots. I know from the number of constituents who raise this issue that people are absolutely fed up with being bombarded with unwanted calls and texts that waste their time and invade their privacy.

“Given the scale of the problem, I’m delighted that Which? is pressing for more concerted action to tackle it. I’m fully behind its call for the Scottish Government to lead the way by setting out how it plans to fight back against nuisance callers.”

Which? is calling on people to support its Calling Time on Nuisance Calls campaign which asks the Scottish Government to publish an action plan setting out how it will work with business and regulators to call time on nuisance calls including:

  • Cracking down on businesses breaking the rules and holding senior executives to account.
  • Helping vulnerable people to cut the number of nuisance calls they receive.
  • Ensuring that new Scottish Government policy doesn’t lead to more nuisance calls.

You can support the Which? campaign at www.which.co.uk/campaigns/nuisance-calls-and-texts

Supporting Crohn’s and Colitis awareness week

Iain Gray MSP is supporting international Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week 1-7 December, highlighting the impact of living with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

These are unpredictable diseases that affect more than 300,000 people in the UK and as many as 26,000 people in Scotland – a higher incidence rate than anywhere else in the UK.

National patient charity, Crohn’s and Colitis UK, have joined other international groups to raise the awareness and understanding of these complex, life-long and potentially life-threatening conditions. Living with IBD can have a huge impact on every aspect of a person’s life, with serious physical and mental health implications

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Helping increase understanding as part of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week is important to me as there will be hundreds of local people in our community who suffer from these hidden, often misunderstood and dreadful conditions.

“10-year-old Grace Warnock from Prestonpans, who has Crohn’s Disease, has been running a powerful awareness campaign over the last few months which I have been pleased to support. Her campaign has helped to spread the word about Crohn’s and how it impacts on people’s lives.

“This special week is another welcome opportunity to highlight these conditions and reach out to more people who may be feeling isolated or coping badly with their health.”

Living with IBD can be daily struggle, some symptoms of the diseases can be embarrassing and that can lead to people suffering without adequate support or feeling isolated. As part of the Awareness Week, Crohn’s and Colitis UK are asking people to share their seven days of IBD and other activity through digital and social media to highlight what it is like to live with IBD every day.

To find out more about the awareness week and all the activities please visit www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/awarenessweek

Iain visits dental practice to help raise awareness of mouth cancer

Iain Gray MSP has visited the Family Dental Care practice in Prestonpans to support its efforts to raise awareness of mouth cancer.

The practice organised drop in sessions during Mouth Cancer Action Month for local people to help spread awareness of mouth cancer, its causes, the signs and symptoms and the role dentists can play in helping to catch the disease early.

Speaking after his visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

I was very pleased to visit the Family Dental Care practice to find out more about their efforts to help raise awareness of mouth cancer. They highlighted some of the causes of the disease, with most cases being linked to tobacco and alcohol.

“The dental staff told me about the importance of looking out for early signs of mouth cancer, such as a painless mouth ulcer that does not heal normally. They also said cancer can often be spotted in its early stages by your dentist during a thorough mouth examination.

“Importantly, if mouth cancer is recognised early, then the chances of a cure are good. So the main message is to make sure you have a regular dental check-up, not only to keep your teeth and gums healthy, but also to help spot early signs of oral cancer.”

You can find out more about mouth cancer at www.mouthcancer.org

Iain pledges support for Age Scotland campaign

While many of us are looking forward to spending time with family and friends and getting stuck into festive fun, new research from Age Scotland shows that for older people Christmas cheer often falls short: 40,000 older Scots will spend Christmas Day alone.

The figures are released by Age Scotland as part of its campaign No one should have no one at Christmas raising awareness and tackling the heart-breaking fact that the festive season will be a very lonely time of year for many older people. The campaign highlights that 1 in 10 older people feel lonely most or all of the time.  That’s 100,000 people in Scotland.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“It’s heart-breaking to think of those in East Lothian who will have no one at all to share Christmas with this year. Age Scotland is trying to change this. Help them to help an older person this festive season and support its No one should have no one at Christmas campaign.  I’ve signed up to support their campaign online Thunderclap so that on the 1st of December, Scotland can come together and say with one clear voice, no one should have no one.”

Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland said:

“At Age Scotland, tackling loneliness and isolation is part of our core mission and we would encourage everyone to recognise the risks of loneliness and reach out to their older family members, friends and neighbours.  With the effects of loneliness being damaging to the health of older people, when people are supporting this campaign, it really does make a difference.”

As the festive season approaches Age Scotland is calling on people to remember those facing Christmas alone and help make a difference to older people’s lives by donating £5 today and texting ‘LONE15 £5’ to 700701 to help an older person receive vital benefits advice to help with money worries.

The Charity is also asking everyone to check in on older neighbours, relatives and friends, and take part in our online Thunderclap campaign to raise awareness of the issue on social media.  You can sign up to support the Thunderclap by visiting http://thndr.me/cvY5IE.

To help Age Scotland support lonely older people and find out how you can help by donating, volunteering and signing its petition calling on Government to take action go to:  www.agescotland.org.uk.

Alternatively, if you find yourself alone this Christmas then give Silver Line Scotland a call.  It’s free and an adviser will be happy to talk to you 24 hours a day, just call 0800 4 70 80 90.

Courier column: Doing right thing for county

Planning is not usually considered a particularly exciting topic, by either politicians or the public. However, the issue certainly came to the fore here last week as East Lothian Council considered its draft Local Development Plan (LDP) up to 2024.

The plan identifies preferred sites for the 10,000 new homes that the SNP Scottish Government requires East Lothian to build over the next decade, as well as areas for future industrial development across the county to help create the local jobs we need.

The LDP is the product of some two years’ hard work by council officials, including various stages of consultation with the public, local communities and elected members. Given this lengthy process, I was as surprised as anyone by the flurry of last minute protest activity from local SNP figures, which culminated in the obviously pre-meditated walk out from the LDP meeting at the Brunton.

My local Labour colleagues, who all remained at the meeting to do their duty for constituents, made several important and welcome changes to the draft plan, including the removal of the Goshen Farm site between Musselburgh and Prestonpans.  They also confirmed the LDP does not identify any sites for fracking or opencast mining in the county. Having walked away from the process, SNP members were unable to exert any influence over these important outcomes.

SNP Ministers have repeatedly shown contempt for the views of East Lothian residents by overturning local planning decisions, and imposing everything from housing on inappropriate sites to wind turbines to an unwanted incinerator on the County. By putting this plan in place the Council hopes to avoid further inappropriate development being imposed by SNP Ministers.

Local residents are now entitled to ask their local SNP councillors why they walked away rather than putting their case, and where they would build the 10,000 new homes their own Ministers are demanding?

New guide covers everything you need to know about devolution

East Lothian MSP Iain Gray is urging constituents who want to find out more about the powers of the Scottish Parliament to make use of a new guide to devolution in Scotland.

The Holyrood Devolution (Further Powers) Committee has produced a factual and impartial guide to devolution, available on the Parliament’s website. It has been deliberately designed to be simple and accessible, and sign-post the reader to further sources of information

The Guide contains a short history of devolution to date, an overview of the new powers that may be devolved to Scotland when the Scotland Bill is passed and some facts and figures on the tax and welfare provisions.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I welcome the publication of this new guide to devolution in Scotland. Whilst there is already a fair amount of information available to the public on devolution, much of it is lengthy, technical and not easy to access for the layperson. This often leads to confusion about which powers are devolved and which remain at Westminster.

 “This new guide, produced by the cross-party members of the Parliament’s Devolution Committee, covers everything people may need to know about devolution in an easy to understand way. I think it will be a helpful resource for local schools, community groups, businesses and anyone else who wants to find out more about the powers of our Parliament.”

The guide can be downloaded at www.scottish.parliament.uk/2015.11.10_Citizens_Guide_Draft_FINAL.pdf

Visiting Boots store in North Berwick

Iain Gray MSP has visited the Boots store on North Berwick High Street to meet with staff and management and learn more about the company’s impact locally and across Scotland.

The local staff, including Pharmacist Store Manager Sandra Hagan, told the MSP about how they work hard to be part of the local community and how what they do complements the work of local GPs and the town’s Edington Hospital.

The company’s managers told Mr Gray that Boots is Scotland’s largest community pharmacist with 275 stores employing around 5,000 staff. They also emphasised the role their stores play in the delivery of frontline health services and helping to tackle health inequalities, as well as in fostering healthy and thriving town centres.

Speaking after his visit, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I was very pleased to accept an invitation from Boots to meet staff at its store in North Berwick and, at the same time, speak to some of the company’s Scottish management team. As Scotland’s largest community pharmacist, Boots obviously plays an important role in the health of local communities, including here in East Lothian.

“The North Berwick store is a long standing and important part of the range of shops available on the town’s High Street. Whilst I am always keen to encourage small, independent outlets, there is always a role for larger chains too, and Boots is one of those that most shoppers value having on their high street. It has certainly been part of the North Berwick High Street for a very long time indeed.

“The Boots managers also gave me a copy of their Scottish Parliamentary election manifesto, which sets out in more detail the company’s impact and some key policy asks for the next Parliamentary term. These include a welcome call for business to work more closely with schools, colleges and government to collaboratively address gaps in skills and education.”

Grace’s Sign campaign highlighted during Holyrood debate

A disability awareness campaign launched by Prestonpans Primary School pupil Grace Warnock made it to the floor of the Scottish Parliament yesterday when MSPs discussed World Toilet Day.

Iain Gray MSP led the Member’s debate on the international awareness day, which took place on 19th November. During his opening speech Mr Gray highlighted the Grace’s Sign campaign as an example of toilet and sanitation issues here in the UK which still need to be addressed.

Grace and her family were among those present in the public gallery to watch the debate, which was replied to by Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Public Health.

Speaking after the debate, Iain Gray MSP said:

“While World Toilet Day is largely about raising awareness of the fact that around the world one in three people, a majority of them women and girls, still do not have access to a safe and private toilet, it also provided a welcome opportunity to highlight Grace Warnock’s excellent campaign.

“In the few months since Grace and her family launched the Grace’s Sign campaign it has reached a wide local and international audience and received a tremendously positive reaction. By helping to raise awareness about the use of accessible toilets by those with ‘invisible’ disabilities, the campaign has evidently struck a chord with many people.

“I hope that this debate will help to spread the word about Grace’s campaign even more widely and also encourage local authorities and other agencies to consider using her new accessible toilet door sign. She has shown great determination and courage in highlighting this issue and deserves the backing of politicians and the public.

“We already have commitments from East Lothian Council and Enjoy leisure to trial Grace’s sign in their facilities.  After last night’s debate at least two other MSPs have promised to try and get their local councils involved too. 

“Perhaps even more importantly, I challenged the Minister directly to give Grace’s campaign some backing from the Scottish Government, and he has now promised to consider what they could do.

“I’m also pleased that the debate also gave MSPs the opportunity to highlight the dire need that exists for so many people across the globe to attain access to safe, clean sanitation. UK Aid is making an important contribution on this issue in some of the poorest parts of the world, and there are also many charities dedicated to helping tackle the problem.

“It’s important that we give them our support and encouragement and this debate enabled us to do just that.”

Find out more about the Grace’s Sign campaign on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gracessign10

Eskbridge highlights mounting pressure on local GP practices

Speaking after the announcement that Eskbridge Medical Practice in Musselburgh will become the first in the county to come into direct management by the East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I think most local people are already well aware of the growing pressures on local medical practices, particularly with the recruitment of new GPs. However, the news that Eskbridge is to be brought into direct management has underlined the scale of this problem here in East Lothian.

“We have already seen the patient list frozen at Prestonpans Health Centre, while other practices have highlighted difficulties recruiting staff, and particularly new partners. Many constituents have also complained of long waits for appointments or follow-up information about their treatment. This is simply not good enough.

“Earlier this year it was revealed that the SNP Scottish Government had cut funding for new medical students. Meanwhile, investment in General Practice has fallen by over £1 billion in the last decade. Latest figures also show that around 2 million patients in Scotland are served by understaffed and under resourced practices with vacancy rates rising.

“The county’s rapidly growing population, plus the increasing proportion of older people, will only result in these General Practice challenges getting worse in the future unless they are addressed now. SNP Ministers must end their complacent approach and take immediate steps to tackle the GP recruitment crisis before patients really start to suffer.”

Backing campaign to maintain UK medical research funding

The UK’s leading heart charity, the British Heart Foundation (BHF), was in Holyrood last week to promote its campaign on keeping the UK at the forefront of medical research.

The charity was highlighting the importance of government support for research in the UK and how vital it is for this investment to be maintained if progress on tackling heart disease is to continue.

Among the issues they raised was the fact that joint funding from the UK Government and the charity sector was instrumental in establishing the Clinical Research Imaging Centre and the Edinburgh Clinical Research Facility.

The funding also supports the appointment of BHF Professors, including Professor David Newby who in addition to his roles within research is also a Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

County MSP Iain Gray met with the charity’s representatives and pledged his support for its campaign to ensure the maintenance of UK funding for medical research.

Speaking about his support for the campaign, Iain Gray MSP said:

“The British Heart Foundation is the largest independent funder of cardiovascular research, and the third largest funder of medical research, in the UK. So when the charity highlights the importance of maintaining Government investment in cardiovascular research, it’s vital that politicians listen and act on what it says.

“BHF have said that cuts in the UK Government’s funding of research would have profoundly damaging long term effects. We would certainly feel the effects here in Scotland if funding is cut, as UK investment helps to support a number of important initiatives at Scottish hospitals and universities, including here in the Lothians.”

You can find out more about the BHF report on the importance of UK Government researshc funding and the charity’s campaign on it at www.bhf.org.uk/get-involved/campaigning/funding-research