North Berwick Rotary members welcomed to Holyrood

A group of North Berwick Rotary Club members were welcomed to Holyrood by the county’s MSP Iain Gray earlier this week.

Mr Gray had spoken at a meeting of the town’s Rotary Club earlier this year where members had expressed an interest in visiting the Scottish Parliament to find out more about how it functions. The group enjoyed a tour of the Parliament building before their meeting with Mr Gray.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“One of the many positive aspects of the Scottish Parliament is how open and accessible it is to the public. Thousands of groups and individuals visit every year to find out more about how the Parliament works and what MSPs do on their behalf.

“I will always find time to meet with groups from East Lothian and was particularly pleased to welcome the members of North Berwick Rotary Club to Holyrood this week. They had been very welcoming earlier in the year when I attended one of their local meetings, so it was a pleasure to be able to return the favour.

“These tours usually end with a Q&A session, and the Rotary certainly came up with some tricky questions!

“I encourage other local groups and organisations to consider arranging similar visits to see for themselves how we conduct our business and the breadth of activity that takes place at Holyrood.”

Prestonpans & Tranent surgeries cancelled – 28th November

Please note that Iain’s Prestonpans and Tranent advice surgeries on Friday 28th November are cancelled due to the St Andrew’s Day bank holiday.

The next surgeries in those towns will take place on Friday 23rd January. If you need to contact Iain before then please call 01875 616610 or email iain.gray.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

East Lothian resident lands big job at Hibernian

The Hibernian Community Foundation, supported by Hibernian FC has recruited an Executive Director who will set the course for its future.

Wendy MacAdie, who takes up the post in mid-December, was the unanimous choice following a challenging interview process.

Her role will be of vital importance in driving interest and excitement around Hibernian. Whilst she will be the person responsible for the running of the Hibernian Community Foundation, she will also work closely with the Football Club in delivering the vision for the Club’s work in the community.

Iain Gray, MSP for East Lothian and Chairman of Hibernian Community Foundation, said:

“Wendy has first class experience, and indeed was instrumental in helping us establish the Hibernian Learning Centre in partnership with Jewel & Esk Valley College (post-merger Edinburgh College) when she worked with the College.

“She has extensive and impressive history in the education, health and charitable sectors and is exactly the person we were looking for. Hibernian was established to serve its community, and Wendy will help ensure we build on that ethos in the future.”

Leeann Dempster, Chief Executive of Hibernian FC, said:

“We are delighted Wendy has agreed to join us. We will be working closely to help drive the many exciting plans that the Foundation and the Club have been talking about. These will help hundreds of people in our communities, will bring a much greater and warmer appreciation of Hibernian, and will ultimately help us grow the supporter base of the Club while doing good things in partnership with others.”

Wendy, an East Lothian resident and a life-long Hibernian supporter, said:

“It’s an exciting time to be joining and I know there are some fantastic developments being planned. I am happy to be playing a part in making Hibernian a name everyone can be proud of.”

‘Know your Rights’ in run-up to national carers day

Iain Gray MSP and Fiona O’Donnell MP are seeking to help raise awareness of the rights of carers in East Lothian in advance of this year’s national Carers Rights Day on Friday 28 November.

Carers Rights Day is an annual event that brings organisations across the UK together to help carers in their local community know their rights and find out how to get the help and support they are entitled to.

The theme this year is ‘Looking after someone? Know your rights’, focusing on making carers aware of their rights, letting them know where to get help and support and raising awareness of the needs of carers.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Carers Rights Day is an invaluable opportunity to put the focus on carers’ rights and needs. It helps to ensure that carers are aware of and understand their rights and get access to good quality advice that can help them with their caring duties. I urge local carers looking for advice or information to contact Carers of East Lothian to get the help they need.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP said:

“There are an estimated 11,000 carers living in East Lothian. They make a huge contribution to the health and wellbeing of their loved ones, our communities and local public services. Carers Rights Day is a welcome annual chance to raise awareness of their rights and promote the advice and support that is available to them.”

Carers living in East Lothian can obtain advice and information from Carers of East Lothian by visiting www.coel.org.uk/, emailing centre@coel.org.uk or calling 0131 665 0135.

For more information about Carers Rights Day and the work of Carers Scotland, visit www.carersuk.org/scotland

County parliamentarians backing Small Business Saturday

Iain Gray MSP and Fiona O’Donnell MP are supporting Small Business Saturday, the grass-roots campaign that encourages people to shop locally and support small businesses in the local community.

Last year’s Small Business Saturday was the first time the event had been held in the UK. Just under half (48%) of UK consumers were aware of the day. Of those, over half (57%) shopped at a local, independently owned business on 7th December, with 43% of shoppers choosing to do so specifically because of Small Business Saturday.

An estimated £468m was spent by these consumers on Small Business Saturday. Thousands of small businesses participated in the campaign, with many running special discounts and offers to encourage consumer spending on the day.

This year the day will take place on 6th December. Ms O’Donnell and Mr Gray are encouraging businesses in East Lothian to take part and take advantage of the campaign which aims to boost support for small business on a key shopping day in the run-up to Christmas, as well as give a long-term boost to trade.

After visiting a local business in Haddington to promote the event last year, Ms O’Donnell and Mr Gray plan to make Dunbar their focus for 2014.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“The first Small Business Saturday, held last December, was a great success. By putting the spotlight on small and independent businesses and the choice they offer local people, the day not only increased their takings but also raised the awareness of consumers about what is on offer in their area.

“Along with other initiatives aimed at encouraging people to shop locally, Small Business Saturday can bring significant benefits to small businesses and I am pleased to give it my full support again this year. I want to help encourage local people to be part of the day and celebrate and support the vital contribution small businesses make to local communities.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP said:

“Last year’s Small Business Saturday, the first ever in the UK, was a huge success, and I was pleased to be involved in East Lothian. There is no doubt that it helped to raise awareness of what small businesses have to offer and gave many of them an important boost in the run-up to Christmas.

“I am keen to use this year’s event to encourage people to buy from small local firms and independent shops on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. I will be making every effort to support local small businesses over the coming weeks and look forward to meeting with business owners as well.”

County parliamentarians attend Remembrance Day events

Iain Gray MSP and Fiona O’Donnell MP attended county Remembrance Services yesterday to join local people in paying their respect to those who served their country and made the ultimate sacrifice. Ms O’Donnell attended the wreath laying and church service in Prestonpans, while Mr Gray attended the services in Haddington.

This year’s Remembrance Services had an added poignancy because 2014 is the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War. Many local communities made an extra special effort to commemorate this historic anniversary as part of the services conducted across the county this year.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“It was an incredible tribute to our servicemen and women and veterans, and their families, to see such high attendances at Remembrance Services in East Lothian this year. It was an indication that as we reflect on the loss of that generation who went to war in 1914, we are also keenly aware of those who currently serve, most notably those who are returning home from Afghanistan. In the 100th year since the outbreak of WW1 the Community Council’s lighting of 130 candles, one for each Haddingtonian who gave his life in that conflict was especially poignant.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP said:

“Remembrance Sunday gives the nation the chance to show its gratitude to our Armed Forces and recognise those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country. Here in East Lothian we keep that tradition of remembrance in communities all over the county. This year’s commemorations are particularly poignant because they mark the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War, in 1914. I want to thank everyone in East Lothian who has been involved in making this year’s services so special.”

Parliamentarians welcome Age Scotland 2015 Hot Tips Calendar

Local parliamentarians Iain Gray MSP and Fiona O’Donnell MP are helping to spread vital information and advice to older people in East Lothian this winter in partnership with Age Scotland, the national older people’s charity.

Over the coming weeks Mr Gray and Ms O’Donnell will be working with the charity to distribute copies of its ‘Hot Tips’ Calendar. As part of the charity’s annual ‘Spread the Warmth’ campaign, the calendar provides information to help older people get prepared for winter. Each month focuses on a special theme or includes content from a partner charity, with more than 80,000 copies available.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Age Scotland’s ‘Hot Tips’ calendar is now well established as a must-have resource for older people and I would encourage my constituents to pop in and pick up their free copy. With the potential for another severe winter in Scotland this year, it’s important that local people prepare for what can happen. Age Scotland’s ‘Hot Tips’ calendar contains everything people need to know, as well as a wealth of other useful information and advice.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP said:

“This excellent calendar includes many useful suggestions for older people on making their home comfortable, safe and warm, as well as the latest information on welfare benefits and hints on keeping fit and healthy. It’s vital that older people are enabled to continue living independently, but ‘Hot Tips’ is also about improving quality of life by looking at what people can do to get out and about or involved in volunteering.”

This year, Age Scotland teamed up with a range of partners including Poppyscotland and Care & Repair Scotland. The calendar, funded by the Scottish Government, features content from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland, Action on Hearing Loss and the Carers Trust with the content guided by what ‘Hot Tips’ readers say they want.

Copies of the calendar are free and are available at the office of Iain Gray and Fiona O’Donnell at 65 High Street, Tranent. They can also be found in your local Age Scotland retail shop, where available, as well as from your local library while stocks last.

MSP welcomes Scotland’s music future to Parliament

Last week, a National Vision for Instrumental Music Tuition was launched at an event in the Scottish Parliament hosted by East Lothian MSP Iain Gray.

With music tuition being vulnerable to funding cuts, provision of music teaching can be variable across the country, and often depends on whether families can afford instruments and equipment.

Mr Gray’s involvement with instrumental music tuition began with his support of the ‘Let the Children Play’ campaign, which evolved into a Scottish Government working group on the issue.

This has already produced positive outcomes for budding young musicians in Scotland, for example by ending the practice of some councils being able to charge students for taking exams, despite their tuition being compulsory.

The event in the parliament also celebrated the value of instrumental music tuition in Scottish schools, and around 90 music group representatives and school performers from across the country were in attendance.

The event was also attended and entertained by one of Scotland’s top jazz musicians, Wester Hailes-born saxophonist Tommy Smith.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“The value of music tuition to young people can be incredible, giving them confidence through playing with others and a new language to communicate with.

“I’ve seen this in my own family with my daughters, who learned to play instruments growing up and played in orchestras and bands, and still play today.

“This is the experience I want all of Scotland’s children to have, whether they want to grow up to be the next Tommy Smith or Nicola Benedetti or not.”

Call for living wage for local workers

Workers in East Lothian need a pay rise. That’s the message from the county’s MSP and MP as new research shows an estimated 5,000 local workers are paid less than the living wage.

Iain Gray MSP said that the figures from accountancy firm KPMG, published during this year’s Living Wage Week (2-8 November), a UK-wide celebration of the living wage and living wage employers, should act as a wake-up call for politicians that the fight for fair pay is far from over.

Both Mr Gray and Fiona O’Donnell MP believe that for the living wage to make a difference to people in East Lothian it must be promoted in low paid professions such as cleaning, care, hospitality and retail. Labour-led East Lothian Council set a positive example in 2012 when they introduced the living wage for all council staff.

Iain Gray is now backing plans to establish a Living Wage Unit and a National Living Wage Strategy which will be accountable to the Scottish Parliament. The strategy will target specific job markets and areas to deliver a pay rise in jobs where it will make a real difference so that the living wage is the expectation, not the exception.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“It is time to get serious about better pay for workers in East Lothian and across Scotland. While East Lothian fares relatively well in comparison with many parts of Scotland, there are still an estimated 5000 workers in the county currently earning less than the living wage.

“Labour-led East Lothian Council has led the way by implementing the living wage for its staff. But the hospitality and retail industries employ thousands of people in dire need of a pay rise. A National Living Wage Strategy would be able to target and work with these industries to deliver a pay rise to workers who need it the most.

“The SNP were wrong to vote against the living wage, but I hope they see sense and work with Scottish Labour to help deliver better pay for workers across Scotland.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP added:

“I believe in better pay and conditions for working people in East Lothian and across Scotland, which is why I welcome Labour’s commitment to increasing and strengthening the minimum wage. But while it is important to ensure people are not exploited at work, it is also vital to ensure that we make work pay.

“The Tories love to talk about their long term economic plan but that plan isn’t working for thousands of working people in East Lothian. That’s why alongside strengthening the minimum wage we also need to promote the living wage where it will make a difference. By taking a comprehensive and focused approach to raising incomes we can help ensure that it is not only a wealthy minority who benefit as the economy grows.”

MSP urges county’s young people to apply for Holyrood apprenticeships

County MSP Iain Gray is urging young people in East Lothian to consider applying to a new apprenticeship scheme launched this week by the Scottish Parliament.

The scheme will employ 20 young people in the Parliament, with successful applicants having the opportunity to work in a range of areas including Visitor Services, Events, Security, HR and IT.

An Open Day for young people interested in hearing more about the available opportunities will be held in the Parliament on 21 November.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“I welcome this new scheme which sets a great example on apprenticeships. It is a fantastic opportunity for young people here in East Lothian to seek one of the positions and to build the skills to help them in their future careers. The opportunity has also arisen at a great time following the interest in politics generated by the referendum campaign.

“Young people selected for the scheme stand to benefit greatly from the supportive work environment and training on offer at the Parliament, but I know that young people in East Lothian and across Scotland also have much to offer at Holyrood. I urge anyone interested in applying to attend the Open Day on 21 November.”

A dedicated website about the Parliament’s apprenticeship programme is now live at www.scottish.parliament.uk/apprenticeships. The website features video interviews with existing apprentices, the Parliament Chief Executive Paul Grice, and members of staff.

The Open Day about the apprenticeship programme is being held at Holyrood on 21 November. For more details on the day and how to book go to www.scottish.parliament.uk/apprenticeships or email the Parliament at apprenticeships@scottish.parliament.uk

Applications for apprenticeship posts will open on Friday 21 November and will close at midnight on Sunday 7 December. The Parliament aims to recruit 20 apprentices through two separate tranches, taking on 11 apprentices in the first tranche (2015) and nine apprentices in the second tranche (2017).

The apprenticeships will run for a maximum of 24 months with each apprentice working towards a high quality vocational qualification in areas such as IT, Security and general administration posts in Chamber and Clerking and Finance.