EAST Lothian residents will be seeing the earthquake devastation in Türkiye and Syria, and reading or hearing harrowing accounts of lives lost.

Turkish community members in Edinburgh have launched a humanitarian relief initiative for fellow countrymen and women whose lives have been changed forever by a natural catastrophe.

According to one of the Syrian refugees already settled in the Lothians, members of his community soon heard of the death of 20 relatives. It is the grim reality of this disaster that that number will certainly increase.

What can East Lothian do to help? Times are tough here, but we aren’t subject to the shattering of our towns and infrastructure, and the severe cold, snow and rain making help difficult to deliver in earthquake zones.

Whether it’s for fires, accidents on roads, rail or at sea, or during health crises, in Scotland we rely on the emergency services to provide professional and compassionate assistance. As voters, we can elect governments who will remunerate emergency workers appropriately. As human beings, we can reach out now to those less fortunate in other countries and make contributions, no matter how small, to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal, dec.org.uk. However you donate, if you are a taxpayer tick the Gift Aid box; the Government will add 25 percent to your donation, at no cost to you.

The Syrian war left Türkiye and Syria facing challenging refugee crises: even before the earthquakes, they had between them 7.7 million people in extreme distress, more than the entire population of Scotland. The statistics behind such calamities expose the emptiness of Westminster’s rhetoric about the dangers of the ‘small boats’, a term that distracts from refugees’ and asylum seekers’ desperation, demonising them instead as a threat to the UK.

Boris Johnson falsely claimed the EU and the free movement of people damaged the UK, yet Johnson is now urging Ukraine to join that same EU. This exposes Johnson’s contradictory and hypocritical positions: it’s Brexit that is wrecking the UK’s economy and destroying migrants’ and refugees’ lives, not the EU. Scotland rejected Brexit and can stand proud as a generous, welcoming country, willing and able to help those who have lost everything

Finally, I want to mention George Pollock, who sadly passed away earlier this week. He was the first SNP councillor in East Lothian and a really important part of East Lothian SNP over the years. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.