WEEK BEGINNING 4TH
Well – recess is over and it’s back to conventional and routine
parliamentary work. Summer was good with time to catch up on lots of
issues, clear paperwork, visit community groups and of course friends
that I’ve neglected over the last year. When Parliament’s sitting,
days just merge one into another, become weeks, turn into months and
then a whole year has passed. Mind you, even the summer weeks flew
past – lots of highlights though: speaking at the Strathclyde
University Summer Academy Graduation/Greentrax Records 20th
Anniversary Concert (brilliant fun)/Citizens Advice Bureau AGM in
Kilmarnock/visit by Scouts from Ballerup in Denmark/the wonderful East
Kilbride Camera Club Annual Exhibition/the Strathaven Balloon Festival
(yes, I was up in a balloon, and no, I didn’t supply the hot air on my
own!), and the Festival of Politics (fun with Armando Iannucci,
serious discussion with the Europe Panel).
A Long Day for the Youngest
Festival of Politics Panel
Event - if I couldn't use my hands I'd be speechless!
Of course, I also had a
smashing two-week holiday in the Czech Republic – so interesting,
fascinating history, small independent nation and proud so to be.
Straight back in on
Monday 4th September, preparing for the Europe Committee
the following day. There’s so much to get through between now and the
dissolution of Parliament at the end of April (May elections) that
we’re having extra meetings – Energy Conservation/Skills, Research and
Development/Structural Funds/Maritime Policy. Good to see the
Parliament offices buzzing again – so quiet during recess. The
building itself wasn’t quiet though; I was amazed at the interest of
the public in the Festival of Politics – 2,500 visitors a day that
week, the Europe Panel I took part in had an audience of 200!
Fifth year pupils from
Hamilton College visited on Tuesday and much to my delight young David
(the lad who shadowed me for a week’s work experience) was with them.
He did really well in his exams, as did our other work experience lad,
Alexandre from Duncanrig School in East Kilbride; two lads with great
futures – perhaps in politics!
Committee went well on
Tuesday afternoon – really interesting contributions from witnesses
for our energy inquiry, giving us lots of points to put to the
Government Minister the following week.
My yearly visit to
Tulliallen Police College on Wednesday morning to attend the annual
Police Memorial Service. I’ve started now to get to know some of the
families who attend every year and it’s always good to see them –
elderly women whose policemen husbands died decades ago, young people
whose grief is much more recent. Coming together with those of like
experiences often helps, as does knowing that your loved ones’
sacrifices are remembered and appreciated. I was a bit put out this
year though to realise that the Scottish Government were not
represented by a Minister to lay a wreath, but by a Civil Servant – no
harm to the lassie, she did it very well and with reverence, but I
would have thought that the importance of the occasion warranted
ministerial presence. Perhaps I’m being unreasonable, perhaps they
were all at other worthy business.
Back into Chamber in
the afternoon for the first debate of the session – Scotland’s future
– bright I hope – all we Scots need is the confidence to go for it!
Plenty others have, other small countries in the world; I don’t want
us to be “the best small country in the world” (how embarrassing is
that when Jack McConnell trots that out?), I just want us to be a
normal small country. Already with the prospect of an election on the
horizon the old scaremongering has started – trenches along the
Border, we’re too poor, we’re too stupid, it’s impossible! That Wendy
Alexander, echoing Mr. Broon the Chancellor, was even saying during
the debate that because many Scots have relatives in England we can’t
possibly become independent and separate! How daft is that? Scots have
relatives all over the planet – Canada, Australia, all over Europe
etc. Does that mean we have to enter into Union with them all. Last
time I visited relatives in Toronto it was perfectly simple, and I
talk to them on the phone regularly; why should relatives in England
be different – it’s just over the border after all. The Unionists are
really scrabbling round in the dirt now for their justifications! Must
be rattled by the opinion polls.
Thursday morning and
off to make presentation to students from Butler University in the USA
who have come here to study for a year – Edinburgh, Glasgow and
Stirling Universities. I do this event regularly and thoroughly enjoy
talking about our country and our politics to young people for whom it
is all new and fresh, and who are really enthusiastic about their
sojourn in Scotland. It was a big group this time – around 80 of them.
Chamber in the
afternoon was the introduction of the proposed legislation about the
regulation of the legal profession and legal aid. I didn’t take part
in this debate, but it was interesting. Of course there has been lots
of representation from the profession, but the Justice Committee will
consider all of this during the Stage 2 procedure and bring their
views to the Stage 3 Debate which comes back to the full Parliament.
Constituency work in
East Kilbride and Hamilton on Friday – David of course has been
working steadily on Constituency work during the summer, and we’ve
been phoning/writing here, there and everywhere trying to get a fair
deal for folk. Lots of Tax Credit issues have come up again – seems
to come in waves every so often this issue.
A real treat on Friday
night with the annual MacMillan Cancer Care Concert in EK’s Village
Theatre. Strathaven’s own Linda Ormiston and friends as always
entertained us thoroughly with songs from the shows and the movies. A
great mixture of seriously beautiful voices, and humorous song. I
always leave this concert feeling happy and uplifted and judging by
the faces round about all who attended felt the same. No luck in the
raffle this year though!
Time out on Saturday,
trying to catch up in the house with all the odd jobs and neglected
tasks which Duncan and I pledged to do during summer and didn’t, but
marching in protest on Sunday to try and save Colonsay Field from the
vandalism of South Lanarkshire Council which wants to build houses on
this part of Calderglen Country Park. Many marched – young and old/fit
and infirm/of all political persuasions and none. 14th
September is the last day for objections to be lodged and I am sure
there will be thousands – enough is enough!
11th September 2006
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