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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
17th January 2008


Back into the office in earnest on Tuesday this week, catching up on the avalanche of emails that came in over the break and finding a way through the mountain of mail that was waiting for me.  It feels a bit funny to still be opening Christmas cards in January, but there you go.

On the subject of Christmas cards, Iíve shipped the ones I got at home and in the office off to a well-known supermarket for recycling Ė an excellent scheme ensuring that the cards donít become landfill somewhere but actually go off to become a useful product after theyíve given me pleasure.

The road from home into Parliament on Wednesday was a little interesting.  I had a meeting out west in the morning and was travelling into Edinburgh around lunchtime.  The motorway was fine, the car was buffeted a bit by the storm that was blowing in but wasnít too bad, but the problems really started when I got to Edinburgh.

If you know Edinburgh from the western end youíll know Hermiston Gate Ė it took me just under two hours to get from Hermiston Gate to the Balgreen Road junction.  Iím not sure just how far that is, but it normally takes only a few minutes.  The road was flooded, the police were guiding cars around the flood, rescue trucks were pulling cars out of flooded side-streets and there was a digger apparently trying to clear the waterway below the road.

Funnily enough, sitting in the traffic queue, I took a phone call from one of my colleagues (on a hands-free set, obviously), Stuart McMillan, who told me that he was running late and wouldnít be able to speak to me before the chamber session in the afternoon.  Yes, he was sitting in a car about ten yards behind mine!

Parliament has been interesting this week; Labour still hasnít worked out how to be in opposition while the Tories continue to perform well.  We had Stewart Maxwell, our Sports Minister, telling us on Wednesday that heíd had a long, hard look at the quangoes that control sports funding in Scotland and decided to merge them, keep the name sportscotland, and have the HQ for the new body moved to Glasgow.

The Tories welcomed this as a sensible way forward, but Labour accused us of breaking a manifesto commitment to get rid of the quangoes.  It turned out later that Labour MSPs in Glasgow had sent out press releases criticising the fact that the HQ of sportscotland wouldnít be going to Glasgow before Stewart made his statement about the HQ going to Glasgow.  Jumped the gun a bit there Ė to use a sporting term.

Come Thursday we had the usual gladiatorial contest of First Ministerís Question Time where Alex Salmond has to answer questions about what the SNP Scottish Government is up to.  I hate to sound like Iím trying to suck in with him, but so far he hasnít put a foot wrong and has stood head and shoulders above the other party leaders.

Before we got to questions, though, there was a debate, a Labour-sponsored debate, and I was speaking.  The subject theyíve chosen was predictable because itís the one subject theyíve been going on about for weeks now.

In the budget that John Swinney brought to Parliament, he took away the ring-fencing in council budgets to allow councils the freedom and the flexibility to decide how to provide services because all the evidence shows that councils can provide better public services when they have that freedom.  Labour has been saying ever since then that the SNP budget would damage all kinds of services because ring-fencing had been removed.

I went back and had a look at what Labour Ministers had said when they were in power and I found that they had been arguing for the removal of ring-fencing for about eight years.  I donít mind politicians engaging in debate, but it should be honest debate, and if they know, as we do, that getting rid of the ring-fences is good for Scotland, then thatís what they should be saying, not trying to score petty points.

You can follow Scottish Parliament debates live online at http://www.holyrood.tv/  but even better, if you go into the film archive you can see debates and First Ministerís Questions from earlier (FMQs goes up quite quickly but other debates usually have to wait for the next day).  You can also read whatís gone on in the Official Report at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/officialReports/index.htm - again, itís the next day before it goes up.

Iím just about to head home Ė I hope the weatherís easier on the way home than it was on the way here.


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