week was excellent – I took a few days off and took my boys up the
hills. I find it an excellent way to relax, just getting away and
being in a really peaceful place. It also reminds me of what’s
important in life and why we all work so hard to improve the lives
of Scotland’s people.
back this week rejuvenated, refreshed, and ready to re-engage. I’ve
been fascinated by just how much each of the MSPs keeps going, even
when the tank is empty, and they only really notice just how
exhausted they are when they stop. We do work hard, honest.
got enormous respect for our Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries who
carry on through every recess, hardly getting time for any kind of
break at all, never mind a proper rest and a chance to recuperate.
Our friend, Linda Fabiani, for example, who was off on Government
business to Malawi during recess. A fantastic workload they are all
carrying for Scotland’s benefit.
to admit to a guilty secret – I took my blackberry on holiday to
keep up to date. I logged on up the Ptarmigan and had a wee peek at
what was going on – only to receive emails from both my staff
telling me to turn it off and have a break. How did they know? I
got them back later – I sent them mobile phone pictures to make them
– back to this week and back to work. We were taking evidence in
Committee on the Scottish Government’s proposals on Culture – part
of Linda’s portfolio – from the five national companies – National
Theatre of Scotland, Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, Scottish
National Orchestra, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra who all
appeared to be agreeing with Linda and with the Scottish Government
that you can’t put culture in a box and deliver everyone’s share to
them, culture has to be allowed to grow and thrive by itself.
background to this is that the previous administration put in place
a lot of box-ticking on culture so there are “cultural entitlements”
(if anyone can explain this concept I’d be delighted to see the
explanation) and “cultural co-ordinators” in schools. The SNP
believes that there are better ways to support our unique culture
and that we should examine them – this is what Linda is doing.
heard from the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Glasgow School
of Art, HI-arts (a highlands and islands arts journal), and
Voluntary Arts Scotland. They made sure that the voice of the other
parts of Scottish culture were being heard – it’s not just about the
interesting to hear the different takes on what is happening, all;
generally supportive of the Government, but each with different
points they want to emphasise. I’m looking forward to continuing
looking at what Scotland needs to do to make sure that our unique
culture survives, thrives and expands.
Wednesday evening saw me handing out the awards at a reception for
Rathbone, which is an organisation which helps youngsters who have
faced problems in the past. The success stories were fantastic –
young people who had taken control of their lives and got themselves
back on track, moving from not engaging to making a valuable
contribution to society.
a privilege to be handing out those awards to those learners who had
excelled as well as to staff, volunteers and employer partners who
help make it happen.
Thursday for a day sorting out funding issues for a Rape Crisis
Centre (I don’t know if we’re there yet, but at least the Minister
is now aware and is acting), arranging contacts with unions, and
working through some constituency cases.
Throughout all of that news has been filtering in of one council
after another throughout Scotland setting imaginative and
forward-looking budgets in response to John Swinney’s excellent
deal. Freeing up the councils to make their own decisions appears
to be paying dividends as they re-order their finances to take
account of their local circumstances – operating as a local
government in reality as well as in name.
has always had faith in the ability of local councils to rise to the
challenge when they could, and freeing them up to do it seems to be
working. As I write, 30 councils (I think) have frozen their
council tax, and we just wait for two more.
Scotland is changing – and getting better!