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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
27th March
2008


What a week for the constitution!

 

On Tuesday the three unionist parties, Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat, working with the London Government, launched their commission which is designed to look at what’s being called ‘Devolution plus’ – extra powers for Scotland’s Parliament (although it’s also considering the possibility of taking power away from Scotland).

 

They announced the chair of their commission – Kenneth Calman – a former Civil Servant and a one-time Chief Medical Officer for Scotland followed by a spell in the same job down south and he once ran an inquiry on Scottish medical education.  Seems on the face of it a decent chap to conduct such a commission – but his comments at the launch suggest that he isn’t exactly entering into it with an open mind. 

 

"Seventy-seven per cent of the Scottish public don't think independence is the right way forward," he said.  "All of the work over the last few years makes it pretty clear that's not an issue right now. There are plenty of other issues that are relevant to Scotland, its institutions and its parliament which will give us plenty to look at."

 

With an SNP Government in power you would have thought that Independence was an issue right at the centre of the constitutional debate in Scotland, wouldn’t you?  Whether or not you are in favour of Independence, surely one of the main arguments on the constitution has to figure in any consideration of the constitution?

 

So that was where they got to – an attempt to keep Independence off the radar.

 

Marvellously, the next day saw the launch of phase 2 of the National Conversation.  The National Conversation is the SNP Government’s drive to get the people of Scotland discussing our future.  The Government has quite deliberately and quite openly said that we should discuss all the issue and has invited the other parties to put their ideas forward for discussion with the Scottish people – they’ve refused so far.

 

Phase 2 of the Conversation was a move to bring the institutions of Scotland into the discussion.  The universities, local authorities, unions, churches, interest groups, students, they were all there and the National Conversation branched out and they engaged.

 

As Alex Salmond launched that phase 2, he invited the unionist parties, once again to put their ideas forward for a multi-option referendum with Independence and the status quo on the ballot paper.  They’re still refusing because, Tory leader Annabel Goldie made clear, they don’t want anything to change.

 

Scotland needs to move forward, so I’m delighted that the SNP keeps Scotland moving forward.

 

I’m also delighted that the SNP has changed the way that Scotland interacts with the United States.

 

I’m sure everyone is aware of Tartan Week in New York.  Tartan Week has had some success in the States, raising the awareness of Scotland, but the focus was wrong, it seemed to be more about being a politician’s jolly than about delivering for Scotland.  Add to that the fact that the Americans call tartan plaid, and you can see why they were confused by Tartan Week.

 

So the Scottish Government has changed the week from a tartan jamboree as it has been in past years into a week to promote Scotland in all its guises.  Rather than trying to hide behind tartan the week has been renamed.  Scotland Week – putting Scotland’s name right up at the front, being proud of who we are and proud of our country, not cowering and asking whether it’s ok to come out.  Tartan stays in the mix, of course – part of Scotland’s strength is an incredibly strong branding that comes from international icons like tartan.

 

This year Scotland’s Ministers will be going out to the United States – on Saturday in fact – to sell Scotland to the Americans.  Not by selling highland estates to rich Americans for the purpose of building golf courses, but looking for is opportunities for Scotland, for Scottish businesses and for Scotland’s people to sell into the US and into Canada.  They’re going to Scotland Week to do business for Scotland.

 

The SNP came into Government promising to make Scotland wealthier where we can and we’ve been turning up lots of ways to make that possible – one of which is refocusing Scotland’s efforts in North America on making business opportunities for Scotland.

 

I don’t agree with those who say we can’t do it – I think Scotland can do anything we set our minds to.  We don’t have to posture as the best small country in the world, we just have to be Scotland and get out there and do it.

 

That’s what Linda Fabiani be doing next week and what Alex Salmond and Jim Mather will be doing next week.  That’s what the Scottish Government will be doing – they’ll be doing business for Scotland and opening up North America.

 

We have a perfect right to be part of the world – there are even some people who have argued that Scotland invented the modern world – and I’m determined to play my part in making sure that we get our share of the world.

 

I’m proud and privileged to be a back-bencher in the party of Scotland’s Government, and I’m delighted to be part of a party that is determined to make Scotland a better place and improve the lives of everyone who lives in this wonderful country.

 

Scotland is not a backward nation, we’re not a wee country struggling by, we can’t be defined as a region stuck at the back of somewhere else, Scotland is a proud nation and we can play our part in the world.  We can be proud of who we are and we can build a better, wealthier and fairer country.

 

We can leave this country in a better condition than the condition in which we found it and we can find ourselves happy with our achievements if we only have the courage to try.  Scotland can be as good as we want it to be, we can build this nation to match and exceed all of our ambitions.

 

The first thing we have to do is believe in ourselves, and I think we’re doing that now, and I’ll invite each and every person in Scotland to join us on that journey.


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