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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
18th September
2008


I’m writing this quickly before I rush off to Glasgow for the final few hours of polling in Baillieston to find a councillor to replace John Mason MP who kept his word and gave up his council seat as soon as he was elected to Westminster.  I’ve got my fingers crossed, but I’m not making any predictions.

 

The past week has been interesting as Labour’s new leader introduced his Shadow Cabinet.  There’s plenty of chat about how they’ll fare in opposition to what is widely acknowledged as the most competent Government we’ve had since devolution began the process of restoring our Parliament.  Whether Richard Baker can stand up to the power of Kenny MacAskill's intellect and oratory in the Justice portfolio will be one point of interest, but perhaps equally interesting will be watching how Linda Fabiani deals with Labour’s Pauline McNeill.

 

I think Linda will be more than up for the challenge but her eyes, like the eyes of the rest of the Government, will be on making Scotland a better place to live, securing our friendships around the world, and moving us on to independence.  There’s plenty other contests which will be worth watching, but they’ll become apparent in their own good time.

 

The story on everyone’s lips just now, of course, is the troubled times in the stock markets – it’s looking like HBoS is being forced into a merger with Lloyds TSB as a result of market speculation and short selling.  I got a wee pointer on what short selling is earlier today – selling shares you don’t own in a gamble that pays off if the share price goes down because you can then buy the shares to hand over at a price lower than you sold them for.  There’s plenty of commentary defending this, saying that short selling shows up deficiencies in the companies earlier so it is actually performing a service in helping to stabilise the market.  A real “yeah, right” idea.

 

There doesn’t seem to be any kind of thinking that it is frankly dishonest to be selling something you don’t own in the hope of helping to force the price down so you can make a profit buying it more cheaply.  Considering how the markets respond to sales and purchases, this activity is likely to be a factor in driving down the share price.  How can some people see making a profit for themselves as being more important than the peace of mind of thousands of mortgage-holders watching nervously what is happening to their bank?

 

We’ll have to wait and see how things pan out, but we’ll also have to think about how to improve the regulation of the markets – cosy chats between Gordon Brown and the boss of another bank over a drink at a party is absolutely no way to run the system.  There’s actually quite a good case to be made that the Prime Minister and the banker broke the law and that the FSA should be investigating, but it looks as if the investigating authority is giving its blessing to the deal!

 

With that heavy weight hanging over all of our deliberations, proceedings in Parliament this week were fairly sombre.  It was notable in the chamber that Alex Salmond had a command of the details here that we could not have expected from any of the First Ministers who preceded him in that job.  In fact, judging by comments made in London, it would appear that Alex has a better idea of what has been going on than any of the senior politicians in Westminster.  That might be because of his training as an economist, but I think there’s also a bit of an issue about Alex still being in command of his environs while the opposite appears true down south.

 

At least here in Scotland we have people making strides towards improving the prospects for people in Scotland’s economy.  Last Friday I had the privilege of visiting Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for Creative Media whose mission is to make sure that the people who work in the sector in Scotland maintain the world-class reputation they have built up.  There are more than half a million people working in the sector in Scotland, around 10% of whom have been directly supported through Skillset.  That determination to maintain high quality and build on past achievements is just what we need for the future – that’s how we’ll make sure that our economy can recover and start moving ahead when the conditions are right.

 

Strangely enough, I was also at the Scottish Refugee Council on that day, and we all know the large numbers of asylum seekers who are extremely well qualified but are prevented from working here while they are classed as asylum seekers.  I’m glad that Fiona Hyslop took the decision to lift the ban on asylum seekers entering education courses and I’m pleased to see that the Scottish government is continuing to monitor what’s going on there.  I know that there are a few problems to iron out, but I’m sure that Fiona and her team will be onto that already.

 

Last week I told you a bit about me visiting the ambulance service in Glasgow, and you’ll be pleased to know that this week Nicola Sturgeon announced an investment of £4.7 million to ensure that the ambulance service can end the practice of sending ambulances out with only one member of staff in them.  Fast work from me – well, maybe she was considering it already.

 

I must dash now, off to Baillieston.


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