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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
9th October
2008


What a week!

As another week of turmoil passes, it seems that few politicians have been proposing measures to bring real relief to people who are beginning to find the pressure building, are beginning to feel the bite.

The SNP has been proposing measures.  Alex Salmond called for interest rate cuts Ė one has come but itís not enough, we need another cut Ė and we need savings guarantees.  People who have deposited their savings in Scottish banks should have some peace of mind that theyíre going to get access to their money when they want it.

We need to be looking at ways of stimulating the economy to secure Scottish jobs and bring additional jobs to Scotland when the economic conditions improve.  Some of that could come if Westminster would free up the spending restrictions on the Scottish Government to allow capital spend to come earlier than has so far been planned.  Driving the construction industry would be an excellent way of pump-priming the economy.

Additionally, we could put more money into the pockets of most Scots if we could drive forward the local income tax proposals at a faster rate.  Again, Alistair Darling needs to have a wee bit courage, hand over the £400 million Scotland is currently due for Council Tax Benefit and instruct HMCR to cooperate with the Scottish Government, and the opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament can finally knuckle down, see sense, and work together to create the best possible system of local income tax.

Thereís a lot more to be done to protect Scotland from the harshest of the economic winds, and itís clear that we need to have control over our own economic and fiscal tools in order to work quickly when the circumstances demand it.  Thereís one country sitting serenely in the midst of this chaos, itís a country with an oil fund to support its plans, itís Norway.  We can play the Ďif onlyí game and go back to the 1970s and the McCrone report, but Iíd rather we learned the lessons and started moving forward.  Scotland has a renewed hope in its bones, itís time we renewed the fibre of our economy to match it.

Itís noticeable that some members of the opposition chose this time, with all of the attendant economic worries that it has brought, to question whether councils have the resources to implement the free school meals strategy.  They were soundly trounced at First Ministerís Questions today, though, as it became clear that council after council across Scotland was happy with the resources they have available to provide decent, nutritious free meals for pupils in the first three years of school.  I hope that the Labour members who wanted to take that food out of the mouths of those children will not pursue that course any longer Ė it is now, surely, time to follow where the SNP is leading.

Similarly with the proposals to control alcohol supply to teenagers that Kenny MacAskill is bringing forward.  All of the opposition parties combined to defeat them last week, and this week Iíve again received messages from people whose lives are being made a misery by drunken teenagers asking us to carry on driving at this.  There must be other communities the length and breadth of Scotland suffering the same problems.  Action is needed, and Iím proud to be part of a political party that is prepared to take that action, to seek to break the teenage fascination with losing control through alcohol, and to make Scotland a better place to live.

Something which runs parallel, I suppose, to that desire to help people and make Scotland a better place was my visit on Friday to the Samaritans on their Open Day.  I was there to see how they run the operation in Hamilton and get some indication of the contribution made to society by these people who willingly give up their own time to make other peopleís lives a little better.  Itís a humbling experience.  People who find themselves staring into a future they cannot face have, at least, one more hope.

We as a society owe a debt of gratitude to those who volunteer for the Samaritans and a duty to observe that the country is a better place as a result of their dedication to what must at times be a harrowing occupation, at times an uplifting experience, sometimes a fulfilling experience, sometimes a draining experience, but always an exhausting experience.  Through it all, these volunteers seem to sail with some degree of inner tranquillity which I can but admire and with a determination to make a difference.  I salute them all.

Carers of a different kind as well this week, a conference carers in the County Building.  The SNP has done a bit as a Government to make the lives of carers a little easier and Iím looking for ways in which we can do more.  Money, as always, can be doled out if it is  available, and Iíve no doubt that weíll continue to look for ways to get money to carers, but thereís more needs to be looked at Ė the respite care offered and whether we can improve it, for example, and the in-home support for carers and those they care for as well.  Someone once said that you can judge a society by the way it treats its prisoners.  Iíd like to think that you can judge a society equally well by the way it treats those who need help and support.

There were two fun events I had the privilege of attending on Sunday.  I was at the Hamilton Sports Council Fun Run in the morning to see a lot of fit and happy people enjoying themselves.  I would, of course, have got involved and run myself except I forgot my running shoes Ė honestly!

Meeting all the winners was a real pleasure and Iím happy to report that I think that there may be a star or two of the future lurking about in that exalted company.  Iíve added a few pictures to give you an idea of who to look out for in the future.


Left: Boys 1k event winners and Right: Girls 1k event winners


And the 5k event winners

In the afternoon I was delighted to be the guest of the Haven at the Ďladies lunchí.  The Haven provides a range of services for families and their carers who are coping with life-limiting illness and diseases such as cancer and Motor Neurone Disease, and Iím happy to help them out when I can. Dr Dunne and all her staff should be eceptionally proud of the quality service they provide.


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