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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
11th December
2008


A week

Last week I was rushing off to help Jewel & Esk College celebrate the opening of its new restaurant.  I was the guest of Howard MacKenzie, the principal, and his staff who made me very welcome.  The food was marvellous, as you would expect from a training facility which is developing students’ abilities to the very highest level.

The new building is fantastic and the ambition of the college is very apparent.  I’m told there’s also a spa there for training therapists (not in the restaurant, obviously) and I wonder whether they are running that to the same high standard – quite an achievement if they are.

Friday I met a group of film students from Caledonian University in the regional office in Motherwell.  They’re in their honours year and they’ve decided to do their project on me!  I’ve got to admit that I’m chuffed to bits, it’s a real honour to have someone think that I’m worth doing a project on, and I intend to use it for bragging purposes until my colleagues find me quite unbearable – I’ve already got Roseanna Cunningham drumming her fingers at me.  We chatted through the project and made the appointment for filming later in the week, and I was impressed by the quiet command of their subject that the students have, they know the technicalities of what they’re doing (or at least they seem to from my point of view, looking at it as someone who doesn’t know the first thing about it), and they’ve thought through where they want to be going with their project.

That evening I was off to the Tron theatre in Glasgow to see the pantomime, Mother Bruce (that’s not a mis-spelling), a Scottish panto.  I had to take my son and my niece as cover, of course, but it was me who was shouting out and pointing at the spider (spins golden webs – och, go see it yourself).  An excellent night out, I’d recommend it to anyone.

Saturday saw the delights of SNP National Council in Perth and the debates on the emergency workers legislation, trade justice, prisons and sentencing, accessibility, animal welfare, the humanitarian crisis in Palestine, and the break-up of BAA.  I was moving the remit back on one motion and managed to get the movers of the motion to accept the remit back even before I spoke – a rare feat, I think.

Saturday night I was delighted to be off to the Scottish Traditional Music Awards organised by Hands up for Trad, you can find a list of the winners here:

http://www.handsupfortrad.co.uk/tradmusicawards/stma2008-results.html

It was in the Fruitmarket in Glasgow this year (it’s been up in Fort William the past couple of years), and I was lucky enough to be sharing a table with Rob Gibson who appeared to know most of the people there and Dr Eleanor Scott, Aileen Campbell who was in fine form with Fraser, Pete Wishart who also seemed to know everyone (and pleased with Runrig getting inducted into the Hall of Fame), Professor Drew Scott, Drew’s mother, and Dr Aileen McLeod – one of our Eurocandidates about to enter the fray for the SNP in June’s election.  It was a most intellectual table where we discussed matters of high-brow importance throughout the night (honest) and had a great laugh as well.  I’ve been quite cheeky and nicked the photographs from Rob Gibson’s blog at http://robgibsonmsp.blogspot.com/ and you can see that Linda Fabiani was back in the frame again this year, opening the awards ceremony and handing out some prizes.

Monday was constituency casework, but Tuesday was excellent; my film students (they’re mine now – bragging rights) came into Parliament to start filming.  55 minutes (I timed it) of questions about my life, from the street where I grew up in Easterhouse to getting elected last year and the work I’m doing now.  Inquisitorial without being invasive, winkling out the answers without being rude, excellent interviewing technique in my inexperienced opinion.  They’re coming back next Wednesday to get shots around the Parliament complex, so I’m trying to think of some of the best places to have them in, and I’ll probably ask Linda for a bit of help with that, she was on the Holyrood Progress Group which managed the building contract and she’s had East Kilbride Camera Club in a couple of times, so she’ll know where are good places to get shots.

Education Committee was a couple of evidence sessions for the Additional Support for Learning Bill, getting down to the grind of collecting the evidence that should guide us towards getting the Bill right as it passes into law.  This is Fiona Hyslop and Adam Ingram repairing legislation from the last administration that’s leaking badly now.  Fiona and Adam were our lead team on the original legislation and I’ve every confidence that they will be doing their level best to make sure we get it right this time.

Human Rights were on the agenda on Wednesday night with Jamie Hepburn’s motion in the chamber and a reception in the Garden Lobby to mark 60 years since the Declaration was signed.  60 years and we’ve still not finished the task – I suspect we never will get it fully implemented but the torch that is the Declaration should be a burning beacon that always guides us.

That brings us right up to today; I was speaking in Labour – sponsored debates on Scotrail and on Kinship Care.  They were rumbustious debates – an excellent airing of the issues involved and a good blowing away of some of the cobwebs.  All the consensus that the Scottish Parliament runs on is fantastic, you’ll hear very little of what we do reported in the main media because consensus doesn’t excite journalists, but sometimes you need a good disagreement to engender a bit of debate so that the issues can be aired, the dust blown out, and you can make sure that it is consensus you’re running on and not fear of debate.

We’ve got one week of Parliament left before Christmas and I’ve got a few appointments after that before I can get some shopping done and get ready for the day.  I’m conscious of the news that came through today about more job losses – this time at Sun Microsystems in West Lothian – another 140 to add to all those that have gone recently.  There will be a lot of families spending this Christmas worried about the immediate future and about the longer-term future and be anticipating looking for work in the new year.

Part of our job as politicians is trying to build the economic conditions which can encourage greater employment and make it possible for people to find work.  John Swinney has been doing a lot of work, and the announcements about bringing forward capital works will be welcome, that would help to get the economy going again.  We have to wait to see whether Westminster will give us permission to do that (it’s frustrating having to ask permission to do what you know is right), and we’ll see what comes out of that, but we hope for the best.  I take it that we’ll hear more from John in the next wee while.

These are the kind of events which give you that extra push, that keep you determined to finish the job you came into politics for, that make you want to make your country better.  I’m sure they elicit a similar drive in politicians of all parties and I’ll hope we’ll be working together to bring Scotland through this difficulty as quickly as possible and help those individuals and those families who have been affected.


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