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:
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
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.