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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
26th March 2009


Champion!

I’m a champion.

Well, I’m to become a social work champion!  The Association of Directors of Social Work has asked me to take on that mantle and I’m delighted to oblige.  I won’t be the only champion – I believe that others will be asked and we’ll work together to promote the good things that social workers do.  We hear a lot when things go wrong but we hardly ever hear about the successes – it’s time we turned that around.

It’s been a week of seeing Linda Fabiani everywhere I go – I think she must do a similar job to mine!  I bumped into her at an event run by PALS in Rutherglen Town Hall on Friday.  PALS is the Project for Advocacy in Lanarkshire South, an organisation that encourages self-advocacy among children and young people with learning difficulties.  Friday’s event had us undertaking a range of tasks including walking along a line while wearing ‘beer goggles’ – I felt a Johnny Cash song coming on…

I hope I’ll be able to help support that project in the future as well.  Saturday saw me off to a fashion show – oh the glamour – in aid of Motor Neurone Disease Scotland www.mndscotland.org.uk which runs the cornflower ball to raise money for direct care and research into MND.  The fashion show at the Corn Exchange in Edinburgh was for the same purpose and I was pleased to be able to do my bit to help the cause.

The fashion show was actually Edinburgh’s annual Charity Fashion Show.  Now in its sixth consecutive year, it has become an international success having raised more than £238,000 for charity. MND Scotland was chosen to be supported by this year’s event. Edinburgh’s Charity Fashion Show has combined students' efforts throughout the Scottish capital with the need to raise awareness for many worthy causes, and further information can be found at www.edinburghcharityfashionshow.com

Sunday dawned bright, clear and freezing cold – just a perfect day to have the annual Mother’s Day vigil outside Dungavel immigration detention centre, and that Fabiani was there again.  We both spoke to those who had gathered to show some solidarity with the people held inside.  Organised by the Justice and Peace Movement, this quiet and dignified event is important but I hope that it won’t happen next year.  Just like every other year I’m hoping that Dungavel is no longer used to detain people by Mother’s Day next year.  That hope got a wee boost today with an answer I received to a Parliamentary Question:

Christina McKelvie (Central Scotland) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive  what information it has on any progress on implementing the alternatives to detention pilot for asylum-seeking families announced by the Secretary of State for Scotland in 2008.

(S3O-06433)

Mr Alex Neil :

The pilot has not yet formally started but is expected to do so soon. The planning process, engagement with external stakeholders and the recruitment of staff to run the project are currently taking place.

This pilot will help reduce the number of families detained in Scotland.

A step in the right direction at least.

Come Monday I was back through to Edinburgh for the final consideration of the applicants for Children’s Commissioner.  I can tell you that we’ve chosen a candidate to be put to Parliament – but I can’t tell you who it is yet because it hasn’t been made public.  That decision making took up most of the day, leaving me with a wee bit of a dash to get back home and get changed to get to Hamilton in time to hand out some awards from Hamilton Sports Council to the sports performers of the year.  Councillor Graeme Horne had the privilege of handing over an award to Ken Mackay, a Scottish Olympic hero from days gone by, who is 80 years old and only just now giving up competitive swimming, I had the honour of presenting the women’s award to Margaret Letham.

Tuesday I was on the road again, this time with the Education Committee to Stow College to visit the Rail Learning Centre.  After years with very little funding the Scottish Union Learning Fund received a fillip from the Scottish Government when the SNP took control and the money is being well spent in Stow where funding is also coming from the college, from rail unions and from ScotRail, then it was on to a rail depot at Yoker and to ScotRail’s in Glasgow.  The learning centres offer free classes to rail industry employees and their families ranging from computer skills to maths, English, foreign languages, cookery and sign language.

Then it was off again to the County Buildings in Hamilton to chair the AGM of our South Lanarkshire Council group and onwards again to Edinburgh for a cross-party dinner hosted by Microsoft where we were discussing advances in technology and skills with Microsoft and other businesses.  Good recession-busting ideas being bandied around the table and some good contacts made that I can always go back to for their opinions on various matters.


At the table with Christina are Iain McWhirter and Maureen Harrison of MND Scotland

Yesterday I was back in committee in Parliament dealing with the ASL Bill.  The one piece of legislation where you would have thought that Labour and the Lib Dems would act like Parliamentarians rather than spoilt children but their behaviour was ridiculous.  They were seeking to use an obscure part of the Standing Orders as a wrecking ball on the Bill, hoping to drive costs into the Act to force a financial resolution to Parliament, slowing down the legislative process, denying children with extra support needs the help that they are hoping for – and all to try to score a tiny party political point.  I found their actions to be rude and petulant, but you can judge for yourself by watching the committee meeting on Holyrood TV -
http://www.holyrood.tv/library.asp?iPid=3&section=95&title=Education%2C+Lifelong+Learning+and+Culture

Yesterday evening saw the regular meeting between the SNP group in Parliament and the Trade Unions.  That process of engagement with organisations which are important players in public life in Scotland is important, and I’m happy to be playing a part in it.

With a week like that behind me I was delighted that Thursday, a full chamber day, was relatively quiet for me.  I wasn’t in any of the debates, I was a mere observer at questions (never reached my question which is why I got the written answer above), and I got a chance to get my breath back.  A wee break for dinner in the canteen with my colleague Kenny Gibson MSP (fish and chips – it’s not all glamour, you know), and back up here to write the diary.  Now I’m about to grab my papers for reading tonight and head down to get my car to drive home – I should be home in time to watch Newsnight.


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