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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
22nd April 2010


Manifesto for Scotland

Last week I tantalised you with a brief look at the other party's manifesto's one thing that was clear was the lack of ideas and dreams for Scotland. It all just confirmed to me that none of the London based party's have the vision or the ideas for Scotland and her people. Compare that to the vision that Alex Salmond the First Minister in Scotland delivered on Monday. Here are a few snippets, it runs into 21 pages so I wont print it all.

Our plans would mean 60,000 new green jobs by 2020

Our aim is to increase low carbon employment in Scotland by 60,000 by 2020 as part of our low carbon strategy, with renewable energy supporting 26,000 jobs, emerging low carbon technologies a further 26,000 and environmental management 8,000 more.

Scotland has a huge wealth of clean, green energy that puts us right at the heart of Europe’s energy generation and gives us the potential to become the continent’s energy capital.

A fair deal for pensioners with pensions rising in line with earnings and a guarantee to protect free personal care and concessionary travel

We are in favour of linking the Basic State Pension with earnings. At present pensions are increased every April in line with the level of price inflation. Restoring the link to earnings would ensure that pensioners can get at least a modest increase in their pension. It would mean a £110 million boost for Scottish pensioners.

We believe that a fair deal for older Scots can only be achieved with the restoration of the link between pensions and earnings, cut by Margaret Thatcher in 1980. This will be a priority for the SNP in the next session of the UK Parliament.

A new phase of capital acceleration so we can create almost 5,000 new jobs this year

The Scottish Government's acceleration of £350 million of capital spending into vital areas such as affordable housing and other infrastructure projects has helped us fight recession, boost spending, and assist the construction sector during tough times.

A further acceleration of capital spending by the UK government would support almost 5,000 Scottish jobs and provide much needed economic stimulus in the short term. This should be a central part of any post-election Budget or spending review and will help us strengthen and support Scotland’s economic recovery.

The UK is the only G7 country not to have a stimulus this year and the Treasury have confirmed that their plans to reduce public spending will cut economic growth by 1%.

We will press for the scrapping of Trident nuclear missiles and a halt to their replacement

Both Labour and the Tories are committed to making swingeing cuts to Scotland's budget while frittering away billions of pounds on the Trident nuclear weapons system - an obscene vanity project the people of Scotland do not want.

It is massively hypocritical to pretend you're leading a multilateral effort to disarm while ordering up more weapons of mass destruction. Anyway you look at it - on moral, financial or defence grounds – renewal of Trident is completely untenable.

There is massive opposition to dumping a new generation of nuclear weapons in Scotland but only SNP MPs will champion Scotland's frontline services above these abhorrent weapons of mass destruction at Westminster.

Scrapping Trident and cancelling its replacement would save over £35 billion over the next 10 years.

Demand a fair fuel regulator to protect motorists from soaring fuel prices

Our proposal would see increased revenues from higher oil prices and petrol prices recycled to lower fuel duty. This would keep a limit on soaring fuel prices while protecting anticipated revenues for the Treasury.

Across Scotland, many hard pressed families are struggling to cope as fuel prices continue to soar – in some rural areas they are now in excess of £1.30 per litre. The recent 3p increase will be sorely felt by both hauliers and motorists. The SNP’s campaign against these rises will continue.

Work to make sure Scotland is part of the first phase of the UK high speed rail network.

A high-speed rail line to from Scotland to London would greatly reduce the travel time and pollution caused by constant air travel. The Labour Government promised to build a high-speed rail line from London to Scotland but, to date the only plans are to take it to Birmingham.

To invest in the rail link would also be to invest in a sustainable environmental future by reducing the number of damaging short haul flights. The proposal to stop the line at Birmingham would make no dent in short haul air travel and drives coach and horses through the UK Government’s own emissions targets.

We will argue to scrap the £5 billion ID card project, the £100 billion replacement for Trident, the £100 million House of Lords and the near £10 million Scotland Office so we can instead protect the vital public services we all rely on and make the investment we need for economic recovery.

These costs are a waste of public money. They need to be cut because they don't matter to anyone and they don't matter at all. As an example, Scotland's share of the savings from scrapping the House of Lords would deliver 250 police officers, 290 teachers or 320 nurses.

The cost of Trident and its replacement over the next 15 years is estimated as £52.5 billion for the UK. As an illustration that is enough to run Scotland's health service for 5 years.

Our MPs will work to ensure that Scots get the opportunity to be consulted on our own constitutional future.

Labour, Tory and the Liberals in the Welsh Assembly have voted to hold a referendum on extending its powers. The UK Government is proposing a referendum on reform of the Westminster voting system and the House of Lords. Here in Scotland, opinion polls show that three quarters of people want a referendum on the constitution. So if a referendum is right for Wales and right for Westminster, it is surely right for Scotland.

The Scottish Labour manifesto specifically commits to backing a referendum on more powers for Wales and yet they are trying to block the same for Scotland. The Tory manifesto says they will 'grant a referendum’ on more powers for the Welsh Assembly.

  • Scottish Social Attitudes Survey - mid-January 2010, 69% favoured significantly more powers for the Scottish Parliament
  • Angus Reid poll – December 2009, 64% of respondents in Scotland favoured increased powers.  25% independence, 22% some additional powers as proposed by the Calman recommendations, and 17% more additional powers, including full fiscal powers

Every SNP candidate will sign a pledge of accessibility, accountability and openness – it will be their Community Commitment.

The pledge will set out the standards SNP members will follow if elected as Scotland’s local and national champions. It is a pledge of accessibility, accountability and openness – that is their commitment to Scotland’s voters. The commitment says:

Protect local services. Protecting local services is my number one priority. I will argue for cuts to fall on trident nuclear weapons not public services.

Constituency Office. I will open a constituency office as soon as possible that is in an accessible location and where I can always be contacted.

Regular Consultation. I will publish a monthly newsletter and make this available to all constituents. I will use this to conduct regular surveys of opinion in the constituency to keep me informed of the things that matter most to you.

Fortnightly Surgeries. I will hold a minimum of four surgeries a month, advertised locally across the constituency and will hold regular public meetings for constituents.

Openness on Expenses. I will publish all my office and personal expenses as an MP online and where the rules are tighter, will follow the restrictions on expenses that are in place in the Scottish Parliament.

The removal of anachronisms like the unelected House of Lords

The SNP are strongly against keeping the House of Lords, an un-elected body that can legislate with no public mandate. It is an out of date, antiquated institution and an expensive one as well. Scotland manages perfectly well with a single chamber legislature – the UK can do the same.

The SNP will also continue to lead cross-party calls for the return of £150 million lottery funds diverted from Scotland to help fund the London 2012 games.

Funding for good causes and community projects in some of the most deprived communities will be threatened.

Our criticism is not about the Olympics itself, but we do not believe that good causes should be sacrificed to meet the spiralling cost of these games. Millions diverted from local causes will be spent on regenerating London, not on promoting sport or the greater good.

The commonwealth games will leave a lasting legacy not just for Glasgow, but the whole of Scotland. The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring the legacy is the right one. That’s why they have listened and talked to Scotland's people and organisations to establish what they want the lasting effects of the Games to be.

Economy & Jobs

Energy
We will be demanding the release of the Fossil Fuel Levy money so it can be used to deliver £200 million new investment in renewables

The value of the Fossil Fuel fund has virtually trebled since 2007 and with it the potential for Scotland to invest in our green energy future. The fund of almost £200m could be used, for example, to kick start the first wave of infrastructure upgrades identified in the National Renewables Infrastructure Plan. It must be released.

And SNP MPs will join with the Scottish Government to press for Scotland to have the ability to borrow.

Unlike local councils and the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government does not have the right to borrow money. This means it cannot take similar action to normal independent countries around the world who are borrowing to help stimulate their economy and protect their people.

It is estimated that every £100 million of borrowing for infrastructure investment could generate up to 1,500 jobs.
Banks
The UK government should use its influence as a controlling shareholder in some of the UK's major banks to ensure increased access to credit.

Despite the flurry of announcements designed to give the impression of doing something, real questions remain as to the effectiveness of the UK Government’s actions.

A recent survey by the Scottish government shows that Scots firms are continuing to face challenges in accessing cash flow to grow their businesses. While conditions appear to have eased to some degree and banks are more willing to lend to viable business propositions, the survey suggests that lower amounts of finance are being obtained and that costs are an issue for the majority of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises.

That is reflected in the raft of measures the Scottish Government have put in place to support Scotland's small businesses including the Small Business Bonus Scheme and the Scottish investment Fund.

Overall fewer firms are likely to secure 100 per cent of the funding sought. For all SMEs, nearly 40 per cent of firms felt the cost of finance was higher than one year previous.

We support calls for an international bank tax.

The global financial sector is still in a fragile state and an international bank tax would act as a safety net for any future crises that may cause instability in the global financial sector. Any agreement however would have to be approved upon by all the major banking institutions.

We will support steps to limit bonus payments as part of wider regulatory reform that encourages a return to prudent banking.

Bonuses should only be paid for a job well done. Weak regulation and oversight are to blame for this banking crisis. Any bonuses should encourage long-term sustainable growth and as such it is welcome that most bonuses are being offered in shares.

Public money absolutely should not be used to fund lavish bonuses for the already well rewarded. If financial incentives are, as RBS claims, essential to attract talent these should be offered in shares - to ensure the long term prosperity of the bank.

A fairer Scotland

We believe the minimum wage should increase in line with earnings.

This will ensure a fair rise for low paid workers right across Scotland. Low paid workers must not be allowed to fall further into poverty. A fair increase will ensure that the earnings of low-paid workers do not fall behind the rest of the country. The current Minimum Wage level is £5.80 for those aged 22 and over. Under Labour’s policy, it will rise to about £7 an hour by 2015 which we will match.

There should be no new taxes or contributions, or changes to Attendance Allowance or Carer's Allowance that will impact on Scots, to pay for reform of care for the elderly down south.

These proposals have come under fierce criticism – forcing Labour to announce that they would delay abolishing AA for the duration of the next Parliament, setting up a Commission into social care funding in the meantime. There are currently about 170,000 Scots receiving Attendance Allowance and 45,000 on Carer’s Allowance.

Labour were reported to have a new 10% levy (death tax) on every estate as a way of funding care for the elderly, however, this was ruled out just prior to the election. They will pay for care reform through freezing Inheritance Tax Thresholds until 2014-15.

The SNP will support moves to extend paternity leave – it is right that both parents are able to take adequate leave in the first months of their child's life.

The early years are the most important and the SNP will support moves to extend paternity leave – it is right that both parents are able to take adequate leave in the first months of their child’s life.

Labour are proposing to extend paternity leave from 2 weeks to 4 weeks and we will match this commitment, which will benefit thousands of fathers across Scotland.

As a result of representations from SNP MPs, the Scottish Government is now exploring options for the introduction of a Veterans Card in Scotland to improve access to services.

The card would build on the recognition already given to Scotland’s veterans by the Scottish Government through priority medical care, extending concessionary travel schemes to injured veterans and the £240,000 Veterans Fund which supports veteran’s charities and services.

Scotland's service veterans deserve more than just respect, they deserve to know that the country they have served so well will stand by them when they return to civilian life.

The SNP Government is already moving to introduce extra help, such as free bus travel for injured veterans. And, at a time when Scots-based units are currently on the front-line in Afghanistan, we need to show support to them and their families. The introduction a Veterans' Card would be a massive signal of support to those who have served their nation with distinction.

The card will allow the Scottish Government to contact veterans in Scotland, update them on services and support and tailor policies in different parts of the country where there are different demands on services relating to health and housing. It can also provide ID for commercial partners and organisations that want to give them special promotions or discounts.

The benefits system should provide incentives for work, rather than barriers to work and should more closely meet Scottish needs and circumstances and be easier to access.

For many, complex forms create a barrier to claiming benefits they are entitled to. The Scottish Government has therefore been working on benefits take up campaigns. An example of this is that by applying for the Central Heating Programme and now through the Energy Assistance Package (EAP), pensioners can ensure they receive all the benefits they are entitled to. Every pensioner who applies to the EAP has the option of getting a free benefits check from the Pension Service. For example in our first year and a half in office, Scottish pensioners made more than £1.8 million from free benefits checks

Those attending training courses or doing voluntary work to improve their employment prospects would not be penalised by losing benefits. Reductions in benefits to reflect people's improved circumstances would be set to match policy objectives, and integrated with the overall taxation system

Our MPs will press for the Home Office to end the practice of holding the children of asylum seekers in detention centres.

The detention of children in these centres is both shameful and immoral in a society which prides itself on justice, compassion and the protection of children's rights.

The SNP oppose the detention of children in Dungavel and Scottish Government efforts have led to the establishment of a pilot project intended to keep children out of the centre.

The SNP has had a long-standing commitment to ending this practice and has repeatedly called on the UK Government to act - not only in practice but in law through the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We are committed to retain all Scotland's current bases. And remain committed to the restoration of Scotland's historic infantry regiments which were amalgamated in 2006 And given the increasing strains on service family life we believe that Scottish recruited units should be based as close to home as is practical.

The SNP does not wish to see Scottish troops committed in Afghanistan without time limit, without being given a sense of their overarching goals, without a clear vision of what is being fought for, and without a consideration of the means that will be necessary to achieve such an end. That is why we must now have a proper review of the UK's strategy and approach.

The SNP will not introduce tuition fees or top up fees and will oppose any changes in English fees arrangements that have the knock on effect of reducing funding for Scotland through the Barnett formula, as we have done previously.

The SNP is opposed to university tuition fees in principle, whether they are standard fees or top-up fees.

Top-up fees in England will mean that a growing proportion of spending on English higher education is private money – which will not generate any spending rises in Scotland via the Barnett Formula.

Through the 16+ Learning Choices to offer a place of learning to every young person as they reach the end of their compulsory school years.

Encouraging all young people to stay in learning post-16 is the best way of ensuring their long-term employability and contribution to society. That is why positive and sustained progressions post-16 is one of the indicators in the government’s national performance framework.

16+ Learning Choices is our model for supporting this within Curriculum for Excellence. We are working with local authorities and their partners to ensure that every young person has an appropriate, relevant, attractive offer of learning made to them, well in advance of their school leaving date.

And we are also working to improve the life chances of young Scots, with an increase in the number of free hours of nursery education.

There is no need for new nuclear power stations.

And the £840m new Southern General hospital in Glasgow

The SNP Scottish Government decision to fund the new £842m Southern General hospital in Glasgow entirely from public capital also illustrates our opposition to the 'one for the price of two' delivered previously through PFI – an arrangement that squeezed the money that was available year in and year to support patient care.

We are taking forward proposals to tackle alcohol misuse including a policy of minimum pricing that is targeted on the cheap alcohol that fuels so much of the anti-social behaviour and violence on our streets.

Even the House of Commons Select Committee – made up of Labour Tory and Liberal MPs -  acknowledged the crippling effect of alcohol on society and said that imposing a minimum  price could save up to 3000 lives a year. The report rejected as a myth the suggestion that minimum pricing would unfairly affect moderate drinkers.

The SNP's minimum pricing proposals are widely supported by a number of agencies including all four chief medical officers, the Royal College of Physicians, senior police and the licensed trade as well as opposition politicians in the Welsh Assembly and two former Scottish Labour Health Ministers.

Currently, the number of police officers in Scotland is at 17,273 – 1039 higher than when we came to office and more than the 1,000 extra we promised. Our MPs will do all they can to protect the funding for these officers who are making Scotland's streets safer.

A record number of police on the beat, along with the SNP Government’s action on tackling crime and record police funding, is boosting Scotland’s local communities. The latest figures show that recorded crime in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level since 1980. We are committed to taking the action needed to keep driving crime down, and tackling the underlying causes of crime – drink, drugs and deprivation

And they will be working to protect investment in initiatives like the highly effective Violence Reduction Unit.

We are supporting the excellent work of the national Violence Reduction Unit, including record levels of investment. One of the most high-profile initiatives of the Violence Reduction Unit has been to use airport-style scanners at railway stations and clubs to target those who could be carrying knives.

So there you are then a clear and achievable. That’s what Scotland needs not a bunch of Londoncentric MPs who will not stand for Scotland. I urge you to vote SNP and don’t end up with another feeble fifty of whatever unionist party they come from.

Last week I got out and about with our candidates Clare Adamson and Graeme Horne. I was in Hamilton with Clare talking to voters and getting a real sense that people really need a change. In Clare Adamson they will have a champion who will stand up for them locally and stand up for them nationally in Lanark and Hamilton East. This is me and Clare at the top cross and don’t be fooled we know exactly what direction we are going in.

I was then onto Caledonian Bowling club and Burnbank Hamilton  with Graeme Horne for the opening season where we met some wonderful people who through their involvement in the bowling club.   On Monday night it was out to Paisley to  speak at the first meeting of a new support group for Motor Neurone Disease sufferers in Renfrewshire. The Group has been kick started by Cllr Lorraine Cameron and her brother Ian who discovered there was no local MND support in Renfrewshire following their Mum being diagnosed with the illness.  As a patron of MND Scotland I know how valuable these support groups are and best wishes to the Paisley group. The group meets at the Accord Hospice on Hawkhead Road and for more information contact info@scotmnd.co.uk or log on to www.mndscotland.org.uk.

Tuesday morning found me at Motherwell Football Club at  Fir Park in Motherwell for a very enjoyable Show Racism the Red Card event.  I was hugely impressed both by the enthusiasm and interest shown by the young people and the dedication of Mickey Weir, Derek Ferguson and Stevie Kirk to the cause of fighting racism. I'm sure that the children went away with a very strong message about the unacceptability of racist attitudes and behaviour, not just in football but in all aspects of life. Show Racism the Red Card is an extremely worthwhile cause and I congratulate Motherwell FC and all the clubs across Scotland who are giving it their support.


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