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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
27th May 2010


Educating and Enterprising

This week has been a busy old week with a visits to Edinburgh council to continue our evidence gathering for the Education Lifelong Learning and Culture committee's inquiry into Local Government education spend. It was a morning of looking at budgets and talking about the challenges that lie ahead because of the Labour recession. It is interesting how my colleagues in the Labour party have suddenly been struck down with political amnesia. They have forgotten that they are responsible for getting the country into such a state and they abdicate all responsibility like it never happened and they had no part to play in it. The Labour shadow front bench has not covered itself in glory in opposition.  In their determination to attack the SNP Government, senior spokespeople have repeatedly blundered – making statements designed to undermine the SNP that have no basis in reality.  Spokespeople such as Richard Baker and Andy Kerr regularly use wrong figures or make statements that blatantly contradict their own actions.  Some of the criticisms even refer to decisions taken by Labour when they were in power – suggesting Scottish Labour is now so negative they are attacking their own record. 

Below is a selection of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet biggest gaffes.

JUSTICE

    Ø       Emergency Workers Act

Richard Baker:   “The SNP made a manifesto commitment to extend the Emergency Workers legislation to cover all NHS staff. They have now been in power for three years, but have done nothing.” (23.5.10)

The reality:  In 2008 the SNP Government delivered on our manifesto commitment to extend the Emergency Workers Act to give legal protection to the health service staff excluded by Labour and the Lib Dems when they were in office.

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2007/12/09145133

    Ø       Drug Policy

Labour:  Richard Baker described drug misuse figures as ‘simply shocking’ and accused the SNP of ‘not taking action against drug abuse’.  (7.10.09)

Reality:  The reports, “Estimating the National and Local Prevalence of Problem Drug Misuse in Scotland” and Assessing the Scale and Impact of Illicit Drug Markets in Scotland” both provided figures for 2006 – when the Labour/LibDem Executive was in power.

FINANCE

    Ø       Supporting Tory cuts

Andy Kerr:  In the Daily Mail, Kerr criticises the Finance Secretary John Swinney's "decision to postpone reductions" in spending this year.  (19.5.10)

The reality:  Taking £300m out of the economy now would threaten the fragile economic recovery and jeopardise 5000 jobs.  During the UK election, Labour argued against immediate spending cuts, but Andy Kerr has now put Labour firmly on the side of the Tories and Lib Dems in arguing for faster and deeper cuts.

    Ø       Scottish Futures Trust

Labour:  Iain Gray attacks the SFT at FMQ’s:  It has not raised a penny; it has not laid a brick. We are paying that Futures Trust £28 million to have meetings about selling off Scottish Water, while building firms are paying off Scottish workers. Will the First Minister just admit that time is up for his Futures Trust? (28.01.10)

 The Reality:  As Gray was slamming SFT, official papers revealed that his Labour colleagues in Glasgow City Council were seeking its advice to help increase jobs and investment in the City Centre.

Also, while Labour was attacking the SFT nationally, Labour-led East Renfrewshire council offered to pilot the SFT as a replacement for PPP style projects.

    Ø       Homecoming

Labour:  Sarah Boyack criticises Homecoming – claiming it could have been more successful with more investment in the early days of the initiative. (25.11.09)

Reality:  The Homecoming initiative began when Labour were in power.  It was launched in 2005, so the initial investment was a decision of the Labour led executive.

    Ø       Local Government funding

Labour:  Andy Kerr accuses the SNP Government of ‘squeezing Scottish councils until the pips squeak’ following the publication of tables by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre showing the local government share of the overall Scottish budget. (24.9.09)

Reality:  In his calculations, the first year Andy Kerr allocates to the SNP was 2007-08.  This last when Local Government saw a reduction in their share of spending and the last set by the previous Labour-Liberal Democrat Executive.

    Ø       Budget cuts

Labour:  Andy Kerr consistently claimed that the Scottish budget was increasing while Labour were in power in Westminster.  “Scotland’s budget is going up by £700 million next year… (The Herald 6.9.09)

Reality:  The Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee report, signed up to by Labour members, acknowledges a 1% real terms cut in the money available to Scotland next year.  (9.6.09)

    Ø       Energy

Labour:  As Scottish Secretary, David Cairns claimed that 40% of electricity used in Scotland came from nuclear power.  (Good Morning Scotland, 10th January 2008)

Reality:  The most recent figures, from the UK Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform show that Nuclear energy accounted for only 26% of energy generated in Scotland over 2005-6.

    Ø       Free bus travel

Labour:  Former PM Gordon Brown got in on the act by claiming in election leaflets that Labour will “fight against SNP cuts to the free bus passes.”

Reality:  Following a statutory review of the free bus travel scheme, the SNP Govt not only committed to its continuation for all the over-60s and disabled people who are currently entitled to it, but also to extending concessionary travel to severely disabled armed forces veterans from next year.

    Ø       Ferry fares

Labour:  Des McNulty claimed that ferry fares on the Clyde routes would increase by 20%. (April 2008)
 
Reality:  CalMac state that Labour's figures "bear no relation to anything in CalMac's books" and were "unrecognisable".

HEALTH AND WELLBEING

    Ø       Boiler scrappage scheme

Labour:  Labour campaigned FOR a boiler scrappage scheme, and had a page on their website with many prominent members demanding such a scheme including:  Andy Kerr;  David Whitton; Wendy Alexander; Sarah Boyack; Cathy Jamieson; George Foulkes and Jim Murphy.

Reality:  In the 2010/11 Budget, the entire Labour group voted to oppose £2 million funding to support a boiler scrappage scheme to tackle fuel poverty. (7.2.10)

    Ø       Central Heating Scheme

Labour:  Mary Mulligan claims that only around 1 in 10 applications to the SNP Govt’s Energy Assistance scheme result in an installation of a new free central heating system. (13.3.10)

Reality:  The fact is that phoning the Energy Assistance Package helpline is not the same as applying for a free central heating system. The PQ they base this erroneous claim on simply asks "how many enquiries there were to the Energy Assistance Package" - it did not ask how many callers enquired about the possibility of getting a free heating system. The EAP offers other services, such as free energy saving advice to benefits check-ups

    Ø       NHS Funding

Labour:  Richard Simpson attacked the SNP’s 2% efficiency saving targets for Health Boards, saying they are effectively a £500m cut "I am deeply concerned that the SNP are putting pressure on services by demanding further efficiency savings…with Health Boards across Scotland being forced to reduce staff numbers, review frontline services such as cancer care and put off maintenance to buildings.” (4.12.08)

Reality:  Labour planned to introduce 3% efficiencies in health board budgets – 50% more than the SNP's 2%.  However, while the SNP will reinvest these savings back into NHS services, Labour's policy is that the money would have been removed from the health budget and gone to education – which would mean a real cut of £771 million for Scotland's health service.

    Ø       Affordable Housing

Labour:  Johann Lamont claims the SNP is "cutting" the affordable housing budget by £140 million in the 2010/11 budget (15.3.10)

Reality: This was not a ‘cut’ at all - The affordable housing budget was below the previous years because £120 million for 2010/11 was accelerated into 2009/10 to stave off an even worse recession by providing vital work for the construction sector. This could only be done with the permission of the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer and was supported by Johann Lamont.

EDUCATION

    Ø       School buildings

Labour:  Ken Macintosh claims the SNP have failed to build or commission one single school. (April 2008)

Reality:  In fact, at the time of the comments, 44 school building projects had been signed off by the SNP Government and an extra £40 million in capital made available.

Labour:  Wendy Alexander claims Labour built in excess of 300 new schools and Andy Kerr says Labour built a new school every week. (October 2007)

Reality:  A FoI revealed that only 173 schools had been built between 1999 and 2007.

    Ø       Student numbers

Labour:  Claire Baker, Shadow Minister for Higher Education, attacked the SNP over figures showing a fall in the number of student in Higher Education in Scotland between 2006-07 and  2007-08: "Fiona Hyslop really needs to wake up and not only make sure that those with the talent to go into higher education get there, but that students wanting to stay in the system are not forced out.”

Reality:  These figures are Labour’s record. The deadline for the vast majority of applications to university is in the second week of January of each year so the overwhelming majority of these students applied for university in the January before the SNP Government was elected.

The SNP’s record is one of increasing UCAS acceptances – up 11% in our first year (from 36,475 in 2007/8 to 40,618 in 2008/9) and up another 10% so far this year. 

    Ø       School buildings

Labour:  Leader Iain Gray claims that a new Ellon Academy would have been built under the previous Labour led administration.  He stated: “a new school would have been built under the plans of the previous Labour-led Executive.”  He went on to say: “A plan to refurbish Ellon academy was made under the previous Executive.” (19.3.09)

Reality:  Both statements are untrue. Ellon Academy never appeared on any Scottish Executive school building programme during the 8 years of the previous Labour/LibDem administration.

         
It is only under the SNP Government that the school has featured on Aberdeenshire Council’s Capital Plan allocating £3.3m to site acquisition and preparatory work.

    Ø       Apprenticeships

Labour:  Then PM Gordon Brown launched an attack on the SNP Government, who he said had "failed to deliver the apprenticeships which Scotland needs.”

Reality:  Scotland is actually ahead of England in terms of apprentices.  Proportionately, Scotland has more apprentices than England - which has around 250,000 apprentices, while Scotland has 38,000.  Also, the latest completion rates in Scotland are 68% compared to England’s 53%.

RURAL AFFAIRS

    Ø       Food policy

Labour:  Continuing the policy of attacking the SNP on anything and everything, Iain Gray claimed that the SNPGovt had changed rules to stop bakeries applying for European training grants.

Reality:  This decision was made by the previous Labour led administration, yet another example of Labour attacking their own record.

 RESERVED ISSUES

    Ø       10p tax rate

Labour:  A spokesperson for the Labour Party is quoted in the Sunday Herald saying that "The 10p rate was introduced by the UK government to help tackle poverty and make work pay. It will benefit 16 million households across the UK, with the biggest gains going to the poorest 30% of people in our society." (20.4.08).

Reality:  This statement came after the Labour UK Govt. abolished the 10p tax rate, which adversely affected over half a million Scottish households and was later named by Gordon Brown as his biggest mistake in office

I suggest that Ian Gray and Labour go back to school and learn to do their homework in future only then will they be able to come to parliament with any semblance of credibility.

Maybe the teachers described below are the very people to give labour the lesson they sorely need……..
Teachers who have used their skills to promote Enterprise in Education were being recognised by the General Teaching Council for Scotland at the Scottish Parliament, an event I was delighted to host in the last night

Scotland’s professional teaching regulator  teamed up with Determined to Succeed, the Scottish Government’s strategy for enterprise in education, to host the event which saw twenty three teachers awarded Professional Recognition status.

GTC Scotland Chief Executive Anthony Finn believes that Professional Recognition allows teachers to focus their Continuous Professional Development in particular areas of interest and to gain recognition for enhancing and sharing their knowledge and experience.

“To be successful in gaining professional recognition, teachers need to develop their own skills and knowledge and also to apply them very successfully in their school with a clear impact on the learning of their pupils. Encouraging enterprise in education is clearly crucial to the future development of the Scottish economy; it can help develop the business talent of tomorrow.

“We are pleased to be awarding Professional Recognition status to another 20 teachers. This brings the total number of teachers in Scotland with this award to over 500, covering areas as diverse as literacy, sustainable development, global education, health promotion and support for probationer teachers. This commendable development of teachers’ skills can only be of benefit to pupils.”

Determined to Succeed is helping to build an enterprise ethos in Scotland’s schools. It is hoped that this will give young people a better chance of realising their full potential and, in turn, provide the Scottish economy with the skills, attitudes and entrepreneurs needed for growth. Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning, Keith Brown will award the teachers with their certificates. He said:

“Our new approach through Curriculum for Excellence is all about giving our young people the skills they need for life in the 21st century. And teachers have a critical role in helping pupils develop the practical skills they need for the working world.

“That’s why I’m delighted that the GTC Scotland, in partnership with Determined to Succeed, is giving recognition to this group of teachers who are so dedicated to making a real difference in the lives of young people through enterprise education.”

The teachers attending the event, had the opportunity to discuss their work in Enterprise in Education with other colleagues from the education and business sectors and MSPs. Some of this work includes:

- Liaising with a wide range of local and national employers to promote the four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence and how these relate to employability skills and abilities.

- Working with local authors, theatre and dance companies to bring the curriculum to life
Establishing Young Enterprise companies in schools
- Various charity events including ‘pink days’ to support breast cancer awareness, comic relief and fundraising for Mary’s Meals.

- Encouraging global learning by E-twinning with schools in Shanghai, New Mexico, New York and Italy.
- Working with local island emergency services and businesses to design door numbers for the homes of the islanders and then designing a phone directory for the island.

Teachers receiving Professional Recognition awards at this event are from all over Scotland including:
· Aberdeenshire, Argyll & Bute, Clackmannanshire, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh, Highland, Stirling and West Lothian

· To find out more about Professional Recognition please visit:
http://www.gtcs.org.uk/Publications/GuidanceforTeachers/Professional_Recognition_Registration.aspx
· To find out more about the GTC Scotland visit www.gtcs.org.uk
· To find out more about Determined to Succeed, please visit www.determinedtosucceed.co.uk
· For more information media should call Martin Osler on 07739 185 522 or martin@oslermedia.com
One of the highlights was Liz Cameron from the chamber of commerce giving her ringing endorsement to the teachers and the schools involved with this award but also her very sincere endorsement of Curriculum for Excellence a very welcome statement of support and one that I think will motivate teachers and schools to do what they do best and teach our children how to be the best they can be.

Well I was having a wee spot of dinner with my friend Roseanna when she reminded me that it had been 15 years since she had won the Perth and Kinross by-election so of course we did have a wee toast just to celebrate the fact that the Tories said at the time "it was just a midterm protest vote".  Some protest!!! So here's a wee treat for you to just relive the protest.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K7zspMukkU  Well done Roseanna for not only winning the by-election but holding it ever since.

Also some more excellent news and I hope you all join with me in congratulating John Swinney and his lovely wife Elizabeth Quigley on the news that they are expecting a baby. I remember Winnie Ewing saying as a joke of course, if we cant vote them out we could possibly breed them out!!! I think that all the baby Nats who have been born over that last few years have us well on our way to that goal. Ah but when do your kids ever do what their parents tell them.

Right I'm off home to spend some time with my little darlings. Have a great weekend….

Christina McKelvie MSP
Central Scotland


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