Last weekend I had the great pleasure
of being invited one again to the Scots Independent Oliver Brown
awards. This year the recipient of the award was Billy Kay he
regaled us with stories of his travels and the sense of pride when
visiting countries in south east Asia, Hawaii and Europe and
experiencing great warmth and friendship from people who had
experienced the same warmth when visiting Scotland or spending time
with people from Scotland. Billy joined the BBC as a researcher in
1979, then as a producer, he created the acclaimed Odyssey series of
documentaries recording the oral history of the Scottish working
class. Later as a freelance writer and broadcaster he continued this
theme in a number of Television documentaries for BBC Scotland.
These included the story of Scottish colliers - "Miners", and "The
Mother Tongue". He has written two plays for Radio and one for the
stage, "They Fairly Mak Ye Work" which broke box office records at
Dundee Rep in its two runs at the theatre in 1986. He has poetry and
short stories published in several Scottish anthologies. In 1992 his
play for Radio Scotland, Lucky´s Strike - set in Ayrshire during the
miners strike - won the Sloan Prize for writing in Scots at St
Andrews University. In 1994 the U.K. Wine Guild gave the "best radio
or tv programme" award to Kay´s feature "Fresche Fragrant Clairettis".
In 1999 he made a television series on Scots for Channel 4 Schools -
Haud Yer Tongue and in 2003, he represented Scotland at the
Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC. Recently, he has
presented and produced an average of ten new features per year on
Radio Scotland. In 2006, Mainstream Publishing issued a brand new
edition of his classic "Scots: The Mither Tongue" while his new book
"The Scottish World" was launched at the Edinburgh International
Book Festival in August 2006. I was fortunate enough to buy one of
Bill's books "The Scottish World" and I started reading it
immediately, one quote that jumped out at me was by the great Hugh
MacDiarmid it reads;
For we ha’e faith in Scotland’s hidden
poo’ers, The present’s theirs, but a’ the past and future’s oors.
That quote says it all the future is ours and the future for
Scotland is Independence. We just need to realise her hidden powers.
Now the Oliver Brown award is named
after a great Scottish political and cultural activist, the late W
Oliver Brown and is given to the person who has done most to promote
Scottish identity and self-confidence. Previous winners have
included Norman MacCaig, Winnie Ewing, Phil Cunningham and Paul
Scott. Billy is certainly a worthy recipient to follow in the
footsteps of this great Scot.
Tuesday night I was at Calderside
academy in Blantyre for a fantastic awards ceremony. The children
receiving the awards and there were lots of them were an absolute
credit to their parents and school but more importantly they were a
credit to themselves. Calderside was also saying goodbye to their
head teacher Freda Hutchison and a wonderful tribute was paid to her
by Rev David Birt of Hillhouse parish church
http://www.hillhousechurch.com/ I am sure Freda will be
missed and her contribution to Scottish education over 30 plus years
will be not be forgotten. I wish her well and hope she will be using
her skill and talent in other areas of Scottish life.
Wednesday was an education day; we had
the Cabinet Secretary for Education giving evidence on local
government spend on education in the morning and a debate on stage 1
of the Children's Hearings Bill. You can watch the committee here
The debate was very robust and I
believe that children's hearings should not be used as a political
football. I think any politician worth their salt will ensure that
everyone works together to create the best system that continues to
be welfare based and with the child at the heart of this process.
You can also watch the debate by following this link;
should be up on this page soon.
On Wednesday night I had the great
pleasure in joining some of my wonderful friends at Edinburgh castle
for the Scottish Refugee Council's 25th anniversary get together. It
was a wonderful event with fantastic music and nor forgetting some
lovely food. Our friends from the English based Refugee Council were
blown away with the great hall in the castle and even more blown
away with the brilliant relationship all the organisations at the
event had with the Scottish Government. Michael Russell MSP Cabinet
Secretary for Education spoke about the work and negotiations on
asylum and refugee issues being undertaken by the SNP Government. It
makes my heart sing to hear the stories of people’s lives binge made
better by decisions and actions of this SNP Government, it makes me
very proud to be a member of a party who puts the welfare of people
seeking sanctuary in our land at the top of the agenda.
It was another Thursday morning and
another opposition members debate and guess what the topic was
education and schools. Labour as usual has nothing positive to add
here is my speech which as you can see pulled no punches;
Two hundred and forty-four million pounds in one
That’s how much money was siphoned out of local
authority education budgets straight off, before they’d even bought
a pencil last year.
Two hundred and forty-four million pounds siphoned
off and wasted paying the private profits of bankers who run the
Special Delivery Vehicles of PPP and PFI projects.
Nearly a quarter of a billion pounds a year stripped
out of the scarce resources that local authorities have available
for education – lost as a result of the ‘credit card mortgages’ that
Labour put on Scotland’s school estate and Labour members have the
brass neck to swan into Parliament with a motion complaining about
the scarcity of resources.
And all of that’s before we face the cuts that are
going to be imposed by the Lib Dem and Conservative Government as a
result of the massive economic failures of Gordon Brown and Alistair
The biggest irony of all, I suppose, is that PPP and
PFI were supposed to be fantastic ways of moving the risk of
large-scale capital projects away from the public sector and onto
the private sector.
Somehow it didn’t turn out that way – what little
risk actually did transfer came thundering right back at us when the
UK Government started firing our money at the banks and now we’re in
the interesting position of public money being used to prop up
private financing of public projects where private profit is the
over-riding concern and the public purse is paying through the nose
for the privilege.
5% of the education budget gone, one pound in every
twenty vanished from education resources, and it’s only going to get
Revenue expenditure on education has increased
massively under this Government – it’s now more than double what it
was when Donald Dewar was First Minister – five thousand pounds per
pupil per year in primary School now compared to less than two in
1999 and getting on for seven thousand pounds for every pupil in a
secondary school now compared to just three in 1999.
This Government has made sure that Scotland’s schools
are well resourced and it’s done it in partnership with local
authorities, respecting them, valuing their position and their right
to run their council areas.
Those are the resources that will help deliver the
important changes that are coming in Scottish education, along with
dedicated staff members and committed parents.
I speak to teachers on a regular basis, most of whom
tell me that they are ready to implement the curriculum for
excellence and that they are looking forward to it and,
increasingly, they are telling me that they are sick fed up of
hearing politicians talking them down, saying that they are not able
to implement the new curriculum, suggesting that they are not
professional enough to do their jobs and to do those jobs well.
They tell me that morale is being affected by this
constant onslaught on their professionalism; that teachers are
feeling the pressure, and that parents and pupils are now being
unnecessarily worried by the continual wailing of the harpies, and
that they want it to stop.
Politicians should stop talking Scotland’s education
system down, should stop blighting children’s lives with this petty
point scoring and get on with the job of delivering improvements in
Perhaps opposition Members should listen to the sage
advice of Robert Brown from the old days when he was Deputy Minister
for Education and Young People when he said:
“The curriculum for excellence programme will produce
a curriculum for children from three to 18. Moving to a single
curriculum that starts at age three, with the early stage of the
revised curriculum going to the end of primary 1, has the radical
potential to extend the child-centred, active learning approaches
that are used in nursery into the early years of primary. That is
extremely important. Good work is being done in many schools and
other establishments across Scotland in that regard. From experience
across the sector, we know that transitions are always difficult.
Continuing the active learning style of nursery into primary 1 will
make the transition from pre-school and nursery to school easier. It
is vital that the eagerness and enthusiasm for learning that young
children have in early years settings are maintained throughout
their school careers.”
The last administration had Ministers who did a lot
of work to start the development of the system which SNP Ministers
are now implementing.
It is sad that their colleagues appear willing to
discard that work for the sake of some newspaper headlines and some
petty political point-scoring.
It offers little advantage politically and much
Those Members might wish to reflect on the fact that
ill-considered actions can have serious long-term effects.
They might want to remember that the newly qualified
teachers who cannot find work now entered teacher training under the
last administration as a result of hasty decisions based on poor
workforce planning made by Labour Ministers.
Those newly qualified teachers who cannot find
employment noted in Labour’s motion today are unemployed because
Labour failed them.
They entered teacher training on Labour’s watch to
fill vacancies that Labour predicted but which never came.
It’s a cruel trick Labour played on those young
professionals, a cruel trick.
Labour’s motion is based on false premises and it
hopes to divert attention from its own failings.
It’s just as well we have an SNP Government that’s
working to make Scotland smarter and more competitive, working to
give Scotland’s children the best possible start in life.
Stop Press some good news came my way the other day
and I was honoured to be at the opening a bar/diner in Hamilton.
It’s not often these days to see a new business opening. In these
difficult times it is brilliant to see the opening of a business.
Lynn and Colin Adams opened Hardies in Hamilton tonight and I was
invited along to the event. That’s a picture of Lynn, Colin and
myself outside. Lynn tells me that she will soon be serving
excellent scran and will be ensuring that her world famous steak pie
will be on the menu. If you are in Hamilton I suggest you go along
and try this lovely new place out you can
find it here;
Hardies Wine Bar
25 Chapel Street
Below are some pictures of my
adventures this week
National Epilepsy Week
Billy Kay and Me
Christina McKelvie MSP