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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
7th October 2010


One of the fantastic things about getting out my annual report is the volume of replies it generates. My staff may not agree right enough about the volume of work it also generates but I am blessed with hard working and committed staff who always rise to the occasion and do a sterling job.

So last Friday and Saturday morning was full of visits to and from constituents, from housing to business issues and everything in between. It is very humbling to get a visit from someone and to learn of the challenges they face every day and it is very heartening when you can take some of this issues forward and get some sort of resolution for them.

 

After my two visits on Saturday morning I was back in Hamilton town centre for an event with Guide Dogs for the Blind. They were in the town centre raising awareness and money for the wonderful service they offer. I was also very happy to meet some of the puppies who are in training and even at the early stage of the training; they were very disciplined and aware of their job.

 

 

 

I looking forward to accepting an invitation to go along to the training centre to see the very rigorous training these dogs are put through. If you follow my contributions each week you will know about my commitment to Scottish independence, which is matched by my understanding of the power of personal independence. Personal independence is the most valuable thing you can have and someone who is sight impaired having the support of a guide dog and the organisations certainly do have a degree of personal independence.

 

So if you can offer any support to this organisation I would urge you to contact them and give what you can. http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/?gclid=CJvt6f3twKQCFc2EDgodU1zZEwi

 

Again another passion of mine was what took me to Stirling University on Saturday afternoon. I was attending the Motor Neurone Disease Scotland AGM to get an update on the latest issues and the progress the research centre has made. There was a wonderful presentation by a number of fantastic scientists who are making small but sure advances in understanding and hopefully find a cure one day. One thing for sure is that all the people working in the research centre and out with the centre are putting all of their ability into making advances with MND. I always find these events very inspiring and always leave feeling a sense of hope.

 

I'll tell you about two amazing things I saw on Saturday. One is a digital voice bank that banks the voice of someone suffering with MND. It is stored at the research centre and used to give the voice back to someone who has lost their voice. You cannot understand how powerful this technology is, people in the room where in tears because having your own voice is such a huge part of our identity and another way to maintain personal independence.

 

Now talking about personal independence another wonderful piece of technology I got to try out was an electronic machine that looks a bit like an iPad. It had two infra-red cameras in it that focus on your pupils. Once the machine has got used to your eye movements which only takes a few moments, you can then use this technology. The screen has a number of options in picture form on it if you want to watch TV, send a text message, surf the net or telephone someone you focus on that picture and it takes you to that function. I got the chance to send a text message just using my eyes. Can you imagine how absolutely amazing that is? To be able to control your environment and communicate with people using all methods of communication is a brilliant way to maintain your independence. Again the technology is there and I for one will be continuing my support for MND Scotland to ensure that these types of aids and adaptations are continually being developed. Thatís a picture of me with Rob who demonstrated how this machine works.

 

 

I was up with the larks on Sunday morning to speak at Quarter parish church on human trafficking. Quarter parish church has joined the global campaign to 'Stop the Traffik'. They have raised money and raised awareness for the campaign to stop people trafficking. Rev Stevenson gave a very powerful sermon on our responsibility to ensure that we do what we can to ensure that people are not bought and sold for profit and greed and to put pressure on companies who use products harvested by people who have been trafficked. during the service the minister asked the children who should be on their prayer list, one cute little boy with a Glasgow Rangers wrist band on put his hand up and suggested that his rival Celtic should be on his prayer list. I thought that was one of the most Christian things I have heard and obviously Quarter parish church are doing a great job ensuring that young people understand the need to support everyone in a kind and caring manner.

 

Monday brought the rain and another busy day with constituents; I had arranged a meeting with some of the parents of children who have lost their school bus and the local service bus provider. We had a good meeting with the official from the bus group taking on board some of the issues. Issues raised where the frequency and size of the bus, the cost to parents and the challenges faced by the bus company in dealing with 60 kids trying to get on the bus. We gave the official a list of things the parents felt would make the issue a little easier and we are hoping to make some progress for these children and their parents.

 

I was then off to Glasgow city chambers for the Children 1st AGM. We were treated to a smashing DVD about the risk of getting involved in gangs and violence. The DVD was made by a group of youngsters and was a bit like scrooge but the ghost of gang life past being a young man stabbed during a fight. It was a very powerful production and I hope they take it as far as they can in educating other young people about the risks of gang culture. I have invited the boys for a visit to parliament and I am looking forward to them coming through for that visit.

 

When it got to Tuesday I already felt like I had worked a full week but I needed to prepare myself for the children's hearings bill on the Wednesday morning. I have amendments I am moving and I needed to make sure I had all my arguments in order and hopefully clear enough to gain support from all parties on the committee. As these things often work out when we got to the end of the marathon committee which lasted nearly 4 hours we had not got to my amendments and it seems that we will now need additional evening meetings to get through all the amendments before the timescale runs out.

 

It was straight into the chamber after that for stage 3 of the Legal Services Scotland Bill. There were a number of amendments to this too but Fergus Ewing was in sterling form in debate and we got the bill through at the end of the day but it took till 6pm before we got the final vote done. Another piece of promised legislation delivered by the SNP Government for the people of Scotland.

 

No Wednesday for me was still not finished because it was then off to the UCU reception to hear from the new general secretary who was a very interesting and charismatic woman. She spoke about the wonderful welfare based policies we have in Scotland and she expressed her envy for this. She believed as do I in free education, free health care and more accessible politicians. I was proud that this SNP Government has delivered all of these over the past 3 years.

 

youíve guessed it I was still not finished because I then shot down to the garden lobby to meet the lovely folk from the Long Terms Conditions Alliance in Scotland, LTCAS where presenting a video of people who have benefitted from self directed care and they told us about the sense of control and yes you guessed it.......personal independence they gained from directing their own care. There was a worry though that this could be at risk from the decisions of the UK government to cut too deeply and too fast all budgets. I am looking forward to taking part in the LTCAS fringe event at our party conference in Perth next week. I got out of the parliament at 20.10 after being there since 7.55 that morning but I did get to have some dinner with my friends and that allowed me to unwind and to think up my speech for the Skill Strategy refresh debate on Thursday afternoon.

 

I made it through the debate where I raised some issues around gender balance in training and apprenticeships. I asked the Minister for Skill Keith Brown tom look at this issue and try to break the stereotypes of girls = hairdressing, boys = bricklaying. I am please to inform you that he said he would.

 

The last thing I had to do was scoot along the M8 to Hamilton race course and anyone who knows the M8 will know that you crawl alo9ng it not scoot. I was invited there to take part in a discussion about bigotry. The people from Show Racism the Red Card have developed a new teaching pack to challenge and inform young people about the issue of bigotry. Again another powerful and thought provoking video and another cause I will certainly be promoting. Here is a photo of me with some of the young people and some not so young but yet famous footballers.

 

 

Ok I am off home now to collapse on the couch but I leave you with this thought.....how important is your personal independence?

 

Take care,

Christina


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