Let it snowÖÖÖoh noÖbut on goes the show.
Last Friday I had the great pleasure of speaking at an event at
Govan and Craigton integration network to help launch a new post
card campaign. The card goes to Theresa May the UK Home secretary
calling on the same rights for women asylum seekers fleeing domestic
violence and rape. At present these women are not entitled to the
right of medical help or justice and I think that is a travesty as I
said in my speech Womenís rights are human rights.
Here is the speech; The postcard campaign that weíre all here to
launch today has a fundamental principle at its heart and that is
The campaign aims, of course, to raise awareness of the issues that
face women asylum seekers, the reasons that have driven many of them
to seek asylum, and the numbers who come to the UK having
experienced domestic and sexual violence in their countries of
What the campaign asks for is, quite simply, equal treatment for
asylum seeking women. It asks that they receive the same levels of
legal, healthcare and victim support that women who are settled in
the UK are entitled to.
would, I think, shock many people that equal treatment is not
currently the norm in the UK and that a campaign has to be launched
to seek it. It certainly should be shocking to us that only a few
months after a new Equalities Act was passed in the UK, such a
glaring example of inequality still exists in our society. Rape and
domestic abuse are found in all cultures and women from all
backgrounds experience them. The pain and trauma they cause to women
are not lessened because the initial experience took place in a
why, then, do we not automatically offer the same levels of support
to asylum seeking women that we do to women who are settled here?
If, as a society, we believe that the experience of domestic or
sexual abuse requires a certain level of response from agencies,
surely that response should be offered to all women who need it,
regardless of their residence status in the UK? To do otherwise
suggests that women who are seeking asylum are less worthy than
those who, through the luck of the draw, were either born in the UK
or have been granted leave to remain here.
The fact is, of course, that that is exactly what our current system
does. It does treat asylum seeker women as less worthy and less
deserving of the levels of support that we deem necessary for other
women. The system not only discriminates against asylum seekers, it
treats them with suspicion, casts doubt on their honesty, questions
the veracity of their experiences and the realness of their
feelings. It piles trauma upon trauma.
You might go so far as to say that the system treats asylum seekers
like criminals Ė but, in fact, women in UK prisons are guaranteed a
level of healthcare, for example, that asylum seekers are not.
So, todayís launch is not asking for special treatment or for
something extra for asylum seekers, but simply for equality, to be
given the same level of support and treated with the same degree of
humanity that we would all hope for ourselves and our loved ones.
we believe in the principle of asylum and we believe that women who
have been subjected to domestic and sexual violence are entitled to
treatment and support, then we should not separate those principles
and we should stop treating asylum seeker women as a group apart
within our society, to whom we do not have to apply the same
standards of care.
Letís send the message to Theresa May, loud and clear: Womenís
rights are human rights for all women, and no government has the
right to pick and choose who is entitled to those rights. Iím
delighted to support this campaign, I wish it every success, and Iím
proud to add my name to the fight for equality for our asylum
The link below is a blog entry did for the refugee council on the
Following that event I hotfooted it across Glasgow the be one of the
guest speakers at the Scottish Section of The Showmenís Guild of
Great Britain & Ireland. I talked about the need to end
discrimination and the need for a cross party group on the issues
faced by show people. Below is a link to their website and a lovely
picture of me with the president Mr Philip Paris.
have some wonderful memories of the shows in St Andrews when I was
growing up and every time I go to that luncheon it brings those
memories back. I said in my speech;
Itís particularly appropriate that Iím speaking to the Showmenís
Guild this week Ė if youíve been watching the events in the Scottish
Parliament youíll have seen that it was the political equivalent of
riding the waltzers through the ghost tunnel and finding yourself
still spinning in the hall of mirrors.
There was a right fuss and bustle about whether the Government was
right to stop giving the taxman money. Personally, I think
everybody in the country will be on the side of not giving the
taxman money Ė none at all if possible.
Not that Iím advocating tax evasion you understand. Although I
would advocate simpler forms from the taxman Ė Iíve just finished
doing my return and Iíd rather not do that again for at least
top of the fuss about John Swinneyís excellent mastery of Scotlandís
finances and the excellent job he does as Finance Secretary, we
passed legislation to update the Childrenís Hearings system and we
carried on doing the work in our committees that never gets reported
in the newspapers or on the TV news. It never gets reported because
itís consensual, we work together across party lines and we work
hard to find common ground, find agreement and move Scotland
Bizarrely, it works. We really do have a lot of cross-party
agreement and co-working. The stuff youíll see on TV will be the
set-piece gladiator battles but most of the work we do is
cross-party. As well as the formal work there are cross-party
groups which address issues that MSPs are interested in but donít
tend to come up all that often in the normal day-to-day business of
From architecture to Tibet, sexual health to waste management, and
funerals to the Scots language there are screeds of cross-party
groups in Parliament, but there isnít one that deals with the issues
that can face members of the Showmenís Guild. Not even, as far as I
can see, a more general one covering issues of travelling people Ė
although Iím told by colleagues that there was one in the past on
think there should be one. I think we should be looking at setting
such a group up to make sure that the needs of travelling show
people in Scotland are examined and the issues brought before
politicians. The process of setting a group up is a bit of a guddle
but Iíll look into how itís done. Iím not sure whether there is
time to get it set up before the election in May Ė or even whether
it is worthwhile setting it up before then since so many Members of
the Parliament will change. I think you have to restart after an
election in any case.
Iím not even sure that Iím the right person to be leading the
creation of the new group, but Iíll look at it and see where we can
go with it and Iíll keep in touch with Jane as we go so everyone can
be kept in the loop. I donít know how easy or hard it might be but
you never know that until you take a look and weíll soon find out.
know that Frank McAveety has been trying to set up such a group and
has been having some difficulty getting it going, so Iíll work with
him on that. I can tell you why heís been having difficulties. Iím
not sure I should, but I think itís best just to get the truth out
Thereís a rule in cross-party groups in the Scottish Parliament that
they must have at least one MSP from each of the major parties.
They donít all have to be active, but they do need to put their name
on the membership list.
asked Frank why he couldnít get the group going and he told me that
every Lib Dem MSP he has asked has refused Ė he just canít get a Lib
Dem to step up. I think that if any Lib Dem MSPs are known to you
that leaning on them to join the group might be a useful thing to
do. Iíll help Frank set it up if we can get it done that way. If
not, we might have to wait until after the election and see if the
reluctant MSPs lose their seats.
Iím aware that Brian is co chair of the All-Party Parliamentary
Group on Fairs and Show grounds at Westminster and that that group
has been on the go for about a quarter of a century so I think, if
he agrees, that the Scottish Parliament cross-party group, when it
gets set up, should get in touch with Brian and, through him, his
group so we can learn quick lessons about issues that will be common
right across the UK.
Gathering fast information like that will be eth best way that we
can get started quickly on addressing the issues and learning how to
take things forward.
There will be, of course, issues which are particular to Scotland,
to the issues handled by MSPs, and will have a harder focus in the
Scottish Parliament, issues like access to education when children
are moving around, access to health services, social work services,
and so on.
There will be justice issues as well, issues of prejudice on the
part of non-travellers resulting in injustices being visited upon
travellers as much as anything else. Issues that we can take
directly to the Cabinet Secretaries responsible and ask for them to
Working with Brianís group, I think we can get a link-up across the
jurisdictions that will work, that will help to serve people well,
help to make this country a wee bit better, and will help to improve
understanding across communities.
Iíll take the issue back, Iíll discuss it with Frank, weíll see if
we can bully a Lib Dem, and weíll see what we can do to set the
the meantime, though, I like fairgrounds and I like politics but Iíd
like to separate my politics from the sensation of being on three
fairground rides at once Ė I could do without another week like last
That said, though, Iíll never turn down a shot on the dodgems if
itís going Ė I like the collisions in my fairground rides as much as
in my politics.
Thank you for inviting me and thank you for listening to me.
Now sometimes we get a result and I was delighted with this result;
The parents of these nurseries where in contact with me constantly
and it was smashing to see some of them last week to tell them that
their local nurseries where not closing the relive was palpable.
Good luck to all those parents and children and if they need my help
again next year Iíll be there for them.
whatís the big deal about the snow apart from all sorts of things
cancelled this week including my campaign fundraiser? Well maybe the
3 hour drive to Edinburgh or the cold would damped our spirits but
the plain fact is that we have all coped extremely well from the
people in our emergency services, to doctors, nurses and all health
staff to social care staff to just friendly and caring neighbours
Scotland has shown itself as a nation of folk who care and look
after each other. So if you have neighbours who are poorly or frail
then please make an effort to make sure they are ok. Offer a helping
hand and you will get it back tenfold.
the midst of all this Linda Fabiani MSP and myself joined Angela
Constance MSP in her constituency for a wee fundraiser. The theme
was of course yellow and black and Angela looked resplendent in her
Livingstone football strip. The event was to raise funds for
Angelaís campaign with the three of us as the star turns in an
attempt at stand-up comedy. Now I know you are thinking bit is that
not what they do every week in parliamentÖ..ha-ha.
went down rather well and as it was reflections form Holyrood Ė a
womenís perspective, I announced that we could go on tour with our
very own version of Holyrood Vagina Monologues.
Let me know if you would like us to come to your area with our
fantastic show. You will laugh because we are funny or you will
laugh because we are rubbish but either way you will laugh.
Take care out thereÖ
Christina McKelvie MSP