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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
9th December 2010


Snow funny…….

Scotland looks like a scene from the day after tomorrow but that is just a movie whereas what we have had to cope with over the last two weeks is real, very real indeed. I made a decision at 9am on Monday morning to instruct my staff not to travel to work. We got through quite a bit using phone and email so all was not lost. But I was glad I had made that decision as it saved them getting caught up in the extraordinary events of Monday morning. I am not going to go into who, why and what but I will say that it would have been impossible not to be overtaken by mother nature. So it was with the power of nature in my mind that I made my journey to Edinburgh on Wednesday. I have never experienced such difficult driving conditions in my life and with hindsight maybe I should not have embarked on that journey. A journey that usually takes just over an hour took three hours because I had to drive at around 10 miles an hour in temperatures of -16 degrees. When I got to Harthill I was confronted with one of the most amazing scenes I have witnessed on the west bound carriageway there was gritters then ice breakers then more gritters and finally tractors with scoops lifting sheets of ice 6 inches thick, they looked like paving stones. There was no way that any vehicle could have driven on that as it was treacherous. On my return journey tonight I was astonished to drive on an ice free surface and was home in about 1 hour 15 mins big difference from Wednesday morning. My thanks goes to the hard working dedicated staff who worked their collective butts off to get Scotland moving again. There was amazing stories of local people, churches, neighbours and emergency services helping folk trapped on the roads out, there are stories of people building snow men and having snow fights as they waited for rescue. This is a great example of Scotland's great attitude in difficult circumstances however we also heard heart breaking stories of people trapped on the roads who where sick or travelling with children and for their sakes we need to ensure that lessons are learned to protect people in this type of severe weather.

So I hear you say why make the journey at all Christina? Well I knew that if I was very careful and gave myself lots of time and the fact that I have a winter survival kit in my car that I could get to my work place and continue the work of the parliament. We had the Autism Bill to consider in the education committee. I also had a number of letters to send out to constituents and I also had two questions to prepare. My first question was to the Alex Salmond Scotland's First Minister you can watch this here; http://www.holyrood.tv/popup.asp?stream=http://vr-sp-archive.lbwa.verio.net/archive/091210_FMQs.wmv

Then my next question was to Kenny MacAskill about the problems faced by people who have been trafficked; http://www.holyrood.tv/popup.asp?stream=http://vr-sp-archive.lbwa.verio.net/archive/091210_TQT.wmv

I also met with Amnesty to support their manifesto which promotes human rights education across all sectors of Scottish life. Here are some details and a wee picture of me with the Amnesty placard. www.amnesty.org.uk/scotland  check out the work Amnesty do.

So getting back to my question to the First Minister here is what I said; First Minister Alex Salmond today said that he hoped that Westminster MPs will vote against the enormous rise in university tuition fees proposed by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, saying that if the increase goes ahead it will have significant consequences for Scottish education.

The First Minister was responding to a question from Lanarkshire-based MSP Christina McKelvie about the impact of any tuition fees rise on Scottish education. He confirmed that SNP MPs will vote against the rise and called on other Scots MPs to do the same.

Speaking after the exchange at today’s First Minister’s Question Time, SNP MSP Christina said:

Scottish students are supported by an SNP government which not only abolished tuition fees in Scotland, but which is also committed to maintaining free access to higher education.

“Students south of the border are not so lucky. But any rise in tuition fees for them will also have a deleterious effect on Scottish students and Scottish education, causing knock-on cuts to Scottish education budgets at a time when they are already under severe pressure.

“During the Westminster election campaign, I joined SNP candidates and politicians across Scotland in signing the National Union of Students’ pledge to oppose any rise in tuition fees – the same one that was signed by the Lib Dems. Unlike them, though, the SNP will stand by the promise that we made on tuition fees – as the First Minister confirmed today.

“This is a big issue for Lanarkshire, where there has been a significant increase in the numbers of students in recent years. Academic institutions such as the University of the West of Scotland campus in Hamilton and Motherwell, Coatbridge, South Lanarkshire and Cumbernauld colleges are helping to drive forward the area’s long term economic recovery through excellence in higher and further education. What’s bad for our students and education is bad for Lanarkshire as a whole.

“That’s why I, along with my SNP colleagues, will continue to stand firm on my pledge to oppose Tory-Lib Dem plans which will punish students and damage universities and colleges.”

That’s why I was outside the Scottish Parliament at 4.30pm today to stand in solidarity with Scotland's students and the Cabinet Secretary for Education. We are very proud to believe in Free Education. Education should be about the ability to learn not the ability to pay and I am extremely proud of the students who came to the parliament today because they came and expressed their views without any of the extraordinary scenes on my TV tonight from London.

I know Alastair likes this diary to have lots of pictures so in that spirit here are some pics of me at the rally with our students.

And just so you can see its not all negative stuff about the snow and here is a wee picture I took of the view from my office this afternoon. It never ceases to amaze me how fantastic a building the Scottish parliament actually is. This is the garden lobby from above;

Speak to you all next week…….. keep warm and safe.

Christina McKelvie MSP
Central Scotland


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