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;
Then my next question
was to Kenny MacAskill about the problems faced by people who have
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.
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
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.
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.