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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
23rd December 2010


New beginnings in the New Year

It has been a very busy year for us in the Scottish Parliament, legislation passed, reports published and many many questions asked. It is indeed the job of this Parliament to legislate and monitor that any legislation is fit for purpose and actually delivers for people in Scotland.

We have had a bit of a reshuffle with Keith Brown MSP moving into the role of transport minister in very challenging circumstances indeed.  One of those many challenges is the extreme weather we are experiencing not just in Scotland but across the UK and Europe and that has meant for some that getting home for Christmas is a big challenge too, I do hope that the work being done by airports, rail companies, bus companies, local authorities and government means that they can all be at home for Christmas. Some commentators seem to imply that the nature of good Government is the good Government of nature but mother nature has clearly demonstrated………she is definitely in charge!!! So wrap up, keep warm and make sure if you travel you are prepared for any eventuality.

2010 has been tough for many folk in the Hamilton area, I am the candidate in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse in May 2011, but a look back over the year reminds me that this area also has much to celebrate. We have so many local organisations, community groups and individuals who work hard day and daily to make a difference. Whether it’s the Citizens Advice Bureau, Carers Network, Salvation Army, church groups, sports clubs, tenants associations, youth groups or countless others, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse is full of people who are volunteering their own time to help others. That’s something that we can be proud of.

And as we sit shivering in this freezing weather, it’s also important that we don’t forget the members of the emergency services, posties, businesses and everyone else who are doing everything they can to serve our communities in particularly difficult conditions. We also remember our troops serving abroad and their loved ones.

For me, there isn’t room to list all of my highlights of 2010: opening the Hillhouse Fun Day in the summer, speaking to church groups in Quarter and Cadzow about the campaign against human trafficking, and joining volunteers in a community clean-up of Neilsland Nature Trail are just some of them. I’ve been privileged to visit many fantastic local organisations such as Lanarkshire Rape Crisis Centre, the Liber8 project in Blantyre or Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau, to name but a few. I’m always impressed by the energy, dedication and commitment to their communities that I find in the people and local groups that I meet.

I’ve also met many people who have been determined to stand up and fight for what they think is right – such as the parents who successfully campaigned against closures of local nurseries, the people in Eddlewood who have been making their voice heard against the removal of the community’s school bus, or the local forces families who spoke to me at the Remembrance Day Service about the UK government’s proposed cuts to war pensions. It’s good to know that people are willing to stand up and be counted on behalf of their communities.

Its smashing when something you support parents to campaign for actually becomes a reality.  Children at Woodlands Nursery in Hamilton received a festive surprise this week with the donation of a free Christmas tree from Christina McKelvie MSP. The nursery was one of those recently reprieved from being axed by South Lanarkshire Council.

The Scottish Forestry Commission offers Christmas trees to MSPs to donate to local organisations each year.

I chose Woodlands Nursery as the destination for my tree this year, after the staff, parents and pupils fought a brave campaign to save it and other nurseries in South Lanarkshire. The Christmas tree is a wee celebration of their successful efforts. It was lovely to see the pleasure that the children got from decorating their tree. Here is a wee picture of me with some of the children, parents and staff. Can I also congratulate Padmolka Smith the head teacher at Woodlands and wish her well in her retirement, she will be greatly missed and leaves a nursery which is still open and a testament to the great work she and her staff have done over the year for the children in this area.

I am sure you will agree that the children did a great job decorating the tree and what a cute little group they are.

On Tuesday morning I was up at 6.30 am to see the lunar eclipse it was the first one on a winter solstice for nearly 500 years. During a lunar eclipse, the Moon, the Earth, and the Sun align so that the Sun's rays are shielded from the Moon. An eclipse of the Moon can only take place if it is full, and only if the Moon passes through some portion of Earth's shadow, which is composed of two cone-shaped parts, one nested inside the other. This alignment does not happen every month because the Moon's orbit is also tilted from the Earth's orbit at about 5 degrees and it also rotates. We had a wonderful view from my house but the best picture I saw that day was this one…..

The last time Scotland saw this was when she was a free independent nation and maybe the new moon will bring with it a new beginning and hopefully a turning point for our great nation. On that point I was thrilled to see the Angus Reid poll has us up 9 points in Westminster voting intentions, that is a fantastic result and a clear validation of the good government of Scotland by the SNP.

And talking about our future as a nation here is a wee press release I put out in support of re-instating Fresh talent. Christina McKelvie MSP has called for the reinstatement of the Fresh Talent Initiative as the UK Government moves to abolish post-study visas.

The previous Fresh Talent Working in Scotland scheme allowed international graduates of Scottish universities to apply to remain in Scotland and contribute to our economy for two years after graduation.  The scheme was abolished by Gordon Brown’s government in 2008 and merged with the “Tier 1 Post Study Work Visa” scheme covering the whole of the UK.

SNP Central Scotland MSP Ms McKelvie has written to External Affairs Minister Fiona Hyslop asking her to explore with the UK Government re-instating Fresh Talent alongside devolving controls over migration to Scotland.

Commenting, Ms McKelvie said:

“The Fresh Talent Initiative was welcomed by the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce when it was launched in 2004, and should be reinstated now.

“People who study at our universities should be able to apply to work in Scotland for a couple of years after graduation to prove themselves as highly skilled workers, giving benefits back to Scotland.  We spend a lot of money on our universities and they contribute massively to our country but we should be looking for every opportunity to get something back for Scotland out of that investment.

“We heard from business leaders, the External Affairs Minister, COSLA and the STUC earlier that the cap on immigration being introduced by the Tory Government in London would be “likely to impede Scotland’s economic recovery and distort the labour market” and reinstating Fresh Talent would help address that.

“Fresh Talent was a Scottish solution to a Scottish problem; it was abolished by Gordon Brown’s Government and now the Tory Government is abolishing its replacement.  Without the return of Fresh Talent Scotland will be left without the means to retain talented graduates from outside Europe even though they got their degree from a Scottish university.  Our universities train thousands of talented people and we would be sending them away instead of putting their talents to work boosting our economy and creating more jobs.

“Reinstating the Fresh Talent Initiative for Scotland is a sensible and practical solution and that’s what the Home Office should be doing.  Without full powers for the Scottish Parliament we unfortunately have to rely on the UK Government to do this but it’s a move that Scotland needs.”

Notes:

Fresh Talent was launched 25th Feb 2004
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/officialreports/meetingsparliament/or-04/sor0225-02.htm#Col5940

Fresh Talent abolished by Labour in 2008
http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/tier1/freshtalent/freshtalentscotland/

Home Office consulting on removing all provision
http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/consultations/students/student-consultation.pdf?view=Binary

Scotland needs to be able to grow and to do that we need to create the right condition to keep our graduates in Scotland and economically active but we also need to ensure that we can attract the most talented people from across the world and encourage them to make Scotland their home. I remember my old Granny telling me that there is 3 types of people in the world. 1. Those who are blessed to be born in Scotland, 2. Those who have the foresight to make Scotland their home and 3. Everyone else who wish they were born or had settled in Scotland.

Me I think we are all Jock Tamsons bairns.

So to finish up here is wee bit of Robert Burns for the festive season.

OLD Winter, with his frosty beard,
Thus once to Jove his prayer preferred:
“What have I done of all the year,
To bear this hated doom severe?
My cheerless suns no pleasure know;
Night’s horrid car drags, dreary slow;
My dismal months no joys are crowning,
But spleeny English hanging, drowning.
 
“Now Jove, for once be mighty civil.
To counterbalance all this evil;
Give me, and I’ve no more to say,
Give me Maria’s natal day!
That brilliant gift shall so enrich me,
Spring, Summer, Autumn, cannot match me.”
“’Tis done!” says Jove; so ends my story,
And Winter once rejoiced in glory.

I would like to wish my constituents and all of my Electric Scotland readers all the very best for a peaceful and happy festive period.

Merry Christmas and best wishes to everyone for a Guid New Year in 2011.

Christina McKelvie MSP


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