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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
15th June 2013


Yes Hamilton (www.yesscotland.net) gets officially up and running on Monday and Iím delighted to be going along to speak at the Low Waters Miners Welfare Social Club alongside Dennis Canavan in support of our activists. The leader this time is one of my own staff, Josh Wilson, whoíll be welcoming people to the event. Well done Josh and hereís to the next 15 months of campaigning for an independent Scotland. I know that Yes Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse has already been busy delivering thousands of leaflets and this initiative will draw in new supporters to work for Scotlandís future.

Slightly further from home, itís worth mentioning that weíre now in the last week of campaigning for the by-election in Aberdeen Donside. This is the MSP seat that was held by the lovely Brian Adam who finally yielded to illness a couple of months ago. Hoards of MSPs, staff and supporters Ė including all of Brianís own family Ė have been busy out on the streets canvassing and campaigning for Mark McDonald. Leaflets and newspapers have been produced, debates on radio and television broadcast, so letís all hope that the SNP legacy Mark brings is as strong as Brianís in terms of the vote of support we secure.

On Tuesday, I held a Memberís Debate in the Parliament on a subject that regular readers will know is close to my heart. My Dad died as a result of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) 30 years ago so Iíve seen the sheer brutality of this disease at first hand. From diagnosis to death is usually about 14 months. First comes the loss of the ability to walk and use your arms, then you lose the power of speech. You canít dress or wash yourself and you become very weak as your muscles deteriorate. Ultimately, you will need help just to breathe.

So you might imagine that in the intervening years successive Westminster governments would have become a little more compassionate, a little more caring, about its sufferers. But no. The current Coalition Governmentís welfare reforms seem to want to further victimise the victims.

My motion, with the support of MND Scotland (www.mndscotland.org.uk) seeks to reverse the inhumane treatment these so-called reforms are delivering to folk with MND. My 55 year old constituent who has the disease has had his home adapted for his specific needs. He has been told he must pay the Bedroom Tax or move house. Another constituent, a man of 40, had to give up work when his motor function deteriorated and his arms became very weak. He was assessed and deemed fit to work.

The reforms mean that someone with MND will have to undergo a Work Capability Assessment to access their benefits. A person who is terminally ill, perhaps barely able to walk never mind work, with reduced and reducing motor function, will be subjected to the indignity and stress of a long interview, assessment and form-filling to prove that he or she is far too ill to work.

It is a waste of taxpayerís money Ė sadly, people with MND can only get worse; they donít get better Ė and these assessments will deliver the inevitable results. MND Scotland shouldnít need to be wasting its time and limited resources to lobbying for change to the benefit system that Scotland never voted for in the first place.

Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has just announced the first report from the Expert Working Group on Welfare Reform (http://tinyurl.com/q5v87ul)  which is very timely. It looks at how an independent Scotland might initially deliver its welfare system and it sets out the views of key stakeholders on the immediate priorities for welfare policy change.

Another area that Iíve been closely identified with across the years is that invidious and underground one of human trafficking and alongside it, the treatment of asylum seekers, especially young ones. I spoke to a Motion put forward by my colleague, Aileen Campbell, MSP, on these two related subjects on Thursday.

With the UNHCR World Refugee Week (http://tinyurl.com/42szqv9) coming up (17-23 June), the motion underlined the importance of the Scottish Guardianship  Service (http://tinyurl.com/qb8gtoe) and the great work that it does.

The UK Border Agency sees it as fit and proper to treat children as young as 10 or 11 years old in the same way that it handles adults. They may be asylum seekers or victims of human trafficking Ė sometimes both. That means fingerprinting, photographs and lengthy interviews, probably through an interpreter, plus the preparation of a testimonial that you probably wonít understand even though upon it will depend your right to stay and be cared for.

Scotland has a model system, supported by the Scottish Government, which provides guardians for each individual; someone to help them understand this confusing and incomprehensible world of bureaucracy and legal rights.

All of the evidence points to just how helpful this model is. The Guardians are able to deal with the enormous complexity of their work because they have the qualifications and skills to do so. They are thoroughly trained, supervised and supported and they are committed to the young people they work with and for.

The Scottish Government has already pledged to develop the Guardianship programme so that young people entering Scotland in this way will have someone they can trust and rely upon to help their case. Not a civil servant, but an advocate who understands and who cares about that individual childís future.

Itís another example of how much fairer, more caring and more imaginative Scotland is when able to make its own decisions. Since immigration policy is a Reserved Matter, the Scottish Government has no direct control over it. The most we can hope to do is what we are doing Ė mitigate the impact as far as possible.

How I long for the time when we will have that control. Bring on independence.


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