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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
27th June 2013


Mark McDonald won the by-election in Aberdeen by a healthy majority over the Labour party. It was a busy period for pretty much all of our MSPs and hundreds of activists, many of whom had never before seen those corners of Aberdeen.

The by-election took place because of the sad passing of Brian Adam, our much-loved and very highly regarded MSP who finally yielded to cancer. None of us would have chosen that by-election but perhaps Brian is smiling down upon it all. He will be congratulating Mark, who must be exhausted after all that treading the sidewalks, knocking the doors and talking to thousands of people.

He was delighted, though, to be sworn in – or back in actually, since he gave up his List Seat to fight for this Constituency one – to the Parliament on Tuesday this week and all of us know we have a fine colleague in place.


Mark McDonald, MSP, being sworn in at the Scottish Parliament
Picture courtesy of the Scottish Parliament

If there’s been a single clear theme this week, it’s in the subject of children and young people. I visited the Royal Mile Primary School a few days back. It’s situated literally next door to the Parliament and we often hear the children laughing and playing outside at lunchtime. That’s a rather cheering noise when you’re buried deep in a heavy workload!

I was visiting the school in my role as Convener of the Committee for European and External Affairs. Members have been looking closely at how we teach foreign languages in Scottish primary schools and whether perhaps we can do it better.

The Scottish Government has launched an initiative to increase foreign language learning in our primary schools. We want children to have the skills and knowledge of other languages so that they will have the confidence to go and visit other countries, perhaps study or work there, and enrich their lives and opportunities as a result.

Our Committee Report (http://tinyurl.com/nj5yew2) follows up on the recommendations of the Scottish Government’s Languages Working Group (http://tinyurl.com/qchlgw4 ) The plan is to follow the EU’s 1+2 model – that is, your mother tongue plus two additional languages. An additional 4m has been allocated to the initiative.

So it was great to see in practice how it’s starting to work at Royal Mile. I sat with the youngsters as they were learning French. They clearly loved it and had none of the inhibitions about trying out their accent that we develop as we get older. It was as natural to them as their native language.

It is so encouraging to watch them learn and absorb so easily and enthusiastically. I wish I’d be taught another language in that way when I was seven or eight. That’s a really valuable skill that is going to not only build additional career options but build confidence and opportunity too.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know how much I support the work of The Street – a youth theatre group who devise their own dramas about knife crimes, drug abuse and other disruptive or anti-social behaviour. These kids have been there, done that, felt the consequences and  that means they have the power to speak to their peers.

The Street comes under the overall Regen:fx Youth Trust in South Lanarkshire (http://tinyurl.com/c24g72e ). I was really thrilled to see them win an award at the Regen:fx event, alongside four other diverse groups. Well done to you all!

I was just as impressed by a rather different kind of group earlier this week. One Parent Families Scotland held its local Transforming Lives Belshill and Hamilton Celebration. I was presenting some very special young mums with certificates marking the completion of a course that they tell me has indeed transformed their lives.

The dynamic local leader of this group of young, single mothers, some only 16 or 17, runs a fantastic 10 week course to help the lassies get a real handle on their confidence and on how they can best reach for a fulfilling, happy and productive life for both themselves and their child or children.

Let Margaret tell you a bit more: “Over and above an initial two day course, we are heavily involved with the young mums dealing with the numerous issues that arise from the sessions that are delivered.

“After the course we work with the mums for as long as needed – some are only weeks; others can take much longer – it’s all down to the individual and we adopt an holistic approach to deal with whatever has to be done.”

Listening to these young ladies talking about what the programme has done for them is the most telling evidence of all. They got up, they spoke articulately, they explained how their lives had been changed and that is a real testament to Margaret’s success.

The sessions cover a lot of ground – dealing with practical issues like housing and money, looking towards employment opportunities, getting qualifications, building a positive attitude, discussing good qualities of your own, listening to others, communications, trust and how to get the support you need as a young and perhaps isolated mum.

I’m planning, after the recess, to invite these young mums to a reception at the Parliament so that they can share their positive experience with other MSPs and explain more about the support they have got.

The Parliament goes off on recess this week but I’ll be back in touch soon to tell you what’s going on in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.


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