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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
26th September 2013


Independence Rally

It’s been a fantastic week! The Yes clans came together in no uncertain terms. Some 30,000 people, in fact, from many different countries and right across this one, to join in support for Scottish Independence. We know there were 30,000 because we counted them all in!

They marched for an hour from just below our iconic Edinburgh Castle, over the bridge and up onto Calton Hill from where we could look over the entire, beautiful capital.

Here’s a picture of what Calton Hill looks like on a lovely sunset Edinburgh evening:

And here’s just a couple of rally pictures to show Calton Hill to you in, well, a rather different light! The atmosphere was truly Electric Scotland…

You can see lots more pictures here: http://tinyurl.com/qh4s742


The crowds gathering along the North Bridge on the way to Calton Hill


He doesn’t really need any introduction….

It was an amazing day with a tangible Yes buzz in the crowd and among the speakers. Our first Scottish Asian speaker, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (www.tasmina.eu ), who’s standing for Europe next May, really gave it her all. It seems as if addressing 30,000 people just comes naturally to some!


Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh speaks to 30,000 Yes supporters

At the Scottish Parliament

Inside the Parliament, we’ve had a string of important debates. One in particular that is of special interest to me was about the secretive and disgusting practice of Blacklisting.

This is where companies, most commonly either in the oil and gas or construction sectors, blacklist individuals, thus making sure they can’t get work. Why do they do it? Because it’s all so secretive, we can really only speculate about the reasons. Individual victims will soon guess what’s happened when they find themselves repeatedly turned down for contract work.

They might go to their Union but they too are constrained in the fight. No company guilty of Blacklisting is going to own up and say ‘oh sorry, we’ll stop that now.’

Anecdotally, I’ve heard some reasons given: there’s been some kind of row between two workers, or there’s a woman involved somewhere. Someone took too much sick leave or turned up late twice. It may have nothing to do with work at all but with some kind of row about something else entirely – which football team you support perhaps - or just a means of getting back at someone you don’t like.

Whatever the alleged ‘crime,’ there is certainly no judge and no jury; just a guilty in absence verdict.

The Scottish Government has been fighting Blacklisting for years, pressurising the private sector to outlaw it and seeking to make sure that firms with a history cannot get the kind of lucrative public sector projects they would like.

So it was good to see the First Minister signing off the Procurement Reform Bill over to the Parliament. The Bill sets down some very important enhancements, one of which refers to eliminating Blacklisting.

We have been working alongside the Scottish Trades Union Congress (www.stuc.org.uk) since April to find an effective way of ending this abhorrent practice. The new powers will mean that regulations will be made so that if a company is found guilty of Blacklisting it will not be able to qualify for public sector contractual obligations unless it is able to demonstrate that it has mended its ways in terms of how matters are taken forward.

The Scottish Government Budget

We also had the Budget for 2014-15. You can see the speech here from the UK but you’ll need VPN from the States: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-24045319

The key points are:

·        Westminster has cut Scotland’s budget by 11% in real terms for the next five years and capital spending by over 26%

·        Additional 125 fully funded hours of early learning and childcare to be delivered.

·        Drive investment in affordable housing of over £1.35 billion over 4 years.

· Provide £24 million for a National Performance Centre for Sport.

· Secure £8 billion of infrastructure investment over the next 2 years.

·        Invest £522 million in colleges next year rising to £526 million in 2015-16.

·        Provide at least £68 million in each of the next two years to mitigate the impact of UK welfare cuts and a further £20 million this financial year to limit the impact of the bedroom tax.

·        £33 million per year for the Scottish Welfare Fund.

·        Maintain a Council Tax freeze across Scotland.

·        Maintain the Council Tax reduction scheme.

· Continue social way commitments, free prescriptions, concessionary travel and free personal care.

·        Protect the NHS budget.

· Protect the Local Government budget.

·        Maintain a Scottish Living Wage for public sector workers.

· Reject UK plans to reform pay progression.

·        Provide £120 million funding in 2015-16 to assist health and social care integration.

Please forgive me for that long list but it just shows what a smart Cabinet Secretary like John Swinney (http://tinyurl.com/omlyyg3 }can manage to achieve even within the reduced money we’re getting back from Westminster. There are still people, especially in England, who labour under the delusion that Scotland gets more money out of London’s Treasury than it puts in.

Another myth from the No campaign. In fact, we put over £1,000 per Scottish family into the London Treasury than we get back out from it. Add in oil and gas revenues, which of course London gets, not Scotland, and that equates to around £1,500.

All of which underlines just how crucial it is that we get our own levers of power on 18 September 2014. Then John Swinney can reveal even more of what he’s so good at even in these restrained times.


Christina with Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney MSP

Justice and Corroboration

There’s an important Scottish Criminal Justice Bill gradually working its way through the Committee stages just now. It recommends some pretty fundamental changes made partly on the basis of a Review commissioned from Lord Carloway, an eminent Judge. You can see it here: http://tinyurl.com/nfskqy7

One of the things Lord Carloway recommends very strongly is that the Scottish judicial system changes the law on corroboration. He argues that it disadvantages, even discriminates, particularly against women who are victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

Corroboration is clearly virtually impossible for a woman who is brutally attacked in her home by her partner. She may be raped, battered, humiliated – but how does she prove it when she has to have two independent witnesses to uphold her complaint?

Violent and abusive partners do not normally carry out their crimes in view of others, with the possible exception of their children who may be very young and who will in any event be unable to provide disinterested evidence to a court.

Organisations such as Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland (among others) support this position, as do I, and I spoke in a Tory debate seeking to abandon this change on Wednesday. You can see the full debate here: http://tinyurl.com/6og2ar3

Some people fear that if you remove the essential requirement for two witnesses, you are somehow risking more miscarriages of justice but research tell us that is not at all the case.

Since I’m co-convenor of the cross-party Committee on Men’s Violence Against Women, (http://tinyurl.com/nlasx7v ) I’ve seen more than enough tragic evidence to persuade me that women need more support to ensure that the men who abuse them face proper court proceedings. There is a host of safeguards already in place to make sure we don’t get caught up in vexatious cases and we may even add more.

The idea that we could withhold justice from someone because there is no witness to an alleged crime carried out in private is simply wrong. Most other countries don’t have this requirement. In fact, Lord Carloway couldn’t find a single comparable country carrying that restraint.


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