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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
14th October 2013


Ann Rowling Clinic Opens

As regular readers will be aware, I have a particular interest in awareness and fund-raising for the cause of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and other degenerative illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MND killed my father in less than a year and is a horrendously distressing disease where its victims rapidly lose all control of every physical and mental faculty until the body just gives up.

So I was pleased to join famous author, JK Rowling, at the official opening of the Anne Rowling Clinic. HRH Princess Anne, who is Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, did the formal honours. JK Rowling is the founder of the Clinic – her mother suffered from MS so, like me, she has a particular desire to increase awareness and research into these crippling diseases.

The event took place at the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic campus which is within the grounds of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. It is a charitable research facility focusing on a wide range of neurological conditions, especially neurodegenerative diseases.

That means that as well as MS and MND, its staff are researching conditions like Parkinson’s disease and the range of dementias, an ever-growing problem as we all live longer lives these days.

As the motion I’ve put up in the Parliament says, the facility aims to improve the lives of patients through research, translation of laboratory findings into clinical trials and, ultimately, new therapies. The Clinic was established in 2010 with a £10 million donation from the Edinburgh-based author, JK Rowling, famous for her Harry Potter novels and is named in memory of her mother, who died from MS at just 45 years of age.

Reserve Forces and Cadets Association

My friend and colleague, Transport and Veterans Secretary Keith Brown, MSP, hosted a Parliamentary Reception for the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association (RFCA) this week.

The event was designed to raise awareness of these associations throughout Scotland. Colonel Angus Taverner, Chairman of Highland RFCA, explained how these groups play a vital supporting role in supporting Reservists and engaging with local communities as citizen volunteers.

This includes working with youth movements whose members can enjoy an experience that is both challenging and fun, but importantly develops their self confidence, leadership, respect for others and helps put in place a sense of responsibility and citizenship among those aged between 13 and 18.

It was a real pleasure to join the event and find out more about what the tremendous contribution that these citizen volunteers across the country actually make.

Blacklisting

The idea of construction workers in particular (though this happens in the oil and gas sector as well) having their names added to a ‘blacklisted’ database is reprehensible. The victims are often trade union reps raising health and safety concerns with the employer, or the so-called reasons can be even more obscure.

I was glad to hear that the eight biggest blacklisting firms have now announced a proposal for a compensation scheme for the workers who were victims of this illegal practice. But as the Blacklist Support Group members have said, it may be a good move but it’s not quite time to crack open the champagne just yet (http://tinyurl.com/3apm9ge). Still, it is welcome news and I have tabled a motion in the Parliament saying so.

These companies want and need to prove that they have ceased this abhorrent practice before they will be considered for big public sector contracts, so it is very much in their own interests to get this right. It does your corporate reputation no good to have been involved in this sort of abusive activity.

An organisation called the Consulting Association has been at the centre of this conspiracy, holding a centralised blacklist. The companies have dissociated themselves from this outfit and expressed regret about their involvement.

But the victims are going to want – and deserve – more than apologies and vague promises.


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