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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
The Justice Bill


The Justice Bill reached Stage 1 in the Parliament Chamber on its journey to becoming Scottish legislation. An area of contention for some people has been over the issue of corroboration. For myself and my SNP colleagues, the answer is so obvious we struggle to understand the objections to its removal.

The current system means that before you can bring a case in front of the Procurator Fiscal for him to consider whether it should go to court, you must have two objective and independent pieces of evidence.

The trouble with that is if you happen to have been a woman who was raped or you are a victim of domestic abuse, you don’t tend to have objective witnesses to those crimes.

Of course you must have good quality testament and as much evidence as you can get.  But should you be barred from your case even being considered for trial for the absence of those two pieces of evidence?

Currently, there are 2,800 recorded cases of domestic abuse which took place in the last two years, plus another 170 reported rapes that will never be tried in court. Those women are denied recourse to the legal system because of very old and out-dated criteria.


Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny Macaskill MSP

The burden of proof for rape in Scotland is extremely high – currently, not only does the Crown have to prove and corroborate that sexual intercourse took place and the complainer did not consent to it, they also have to prove and corroborate that the accused knew the complainer wasn’t consenting.

I think removal of corroboration will help abused women to push for justice, as is their right and, as a government, our responsibility to help them do so. Continuing it will mean we are denying that fundamental right to justice for an entire group of vulnerable people. There will be no diminution of the evidence requirement, no risk of miscarriages of justice and no question of the courts being suddenly overwhelmed with new cases.

What the removal of the corroboration requirement will do is open up the doors to justice and that to me is a very good thing.

I spoke on the subject in the Chamber last week.

Our Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny Macaskill, has gathered together a vast amount of research and opinion on this whole subject. I find it completely convincing.

You can read the Bill here: http://tinyurl.com/Justice-Bill

And you can watch the full debate here – my contribution comes 58 minutes in - : http://tinyurl.com/Justice-debate

And here you can see the Rape Crisis Scotland’s briefing on corroboration which explains in more detail how important it is for Scotland to remove it, especially in cases involving violence against women: http://tinyurl.com/rape-crisis-centre

 

South Lanarkshire Council

Speaking of equality, I was pleased to finally hear that South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) has admitted that it is guilty of having underpaid women who were doing equivalent work to men. This case has gone on far longer than necessary. The Council must have known that their behaviour was unacceptable but they continued to fight the claim and deny the women a resolution.

Of course, because the obvious result has been made formal, SLC now has to identify some £75 million to settle the claims against it and give the 3000 women affected due justice.


South Lanarkshire Council Headquarters in Hamilton

Yet SLC remains determined not to tell its Council Tax payers just where it’s going to find the money from. Having backed themselves into a corner and been exposed, they Council says it has the money “in reserve.”

Now, you will all be very well aware that Councils throughout the UK are being squeezed and squeezed by Westminster’s Chancellor George Osborne. Savings at enormous levels are being demanded at every turn.

The Council’s budget is £679 million for the coming year, according to Council leader, Eddie McEvoy. Within that, he says, frontline services will be protected despite the pressure on budgets.

So it seems unlikely to me that they would have a useful tidy spare cash bucket of £72 million available without compromising other services and commitments. In my estimation, reading the Council’s own budget figures, the truth is that the reserve is about £30 million.

But they won’t talk about it. Instead, they meet in secrecy, behind closed doors to take their private decisions. Both Eddie McAvoy and chief executive Lindsay Freeland declined requests from the local newspaper, the Hamilton Advertiser, to discuss the matter. You can see that story here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/o6ljwpt

We shall have to wait and see what happens.

Professor Ailsa McKay: Tributes

I was profoundly saddened to hear of the death of feminist economist, Ailsa McKay. At only 50, she had been fighting cancer for a considerable time - and I do mean fighting.


Professor Ailsa McKay, Feminist Economist
at Glasgow Caledonian University

Ailsa’s voice was crucial to the current SNP Government’s decision to commit to hugely extended childcare in Scotland, so encouraging more women to join or re-join the workforce.

The First Minister spoke in the Chamber of her “astonishing contribution” in the campaign for gender equality.

Ailsa McKay was professor of economics at Glasgow Caledonian University and a leading figure in pushing the case for women up the agenda.

This tragically early passing of an inspiring woman grieves us all.

I put forward a motion in Parliament commending her contribution as a board member of the think tank, the Jimmy Reid Foundation and her passionate campaign for Radical Independence in Scotland. See: www.radicalindependence.org

Her work will continue to impact on all of us in Scotland who care profoundly about gender equality.

Marie Curie Daffodil Appeal

Cancer cost Ailsa McKay her life and it will impact in one way or another on most of us, if not for ourselves then someone close to us.

Recovery rates are much better than they used to be and various breast, bowel and cervical screening programmes are pulling many people back from the brink.

All people who have cancer need help and support. No one should face it alone.


At the Marie Curie Cancer Care stand in the Scottish Parliament with patron, Jackie Callender

So I was proud to lend my support to Marie Curie Cancer Care’s Great Daffodil Appeal at the Scottish Parliament last week.

Marie Curie helps care for terminally ill patients and their families across Scotland and they need donations from the public to do so. The money that the appeal raises will help the nurses that the charity employs to provide more free care to local people with terminal illnesses in their own homes and in the two Scottish Marie Curie Hospices in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The Daffodil Appeal is the charity’s biggest fundraising campaign and encourages everyone to give a donation and wear one of the charity’s daffodil pins during March.

Since the first appeal took place in 1986, more than £70 million has been raised to fund the charity’s work.

You can find out more about the Marie Curie Cancer Care appeal here: www.mariecurie.org.uk/daffodil   


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