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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
Another reason for Yes


Though we don’t need any more reasons for voting Yes, Westminster Chancellor George Osborne’s presentation of his budget on Wednesday probably brought another fistful of Yes voters on board.

This is the last UK budget before the Referendum, so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised to hear attempts to undermine Scotland’s economy. The latest is to declare that a fall in oil revenue underlines the ‘precarious’ nature of an independent Scotland’s finances.

Leaving aside for a moment the fact that Scotland doesn’t actually get any of the money lining its shores and has never done so in the 40-odd years since North Sea oil was discovered, there is the small matter of massive new investment in the industry.

So what does Mr Osborne do? He mounts a tax raid that could seriously damage exploration and development activity. So what happened to the commitment to ensure fiscal stability for the sector? http://tinyurl.com/pmf52h6


Westminster Chancellor George Osborne

The experts, like Malcolm Webb, Chief Executive of Oil & Gas UK, finds it “perplexing.” He also says that “this move will drive drilling rigs, already in short supply, out of the UKCS (UK Continental Shelf). http://tinyurl.com/ovsm22f

The move has also faced criticism from Taf Powel, Executive Vice President, International Association of Drilling Contractors who expressed concern at the hypocrisy of the UK Government’s claim that it is seeking to stimulate activity in the North Sea – and pointed out that this is the “latest example of fiscal instability that undermines claims that the UK is open for business.”

There have been several other critics too, including law firm Pinsent Masons, PwC and KPMG

So much for Scotland’s financial stability within the UK. In contrast, Scotland’s Future makes clear that after independence the Scottish Government will ensure a stable fiscal regime for the oil and gas sector, working closely with the industry to ensure the greatest benefit is extracted from the remaining 24 billion barrels of oil. See page 276: http://tinyurl.com/m5zsoxj

Nor does the budget bring any solace to the hard-pressed folk suffering cutbacks in benefits and increasing food prices – just a promise of more of the same to come.

Money for Life Challenge

Over in Larkhall, I was delighted to see that a group of five young people are in the final with a great project to help build a sense of financial responsibility. The scheme, called the Money for Life Challenge, gives out small amounts of capital - £500 – to help a group of young people design a useful project.

It is so important that young people get to grips with financial responsibility from an early age. Surrounded as we are by offers of payday loans and short-term financial deals, an understanding of what you might be getting yourself into is crucial.

With average consumer debt in the UK running at about £54,000 per household, I commend these youngsters who are determined not to follow the kinds of patterns that have got so many people into serious debt.

The team of volunteers, aged between 17 and 20, from South Lanarkshire Youth Council and the Scottish Youth Parliament fought off competition from all over Scotland with their exciting project called Valuable Information Penny Savers (VIPS).

The group has visited local colleges, youth centres and community events to consult with other young people. They then spoke to local credit unions, banks, building societies and payday loan staff about their services, collecting up to date and accurate information.

Using their research, they designed information boards, ran workshops in local communities and trained their members on financial responsibility. The aim was to provide information to young people aged 16 and over who are accessing short term or payday loans without really knowing the risks involved.

A total of five teams will battle it out on Thursday 3 April at 1230 at Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh – next door to us in the Parliament in fact. The winners will go forward to the UK-wide Challenge Grand Final in London on 15 May.

 

Our Dynamic Earth in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh

I have put forward a motion to the Scottish Parliament commending the work of the Larkhall team and wish them every success in the final.


Safer school buses

If you’ve ever been on a school bus, you’ll be well aware of the unfortunate tendency of kids to move around, play with one another, throw bags, drink out of water bottles and eat crisps with abandon.

Trying to keep them safe from harm can therefore be a bit of a challenge for teachers and bus drivers.

So I’m delighted that Keith Brown, our Transport Minister in Scotland, will be introducing new legislation to ensure that all school buses are fitted with seat belts and that children will use them.

As he said, “The Scottish Government and its road safety partners are committed to the outcome of safer road travel in Scotland for everyone. It is imperative that we do everything we can to protect Scotland’s children, ensuring they are as safe as possible as they travel to and from school.” See more here: http://tinyurl.com/pyv6dwg

European Youth Guarantee

We had a great debate in the Parliament this week led by Angela Constance MSP and Minister for Youth Employment. http://www.angelaconstancemsp.org

The subject was the European Youth Guarantee. You can read about it here: http://tinyurl.com/lf55a66 

The concept is really about recognising the critical role that young people will play in delivering long term economic growth throughout Europe.

The issue of youth unemployment is a concern across the globe. In Europe, we’ve all seen the problems of Spain and Italy where unemployment rates have hit over 50 per cent. This is a direct effort by the member nations to work together to make sure people under the age of 25 receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving education.

So far, only 17 EU member countries have signed up to the new proposals, but hopefully the rest will soon follow though the UK doesn’t seem to be in a rush.

This Scottish Government’s commitment to 25,000 Modern Apprenticeships each year for the life of this Parliament is a key target and one we have already surpassed. Young people deserve better than Westminster can offer, has offered or ever will offer our young people.

Within the restrictions of UK governance, Scotland is doing better on every level. With independence, we will do much, much more. We have already established Opportunities for All, a commitment to offer a place in learning or training to all 16-19 year olds not already engaged.

I don’t think that youth employment is some insurmountable wall. Meeting the needs and ambitions of young people as they leave the education system is about recognising them and listening to them.

The European Youth Guarantee approach is solid and practical. The scheme demands a quality offer that is adapted to each individual’s need and situation.

Here are the member states of Europe coming together in common interest that demands strong cooperation between all the key stakeholders: public authorities, employment services, career guidance providers, education and training institutions, youth support services, business, employers, trade unions and others.

Six months to Yes

We’ve been celebrating another great stage along our timeline to independence and proof that bigger isn’t better. On 18th March, we marked just six months to go until the referendum.

There were lots of local rallies and events around the country – you can see more at www.yesscotland.net – and we’ve also been delighted to see a new poll out that shows support for a Yes vote needs only a three per cent swing for a win.

While 47 per cent will vote Yes, the No vote is only marginally ahead on 53 per cent and we still have the time, the commitment and the people to change Scotland’s future.

The scaremongering of the No campaigners is being rejected by people who can see that their stories are nonsense. I have trust in Scottish voters to see beyond the mythology to the truth.

We can, we should and we must win independence so that we gain the powers needed to build a fairer society and more prosperous economy.

VASLan

I’m so pleased to see that Voluntary Action South Lanarkshire has been officially declared Volunteer Friendly having passed an assessment procedure.

The Volunteer Friendly Award is a simple, user-friendly quality standard designed to support, recognise and reward groups who are good at involving volunteers.

VASLan provides services that include group support on providing funding advice and core training packages covering areas like establishing membership, dealing with volunteer vacancies, funding, recruitment, mentoring and caring for older people.

The voluntary sector offers services that make a huge difference to people’s lives through lunch clubs, befriending services, community transport and activity groups to mention just a few of the things that these folk do.

It is important that these fantastic services are given due recognition.


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