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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
18th December

The last diary entry of 2008

You can almost see the end of the year from here Ė if you look hard.

Weíre in a time of economic turbulence with a great deal of concern for all of us, but especially so for those who are facing unemployment now or in the coming months.  My thoughts are with them and my determination, which is shared across the political divide, is to get our economy back on its feet, making whatever contribution I can to that effort Ė as I am sure my colleagues in the SNP and politicians in other parties will do.

I am pleased that the Scottish Government refused to follow the London Government in cutting back the pensions of those pensioners who have been overpaid by a few pounds as a result of errors made in London.  Itís unfortunate that the London Government wants to cut the money those pensioners receive Ė especially considering that many of these pensioners will be among the poorest pensioners in the country.  It seems to me to make more sense to be leaving that money with those pensioners because itís the right thing to do, but also because they will spend that money and it will help the country to break the recession.

I took the opportunity to say so in my contribution to the budget debate earlier this week.  You can find the Official Report online here:

Weíll return to the issue, no doubt, in the new year.

This is my final diary entry of 2008, and Iím dashing it off quickly because itís the SNP Parliamentary Groupís Christmas party tonight Ė an opportunity for us elected Members to show our gratitude to the staff who make our job possible.  They work incredibly hard throughout the year and you hardly ever hear anything about them unless you are lucky enough to work with them, and they deserve our thanks for everything they do.

Before I sneak off, though, I thought that the end of the year was a good time to have a look back at how SNP Government has been changing Scotland since the victory in May 2007.  Iíve done it in bullet points for your delight and delectation.

Itís quite long and itís not everything weíve done, but I hope you enjoy reading it.  Have a cracking Christmas and a wonderful New Year and Iíll write again in a few weeks.

How the SNP is Changing Scotland

∑       Smaller, more effective Ministerial team.

∑       National Conversation on Scotlandís constitutional future.

∑       '2014 Communities' fund - dedicated legacy fund to present new opportunities for people across Scotland. 

∑       Scottish Broadcasting Commission to investigate TV production and broadcasting in Scotland.

∑       Extra funding of £6 million over 3 years for Edinburgh Festivals to promote Scottish-based work.

∑       £10 million towards buying díOffay collection of modern art, valued at £125m

∑       Increased Scotlandís International Development budget by 100%.

∑       World's largest ever single prize for marine renewable energy, the £10 million Saltire prize, with support of National Geographic Society.

       Fully using our available resources with the lowest under-spend since devolution - just £42 million of the budget of £27.4 billion was unspent; less than 0.2% of total budget.

∑       Implementing the Crerar Review to simplify and streamline Government.

∑       Developing Homecoming 2009 with a budget of £5 million. Event Scotland to double this through contributions from other sources. A number of Homecoming 2009 promotions activities have now been successfully launched.

       Successful launch of Scotland Performs the platform for public accountability.

       Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2007 module on Trust in Government showed that trust in the Scottish Government has risen.

       Revised Ministerial Code and appointed independent advisors to strengthen standards of conduct and accountability.

∑       18th century Dumfries House and its collection open to the public for the first time in 250 years.

∑       Summer Cabinet meetings held outwith Edinburgh in 4 locations across Scotland and confirmation that this will happen in future years.

∑       The Scottish Government has exceeded its efficiency targets according to the final outturn report for the 2005-08 efficient government programme which shows savings of more than £1.7 billion against a target of £1.5 billion. 

∑       Bringing forward £100 million of affordable housing investment

∑       Early in the new year we will introduce a Mortgage to Shared Equity Scheme

∑       £25 million to kick-start a new generation of council house building

∑       An additional £10 million for the Central Heating Programme this year to deliver record numbers of systems for private homes

∑       £3 million to provide legal advice and representation for people facing repossession and other problems, such as debt

∑       £380,000 pounds to fund an awareness raising campaign for the National Debtline to encourage people to take early action to address debt problems

∑       Signed historic Concordat with COSLA setting out a new relationship with local government.  Removed ring-fencing, enabling councils to allocate resources in line with agreed national and local outcomes and have received a draft Single Outcome Agreements from each Local Authority.

∑       Fully funded a freeze in the Council Tax.

∑       Proposals for Local Income Tax published.

       Announced detailed plans to reduce number of public bodies by 25%.

∑       Introduced Small Business Bonus Scheme.

∑       Created a Council of Economic Advisers to advise on how to improve Scotlandís sustainable economic growth rate.

∑       Go-ahead for extension to the M74 with £445 million investment.

∑       Ferry fares to be cut by up to half on all W Isles-to-mainland routes under new pilot scheme.

∑       Removed tolls on the Forth and Tay bridges.

∑       Tripled funding to help householders, small businesses and communities generate clean energy.

∑       Biggest wave energy project in the world given the go ahead.

∑       Increased support for the Third Sector by more than a third.

       £30 million Scottish Investment Fund launched to help enterprising Third Sector organisations become more effective and efficient. 

∑       Around 12,000 jobs created or safeguarded through Regional Selective Assistance totalling £87.4 million in the last financial year.

∑       £2 million in grants to develop 5 groundbreaking knowledge transfer projects.

∑       The Scottish Veteran's Fund, totalling £127,000, over the next three years.

∑       Free benefits checks have banked £1 million for Scottish pensioners.

∑       An extra £5 million for Mortgage to Rent scheme which helps families at risk of losing their home, bringing total investment in the scheme this year to £15 m.

∑       Grants worth £4 million have been awarded from the Scottish Government's International Development Fund to a range of international development programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

∑       Government will spend an additional £3 million over the next two years to extend the range of legal advice and support available across Scotland to families facing home repossession and other problems, such as debt.

       Additional funding for phased 50% increase in free nursery provision.

       Funding for extra 300 teachers and 250 more teacher training places from August,

       Additional £40 million in capital funding for school buildings to enable councils to plan investment.

∑       All school pupils in primaries 1 to 3 are to be entitled to free school meals following successful pilot projects.

∑       Announced review of national qualifications system including literacy and numeracy exams, in line with new Curriculum for Excellence.

∑       £1.5 million funding increase over 3 years for youth organisations such as the Scouting Association and YMCA.

       Scrapped the £2289 Graduate Endowment tuition fee.

       Secured future of Crichton University Campus in Dumfries with Additional financial support of £1.5 million.

∑       Colleges and universities to receive an extra £100 million capital funding.

∑       New Skills Strategy to better meet needs of individuals and employers. 

∑       Asylum children who have been here for at least 3 years given same access as Scottish children to full-time further and higher education.

∑       Major overhaul of system to support children looked after by foster and kinship carers.  Better financial support for carers.

∑       Modern Apprenticeship in life sciences introduced as part a package of changes to national training being introduced through Skills for Scotland.

∑       £5 million to set up a Creative Scotland Innovation Fund.

∑       Consultation launched on saving rural schools from closure.

∑       New Baccalaureates in science and languages for S5 and S6 pupils in Scotland's schools.

∑       Support for international students to stay & work here after their studies.

∑       £2.7 million funding made available for a range of Gaelic education measures.

∑       Saved A&E Departments at Ayr and Monklands Hospitals.

       Approved £842 million project to build integrated children's and adult hospital on site of current Southern General Hospital, Glasgow. 

∑       Children's cancer services retained and enhanced in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee.

∑       Prescription charges cut by 25 per cent across Scotland. 

∑       Funding for NHS boards will rise to £8 billion next year.

∑       Extra £23 million to improve and modernise primary care premises. 

       Funding of £6 million will help at least 20,000 overweight and obese children.

       £64 million cervical cancer immunisation programme began in September 08. 

∑       Launch of new approach to tackling alcohol misuse with the aim of changing Scotland's relationship with drink along with record funding of £25 million for tackling alcohol misuse (£10.13 million in 2007/08). 

∑       Launched a school based preventative dental health service.

∑       Opened the £21 million Aberdeen Dental School.

∑       More than £10 million to improve eye care services in Scotland

∑       Aberdeen and Edinburgh funded to develop swimming facilities.

∑       £12 million for physical activity initiatives.

∑       Enhanced range of services in six hospitals in Scotland's remote & rural areas. 

∑       Additional £40 million a year from 2009/10 for free personal and nursing care. 

∑       New £19 million, state-of-the-art, Gartnavel Royal Hospital in Glasgow opened

∑       £600,000 new funding to improve support and raise awareness of dementia.

∑       Scottish Ambulance Service to receive an additional £4.7 million to ensure it can eliminate the practice of rostered single-crewing of traditional ambulances.

∑       Car parking charges at NHS hospitals across Scotland abolished

       Two new publicly-run prisons at Bishopbriggs and Peterhead.

       Review of community penalties and action plan to revitalise penalties.

       Supervised Attendance Orders to reduce those imprisoned for not paying fines.

       More visible police presence and working towards 1,000 more police officers. 

       £6.8 million funding package for new fire and rescue capital projects. 

       Government's Cashback for Communities continuing to redirect millions of pounds from the proceeds of crime back into Scotlandís communities.

       New forensic science lab to be built in Dundee. 

∑       First national drugs strategy since devolution.

       Investment of £1.5bn to create at least 21,500 new approved affordable homes.

       Enhanced representation in Brussels at both Ministerial and Official level to promote interests of Scotland's justice system in the European Union.

       Introduced the Rape and Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill.

       £10 million blueprint to tackle domestic abuse unveiled.

∑       A new partnership between Scottish football and the Scottish Government to promote positive citizenship. 

∑       Recorded crime is at its lowest level for a quarter of a century with almost 34,000 fewer crimes recorded in Scotland last year. 

∑       Scottish Climate Change Bill, making Scotland a world leader.

∑       £27.4 million over 3 years Climate Challenge fund. 

∑       Secured deal at fisheries talks in Brussels giving Scotland control over its own days at sea; international recognition for our conservation credit scheme.

∑       Instigated review of how wildlife crime is investigated and prosecuted. 

       Over £3 million funding for two new freight rail services from the central belt to Inverness to cut congestion and reduce emissions.

∑       The Scottish Government's Energy Consents Unit is currently processing 32 renewable project applications - 24 wind farms, seven hydro projects and one wave project, with more applications expected.

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