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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
23rd April 2009

Last Friday saw the funeral of one of the true greats of our movement – Professor Sir Neil MacCormick – a very moving ceremony, but one which still had a touch of the humour which Neil carried with him always.  I particularly liked John Swinney’s eulogy, especially the bit about Neil standing for selection as a European candidate:

“But for all his majestic contribution of intellectual might to the National cause, Neil also knew how to work the crowd.  As he vied for a place at the top of the list of SNP candidates for the European Elections in 1999, he approached the microphone at the Party Conference to make his pitch as the eighth out of eight candidates.  He stood solemnly at the microphone and said “I am the eighth of eight fine candidates.  I feel very much like Elizabeth Taylor’s eighth husband on their wedding night. I know what I have to do – the challenge is to make it interesting!”  He was rewarded with number two on the list and embarked on a distinguished chapter of his public life as a Member of the European Parliament – working day in and night out with Flora –promoting Scotland’s interests in Europe.

You can read more of the tributes paid to Neil on the party’s website at

Friday afternoon I was off to SNP conference in Glasgow where we heard about  the Scottish Government’s plans to employ more cleaners in Scotland’s hospitals, we heard about the extension to the Small Business Bonus scheme, and a whole load more that the Government is doing to make Scotland a better place.  Most of all, though, we girded our loins for the task ahead and prepared for the European election and the Westminster election.  We’ve a new slogan We’ve got what it takes – we believe that Scotland has what it takes to get us up from under this recession, to bring us on and make this a richer country.  Scotland is driving ahead with the SNP.

It’s not all work, though, I managed a wee trip to the Wallace Monument with my son, my niece and her friends – it’s still worth the climb and it doesn’t half restore some vitality to you.

Early in this week the STUC was on in Perth and I was up there to see what was going on and speak to a few people.  I can tell you that Alex Salmond’s address as First Minister went down well, the pledge to create a Scottish Investment Bank was especially welcomed – you can read the STUC news release on it here -


I had the good fortune to meet Abdullah Muhsin of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers at the STUC and heard about how it was difficult for some Iraqis to get visas to come here.  The best way to explain the problem is by letting you see the Parliamentary Motion I submitted on the issue:

S3M-03959 Christina McKelvie (Central Scotland) (Scottish National Party): Iraqi Trade Unions— That the Parliament welcomes Abdullah Muhsin of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers to Scotland and congratulates NASUWT on sponsoring his visit to the Scottish Trades Union Congress Annual Congress 2009; believes that he was supposed to bring representatives of Iraqi and Kurdish teachers’ unions with him but that their visas to leave Iraq and enter the United Kingdom were not granted because the Iraqi Government has seized control of the teachers' unions under decision 3 of the Governing Council, which was appointed by the United States of America as the nominal authority in Iraq between July 2003 and June 2004 supposedly to force elections on these unions that have held conferences and elected their leadership since 2003, and condemns the UK Government for its actions in refusing these visas and thereby supporting the suppression of trade unions in Iraq.

Back to Parliament on Tuesday to prepare for the Education Committee on Wednesday.  We’re considering the Additional Support for Learning Bill – a piece of legislation which is intended to tidy up legislation that went through under the last administration, sort it out and make it work properly for the school pupils who have additional learning needs.  Labour MSPs have been playing fast and loose with the Bill, though, seeking to use Parliamentary procedures to score petty political points.  Wednesday’s meeting was an informal meeting in the middle of Stage 2 of the Bill’s consideration – something which has never happened before – and it wasn’t exactly conducted with any sense of grace or poise by the convenor.  More will out later, no doubt.

Wednesday was, of course, budget day when Labour’s Government in London sets the economic and fiscal parameters within which we’ll all be working for the next wee while.  It looks to me like a toxic mixture of huge public debt, public spending cuts and future tax rises.  Interestingly, one of Labour’s guesses was a 3.5% shrinkage in the economy this year followed by growth next year.  The International Monetary Fund, though, almost immediately projected a 4.1% shrinkage this year followed by another shrinkage next year – when even the IMF refuses to accept the Chancellor’s predictions the UK certainly does have a problem.

Scotland looks set to lose a substantial amount of public spending over the next few years as our people pay higher taxes and we get left saddled with massive public debt – the worst of all worlds.

Thursday and I was suppose to be speaking in a debate on the transport infrastructure and employment prospects in the west of Scotland.  I prepared my speech on Wednesday night and looked through all the research that had been done, got everything lined up for action, I was raring to go.  I settled into my seat in the chamber, got myself ready – and then the Deputy Presiding Officer sent me over a note to tell me that I wouldn’t be called in the debate, we were running out of time.  These things happen, but they are infuriating – I had the best speech as well!

Here is the speech that I prepared...


Presiding Officer, I’m interested by the various points of the motion in Des McNulty’s name – his regret that his party has failed to deliver on transport infrastructure in the west of Scotland, the decline of the manufacturing base in Scotland which Labour did not address either, and the harmful effects of Labour’s recession leading to rising unemployment and worklessness in Scotland – the blame for which can be laid squarely at the door of the Labour Government in London.


The shocking failure of Gordon Brown and now Alistair Darling to address the economic problems facing Scotland – as well as other parts of these islands – amounts to a dereliction of duty on the part of these two Labour leaders.  They are not alone in shouldering the blame for Scotland’s ills, though – there were eight years of incompetence by Labour and the Liberal Democrats here – an appalling record of failure and dither which didn’t end when they lost power in 2007.


They were responsible, in opposition, for forcing through a vote on the Edinburgh tram scheme – not a tram network, not a tram system, but part of one tram line coming in at half a billion pounds – half a billion pounds to foist on Edinburgh a white elephant vanity project that the people of Edinburgh do not want, that has caused the failure of long-established family businesses and huge losses for other businesses and has torn communities apart.


That’s five hundred million pounds of transport infrastructure investment denied to other areas of the country – like the west of Scotland.


It’s five hundred million pounds that Des McNulty voted to deny transport projects – including projects in the west of Scotland.


It’s five hundred million pounds wasted because Labour was desperate to score some petty political points against the new SNP Government.


The Labour party – Scotland’s desperate fishwives.


Mr McNulty will remember his contribution to the transport debate on the 27th of June 2007 where he said, in relation to transport projects, that we shouldn’t play politics with Scotland’s money.  I take it from reading his motion that he has changed his mind and that playing politics with Scotland’s money is exactly what he wants to do.  Perhaps if he and his colleagues hadn’t played politics with Scotland’s transport infrastructure two years ago the SNP Government might have had the resources available to address the disgraceful state in which Labour left the transport infrastructure in the west of Scotland.


Having said that, after yesterday’s budget there might not be anyone who can afford the fuel to use the transport infrastructure anyway.  Another 2p onto the price of a litre of fuel this year and then an extra penny above inflation every year for the next four years.  Bad enough if you live in a city, even worse if you’re in a rural setting and the car is an absolute necessity.


On top of that the London Labour Government is wielding the axe – swingeing cuts to public spending – Alistair Darling’s contribution to ensuring that the recession that Des McNulty is complaining about continues longer than it otherwise would.  The disproportionate increases in unemployment being suffered by the people of Glasgow and the surrounding areas, as mentioned in the motion, are a direct result of Labour policies.


I'll tell you what happens with Labour Governments. They start with a far-fetched raft of policies, and these are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and they go through the years sticking to that, misplaced, outdated, irrelevant to the real needs of the country, and they end in the grotesque chaos of a Labour Government, a Labour Government, cutting public spending and scuttling round the country handing out redundancy notices to public sector workers. I tell you - and you'll listen - you can't play politics with people's jobs and people's homes and people's services.


As that claimant count that Mr McNulty is so concerned about continues to rise, he’ll know who to blame.  As Glasgow and Lanarkshire bear the brunt of Labour’s economic mismanagement, as those nine billion pounds worth of Labour cuts announced yesterday bite, I hope Des McNulty will be at the front of the queue to apologise to the people affected.  As Rhodri Morgan pointed out yesterday – cuts they are a-coming – and he blamed London Labour.


Alistair Darling claimed recently he could see the green shoots of recovery which would help Glasgow and the surrounding area to recover from the effects of recession noted in Des McNulty’s motion – but yesterday the Chancellor managed to pour economic weedkiller on those green shoots before they’ve had a chance to break the surface.  Quite how he thought there would be recovery next year when he’s predicting the economy will shrink by three and a half per cent this year is anyone’s guess – it’s about as clever as Iain Gray’s budget tactics have been the past couple of years.  It’s almost like they worked together …


Government debt will rise to four fifths of GDP by 2013 – Labour’s failure to manage the economy over the last eleven years – Gordon Brown’s failure as Chancellor – means that Alistair Darling will be slashing the Scottish budget to pay for the economic inadequacy of yet another Labour Government.


Stronger together, weaker apart they say – aye, right.


The UK damages Scotland, Labour damages Scotland and the sooner we get shot of the pair of them the better for all of us.


Lunchtime Thursday, I nipped over to the CWU reception to hear how they are campaigning against the privatisation of Royal Mail.  I made sure to let them know that I thought the solution was in their hands – stop giving money to the Labour party, don’t support the people who continue to do exactly the opposite of what you want them to do.

I’ve got to dash off now, I’m the guest of Campbell Gunn, political editor of the Sunday Post, at the Press Awards in Glasgow – I’ll have to get home, washed and changed and out.  I’ll let you know next week what it was like.

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