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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
28th May 2009

Here comes Europe!

Is it strange to be looking forward to the European election? There’s one more week on the campaign trail and I’ve got a good feeling about it, I think we’re going to do well.  The body language of the people I’m meeting while out campaigning is very positive, the canvassing we’re getting in is showing good results, it generally feels very good – it’s got that momentum feeling to it.

I know that the candidates are working hard all over the country performing very well in what must be difficult circumstances.  How do they manage to keep going when they’re covering so much territory, travelling so many miles and doing so much campaigning?  There’s a fair deal of respect and admiration due to them, and I’m pleased to be able to support them in this election.

I think our list is by far the best selection of candidates of all the parties; Iain Hudghton MEP, Alyn Smith MEP, Dr Aileen McLeod, Drew Hendry, Dr Duncan Ross, and Gordon Archer – a fine collection and much better than any of our rivals.  I’ve been fitting in as much campaigning as I can around my working week and I wish I could do more but we’ve got lots of dedicated activists taking the strain and so people like me aren’t as important as we sometimes like to think we are!  That support, that feeling of moving forward together is what marks the SNP out; I heard it said once that the difference between the SNP and the other parties is that we have a sense of mission – I couldn’t put it better.

So, with that all that going on, I’ve found myself running from one place to the next and keeping lots of balls in the air at once.  On Friday I was working on the David Livingstone Centre problem – the centre in Blantyre is facing possible closure as the National Trust for Scotland looks at removing their operation from it.  There has been lots of money floating about there over the past few years and there should be a degree of self-examination going on.  I’ve got the Scottish Government involved in the form of Mike Russell when I was back there on Tuesday and I’m hoping we’ll get some movement soon.  It would be a sad day if the centre closed – we should try to remember those who went before us whose contribution to the common weal of the world was notable, and the centre is a commemoration of Livingstone’s life as well as a museum and learning centre.  Let’s try to keep it open.

Friday night saw me in Stirling at a fundraiser for Bruce Crawford’s constituency (fundraising never stops in the SNP).  Linda Fabiani’s speech about Bruce (no, not that one, Robert the Bruce) was fantastic, she was in great form and sparkling with wit.  I wish I could remember some of the jokes and puns she used – I’ll maybe ask her to write them down so I can tell you next week.

Visits to the Ambulance Service and to see Strathclyde’s Fire and Rescue in training helped give me a wee insight into what our emergency services have to do day in and day out to keep us safe and help us when we’re in trouble.  There’s some power in those tools that the firefighters use – I’m amazed at how they manage to keep them so controlled and can cut so precisely, it must be massive amounts of training that they do to get to that level of proficiency.  I’m glad they’re there and know how to use the stuff properly, if I’m ever in need of their services I’ll be confident that they’ll be able to help.  I’d rather I was never in that position but you can’t tell what tomorrow will bring, can you?

Into Parliament on Wednesday for the Education Committee in the morning and the chamber in the afternoon.  Kenny MacAskill was making a statement about the prisoner who absconded from Castle Huntly and I thought he dealt with it in a statesman-like manner, very comprehensively and very thoughtfully.  He demolished the trite arguments of the opposition without rancour and with some degree of grace, including pointing out that absconds are a fraction of what they were under Labour and that he’s tightened the system up.  He’s also looking again at the system and seeking ways to improve it.

All through this week, though, there has been a case running that I told you about last week – Fatou Felicite Gaye and her four year old Sots born son Arouna whose treatment at the hands of the UK Border Agency has been disgraceful.  The legal proceedings were still ongoing and Arouna was due to be examined by a paediatrician tomorrow for a diagnosis on the suspected Post Traumatic Stress Disorder he is suffering from.  Their solicitor was working hard to try to get some better treatment for them and to try to win their right to stay.  Fatou’s husband, Arouna’s father, is missing since an attack on his business during the war in Côte d'Ivoire, Fatou was gang-raped and imprisoned and only escaped with the help of friends.

The Labour Government says that she has no need to fear returning to Côte d'Ivoire in spite of it also advising people to stay away in order to avoid the terrorism, armed militia, sporadic violence, and the potential for the “sudden deterioration of law and order”.  Fatou and Arouna were deported this morning. 

I’m disgusted by the uncaring and unfeeling attitude of Labour’s Ministers, I remember them coming to power promising an ethical foreign policy – surely asylum cases are part of that?  I remember them agreeing not to take children in dawn raids.  I remember them signing up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  I remember them always doing what looks good but seldom doing what is good.  I remember them criticising the Conservatives for appearing uncaring and I see them now being more cynical and uncaring than the Conservatives ever were.  I’m proud that my party is full of people who will work for a better world and I’m sure that there are still plenty of people in the Labour party who want decency to return to their party – they must be feeling very raw these days.

The best thing all round, I think, is to remove Labour from Government; they can do no good now.  The European election is a week today, let that be the next step to removing Labour.

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