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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
11th June 2009

After all the excitement

Just in case you’ve seen her on the telly, our friend Linda Fabiani has her arm in a sling and is taking painkillers.  She was apparently in serious pain earlier in the week and had to go to hospital but she assures me that it’s not as bad as it was and that she’s getting better.  I have told her not to play on the circus trapeze, but she never listens…

Cracking result for the SNP in the European election – SNP wins in South Lanarkshire – including winning Hamilton – showed that we had made the breakthrough in areas that would never have been described in the past as our traditional heartlands.  We won the popular vote in Edinburgh, winning in three Westminster seats out of five – Kenny MacAskill’s Edinburgh East performing well again, closely followed by Edinburgh North & Leith and Edinburgh South West – Alistair Darling’s constituency.  We were close in Glasgow as well, winning two of the Westminster seats there, and we won in 22 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.  We are a party of government, delivering well and being rewarded for that delivery with an incredible performance in the middle of our first term.  Mid term boosts for Scotland’s Government and Scotland’s Party.  I suppose that means that there’s everything to play for in the coming Westminster election.

Anyway, it was back to auld claes and parritch after all that excitement and enjoyment and I was off to Dublin with the SNP Trade Union Group (I’m a member) to look at the way that the Irish Government and trade unions work together in the best interests of Ireland and the Irish people.  There are some very interesting differences between the way we do things and the way they do them, some things we can learn from and some things we might think about copying.  I’m keeping it all under my hat just now while I think it through a bit, of course, but all will out in due course!  All of the TUG members who made the trip paid for it themselves, showing a level of commitment that should stand us all in good stead in the years to come.  This supplements the work that we’re doing in the TUG to connect the SNP group in Parliament to the trade unions around Scotland to make sure that our work properly engages the unions wherever possible.  Good Government is about trying to take everyone down the same road at the same time as much as it is about creating a vision and delivering on the promises we made in our election campaign.  Changing Scotland for the better is done bit-by-bit and day-by-day; there is no magic bullet and no quantum leap.

Back into Parliament this week and Wednesday saw the passing of a very important piece of legislation – the Sexual Offences Bill.  I think we should stop referring to these crimes as sexual offences since they have little or no relationship to sex – they’re about power, mistreatment, disregard for our fellow human beings.  They’re offences of violence whether that violence is physical, psychological or emotional.  We should call them for what they are.

Leaving aside the terminology that should be changed, the actual passing of this legislation was excellent, tidying up and tightening up the law relating to rape and clandestine injury, introducing new categories of offence which should help to protect vulnerable groups in our society, new measures to make clear how offences against children are unacceptable.  I think that we may have put some of these offences in statute for the first time – but I don’t know.  It’s sad that we need laws like this but I’m more than happy to play my part in making sure that the laws we do have are adequate and I pay some tribute to the work done on that legislation by the Justice team under Kenny MacAskill, but especially to Eilish Angiolini and her team; separate from Kenny’s beat but parallel.  It’s been a long and hard slog to bring these changes right through the system but we’ve reached the point at which it passes from the legislators to the police and the courts.  We’ll have to wait and watch and see what the results are.

Thursday we heard about reforming the school qualifications framework.  Under Fiona Hyslop’s leadership, we’re bringing forward improvements in our qualifications, changing the ways in which pupils can challenge themselves, making it possible for pupils to raise their sights to whatever level they choose.  There are some serious changes here, Fiona seeking to make sure that Scotland has the best possible system, the best possible choice of qualification for all of our pupils.  Keeping that system under review is the only way to make sure that we are always offering the best choices to our children – the people who will have the responsibility for the next part of building a better Scotland.  There will be more on that in the next wee while as we continue to press forward, looking to realise the ambitions of Scotland professional educationalists to have the very best education system possible.

Last Saturday had a fun bit in the middle of it – I was invited to the Oliver Brown Awards, a lunch hosted by the Scots Independent every year to honour someone who has made a valuable contribution to Scots life and culture.  This year it was Phil Cunningham who was honoured – one of the few people these days who can admit to being close friends with a fiddler and no-one thinks he’s an MP.  With Aly Bain Phil Cunningham has carved an impressive swathe through Scottish cultural life, adding flair and swagger in a style that has given fresh life to our traditional music.  It’s interesting to see that people with real talent like Phil Cunningham can act with an impressive degree of grace – he encourages new talent, reminisces with those who remember earlier times, laughs with honesty, applauds others and always keeps a healthy dose of humility in his armoury.  I remember him at the Traditional Music awards wearing a pink shirt that almost glowed in the dark and being genuinely surprised to be given one of the awards but accepting it with the memorable line “if I’d known I was going to be getting an award I wouldn’t be wearing this shirt.”

The award was presented by Mike Russell as Culture Minister and the toast to Oliver Brown and the Scots Independent was given by Linda Fabiani – in sparkling form as always.  A good lunch and a good laugh and an excellent cultural ambassador for Scotland honoured in memory of a fine Scottish humourist and nationalist.

I missed telling you a few things last week because I was desperate to get off and get campaigning in the European election.  One of them was the relaunch and tenth anniversary of the North Lanarkshire Handyperson service at Summerlee where I met Ruby Campbell who, at 81 years old, is still a member of the Board of CVS North Lanarkshire.  A fine and inspirational woman and with buckets and buckets of energy. 

Craig Pringle was in my office that week as well.  He’s not famous yet but he might be soon, he was in doing some work experience and seemed to be pretty good at just getting down to work and getting something out of it.  There’s a picture of Craig hard at work attached to this week’s diary, I look forward to seeing him make waves in whatever career he chooses in the future.

John Ogilvie High School ran a citizenship week, teaching the pupils a bit about how their country and their world works.  I had the privilege of going to the school on the 1st of June to see how it was going and I was fascinated by how the teachers and the pupils had integrated citizenship into every subject and every class for the week.  They studied Peace Education and Restorative Justice; Global Citizenship and Fair Trade; and Child Labour in South America.  They looked at Active Citizenship with their twin school in Sierra Leone; they studied rainforest destruction, citizenship during WWII, and Human Rights; they did a workshop based on The Apprentice TV programme; they looked at responsible cyber-citizenship and staying safe on the internet, drama workshops, poetry an short stories.

From the effects of science to foods of the world, sports to photography, composing music to construction techniques in different countries, this school covered an enormous amount of ground in just one week.  I’m impressed, and I was impressed by the passion they showed for the way in which Scotland once led the world in promoting individuals’ rights and how they believed that Scotland can, should and will go back to that leading position.  I left John Ogilvie’s feeling inspired – I think the pupils will have got a huge amount out of it and I congratulate the staff on their imagination, talent and dedication in creating that week.

It’s been a busy wee time, and there’s more to come.  I’m off to another meeting and there’s a rally for the 1820 society in Strathaven on Saturday.  Interestingly, one of the American interns we have in Parliament just now is a direct descendant of one of the Strathaven weavers – I wonder if she’s going on Saturday?

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