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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
24th September 2009

Pina coladas and sea air

The Lib Dems had their conference this week – it was a good week for the SNP with the chaos and bedlam they managed to cause for themselves, what with Nick Clegg’s “severe cuts”, Vince Cable’s tax on houses, Charles Kennedy warning that the Lib Dems had lost their heart by changing their policy to be in favour of university tuition fees, and Tavish Scott saying that Lib Dems who were in favour of an independence referendum were just desperate to get on telly after having too many pina coladas and too much sea air.  What a lovely way to treat members of your own party who happen to disagree with you on an issue – no wonder they’re falling apart at the seams.

The First Minister brought it up at FMQs today when Tavish went off on one of his long rambles down country lanes that serve as questions for him.  No-one appeared to be quite sure what he was actually asking but you’d not get much change from asking another Lib Dem to translate since they’ve taken to using a whip’s gag on any issue that might be controversial – like an independence referendum.  Liberal and democratic?  I think not!

I believe that the SNP conference in October will be a far better do, we’ll have cups of tea and highland air instead of pina coladas and sea air and we’ll have a far better conference.  I think it was Brian Taylor of the BBC who once said that the SNP starts out with an advantage because we’re the only party with a “sense of mission”.  It’s true too; we’re the only party that has as serious and unfinished purpose – the restoration of our nationhood.

We’ll be getting there soon enough, the way our Government is going and with the performance of our Parliamentary group.  Everyone around Parliament seems to be working really, really hard and working cleverly as well, it’s tiring but very rewarding.  A couple of weeks ago, for example, I had an astronaut visiting me in Parliament – he’s the one you see talking to Alex in the photograph in the restaurant – when Owen McGhee brought him in.  I know Owen from the motor neurone disease campaign group MND Scotland and there’s a few more pictures of me showing Helen and Owen McGhee and Patty and Scott Carpenter around (Scott’s the astronaut and you can read a bit more about him on his NASA biography page at ).  The girl in the red and black top is Becca Dixon, Parliamentary Assistant to Fergus Ewing, who was delighted to meet Scott – we seem to have caught her blinking but she’s usually got her eyes wide open trying to follow what Fergus is up to!

MND Scotland also took me to a ladies’ fundraising lunch on Sunday – some marvellous people dedicate a lot of time and energy to raising funds to help work on Motor Neurone Disease and one of them is Ann Kerr who you can see me with in the photograph.

This is me and Ann Kerr MND Scotland at the ladies lunch on Sunday

Talking about funds for good causes, I was privileged on Tuesday to be the host in Parliament for Microsoft to showcase some of the charitable work it does, including the time off it allows it staff to volunteer for things – an excellent idea!  There were also people there from other organisations that Microsoft works with.  The Aberlour Child Care Trust is an official charity partner of Microsoft, it was this company that worked with Children 1st to raise £60,000 for the charity in a single night, Forward Training Partnership became a Microsoft IT Academy last month, the Wise Group delivers Skills for Business training with Microsoft’s help, and CTX who organise donations of computer equipment to charities and organise it so that it’s matched up and not a useless hotch-potch of different bits.

Talking of hotch-potch, it was Labour’s business day in the chamber this week and they chose to split their time in two – half on teach numbers and half on child protection.  That means that the debates are short and squeezed into the time you would normally take for one debate.  It also means that backbench speeches are short – mine was only four minutes long – and that doesn’t allow you to take many interventions or engage in proper debating etiquette because you have to bash on to get through your points.  I have to admit that I was angry when I was delivering my speech because Labour had taken it upon themselves to attack the Government for the number of local authorities who had a weak or unacceptable report on child protection.

By doing that, of course, they were criticising the staff in those councils – staff who will be using the reports to improve their service.  In some cases the inspection would have been a year ago and we’ve got nothing to indicate whether or not there has been an improvement in the service offered.  That’s not what Labour were thinking, though, they were just determined to try to criticise the Government for something.  Why do they never, never bring anything constructive to debates?  Why do they not bring forward their own ideas that might be a contribution to the debate?  I’m beginning to suspect that they are bereft of ideas – poverty of ambition allied to poverty of effort all wrapped up in a poverty of thought.  Just as well we’re here really.

Alison Lindsey’s adoption night on Friday was fantastic, great fun.  I didn’t take any photographs but I’ll ask Eilidh MacKechnie (she organised it, she’s a wee star) if she’s got any I can post next week.

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