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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
8th October 2009

What do we want?

Martha’s been on holiday for a couple of weeks and I can feel the chaos creeping in, thank goodness she’s back.  Martha takes care of a whole lot of diary entries, correspondence and constituency casework and she’s an invaluable member of the team.  Now she’s back I can get organised again and get on with things.  One of the things she’d made sure was in my diary was a cracking event I attended at the weekend.

I had the great privilege of attending the Haven’s “Ladies who Lunch” fundraiser on Sunday.  The Haven, in Blantyre, is a wonderful place, a drop-in centre to help give some relief to sufferers of Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease, Parkinson's Disease and Huntington's Disease; and their families and carers are welcome too.  The Haven Centre was opened in May 2002 and provides care, complementary therapies and information to help people cope with the physical, mental and spiritual effects of illness, and it’s a charity, so I’m more than happy to support it, and delighted with the fun we have at the lunches.  I was there with Linda Fabiani, looking fabulous in pink, but I can’t download the photographs from my camera at the moment, so we might have a few of them next week.  I understand that the Haven is looking at premises in Edinburgh in order to expand operations into the capital, and I hope that my friends and colleagues there will support its efforts.

It was only slightly less glamorous on Saturday when we were meeting the Association of Central Scotland Community Councillors.  Community Councillors don’t get anything like the praise that they deserve, they may not have much power but they manage to make a difference, they stand up for their communities and they do what they can to improve their communities.  If you want to know what’s going on in communities ask a community councillor.  I’ve got enormous respect for the work that they do, the commitment they’ve made to their communities, and the effort they put in without being paid.

It’s been Trade Union week in Parliament this week and we’ve seen quite a few trade unions coming in, taking a room and inviting MSPs and Ministers in for a chat and a wee discussion about current issues.  It’s been good to see how many Members took up that offer and popped along for a natter.  One of the things I noticed as I spoke to one union after another was that there appears to be far less ‘traditional’ political support available to the Labour party from the Trade Unions than there used to be.  There appears to be a steadily-growing appreciation that the SNP may not have got everything right but that we are trying our best and the best of an SNP Government is head and shoulders (and perhaps a fair bit of torso) above the blethering bawlings of the previous brigade of nay-sayers and doom-mongers.

Talking of which, we had a debate on school building in Parliament today, in Labour’s day for debates (in spite of continually asking for independence debates, they don’t actually call one when they have a chance).  Labour’s motion read:

S3M-4988 Rhona Brankin: School Buildings—That the Parliament notes with concern that the Scottish Futures Trust has yet to fund a single new school building in Scotland despite the 2009 School Estate Statistics revealing that around 150,000 pupils remain in schools classified as being in poor or bad condition; is dismayed that, after more than two years, the SNP government has identified only 14 schools to be built under its first school building programme, that none of these 14 schools will be open to pupils in this parliamentary term and only 55 will be built in total by 2018; further believes that the SNP government’s claims on the number of schools that it has commissioned are unsustainable given that its own School Estate Statistics reveal that a majority of schools built or substantially refurbished in the last two financial years were legacy PPP projects, and further believes that it is hypocritical for ministers to criticise PPP schools while praising them at their official opening and that the SNP’s record in government is falling far short of its 2007 election manifesto pledge to "match the current school building programme brick for brick, and offer an alternative funding mechanism through the Scottish Futures Trust".

It appeared to me to be a motion which lacked that essential element of truth, and my belief was supported when I saw the figures this morning – so far the SNP Scottish Government has built 236 new schools in just two and a half years while Labour and the Lib Dems only managed 205 in the four years before that.  That means that 100,000 pupils have been released from being taught in poor quality schools – they’re now being taught in newly built or newly refurbished schools.  That, you would have thought, would bring some congratulations from Labour – no such chance, not even any acknowledgement from them of the schools which have been built in each of their constituencies.  They have no grace, little decency, and no real policies for improving Scotland.  That must be why an MSP described their education claims today as being "Like so much else that Labour does there was plenty of packaging but not much product - plenty of fur coat but a distinct lack of lingerie."

We rise for recess now and we’ve got conference in Inverness next week.  If I can find a computer there I’ll let you know how it’s going.  If you’re up there, come and say hello, and if you’re not I’ll write again soon.

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