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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
29th October 2009

Just back from recess.  Two weeks that included conference in Inverness.  I’m finding that the party has a fine spirit about it these days, a feeling that we’re moving quietly and confidently, making the right moves for Scotland, moving Scotland forward.  We seem to be speaking with one voice about where we need to be going and what we need to be doing, making Scotland a better place to be.

It’s delightful, too, to se so many dedicated young people at party conference these days, their energy and drive and their sense of fun helps keep the rest of us going and gives us just the wee perk-up that we need.  We came away from conference with a job to do – a job that we’re setting about doing.  The party is out working in the Glasgow North East by-election and we’re all getting stuck into our own campaigns across the country for the UK election.  It’s going to be an interesting time, the Conservatives back in the race properly for the first time in ages, Labour looking old and tired.  Cameron and Brown will roar and posture, shake their manes and preen themselves, but it’s certain that Scotland’s interests won’t figure very highly in either of their minds.  There will be one party sticking up for Scotland – and only one – the SNP.  We saw at conference the determination of the Cabinet Secretaries to deliver for Scotland in their areas, we saw the spark that the Ministers added, we saw the imagination of the delegates, we got a sense of the determination of the activists, and we got ourselves onto the front foot for campaigning.

This was a conference that delivered the party’s activists in fine fettle for the battles ahead.  Contrast our solidity and unity with Labour’s disarray and disloyalty.  They’re managing to make a bad situation worse, running to the press with tittle-tattle, accusing their leadership of not being up to the job (a fair point, really), and still bitter about having lost power in 2007.  Iain Gray has been dreadful in the chamber and not much better elsewhere, evincing no leadership, no imagination, and no vision for Scotland’s future.  He reshuffled his team this week and it looks as tired and uninspiring as it was before, they still carp and whinge instead of offering an alternative to the plans of the SNP, and they were finally, finally dragged in petulance to admit that John Swinney has been right all along about the London Treasury withholding funds that Scotland needs.  Iain Gray finally wrote to the Chancellor this week to tell him he should open up the coffers to allow John Swinney to accelerate capital spend in Scotland.  About time too.

Mckelvie SNP Conference 2009

SNP Conference 2009

I’m keen to get the General election underway, to get on with the job of winning, to make a difference for Scotland, making sure that Graeme Horne gets elected.  He was at a National Conversation event in South Lanarkshire with Councillor John McNamee and so we had a chance for a wee natter about his campaign and about how it’s going to be a hard battle (but worth it when we win).  I’m glad he’s got a sense of humour, he’s going to need that – and plenty of stamina – in the months ahead.

Parliamentary business this week has been ‘interesting’ – we’re scrutinising the budget in committees just now and we had Mike Russell and Fiona Hyslop and a wheenge of their civil servants along to evidence sessions at the Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee on Wednesday morning.  We didn’t gave them a right good grilling, toasted on both sides and flambéed for good measure!  Well, not really, we’re far too nice to do that, but we began the process and we’ll be calling them back in again, no doubt, when we’ve got more to ask them.  It’s funny going straight into consideration of the Budget Bill as soon as we come back, we only just finished our report on the Public Services Reform Bill before recess and they’re entirely different Bills, and different kinds of Bill to boot.  Switching between them gives you a strange wee sense of dislocation for a while before you settle into it and start crunching the numbers.

Wednesday afternoon was good, too, Fiona Hyslop making a statement in chamber about additional student support, another £30 million going to help students get through.  The support is focused on groups of students who have not been well provided for by the current system – an attempt to make sure that they can complete their courses.  Those groups include students from poorer backgrounds and independent students (who don’t get any money from parents); there was a big investment in childcare provision to allow parents to study more easily as well, helping cure one of the biggest headaches that parents face.  The NUS was delighted with it, welcoming the move, and you would have thought that the opposition parties would have the grace to do the same – but they didn’t.  They claimed it was all their idea but that it didn’t go far enough (which means, of course, that they think that their own ideas don’t go far enough), called for even more money to be pumped into student support when it’s being cut elsewhere, and even called for tuition fees to be reintroduced.

Bizarre is hardly a strong enough word for it.

Today we moved onto other matters.  In the morning we had the first stage of the Marine Bill – nothing to do with the armed forces, this is to create a legislative framework for regulating Scotland’s seas.  Richard Lochhead is piloting it through and he sailed nice and easily through Stage 1 today.  We had Question Time and First Minister’s Questions as usual, and nothing very interesting to report from any of it, and then we had John Swinney giving the opposition a lesson in the economy and in how to debate.  Another excellent and flowing performance from John, another demonstration of his complete mastery of his brief, and another indication that Scotland is safe in the SNP’s hands.

I have to dash now, I’m going to an Ecumenical Service of Remembrance for our Armed Forces in Our Lady of Good Aid Cathedral in Motherwell and I have to dash to beat the traffic.

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