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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
10th December 2009

Weak all week

A congested sort of a week.

You know when you face times in your life where you can reflect on your own weakness and you realise just how precious life and vitality actually are? No, I'm not all doom and gloom but I had a week last week when I had and am still suffering from a horrible chest infection which has been lingering about since I had the flu a few weeks back. Go on its panto season….all together now…aaaawwwwww!!!!   Its quite disconcerting when at my tender age my mother tells me I'm going to the doctor and no back-chat on the matter! What made me think deeper about how fragile life is and the impact you make was when I attended two funerals last week.  One was for my mum's neighbour who was 18 years of age and had contributed so much to charity and was a bit of a star in our local area because she lived every day with dignity but with joy too. She suffered for a few years with a terminal illness and used all her time on earth to fundraise for the Yorkhill teenage unit to make life better for other young people who needed support. She was, indeed, an inspiration and has inspired me to give that little bit extra time, effort and energy to some of the causes I hold dear. I then had the funeral of a friend of more than 20 years who had cystic fibrosis - another wonderfully warm individual who lived life to the full.  She lived a lot longer than was expected because, I believe, her strength of character and spirit gave her something we all take for granted….health.

I haven't gone all morbid; it's just that these two experiences formed part of my week and how I looked at things this week and felt it was important to explain a little. I believe we have much to rejoice about but I also know that life is sometimes tougher for some of us at different times and it’s the good times and the life experiences you have that see you through those tough times. The same can be said for politics; sometimes we sweat the small stuff when we really should take a wider view and be thankful for what we have been able to do and who has supported you along the way.  It's good for us to keep an eye on what we have achieved, what we've made happen, how we've made things just a little better.

At education committee this week we had an evidence session on broadcasting and the impact of cuts to Scottish broadcasting. In the hot seat was Stewart Cosgrove of 'Off the Ball' fame as the director of Channel Four with responsibility for Scotland. He was there for over an hour being grilled on reduction to budgets for Scotland (revenge for all the victims of 'Off the Ball'!) and gave some insight into how we have to build capacity to enable Scotland to make some of the big dramas and returning dramas that bring in the money to reinvest in programming in Scotland. You don’t have to look any further than Cardiff to see what you can do with imagination and some investment. Dr Who and Torchwood are immensely successful and we need something similar in Scotland.

I then got the chance to grill OFSTED on some of the recommendations in their report. I asked them why they have allowed STV to relinquish their responsibility to deliver Gaelic programmes - I feel this will limit the choice that Gaelic viewers have. I also asked them when BBC Alba will be available on freeview. I didn’t get any conclusive answers but they did think that it will be available soon as the case has been well made.

So cough! cough! sneeze! sneeze! I continued onto the Cross party group on Asylum and Immigration where I was delighted to be asked to co-chair the group. Topics on the agenda where the changes to the immigration system which means people have to travel to Croydon to lodge an asylum application with no government support for travel or food (it's reserved, so UK Government deals with it) ….what a scandal!  Another example of the London government treating people in an inhumane manner.

Thursday I had a question to Kenny McAskill on the relationship with excessive alcohol consumption and domestic abuse, its very comforting when we have a Government in Scotland doing the right thing although sometimes it’s the difficult thing to do. Ending our unhealthy relationship with alcohol is a matter of urgency and it pains me to think that some opposition parties are playing politics with peoples lives.  Kenny's answer made clear just how much of a problem it is and how important it is that we address alcohol abuse in Scotland, here's the whole exchange:

Domestic Violence

3. Christina McKelvie (Central Scotland) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government in what proportion of domestic violence crimes alcohol is believed to be a contributing factor. (S3O-08841)

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Kenny MacAskill): The Scottish Government recognises that alcohol does not cause domestic abuse. However, we acknowledge that it is a contributing factor to the frequency and severity of abuse a victim will experience. In the 2007 evaluation of the pilot domestic abuse court in Glasgow, police identified that in 43 per cent of cases "the alleged offender had consumed enough alcohol to merit mention."

The findings from the partner abuse section of the Scottish crime and justice survey 2006 also highlight the link between domestic abuse and alcohol misuse. More than 63 per cent of men and women who had experienced force said that the perpetrator had been drinking alcohol on at least one occasion.

We are clear that tough action on Scotland's drink culture will not in itself end domestic abuse, but it will greatly contribute to decreasing the risk of harm to many thousands of victims and children affected by the issue.

Christina McKelvie: According to Scottish Women's Aid, research has shown that around a third of all reported domestic abuse incidents involve alcohol, which would account for approximately 18,000 recorded incidents in Scotland last year. Although it would be wrong to imply that there is a straightforward causal link between alcohol and domestic violence, research shows that there is a complex relationship between them, with alcohol functioning variously as an intensifier, an excuse and a method of exerting control when it figures in domestic violence incidents. Does the cabinet secretary agree that people on the receiving end of the worst excesses of Scotland's relationship with alcohol include many victims of domestic violence? Can he confirm that the Scottish Government will consider radical action to address that destructive relationship?

Kenny MacAskill: Absolutely. As I indicated in my answer to Ms McKelvie's first question, there is a clear correlation. As night follows day we have a culture in Scotland that my predecessor, Cathy Jamieson, referred to as a cocktail of bevvy and acts of violence. That has to be tackled. The Scottish Government has made it clear that there is a clear link between alcohol abuse and offending. That offending clearly penetrates into the home, damaging women in particular but also scarring children for years to come. It is for others in the chamber, given the opportunity to take tough action on the root accelerant that fuels so much domestic violence, to support this Government in taking action to change Scotland's unacceptable relationship with alcohol and to support minimum pricing.

Friday I have my big surgery in Asda in Hamilton.  It's one I look forward to as people seem to appreciate that they can do the shopping and come bend my ear about issues affecting them in their life. One of the best parts of this job is getting out and about and talking to people and hopefully helping them out or with difficult issues.

So I am off home now as I still feel a bit clammy and wheezy but here's a wee thought…

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, (one) glass of wine in one hand, chocolate in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO !!!!! What a ride!!

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