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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
11th February 2010

A troubled week

Last week I scooted off to attend the Scotswoman of the Year awards.  This year’s winner is Doctor Margo Whiteford – an amazing woman with courage and a determination in bucketloads.  She suffers from Spina Bifida but she took a medical degree and become a senior doctor at Yorkhill hospital in Glasgow.  That would be enough for most of us to contend with, but not Dr Whiteford, she's just as well known for her efforts which have raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity.  She is an incredible woman who I salute with humility.

Myself and Anne McLaughlin MSP had a lovely time at the awards in the grandeur of Glasgow City Chambers – a fantastic building that was, quite clearly, not built in a time of austerity like now.  One of the best speakers of the night was a Marie Curie nurse who gave a very inspirational speech about the care that Marie Curie provides, about how fulfilling her job is, and how there is a lot to laugh about.  She reminded us that laughter and joy can be a wonderful support to us all in our times of weakness, when we’re down, when we’re struggling, when life seems a burden rather than a privilege; it’s a wonderful support for people who are ill and for their families.

As you can see in the photographs, I got to have a gab with Barbara Rafferty and Libby McArthur.  I’m a fan of River City and it was a treat to meet two of the stars of the show.  OK I’m also going to have to admit that Scarlett is my favourite character!  I grew up in Easterhouse and there are a lot of characters in the show that I identify with as typical – Glasgow folk with all the associated banter.

Friday was a day of constituency work before I shot off out to another Burns Supper.  For those who don’t know, the SNP Burns Supper season stretches from the middle of January to the middle of February – I fell like I’ve got haggis coming out of my ears, but what fun it’s been!  This Burns Supper was in a barn in Kinlochard – but not just any old barn.  It was built in the 1600s and was the meeting place of the Clan Gregor so there are historical resonances all over.  I couldn’t help thinking that I may have been standing on the very spot where Rob Roy McGregor might have had his first dance or his first kiss.

A full day in the constituency office was my Monday.  With Martha, my magnificent constituency assistant, off on the sick I had to sort out all the mail that had come into the office, try to get a few letters typed and sort out a couple of issues for constituents.  It meant that I couldn’t be out and about as usual and I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ve made a mess of Martha’s systems so I don’t doubt I’ll get an earful when she gets back.  I miss her cheery support and I just wouldn’t be able to carry on on my own for very long, so hurry back, Martha!

By Monday night I was hoping for some down-time at home, just relaxing.  No such luck.  My son needed my help with finding information for a project for school.  “Ach well”, I thought, “maybe it’s something interesting like Egypt or tropical wildlife” so you can imagine how my heart sank when he told me that it was the EU and the impact it has on our day-to-day life.  Straight back to politics…  Luckily, though, I know someone who knows a thing or two about the EU and Alyn Smith MEP found himself on the other end of the phone answering questions for a school project.  There’s a good project going into school and me mightily relieved.  Thanks Alyn.

This week in Parliament started for me on Tuesday morning at the Equal Opportunities Committee where we discussed the evidence and future plans of the Female Offender in the Criminal Justice System Report, including our approach to the debate which took place on Thursday (should appear in the Official Report at 8am tomorrow but you can read the committee OR here - and the report should be posted on the Committee’s homepage soon).  The chamber debate was excellent, highlighting exactly why short sentences don’t work.

Excellent news reached us in Parliament this week, too.  Florence and Precious Mhango won their case and move onto the next stage of judicial review.  A great victory for all the campaigners in Cranhill and another fine example of the people taking a different view from the negative one so recently exposed by the Guardian newspaper and detailed in the motion I submitted in Parliament:

S3M-05684 Christina McKelvie (Central Scotland) (Scottish National Party): Alleged Discrimination Against Asylum Seekers at UKBA— That the Parliament expresses deep concern at allegations by whistleblower Louise Perrott of a culture at the UK Border Agency (UKBA) of hostility and discrimination towards asylum seekers, openly expressed anti-immigration and anti-asylum seeker views and disbelief and humiliation of asylum applicants; is further concerned that Ms Perrott was able to make legally binding decisions on the granting and refusal of asylum and on detention of individuals and families after only five weeks’ training, and endorses the call of Keith Vaz MP, chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, for an immediate and full investigation into the practices and cultures of management and staff at the UKBA.

So it’s recess now and I’ve managed to wangle two whole days off – luxury, I tell you – so I may get out walking a bit.  I might actually see if I can find the time to go and visit Billy Wolfe – I heard from Linda Fabiani that he was in hospital, so I might pop over and see if I can see him.  That’s if I can get past all the cards on Sunday, right enough!

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