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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
20th May 2010

Detention but not the kind you get at school.

Last week I shot off to the cross party group on refugees and asylum a group I am proud to be the co-chair of.  There was a big agenda and some very welcome visitors to the group.  First up we had Liz MacDonald from consumer focus who gave a presentation on the new guide to help people access our health service. The leaflet says your health, your language, your guide, it comes in written, DVD and online and is a very helpful tool to enable people to understand their rights to health and how to access this. You can watch videos online and it is available in 17 languages a truly inclusive example of how we do things differently in Scotland, a very welcome level of humanity applied to address the needs of people who may speak a different language but who may not read that language. To get a copy of the DVD go online at the above address or call 0800 22 44 88. We then had a very informative presentation from Sanna one of our representatives from the refugee Women's Strategy Group. Sanna presented the findings of an inquiry to us entitled Asylum-Seeking Women, Violence and Health.

The report looked at the asylum process, violence, physical and mental health status and health care use. The report has been formulated into advice and guidance for women in the asylum system, a smashing piece of work that will support and guide people through their rights and the extremely complicated asylum system. It always makes me laugh when you hear some of the nonsense spouted by right wing elements of our society say we are too soft on asylum, it would be funny if it was not so serious a falsehood to perpetuate.

The next very special guest we had was the Chief Inspector of UK Border Agency John Vine CBE QPM, he is wholly independent from UKBA and he has done some excellent work in looking at the internal workings of UKBA. He was very interested in the presentations at the group and was very open about his role and people certainly felt at ease asking him pertinent questions about the failings of UKBA. He was also very open to suggestions on where the system needs inspected and maybe some reform. It was a very interesting session with everyone contributing on a whole host of issues and concerns. I am hopeful that some of it will be looked at and recommendations made to improve and very inflexible and at times hostile UKBA. Last week we heard Tavish announce the end of detention of children especially at Dungavel, I hardly dared believe it to be true as I have a cynical although healthy mistrust of the home office…that’s just raw experience. This is what he said;

Tavish: "Now that the UK Government policy is changing and children are no longer to be detained behind razor wire at Dungavel—Liberal Democrats in government having made that happen—will the First Minister ensure that Scottish agencies and councils are able to work with the UK Government to educate, support and accommodate children? Is he ready to work for that fundamental change?"

This is what I said when just a few days later UKBA detained 25 year old Sehar and her 8 month old baby, Wania, who have been locked up in Dungavel Removal Centre.

So in response this is what I had to say;

"Danny Alexander and Tavish Scott's words mean as little as Labour's did when it comes to Dungavel.  Last week the Lib Dems claimed the detention of children at Dungavel had ended.  Tonight an eight month old baby is being held behind bars in Scotland in contrast to the claims of Lib Dems last week.    Children should not find themselves behind bars in a humane immigration system and if the Lib Dems deal means anything Danny Alexander and Tavish Scott must act to ensure this child, and all others are not detained in Dungavel for one more day.

"The SNP has taken the lead in setting up alternatives to detention for children of asylum seekers and asylum seeking families.  That is the approach Scotland wants to see, not cheap talk and no action from another Scottish Secretary."

So moving on a few more days…..yes keep up…we have the announcement from the new immigration minister Damian Green that detention overnight for children in Dungavel will end immediately- great I hear you cry. I thought that too but then realised very quickly that children would just be shipped to Yarlswood detention centre disgusted is not strong enough to explain how I felt. If its Scottish countryside or English countryside a child is looking at from behind bars it doesn’t really matter its still detention and its still abhorrent.

The weekend saw me jaunting about the constituency catching up with constituent issues and taking some things forward. Sunday was a particularly busy day for me I was at Strathclyde park with a big hooter…no not my nose a proper big hooter starting off the MND annual charity run, you could run 4 or 6 miles around the loch, you could walk, dance or just stroll if you liked. It was a brilliant event and the biggest so far with 650 participants including Scott Hastings who has told me I have to do it next year too so I better get my trainers on a start running. Here's some pics of me starting the race with my big hooter of course!

It was then a quick hop over the bridge to Hamilton Palace show grounds to present the medals at the Davie Cooper soccer 7's another fantastic year with 14 girls teams lining up for the trophy. There was also about 20 boys teams. Both finals ended in penalty shoot outs and you could have cut the tension with a knife every time one of the young people lined up to take their shot. Some photos here too that show the pride on everyone's face at the achievement. Another brilliant event organised with cooperation from South Lanarkshire council and Hamilton Sports Council.

If there's one thing we all love its good news and there was some smashing news for Hamilton and South Lanarkshire as a whole today. The first thing was;


Christina McKelvie MSP has today welcomed Scottish Government approval for byelaws passed by South Lanarkshire Council, which will prohibit the possession of alcohol for consumption outdoors in public places.

The byelaws, put forward by the council on 17 March, have been backed by the SNP government and will come into force on 10 June this year. They will cover 33 towns throughout South Lanarkshire, including Hamilton, and will strengthen existing laws against public drinking.

SNP MSP Ms McKelvie said:

“I fully expect that the introduction of these byelaws will make a big difference to the quality of life in communities across South Lanarkshire which are badly affected by the nuisance and disorder caused by public drinking.

“They will give local police more power to crack down not just on outdoors drinking itself, but also on the noise, vandalism and violence that goes with it and which makes too many people’s lives a misery.

“I believe that any minor inconvenience to the public will be more than offset by much greater gains in community safety and quality of life.

“Glasgow stepped up its existing byelaws against public drinking in 2008, and I doubt very much that many people in that city would argue for a return to the way things used to be.

“It is a priority for the SNP Government to focus action on the most problematic drinking, with bans such as these targeted at areas where there has already been trouble with drinking-related disorder. That is exactly what South Lanarkshire’s new byelaws will do and I believe they will make a positive difference to communities across the county.”

Given our very negative relationship with alcohol I think this is another step towards people being sensible when it comes to alcohol and the locals who have their lives blighted by drunk induced anti-social behaviour will welcome this positive step forward.

The second bit of good news will be particularly welcome in Lanarkshire because it has lost loads of jobs since the recession started and that good news was told today by the First Minister he said;


First Minister welcomes plans for new facility that will create 450 jobs

The Scottish Government is supporting John Lewis in its plans to open a new customer contact centre at the Hamilton Technology Park, which will create more than 450 jobs when the centre reaches full capacity.

The Government is supporting the project with the offer of #700,000 in Regional Selective Assistance. The centre which will field customer enquiries, deal with administration and assist customers with purchase enquiries is due to open in June.

First Minister Alex Salmond said:

"The Scottish Government is doing all that it can to create jobs and investment and I am delighted that John Lewis has chosen to locate its new customer service contact centre in Scotland.

"This project will bring more than 450 jobs to the Hamilton area and will make a significant contribution to the local economy.

"John Lewis Partnership already makes a substantial contribution to the Scottish economy through employing approximately 2,600 people across its John Lewis and Waitrose shops. The Scottish Government is supporting the company's plans to increase its presence in Scotland, particularly during these challenging economic times.

"John Lewis has established a reputation for quality customer care and came top of the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index. The firm's decision to locate this major new facility in Scotland demonstrates that North Lanarkshire has the infrastructure and skilled workforce to deliver future success for this leading household name."

Andrew Murphy, Director, Retail Operations at John Lewis said:

"We are delighted to have the support of the Scottish Government on such an important project for John Lewis and look forward to working with the local community in and around Hamilton."

David Smith, interim chief executive of Scottish Development International, said:

"Scottish Development International, in partnership with Scottish Enterprise, has worked closely with John Lewis over the last twelve months, to attract and secure the company's investment in the new centre at Hamilton Technology Park.

"This investment will not only provide a huge jobs boost for the region; but it will also help to cement Scotland's reputation as one of Europe's leading locations for customer service centres and we look forward to working with the company to develop its presence in Scotland."

I like good news and I am hoping that we have turned a corner and will continue to herald the positive changes our nation needs to prosper and feel confident.

Right I am off home to catch up on some things I didn’t see last night I recommend them to you. Let me know what you think?

BBC Scotland documentary about the lives of asylum seekers in Glasgow broadcast on BBC One Scotland yesterday evening: Watch it here:

PLUS SEE NEWSNIGHT SCOTLAND REPORT on the end of detention of children in Dungavel also broadcast yesterday evening! Watch it here:

See you all next week.

Christina McKelvie MSP
Central Scotland

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