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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
17th June 2010

Awards season.


Last weekend I had the great pleasure of being invited one again to the Scots Independent Oliver Brown awards. This year the recipient of the award was Billy Kay he regaled us with stories of his travels and the sense of pride when visiting countries in south east Asia, Hawaii and Europe and experiencing great warmth and friendship from people who had experienced the same warmth when visiting Scotland or spending time with people from Scotland. Billy joined the BBC as a researcher in 1979, then as a producer, he created the acclaimed Odyssey series of documentaries recording the oral history of the Scottish working class. Later as a freelance writer and broadcaster he continued this theme in a number of Television documentaries for BBC Scotland. These included the story of Scottish colliers - "Miners", and "The Mother Tongue". He has written two plays for Radio and one for the stage, "They Fairly Mak Ye Work" which broke box office records at Dundee Rep in its two runs at the theatre in 1986. He has poetry and short stories published in several Scottish anthologies. In 1992 his play for Radio Scotland, Lucky´s Strike - set in Ayrshire during the miners strike - won the Sloan Prize for writing in Scots at St Andrews University. In 1994 the U.K. Wine Guild gave the "best radio or tv programme" award to Kay´s feature "Fresche Fragrant Clairettis". In 1999 he made a television series on Scots for Channel 4 Schools - Haud Yer Tongue and in 2003, he represented Scotland at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC. Recently, he has presented and produced an average of ten new features per year on Radio Scotland. In 2006, Mainstream Publishing issued a brand new edition of his classic "Scots: The Mither Tongue" while his new book "The Scottish World" was launched at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August 2006. I was fortunate enough to buy one of Bill's books "The Scottish World" and I started reading it immediately, one quote that jumped out at me was by the great Hugh MacDiarmid it reads;


For we ha’e faith in Scotland’s hidden poo’ers, The present’s theirs, but a’ the past and future’s oors.

That quote says it all the future is ours and the future for Scotland is Independence. We just need to realise her hidden powers.


Now the Oliver Brown award is named after a great Scottish political and cultural activist, the late W Oliver Brown and is given to the person who has done most to promote Scottish identity and self-confidence. Previous winners have included Norman MacCaig, Winnie Ewing, Phil Cunningham and Paul Scott. Billy is certainly a worthy recipient to follow in the footsteps of this great Scot.


Tuesday night I was at Calderside academy in Blantyre for a fantastic awards ceremony. The children receiving the awards and there were lots of them were an absolute credit to their parents and school but more importantly they were a credit to themselves. Calderside was also saying goodbye to their head teacher Freda Hutchison and a wonderful tribute was paid to her by Rev David Birt of Hillhouse parish church  I am sure Freda will be missed and her contribution to Scottish education over 30 plus years will be not be forgotten. I wish her well and hope she will be using her skill and talent in other areas of Scottish life.


Wednesday was an education day; we had the Cabinet Secretary for Education giving evidence on local government spend on education in the morning and a debate on stage 1 of the Children's Hearings Bill. You can watch the committee here


The debate was very robust and I believe that children's hearings should not be used as a political football. I think any politician worth their salt will ensure that everyone works together to create the best system that continues to be welfare based and with the child at the heart of this process. You can also watch the debate by following this link; it should be up on this page soon.


On Wednesday night I had the great pleasure in joining some of my wonderful friends at Edinburgh castle for the Scottish Refugee Council's 25th anniversary get together. It was a wonderful event with fantastic music and nor forgetting some lovely food. Our friends from the English based Refugee Council were blown away with the great hall in the castle and even more blown away with the brilliant relationship all the organisations at the event had with the Scottish Government. Michael Russell MSP Cabinet Secretary for Education spoke about the work and negotiations on asylum and refugee issues being undertaken by the SNP Government. It makes my heart sing to hear the stories of people’s lives binge made better by decisions and actions of this SNP Government, it makes me very proud to be a member of a party who puts the welfare of people seeking sanctuary in our land at the top of the agenda.


It was another Thursday morning and another opposition members debate and guess what the topic was education and schools. Labour as usual has nothing positive to add here is my speech which as you can see pulled no punches;


Two hundred and forty-four million pounds in one year.


That’s how much money was siphoned out of local authority education budgets straight off, before they’d even bought a pencil last year.


Two hundred and forty-four million pounds siphoned off and wasted paying the private profits of bankers who run the Special Delivery Vehicles of PPP and PFI projects.


Nearly a quarter of a billion pounds a year stripped out of the scarce resources that local authorities have available for education – lost as a result of the ‘credit card mortgages’ that Labour put on Scotland’s school estate and Labour members have the brass neck to swan into Parliament with a motion complaining about the scarcity of resources.


And all of that’s before we face the cuts that are going to be imposed by the Lib Dem and Conservative Government as a result of the massive economic failures of Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling.


The biggest irony of all, I suppose, is that PPP and PFI were supposed to be fantastic ways of moving the risk of large-scale capital projects away from the public sector and onto the private sector.


Somehow it didn’t turn out that way – what little risk actually did transfer came thundering right back at us when the UK Government started firing our money at the banks and now we’re in the interesting position of public money being used to prop up private financing of public projects where private profit is the over-riding concern and the public purse is paying through the nose for the privilege.


5% of the education budget gone, one pound in every twenty vanished from education resources, and it’s only going to get worse.


Revenue expenditure on education has increased massively under this Government – it’s now more than double what it was when Donald Dewar was First Minister – five thousand pounds per pupil per year in primary School now compared to less than two in 1999 and getting on for seven thousand pounds for every pupil in a secondary school now compared to just three in 1999.


This Government has made sure that Scotland’s schools are well resourced and it’s done it in partnership with local authorities, respecting them, valuing their position and their right to run their council areas.


Those are the resources that will help deliver the important changes that are coming in Scottish education, along with dedicated staff members and committed parents.


I speak to teachers on a regular basis, most of whom tell me that they are ready to implement the curriculum for excellence and that they are looking forward to it and, increasingly, they are telling me that they are sick fed up of hearing politicians talking them down, saying that they are not able to implement the new curriculum, suggesting that they are not professional enough to do their jobs and to do those jobs well.


They tell me that morale is being affected by this constant onslaught on their professionalism; that teachers are feeling the pressure, and that parents and pupils are now being unnecessarily worried by the continual wailing of the harpies, and that they want it to stop.


Politicians should stop talking Scotland’s education system down, should stop blighting children’s lives with this petty point scoring and get on with the job of delivering improvements in Scottish education.


Perhaps opposition Members should listen to the sage advice of Robert Brown from the old days when he was Deputy Minister for Education and Young People when he said:


“The curriculum for excellence programme will produce a curriculum for children from three to 18. Moving to a single curriculum that starts at age three, with the early stage of the revised curriculum going to the end of primary 1, has the radical potential to extend the child-centred, active learning approaches that are used in nursery into the early years of primary. That is extremely important. Good work is being done in many schools and other establishments across Scotland in that regard. From experience across the sector, we know that transitions are always difficult. Continuing the active learning style of nursery into primary 1 will make the transition from pre-school and nursery to school easier. It is vital that the eagerness and enthusiasm for learning that young children have in early years settings are maintained throughout their school careers.”


The last administration had Ministers who did a lot of work to start the development of the system which SNP Ministers are now implementing.


It is sad that their colleagues appear willing to discard that work for the sake of some newspaper headlines and some petty political point-scoring.


It offers little advantage politically and much damage educationally.


Those Members might wish to reflect on the fact that ill-considered actions can have serious long-term effects.


They might want to remember that the newly qualified teachers who cannot find work now entered teacher training under the last administration as a result of hasty decisions based on poor workforce planning made by Labour Ministers.


Those newly qualified teachers who cannot find employment noted in Labour’s motion today are unemployed because Labour failed them.


They entered teacher training on Labour’s watch to fill vacancies that Labour predicted but which never came.


It’s a cruel trick Labour played on those young professionals, a cruel trick.


Labour’s motion is based on false premises and it hopes to divert attention from its own failings.


It’s just as well we have an SNP Government that’s working to make Scotland smarter and more competitive, working to give Scotland’s children the best possible start in life.


Stop Press some good news came my way the other day and I was honoured to be at the opening a bar/diner in Hamilton. It’s not often these days to see a new business opening. In these difficult times it is brilliant to see the opening of a business. Lynn and Colin Adams opened Hardies in Hamilton tonight and I was invited along to the event. That’s a picture of Lynn, Colin and myself outside. Lynn tells me that she will soon be serving excellent scran and will be ensuring that her world famous steak pie will be on the menu. If you are in Hamilton I suggest you go along and try this lovely new place out you can find it here;


Hardies Wine Bar
25 Chapel Street


Below are some pictures of my adventures this week

National Epilepsy Week

Billy Kay

Billy Kay and Me


Christina McKelvie MSP
Central Scotland

Return to Christina McKelvie's Index Page


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