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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
27th January 2011

Election fever

Sorry folks I have not been keeping you up to date with things over the last few weeks, I had some very big issues to deal with.

I am back this week and keen to keep you all updated on what has been going on. So here goes…… first with the politics.

We had the first part of the progress of the Budget Bill going through Parliament this week, John Swinney, as always, presenting a well thought out and sensible allocation of the very scarce resources available to the Scottish Government, including raising £30 million extra by asking the largest supermarkets to pay a little more in business rates.  Our opposition, of course, don’t see it quite that way and they are demanding that the supermarket levy, or “Tesco Tax” as they are calling it, is abolished.  Where would they find the money to fill that gap?  Well, Labour (whose MSPs demanded extra spending in the budget) wants to put the Council Tax up.  As my colleague and friend Linda Fabiani MSP said in the debate:

“The SNP is intent on ensuring some measure of fairness in our society and, to anyone who wants to see where the parties stand on social justice and on having a system that is inherently fair, I point out that the Scottish Government has not only implemented but maintained and fully funded a freeze on the indirect council tax. It is one small measure that the Government can take within the very limited range of powers that it has to help those in need. We have all heard Iain Gray and his troops call for the freeze to be lifted. Folk have not forgotten how quickly council tax rose under Labour Administrations at national and local level. Indeed, my colleague Tricia Marwick has just reminded me that the increase was 60 per cent over 10 years. We have no desire to see that return.

It is interesting that, although Labour and the other Opposition parties want to see lower-paid people take on an increasingly unfair burden in the shape of rising council tax, they also want to protect the profits of the big supermarkets. They think that Tesco, with a turnover of more than £42 billion, is less able to afford to take some of the strain than someone who receives the minimum wage for their work. It seems that Sainsbury’s and Asda, with turnovers approaching £20 billion a year, and Morrisons, with over £15 billion a year, cannot spare the pennies, but Scots pensioners can. That is the world according to the Labour Party, the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrat party.”

It’s well worth reading all of the debate over at the Scottish Parliament website, the debate is here - and I’m sure you’ll find yourself agreeing with Linda about the importance of the choice facing us in Parliament, the choice that all MSPs will have to make:

“We approach the budget with a very important choice to make, which is pertinent in this season of Burns. Is Scotland to be a progressive nation that considers fairness for all, or are we to say, “Deil tak the hindmost”?”

I got the chance to weigh in on the issue with a question to John Swinney today (it’ll appear on the website tomorrow) when I asked him whether he agreed with the Federation of Small Businesses when they said that small businesses in Scotland needed a level playing field to thrive and the supermarket levy was part of that.  The supplementary questions from the opposition showed that they still don’t understand the importance of small businesses to Scotland nor how successful the SNP’s strategies have been.  The latest statistics show that Scotland has 296,780 business enterprises - up 1,400 in a year and up 17,290 since the SNP came to power; a performance during a recession that exceeded the performance of the previous three years when times were good - of which 1,500 have more than 500 employees and a further 3,655 have between 50 and 249 employees - 4,155 substantial Scottish businesses - 2,265 of the medium sized enterprises are headquartered in Scotland and 430 of the large ones; that's 2,695 substantial businesses not only operating in Scotland but headquartered here (an increase in percentages from previous years) - and then there are all the small Scottish-owned enterprises to add - another 146,065.

Nearly twice as many new businesses were started in the first three years of the SNP Scottish Government than in the three years before that and it’s even more impressive when you remember that the years since the SNP took power have been when Labour’s recession hit Scotland hard compared to the good times in the years before.  This shows that the SNP was right to create policies which benefit Scotland’s small enterprises, particularly the rates relief under the Small Business Bonus – thousands of people have been able to realise their dreams of starting a new business and many more small businesses have been helped to survive by those policies being implemented in Government.  We have to keep doing this, we have to keep going.

Taxes are rising and people are feeling the pinch right across the country, we know that VAT went up to 20% recently, but did you also know that tax on your home insurance went up to 6% earlier this month and, incredibly, if you’re sensible enough to buy insurance for your gas central heating system you’re now paying 20% tax on that.  People are finding times tough and governments should be trying to help.  It’s clear that the Scottish Government is doing what it can but that this is limited as a result of the limitations of devolution.  It’s also clear that the government in London is not helping – VAT going up, fuel prices going up, insurance taxes going up – all indirect taxes, all taxes that impact most heavily upon those people least able to pay and now Labour wants to add to the burden of indirect taxation by hiking Council Tax and considering using the Tartan Tax as well.  It’s incredible – Labour thinks that Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury shouldn’t pay a penny more but their shelf stackers should pay a fortune!  What happened to the progressive party they once were?

Labour has attacked everything the SNP has tried to do since we took power in 2007 and they continue to attack – hardly any of them offer anything constructive and they don’t offer any alternate vision for Scotland nor, indeed, any positive policies.  We’ve seen them recently attacking Mike Russell for giving advice to parents seeking to keep their school open, attack Alex Salmond for daring to suggest that Scotland might play a bigger role in the world, vote against the minimum pricing of alcohol in Scotland while saying that the SNP Scottish Government should be doing something about the alcohol problem in Scotland – and then supporting minimum pricing on a UK basis (but at a price which, in reality, will make no difference).  We’ve seen them cry “foul” when Ministers intervene and criticise Ministers for “interfering” when they do intervene, they have nothing to offer but plenty to say, they aspire to nothing for the country but plenty for themselves, they bring nothing to the debates but plenty of noise, they cannot dream or imagine coming close to the passion, ability and work-rate that our Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers show every single day.  Where the SNP wants to talk Scotland up and speak about what we can achieve Labour brings a heavy, deadening hand; where the SNP brings hope Labour brings pessimism; but where Labour brings doom we’re determined to push it aside and allow sunshine onto Scotland’s face, we’re determined to bring a smile, a hope, a little lift of the heart.  It won’t be easy, we’re determined, but so are they!

It’s clear from everything that’s going on in politics just now that Labour is going to fight a dirty election campaign, so dirty that they might actually put their own supporters off, I’ve heard of one Labour supporter who went to the Iain Gray and Ed Milliband show, came away less than inspired and is now not sure who to vote for.  For myself, I’ll be running a positive campaign and I think the SNP nationally will be running a similarly positive campaign, we’ll be laying out a vision of Scotland, a vision for Scotland’s future that we want to see realised, we’ll be taking that dream to the people of Scotland, encouraging them to have the courage to take more control of their own country, to drive forward to a better nation, to be part of a better nation, to be part of a better society, to be part of a better world, to stand tall when others try to cut us down.  We have to build and rebuild our nation, improve and enhance our country, build a better today so that we can build a better tomorrow.  The future of our country is in our hands and we should treat it well.

Speaking of the future, as an MSP I get asked to do interviews for lots of different organisations, media people and others. I got a request from a young woman to do an interview for her school magazine. She was very professional and asked some very searching questions on a number of interesting topics. One question was “what would be my priority (other than Independence of course) for Scotland and her people”. I gave this a bit of thought and said “a happy, healthy wealthy, secure and prosperous Scotland” I explained that this starts with good social policy that enabled people to participate and contribute to our nations development. I also said that to do that we need a set of policies that looked at the individual and what they needed - a holistic policy programme. So things like protecting household budgets by freezing council tax, maintaining and promoting health with shorter waiting times, better and cleaner hospitals and free prescriptions. Add to that free education based on ability to learn not ability to pay, smaller class sizes, funding for higher and further education and additional training and apprenticeships. By putting extra police on the beat to help people feel safer in their communities. To top it off support for small businesses and powering economic growth through capital spend. All of these policies give all of Scotland people the opportunity to be healthy, to be educated and supported to do so, to be able to grow their small business thus creating the conditions for that happy, healthy, wealthy, secure and prosperous person.

Shannon Lowrie, intrepid school reporter who came to parliament to interview me. She is on course to be a formidable reporter.

I had the most wonderful candidate adoption and campaign launch a few weeks ago in Eddlewood Hall in Hamilton. I am now formally adopted as the candidate for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse and raring to go!

Our guest speaker for the evening was John Swinney MSP and Cabinet Secretary for Finance and sustainable growth. John gave as always a very passionate and inspirational speech which seems to have given our team a fantastic motivational bounce. I was also honoured to have my personal guard in attendance. The Strathleven Artizans came along in numbers and armed to the teeth to support my campaign. As you can see from the photos they are a colourful bunch and really gave the night an historical flavour.

Ted Christopher, Michael Toner, Cllr Greg McCarra and quite a few of the Artizans sang us rousing songs and gave us some wonderful recitations. A Guid night had by all…

Christina McKelview Adoption Night in Hamilton

Elspeth Crokett and Christina McKelvie

John Swinney Cllr Graeme Horne Christina McKelvie

My personal guard

Ted Christopher

The Artizans

There is lots more information on the event on the Artizans website below.

Well I am off now to a Burns Supper in Hamilton, I have donned my very bright red tartan tights for the occasion and I am armed with a cheeky reply from the Lasses. Here is a wee bit of Burns about a tartan clad lady.

Down flow’d her robe, a tartan sheen,  
Till half a leg was scrimply seen;     
An’ such a leg! my bonie Jean  
                Could only peer it;    
Sae straught, sae taper, tight an’ clean—      
                Nane else came near it.

I leave you now in my tartan sheen…..

See you all next week.

Christina McKelvie MSP
Central Scotland

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