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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
4th February 2011

Tempus Fugit

Time just seems to be flying in, it seems only a few weeks since I was elected in 2007 and now I’ve got the instructions from the high heid yins at Parliament about what I’m allowed and not allowed to do in the run-up to the 2011 election and I’ve started clearing out my office (we’ve got to clear it before we go and leave it completely empty during the election) – where did those four years go?  Looking back I’m pretty amazed by how much we’ve actually got done, how we’ve changed Scotland for the better, how much pride we’ve restored to Scotland, and I’m pretty pleased to remember the wee part that I’ve played in it.  It’s quite a privilege getting to amend legislation, getting to change the law, being allowed to get to your feet and speak about the things that you believe in, the things you hold dear, the things that matter, and know that it’s making a difference.  There’s delight in being able to help constituents with their problems, help people make their lives just a little easier, help people to improve their communities.  There’s a great fire of pride in defending your position, arguing for a better Scotland, testing your mettle against the opposition.

It’s been a fantastic four years – a rollercoaster, exciting and breathtaking – and I want to do it all again.  There’s so much we’ve already done but there’s a huge amount still to do.  We’ve put 1,000 more police on the streets of Scotland but Trident still lurks in the Clyde.  We’ve cut business rates for thousands of small businesses but thousands of Scots are still unemployed.  We’ve made our hospitals much, much better but Scots still lead unhealthy lives.  So much already done, so much still to do.  We must carry on, we must keep campaigning, working for and believing in the people of Scotland, in the great dream we have of a better nation, we must keep that dream alive, carry the torch that was passed on to us by previous generations, that’s a task we shouldn’t shirk.  We’ve done so much and so much still remains to be done.

We haven’t always been successful, there are some places where we fell a little short – not even SNP Ministers are superhuman.  We’ve got the smallest class sizes in history but we missed the target of class sizes of 18 that we set for the first three years.  We can argue back and forward about whose fault that was, whether councils should take most of the blame or not, but we failed our own ambitious target – we did better than anyone before us has ever done but we haven’t been as good as we wanted to be.  We froze Council Tax for four years and want to keep it frozen but we didn’t get Local Income Tax through.  It doesn’t matter that that was because the Lib Dems wouldn’t support their own policy, we didn’t manage to hit our own ambitious target – we froze an unpopular and unfair tax for years on end but we haven’t got rid of it.  Crime is at a 32 year low but we still send too many people to prison.  That’s a long-term problem and, like a supertanker, it will take time to turn it around but we came into government determined to change the system and we haven’t quite done it yet – the streets are safer but we have still to fully reform our justice system.  We’re making prescriptions free but we didn’t get minimum pricing through.  Never mind that it was the three opposition parties (some of whom accepted gifts from brewers for their opposition) who knocked it down, we wanted more – Scots are healthier but we have more battles to fight yet.  We’ve hit many of the ambitious targets that we set before the 2007 election, we’ve built thousands of new council houses with thousands more to come compared to only six that Labour built in their eight years (yes, that’s six houses, not six thousand), we’ve wrangled new deals from Europe for our fishing fleets, we’re building motorways that the last bunch left unfinished, we’ve built more schools than we promised – nearly one and a half times as many as we promised – and much more than anyone else was promising, we’re delivering on our ambitious manifesto commitments right across government, but we’ve missed a few of those ambitious targets and those misses have been used by our opposition to pretend that we haven’t been very good in government.

Our opposition has used the media effectively to suggest that we’ve ‘broken promises’ and that we’re not very good.  That’s not true and it’s because we set our own bar so high, because we had such ambitious targets in 2007 – and we should do just the same in 2011, we should set massively ambitious targets for our second term in government because if you’re not ambitious for Scotland why are you standing for election?  If you don’t want the very best for your nation why would you seek to lead it?  If you not prepared to try and fail and try again why get in the way of the people who are prepared to use their energies that way?  If you never reach for the stars you’ll never leave the ground behind.  The SNP should be ambitious, massively ambitious in the targets we set for the next four years, we are Scotland’s party and we owe it to Scotland to set that trajectory – upwards and better.  That’s why I’m back out on the campaign trail.

We’ve got a good team out campaigning in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse (the name of the new constituency) and we’re hard at it already, we’re determined to win and there’s only one way to do that – hard work and lots of it.  I’m always grateful to everyone who comes out and campaigns with me, I can never forget that they’ve all got jobs and families and lives to be getting on with and that their volunteering for the SNP shows real dedication but I also remember that they are the people who believe, this is their party, their dreams, their ambitions, I always remember that they stand with me in whatever I do and it gives me an extra edge to my politics – it’s not me against the rest, it’s me with all my fellow members, I’m not just an individual, I’m part of a movement and a member of the biggest political party in Scotland.  It’s an honour to be their standard bearer and I intend to make them all proud of what we’ve done.  Come the morning of the 6th of May there will be a change in Scotland, the SNP will have taken a second term as the Scottish Government, I’ll be a constituency MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Linda Fabiani will be a constituency MSP for East Kilbride, Alex Neil will win Airdrie, and so on.  Scotland is moving again, I can feel it.  Scotland is moving again and it’s the SNP that’s leading the way.  Scotland is moving again and we’re building a new and more confident nation.  Scotland is moving again.

I’m a candidate and I’m part of a team, I rely on my team to keep me right, pick me up when things are tough, and deliver a campaign victory for all of us.  We’re a team and we work together and we like to socialise together sometimes too and I was delighted to be with my team at a Burns Supper in the George Bar in Hamilton, it was a great night and we got a chance to relax and recharge our batteries.  I’ve got to tell you that the service was excellent and Lynn runs a cracking pub, well worth popping into if you’re ever nearby.  We relaxed, we recharged and we got ready to go back out on the campaign trail.

It still doesn’t seem like it’s been four years but here we are again, back at it – only this time it’s different, Scotland’s different, we’ve thrown off the shackles of Labour rule, we’ve shown Scotland that we can lift our eyes to the far horizon, and we’ve set a course for a better nation.  This time we’ve got a record in Government to defend and I believe that it’s a fine record, a good record even.  This time every vote in every house in every street in Scotland is there to be won and this time it really counts.  MacDiarmid had it that

O Scotland is
the barren fig
Up carles, up
and roond it jig

He may well have been right but Scotland is less barren now – not quite in blossom but the first buds are starting to show.  Alex Salmond isn’t ‘Auld Moses’ and the flowering isn’t instant but we’re heading in the right direction, the SNP is leading Scotland in the right direction; we seek power not to rule but to serve; we seek office not for the trappings but for the good we can do; and we seek government not for self glory but for Scottish advancement.  We’ve come a long way, we’ve got a long way to go but we know now where we must go.

I’ll see you on the campaign trail.


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