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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
2nd May 2013

It’s been a sad week for all of us MSPs. We heard the news that colleague, Brian Adam, the MSP for Aberdeen Donside, had lost his fight against cancer. His commitment to his constituents and his popularity in the Parliament – across all political parties – is a testament to his life and legacy. We shall all miss him.

The First Minister commended Brian, saying: “Brian was an exceptional MSP and was one of the crucial people who as chief whip sustained the minority government between 2007-2011. I was delighted to see him serve as a minister in this Parliament.

“Of course, his greatest service was to the people of Aberdeen for a quarter of a century - first as a councillor and then as an MSP.

“I’m proud to say I’ve known and admired him over that entire period as an outstanding politician, a fine human being and a dear friend.”

The flags at the Parliament flew at half-mast and a book of condolence was signed by most of the MSPs, not only the SNP members. Labour MP for Aberdeen South said: “Brian always worked hard for his constituents and continued to do so despite his obvious illness.

“Brian has been a key figure in the Aberdeen political scene for a very long time and will be sorely missed.”

And while we’re on the subject of recognising the contribution people like Brian have made, I was glad to see this week’s commemoration of Workers Memorial Day in Hamilton. For the past few years, trade unionists have gathered at the Council Offices to lay tributes at the Workers memorial plaque outside. This year, a new memorial was unveiled on the site by the Provost Eileen Logan.

There were 20 work related fatalities in Scotland alone in 2011-12, and 173 across the UK. In Hamilton, the Council led a workshop before the unveiling of the plaque. It concentrated on health and safety concerns, towards making the working environment safer for all of us. It’s good to see the trade unions focussing on remembering those who have died but focussing on the living.

On a separate health concern, tobacco products in large shops are now behind shutters, another useful and practical way to discourage people from buying them. Alex Neil, our Cabinet Secretary for Health, has also been to Brussels to share some new research regarding the minimum pricing of alcohol.

Around my constituency, as in so much of Scotland, there is an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. The new research reinforces our belief that minimum pricing per alcohol unit does bring positive results. In Canada, a 10 per cent increase was associated with an 8.9 per cent decrease in acute alcohol-attributable admissions and a 9.2 per cent reduction in chronic alcohol-attributable admissions two years later.

While Dr Evelyn Gillan, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, has put her clear support behind the Government’s moves to try and introduce minimum pricing in Scotland, others – including the Scotch Whisky Association – are totally opposed. Profit comes before health for some.

The Tories in Westminster continue to make life as difficult as possible for the most vulnerable people. The latest is that they expect people with the terminal illness, Motor Neurone Disease (MND), to face a fit-to-work assessment.

I find that staggering and insulting. My Dad had this horrible degenerative disease with which the average lifespan from diagnosis is about 14 months.

One 55 year old man in the West of Scotland who suffers from MND has had his home adapted to enable him to stay there. He has now been told that he will have to pay the bedroom tax or be forced to move home. That just shouldn’t be allowed to happen.

Now for the good news. I was delighted to hear that Scottish Power is investing in my constituency. The company will open a brand new office complex in Hamilton that will create hundreds of jobs. It’s a massive shot in the arm for the area.

This new complex can accommodate up to 900 people at Ochil House. That’s a lot of jobs. It’s also a great testament to the skills, drive and determination of local people. Once they see just how good our local workforce is, I’m hoping Scottish Power – and others – will want to bring even more investment here.

I’ve been speaking in the Chamber this week about the practise of blacklisting. The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee Report  on this issue calls on all who have been involved in operating blacklisting to face criminal investigation and sanctioned if proven guilty.

The Report makes it very clear that the blacklisting of building workers by big construction companies is “a real live conspiracy.”

This very secretive nod and a wink kind of behaviour is vile. Workers are denied employment without any explanation, causing not only financial hardship but real misery.

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