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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
9th May 2013

Drugs, they afflict so many people. And of course it isn’t only those people who are directly involved but their families too. It isn’t easy to keep on trying to help someone – mother, son, father, brother, sister – who has got drawn into this apocalyptic scene.

I was glad to visit the Stonehouse Family Support Group this week. These folk are volunteers online and on the phone trying hard to help the families of people with drugs problems to cope in the best way possible.

I joined them for the opening of their new café, Open Spaces Community Café, at The Cross, Stonehouse, and gave them a bit of a donation. Find out more about them at:

The group provides the kind of support and help that can really make a difference. Talking to other people in similar situations, finding out how they manage to provide support and help towards recovery is vital when it comes to tackling this pervasive problem.

Poverty and deprivation can lead people down this path. That’s why the Scottish Government is so determined to try to narrow that gap between rich and poor and make sure everyone gets a fair chance.

Often, families feel they are to blame but that’s not true. A relative’s drugs misuse is not your fault. Parents in particular can feel a sense of guilt and failure and recognisng that it’s not their fault can be a very positive step forward.

Talking to people who’ve been there, done that, goes a long way to helping families really help open up the lines of communication between the drug user and his or her family. That’s a big step in the right direction.

Regular readers will probably already be aware that my Dad died as a result of Motor Neurone Disease (MND). I am acutely conscious of the need to help people with the disease – and their families – cope with the crisis. MND is actually a related group of diseases affecting the motor neurons of the nervous system which are degenerative, progressive and incurable.

After a while, and it isn’t very long, the messages from the brain to the muscles just don’t work. Your body doesn’t respond to the triggers any more. You can’t do anything for yourself.

The disease starts out in different ways with different people because it all depends on the location of the neurons involved. Nobody knows the cause and a lot of research is going on but there’s no sign of a cure in sight.

The Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research at Edinburgh University is developing an MND Voicebank. The idea is that, because a lot of MND patients lose the ability to communicate easily, the voicebank will provide a range of recorded voices which will be used to create synthesized voices for those who have lost their speech as a result of the condition.

So MND Scotland is a cause very close to my heart and my home. I was just nine when my Dad was diagnosed with MND and the years that followed as he bravely fought the disease brought my whole family together as experts on the disease.

We also became determined to do everything we could to help find out more about this illness, what causes it and how the lives of sufferers can be made longer and better.

That is why I fully back this new research project – what greater gift could a person give than to potentially help people get back their own voice?

We know the current provision of communication aids – which often sound robotic – leaves many patients feeling frustrated and isolated.

An email went around the Parliament asking people if they wanted to donate their voices. I recorded mine, as did Neil Robinson from my office, not so much for posterity as for practical purposes.

The centre, which is part of the University of Edinburgh, is hoping to record more voices from the over-40s, particularly men, and of people with Scottish accents other than Edinburgh. So any of you male ex-pats in the right age range who can do it, please contact Shuna Colville on

It was great to see what MND Scotland is doing to help make the very limited lifespan of MND patients – on average, no more than 14 months – better and I applaud them for it.

Multiple Sclerosis is another horrible disease. Last Wednesday, along with my MSP colleagues, I pledged to help make sure people living with MS in Scotland have access to the right treatment, care and support, regardless of where they live.

I joined a reception in the Garden Lobby of the Parliament to give my support to help make sure everyone with this condition can draw down the same support.

Europe Day arrived in Edinburgh on Thursday 9 May. St Andrew Square was swathed in sunlight as people came along to see the Scottish Government and EU information providers showcasing their countries and what the EU is doing in Scotland.

There was an evening reception at the Royal Society of Edinburgh which I enjoyed. It was a rather grand affair in a spectacular building, one of the city’s prized examples of the finest of Enlightenment architecture.

With the sudden upsurge in the anti-EU vote at last week’s local elections in England and Wales, we in Scotland need to be more conscious than ever of just how crucial our membership of the EU is for our business and agricultural interests, for social protection and our human rights, how many hours a week we ought to be working, how much maternity leave women are entitled to, protecting our children online and vital tools like the European Arrest Warrant are enshrined in European law.

I recently learned of a case where a wife snatched the couple’s two children from Scotland and took them off to France to live. Thanks to the European Arrest Warrant, she and the children were returned to Scotland.

As you may know, I chair the European and External Relations Committee of the Parliament. You can find out more about what the Committee does here: There is more general information about Scotland’s external relations here:

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