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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
29th October 2013

We’re heading back towards winter and all its certainties - Hallowe’en, Christmas, Burns suppers, frost and weather warnings.

SNP Annual Conference

But a more exciting certainty was the SNP Annual Conference in the delightful city of Perth. With around 1200 members, activists and observers at the three-day event, we were all in fine fettle. The First Minister gave as a truly rousing speech

Alex Salmond announced that the White Paper is coming out on 26 November. That’s the document that will give everyone the chance to see just what an Independent Scotland could look like. There’ll be a lot of information in there! Make sure you ask the Scottish Parliament for a copy.

He spoke of another £7 million, on top of the £10 million already committed, to helping local communities bring sports facilities across Scotland. He explained about our proposed approach to defence – with no nuclear missiles – and he highlighted the hypocrisy of the Labour Party – including No leader Alistair Darling – who voted for the Iraq war.

First Minister, Alex Salmond, and Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, received a standing ovation at the SNP Annual Conference

The First Minister declared all the positives already put in place in Scotland by this Government, like better health care that won’t be privatised, youth unemployment reduced by a third, and that guarantee that “the rocks will melt in the sun before we allow Tory or Labour to take away the right to free education in Scotland.”

And you will have read my thoughts on the ubiquitous bedroom tax, again highlighted by the FM:

“With each passing day it becomes clearer that the Westminster system is not fit for any purpose – it is further away than ever from Scotland’s values, and past its time.

“The iniquitous Bedroom Tax is the latest example – in a House of Commons debate led by the SNP and Plaid Cymru, over 90 per cent of Scottish MPs voted against it. 

“We know from Scottish Government research that the extra costs the Bedroom Tax impose on the Scottish economy will outweigh any savings the UK Government makes – even before we factor in the wider social costs and the distress and disruption it will cause.

“But still it is imposed on Scotland.  And to add insult to injury, the architect of this shambles – Iain Duncan Smith – has to be dragged kicking and screaming to deign to defend his policy to a committee of the Scottish Parliament.

“Friends this is an iniquitous, unfair, anti-family imposition conceived because of runaway rent levels in the south.”

“But please do read through the whole speech yourself and get a sense of why it is so vital to vote Yes next September.”

Grangemouth Refinery and Petro-Chemical Plant

We had a huge drama at Grangemouth, the oil refinery in Fife which processes 80 per cent of Scotland and Northern England’s crude oil. The exact scenario is difficult to pin down but the owners, Ineos, decided to close down that part of the plant with the loss of 800 jobs.

The Grangemouth Refinery and Petro-Chemical plant in Fife.

With his customary panache and skill, our First Minister managed to save the day. The Plant has reopened, all of the jobs are saved and investment in the future is now assured.

There was, as you can imagine, huge relief not only amongst the immediate workforce but on everything from burger bars to hotels who ride on the back of the 1500 total workforce in the area.

Ineos accused the trade union, Unite, of being difficult but that’s not the story I’m hearing. In fact, the General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), Graham Smith, said:

"I think they've been placed in a very difficult position by an employer who in my experience very uniquely walked away from its responsibilities that it had with the trade union, tried to impose its will on the workforce with a take it or leave it ultimatum."

Down home in South Lanarkshire, I was delighted to be able to give my support to the ‘Be Inspired by Time’ community volunteering campaign encouraging all of us to find an hour a week to help relive the isolation of an older person by supporting them to get out and about. Or you might spend an hour helping to lift the litter in your local area, perhaps by just providing some company for someone who is lonely.

In Parliament, we were delighted to have a visit from the Epilepsy Consortium. I know folk who have this condition and around 700 across the constituency live with it.

Some 31 MSPs, including me, signed a pledge for equal access to care in Scotland. Our Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Alex Neil, MSP, signed up too, another statement of the Scottish Government’s commitment to health in all our communities.

Energy costs

Once again, with dreary predictability, the energy companies are ramping up their prices. Npower, for instance, has just announced it is increasing its bills by an eye-popping 10.4 per cent.

The SNP has just revealed a plan that will make a real and lasting difference.  At the moment, energy efficiency schemes are added to energy bills. With independence, the Scottish Government will pick up that tab.

This will save consumers about £70 a year. And not just for 20 months, either. That saving will stay so long as an SNP government is in charge.

With a Yes vote next year, we’ll be able to build a new Scotland and take other measures to help people with the cost of living.

It’s obscene that a country with the greatest energy resource in Europe - oil, gas, wind, wave and tidal potential exist in abundance - should see our vulnerable families and old folk shivering and even dying in the cold.

A few more very sound reasons why, on 18 September 2014, the only way is Yes.

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