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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
7th November 2013


It’s been a very European week!

I’ve been welcoming the Croatian Ambassador, Dr Ivan Grdesic, first to a Parliamentary Reception and next day to the European and External Relations Committee, of which I am convener. Apart from the fact that he is absolutely delightful individual, there was something very exciting about his visit. Here is a new European Union member nation, with a population just a little smaller than ours here in Scotland, delighted to have joined this family of nations.

Dr Ivan Grdesic, Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to the UK, front right,
with members of the European and External Relations Committee

Dr Grdesic describes his country as “an old nation and a young state.” That had a ring of our own journey. With a vote for independence in 1990, Croatia had to set about working out what that independence would actually look like, all of which took them about 10 years. Absolutely at the centre of all those negotiations was that they wanted to be in the European Union.

There were issues over surrendering accused generals to the Hague tribunal, about gradually getting all the chapters of the EU acquis communautaire in place – this is the vast document that sets down standards for new entrants in areas like justice, economic development, employment relations, human rights, equality, consumer standards and much more. You can find out more about it here:

But they got there! And theirs has been a far more complex operation than will be the case for Scotland with a Yes vote. We already have in place all of the EU treaties, we are signed up to all the chapters of the acquis and we are existing members of the EU through the UK’s membership.

Croatians gradually realised that it wasn’t about Brussels issuing instructions with which they had to comply, but rather that those reforms were needed in the country for its own sake,  “for the benefit of our economy, people, democracy, human rights and everything else in that sea of rules.”

The Committee meeting coincided with a two day anniversary event – The UK in Europe 40 Years on: What has it meant for Scotland?

Professor Jo Shaw from Edinburgh University had prepared a short paper on the subject which you can read here: That filled in the background and the questions to our cross-party panel, including myself, came thick and fast. Another panel, made up of some of the MEP candidates for 2014, looked at the question of whether EU membership in Scotland was different from the rest of the EU.

The Trade Union Movement

The Trade Union movement is crucial in representing the voices of ordinary working people and as you may know, a lot of my own background was within that movement.

So I am particularly pleased to see that the Unite union – the biggest one in Scotland – is warming to the idea of independence. Its secretary, Len McCluskey has described a Yes vote as “seductive.” He may be feeling that it is still more so given that local Labour MP, Ian Davidson, has just sold his own constituents down the line by declaring that he’d prefer to see 800 jobs go there than see Westminster buy ships from his Govan constituency in Glasgow within an independent Scotland.

But Westminster, characteristically, has chosen not to announce where new shipbuilding for the Royal Navy will take place until after the Referendum vote. It’s another Project Fear attack designed to scare people into voting No but it won’t work. I have more faith in the intelligence of the Scottish electorate than that.

There are now five different trade unions backing the Yes vote. The GMB has rather confused its members by telling them that they have all signed up to the No campaign and that a portion of their union dues would be spent on that.

This completely threw – and clearly angered – many GMB members, many of whom have chosen to either join a different union or stop paying the political levy on those dues.

One shop steward of 20 years standing in the Scottish Borders, James Moody, described the move as “a betrayal and a totally disgusting position. They say they had consultations. Well, we certainly weren’t consulted and talking to other shop stewards, they weren’t either. I absolutely refuse to have any part of my union dues spent on a negative and catastrophic campaign against Scotland’s future.”

Fight on, Jim!

Lung cancer awareness strategy

Lung cancer remains a big threat in Scotland particularly. Being aware of early symptoms plays a really crucial part in recovery rates.

So I am delighted to hear that Kirk Grannell from Hamilton is now at home recovering from surgery after his early diagnosis, having been prompted to seek treatment by the Scottish Government’s awareness campaign.

Kirk Grannell recovering from surgery at home in Hamilton

Because Kirk’s cancer was treated early on, he’s on the road to a full recovery and I wish him my very best.

As he says himself: ““Some people can be scared to find out the worst. However, once cancer starts spreading, it can be harder to cure. The quicker you get it dealt with, the better chance you have of recovering.

“I didn’t have many symptoms – but with that one day of pain I knew it was something serious. I felt it myself that there was something there.

“I hope that the messages of the new Scottish Government campaign will help others to be aware of the sings of lung cancer. I know how much an awareness campaign helped me to be aware of the signs. It saved my life.”

In Scotland, we run our own National Health Service. As Kirk has made clear, it works. We won’t be privatising it in an independent Scotland, a position that the Westminster Government is clearly moving towards.

Another good reason to vote Yes in 2014.

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