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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
4th December 2013

Helicopter tragedy

Itís been a difficult week. We were all horrified by the awful tragedy in Glasgow when nine people died as a police helicopter crashed into the Clutha Vaults bar. It was a busy Friday night there, with perhaps 120 people enjoying a drink and the band that was playing.

The helicopter seemed to literally drop out of the sky and into the flat roof of the building, crashing through into the bar beneath. More than 30 people were injured and three remain in intensive care.

Because of the precarious position of the helicopter, it took a couple of days to move it and search fully underneath it. That must have added to the anguish of those who feared a friend or relative could have been inside

Glaswegians being the kind of people they are immediately rushed towards the building to try and help people out. They formed a human chain to bring people to safety and the nearby Mosque opened its doors to provide refreshments and a comfortable space for people to go.

The iconic Clutha Vaults amid the horror of the helicopter crash

It is a truism that Scots in general and Glaswegians in particular will always rush to help others, even if there is a risk to themselves in the process. They wonít be running in the opposite direction or pretending not to notice some kind of tragedy.

There really is something inherently decent and compassionate in the Scottish character. It may not be unique to this part of the world but itís certainly a lot more obvious than it is in many of the places Iíve visited.

Our young people often get unfairly criticised Ė theyíre irresponsible, anti-social, violent, into drugs and alcohol, uncaring, abusive and the like Ė but they too are fundamentally decent, compassionate, caring people, some of whom have had to cope with more than their fair share of problems.

With two teenage sons of my own, I am well aware of just how challenging adolescent life can be. My kids are lucky; many are not so fortunate and all of them are subjected to influences from their peers, good and bad.

The Lord Advocate and The Street

Regular readers will be aware that Iím a huge supporter of the Regen:fx charity and its drama group, The Street I invited them to perform at the Scottish Parliament back in March when MSPs were both shocked and inspired by the event.

Kieran, one of The Street actors, with me at the new production.

So for the opening of their fourth production, I brought along the Lord Advocate to see the action. The raw and real life drama took place in a Hamilton industrial unit. The strong issues of street violence, revenge port, cyber bullying and sexual assault all featured because these are the issues that impact upon the lives of the 35 or so young people who create the project.

The Lord Advocate was as enthralled as he was impressed. These Street productions are a form of crime prevention that really works because itís real life and real people in and around familiar places.

These are the same young people whoíve experienced the impact of violence in their own lives and who are now telling others to keep away from it. By turning a negative into a positive they are getting the message across to the people they know.

It is not possible to say that crime has been reduced as a result of The Streetís work but I do think that the fact that some 1,500 young people have experienced this kind of take on the consequences of violence must be making a difference to attitudes.

The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, is acutely aware of youth crime levels, especially knife crime. He announced, back in June, that knife crime across Scotland had fallen by 30 per cent following legislation introduced by Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill MSP.

I know he was hugely impressed by what he saw. He was tremendously encouraged to see these young people determined to tell others just how important it is to end the cycle of pointless violence and its consequences in the community around Hamilton.

Lighting up for Christmas

It was with great delight that I turned on the Christmas lights in Larkhall last week. Thereís something very special about the seasonal atmosphere the lights produce, particularly the delight in the faces of the children who are counting the days away.

And it was lovely to be able to chat to folk from around the area and find so much support for the Yes campaign among them.

Lighting up in Larkhall

Side by Side

Itís quite a while since I took part in a three-legged event but I was as pleased as punch to join my colleague, Marco Biagi MSP, for such a trip last week. And indeed there was more than one trip it has to be said.

The Side by Side event was organised by White Ribbon Scotland. This group works in partnership with Scottish Womenís Aid to tackle gendered violence. The three legged race symbolically ties a man and a woman together in recognition of the cooperation that is required to take violence out of human relationships.

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