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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
A momentous year ahead

Forgive me for stating the obvious: weíre at the start of 2014. Itís a momentous year for all of us here in Scotland and all of you watching us from further away.

Weíve got the 2014 Year of Homecoming Scotlandís year-long programme of events and activities to showcase all that's great here; mouth-watering food & drink events, lots to get you active in our great outdoors plus spectacular arts, cultural and ancestral heritage to explore. Whenever you come and wherever you visit, youíll be very welcome so join us and be part of Homecoming Scotland 2014.

Then thereís the Ryder Cup for all you golf fans:  and the Commonwealth Games as well. Find out more about that here:

And I havenít even mentioned the European Parliament elections in May: All of these events are important for us in the SNP of course and this last one will have a real impact on how we make out in the Biggest One of All.

Itís the year of Yes. On 18 September, everyone here in Scotland will vote on whether to continue with the dodgy Westminster system that does us no favours or to take the plunge and go independent Ė because then the people of Scotland make their own decisions about their own future.

Change is always a bit frightening but if you donít embrace it, you meet the same end as the dinosaurs did. You have nothing to sustain your survival.

Nicola Sturgeon at St Andrews University

To me itís so obvious where we should go but of course I know not everyone feels the same. Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister and head of the Referendum campaign, put it very well when she spoke at St Andrews University at the turn of the year. See the full speech here:

She made the point very clearly that it isnít a choice between ďchange and no change.Ē Itís a choice between two futures: one with Westminster making our decisions or one where we can make our own choices for our own situation and circumstances.

She asked the audience to put this question to themselves: ďWill it be better for me, my family and for generations to come if decisions about Scotland continue to be taken at Westminster or will it be better if they are taken here in Scotland instead?Ē

The answer is pretty obvious to a lot of us.

What the polls are saying

In fact, the SNP published a poll at the end of December that showed we still hold a substantial eight-point lead after more than six and a half years in government. That is a remarkable achievement.

The Scottish people trust this government for one simple reason: we deliver. The electorate isnít stupid. They see that weíre better at making Scotlandís decisions by a margin of nearly four to one.

You canít argue with that.

There are so many examples of effective Scottish government that it is difficult to isolate specific ones, but letís stay topical.

Scotlandís children, Scotlandís future

On Tuesday 7 January, we had an interesting debate in the Chamber about Scotlandís future. Our First Minister made it very clear that the transformation of childcare is top of the agenda.

I also spoke in this debate, setting out the importance of our children and how we protect and promote their interests; how do we make the right choices so as to make sure we shed some of the worst stereotypical images and move towards a more balanced perception of who does what in the workforce.

You can read the whole debate here:

Only with a Yes vote will we be able to take over the levers of power properly and decide for ourselves how best to build a future that gives every child the best tools to achieve their ambitions.

Yet Labour, allegedly the supporters of alleviating child poverty, actually voted against the motion to provide free school meals to all children for their first three years at school.

The three Labour MSPs in Central Scotland, which includes my constituency, are Mark Griffin, Margaret McCulloch and Siobhan McMahon. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! All three have voted against providing children with free school meals.

How will they justify that to the people who voted for them? That means they want to deprive some 10,375 children of that benefit from next January, even though it would save families at least £330 a year and guarantee a solid, balanced lunchtime meal for each child.

The price of town centre parking

The rise of the big supermarkets and extensive shopping malls has drastically disadvantaged the smaller, independent town centre retailers.

One of the main reasons for that diaspora is the difficulty and the cost of town centre parking. In Edinburgh, an hourís parking can cost you around £5 while in smaller towns or around the city centre periphery, the cost is probably about £1. Thatís always assuming you can find a spot.

In Hamilton, there are streets where it is almost impossible to find a space and South Lanarkshire Council has been quick to punish parking offenders with a fine.

I can understand the need to manage parking effectively in town centres. What I donít understand is the Labour-led Councilís apparent desire to do so at the cost of our own retailers.

Rather than raking in parking fines, shouldnít they be thinking about alternative ways of encouraging people to use town centre shops?

We want our town centres to be busy, active, dynamic and prosperous. South Lanarkshire Councill should be looking at ways in which to attract footfall back into Hamilton rather than forcing it outwards.

You can read what the local newspaper had to say on the subject here:

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