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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
Same sex marriage legalised in Scotland

For 105 of 123 MSPs who had a free vote – that is, a vote according to each person’s individual conscience and not to a set party line – Tuesday was a momentous day.

I felt and saw us moving Scotland forward fundamentally in giving gay and lesbian couples the right to not only be treated equally in law but to be bound together by marriage in any church that is happy to host the ceremony. It gave me a great sense of pride to be a part of that.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is delighted to see gay marriage made legal.

Some churches have chosen to opt out and will continue only to carry out traditional marriage ceremonies. Others have already made it clear that they are happy to opt in. No religious institution will be forced to host a gay or transgender marriage.

Eighteen MSPs voted against the Bill because they feel that the idea of marriage other than between a man and a woman is fundamentally wrong. Some feel it is against Biblical instructions or the teachings of the Qur’an; others give a range of different views on why they feel this Bill is inappropriate.

It is vital that, as we see Scotland moving forward, we never, ever forget that as we create a legal and spiritual freedom for gay people, we need to ensure that we hold on to the right to disagree.

Holding one set of beliefs cannot be allowed to suppress or suffocate differing opinions. That way lies fascism and an end to democracy.

Today, as Scotland becomes the 17th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage, our Parliament has sent a strong message to the world about the kind of country we are.

Scotland’s budget agreed

Another big piece of legislation has been passed this week – the Scottish Budget. The careful and precise work of the Cabinet Secretary, John Swinney, encourages economic growth, help with the cost of living and deliver vital action to mitigate Westminster’s disastrous Bedroom Tax.

Of course, what we really want and can only gain with independence, is the right to scrap this obscene additional rent payment because your home happens to have a spare bedroom or one that’s only used at weekends.

The Scottish budget delivers in key areas such as delivering free school meals, extending childcare and protecting the Council Tax freeze which saves hundreds of pounds for households across Scotland.

With Westminster cutbacks set to become much more vicious, the austerity agenda is clearly failing Scotland. The Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland expects another 100,000 more of our children to be pushed into poverty by 2020 as a direct result of these so-called ‘welfare reforms.’ See more on poverty in Scotland here:

Family Man Playgroup

We’re not talking so much Family Guy as home and family men around Hamilton here. I had a great time meeting a recently established group of Dads running their own playgroup in Hamilton.

Working with the Support for Play and Early Learning in Lanarkshire (SPELL) charity, these guys are becoming far more closely involved with their own young children and with other Dads too.

SPELL and its Family Man Playgroup is a fabulously positive approach to parenting. These guys meet for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning at the Hillhouse and Earnock Community Centre from 10.30 until noon. For £1, you can enjoy a drink and a snack and the company and chat with other men who know what it’s like to have small children in the house.

Dads are getting more involved with their young children

In the not so very distant past, the role of fathers didn’t really include much in the way of nappies or junior playtime. I am so delighted to see that changing. It is great to see fathers, uncles, granddads, brothers together with these little kids, sharing the joys and delights of big new discoveries as they happen.

I think it’s a great concept and I would love to see the SPELL Family Man concept rolled out into different local areas across the constituency.

End of an era

There’s a big department store in Hamilton – or at least there was until Monday – called Bairds. Many times I’ve bought frocks and all kinds of other items there and I have always enjoyed the lovely courtesy and advice that the staff there offer.

Now the business has gone into liquidation. Staff arrived at work as normal on Monday morning and were told, completely out of the blue, that the store was closing down and that 53 people were being made redundant.

Bosses blamed challenging trading conditions and substantial overheads for their problems. Retail has been struggling since 2008 and is just beginning to bounce back. It’s sad that any recovery is going to be too late for these people and for the community in and around Hamilton who viewed Bairds as a piece of the town’s architecture.

Sad to see the end of an era and loss of 53 jobs in Bairds of Hamilton

I’ll be meeting with the administrator tomorrow in the hope that it might be possible to secure a buyer, but we have to be realistic. The number of companies in the frame for this kind of purchase isn’t substantial and all of them are being very careful in their investment strategies.

Pakistan delegation

I’m looking forward to what promises to be an interesting meeting tomorrow in Hamilton. The Westminster Foundation for Democracy has organised the Punjab regional assembly in Pakistan to visit Scotland.

They will be spending some time at the Scottish Parliament and in the afternoon, some of them will be visiting our constituency office in Hamilton. They are keen to see the kind of case work we undertake in our efforts to help local people with a whole range of difficult issues and problems.

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