Christina McKelvie MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 29 January 2015 : 29 January 2015
Christina McKelvie (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)

The most important keyword in this whole debate is transparency. Why is that? Because there is none. The Westminster establishment has abandoned even a semblance of transparency about this inquiry.

What else could we expect? We have plenty of experience of this in Scotland: the lies so ingeniously spun by the no campaign; the lethal nuclear warheads that pass through our biggest population centre in the depth of night; the cover-up in the 1970s, with private memos revealing the huge amounts of oil in the North Sea that were not shared with Scotland; the rendition flights; the treatment of asylum seekers; and the refusal to allow our ministers to speak in Europe even when the UK minister is absent. I could go on and on.

When this Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999, that transparency was a crucial promise to the sovereign people of this country, and it remains the keystone of all that we do in this place. At least this Government will not deceive, will not dissemble and will not lie. We are all the elected representatives of all of our constituents, and we absolutely owe them integrity and honesty in everything that we do. If there are members in the chamber who have not lived up to that demand, I ask them to examine their own consciences and to deliver only the truth.

The Chilcot inquiry, which was set up in 2009, was expected to publish in 2012; it has cost us over £9 million; and to date its output is zero. Some facts have come out, not because of but in spite of the inquiry. We know that 27 lawyers warned Tony Blair that the war was illegal and that he knew that at least two months before the invasion, and UN representatives have made it absolutely clear that there was never a prospect of a majority of members voting in favour of a second resolution. We also know that abusive attacks on President Chirac for his caution were deliberately played up; indeed, President Chirac himself described it as “Soviet-style misinformation”. The Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, the ultimate judge and a Labour loyalist, miraculously changed his mind from illegal to legal, presumably under pressure from George Bush and after spending a day in talks in Washington.

All of this will have been grist in John Chilcot’s grinding mill, but he himself did not expect the mill to grind on for so long. Why are we tolerating this absurd delay? Yes, the inquiry team has done a great deal of work, and it is abundantly clear that the ready access to and co-operation in the corridors of Whitehall that Gordon Brown promised have not been forthcoming. Still, it is nearly 12 years since the invasion took place. There is a limit to the public’s patience and the patience of the families who lost loved ones in this illegal and immoral war. I am talking about the people I have stood with in George Square in silent remembrance with—people like the family of Rose Gentle, her aunt and her daughters, and the people who Kevin Stewart and Willie Rennie mentioned.

It would too be convenient for Tony Blair and several other key figures to keep it all quiet. Mr Blair never wanted the inquiry anyway. It would be convenient to leave a lingering impression that it is all John Chilcot’s fault for taking so long. Convenience serves David Cameron’s case well, too, as he moves towards the general election.

John Chilcot’s report has long passed the stage of acceptable delays regarding the thoroughness of the final product. Even Lord Hurd said that it is “becoming a scandal”. Our own First Minister has described the notion of going into a general election without the report being published in full as “intolerable”.

Like many people, including the families, I want to know why this report is being so conspicuously withheld, apparently by nameless Whitehall mandarins. Chilcot was foolish enough to sign what amounts to a non-disclosure agreement, so he cannot publish without Government approval—so much for his independence. I would like to ask him, “What would happen if you did go ahead, Sir John? What would they do?” I suggest that he should go ahead. Can someone be condemned for telling the truth and being transparent about what we all have the right to know?

It just will not do. We demand the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, not for us but for the families affected, and not after the general election but now. Is that too much to ask? Yes, almost certainly it is when it comes to getting transparency from Westminster, but we will fight for it relentlessly, and I believe that our purpose is sound.

14:36  

Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : 28 January 2015
Christina McKelvie (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)

Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns Mary Church said of Monday’s vote at Westminster on a UK-wide moratorium on fracking:

“It was a surprise that Scottish Labour MPs ... mostly abstained, given the party’s new commitments over the weekend.”

Does the minister agree with Mary Church? Does he also agree that the vote clearly exposed Labour’s posturing on fracking to be nothing more than a disgraceful, shameless sham?



Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : 28 January 2015
Christina McKelvie (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)

A famous female offender said:

“Who were the women who, day by day, trod the very stones on which my feet now stood ... ? How and why had they broken the law, in what way were they enemies of Society? … Child-burdened women who were left without money, without the means or opportunity or physical power to earn it, who had stolen in order to save their lives and that of their children ... Women who from their childhood had been trained to physical shame”.

She went on to ask:

“If amongst such women there are many who are ... sodden by drink, undermined by drug taking ... what hope is there of cure by imprisonment?”

Those are the words of Emmeline Pankhurst in 1908, when she was imprisoned for her valiant campaign to gain votes for women. More than 100 years on, many of the testimonies that we have heard this afternoon show that, for women, the situation has not changed.

For me, the cabinet secretary’s very welcome decision is not just about bricks and mortar; it is about a fundamental shift in penal policy. Justice is, of course, a wider issue than prisons and prisoners. It encompasses gender justice, which many of my colleagues have spoken about today—men and women being treated by the courts in a consistent way. How our courts and our Prison Service deal with women offenders cannot ignore gender. The management of women who are given custodial sentences will be different from the management of men. The Scottish Government has already committed substantial funds to building a better prison system for all, and the £1.5 million announced by the cabinet secretary is testament to that continued commitment.

The carefully thought-out decision not to proceed with a new women’s prison at Inverclyde is welcome news, and I am glad that Michael Matheson took enough time to fully consider the information available to him. He has only been in post since 21 November, so the matter was clearly a great priority for him. During a visit to the 218 centre, he said that the plans did not fit with his vision for the future, and he reiterated that point today.

Many groups and individuals, including the Howard League, Soroptimist International, in its “Transforming Lives” report, Elaine Smith MSP, Margaret Mitchell MSP, Alison McInnes MSP and myself, when I was on the Equal Opportunities Committee, have been working on the issue for years, so it is truly one on which we can all stand together. That is integrity, and integrity and the right policy are what these women need.

The Scottish Government and the Scottish Prison Service will now undertake a period of extensive engagement with key partners—I say to the cabinet secretary that those key partners have already been phoning and emailing me to ask how they can get involved, and I am sure that they will be doing the same with him—with a view to investing in smaller regional and community-based custodial facilities across the country, which is something that we all strive for. That engagement will also involve looking at international models of best practice, and I am sure that the cabinet secretary has his eyes firmly fixed on Finland in that regard.

As Dame Elish Angiolini QC made clear in her report, women commit different types of crime for distinctively different reasons. Their motives are coloured by drug abuse, a dysfunctional or deprived family background, mental illness, being victims of violence themselves and sometimes confused desperation. She points out that

“While the proportions of the male and female populations in prison for violent offences are similar ... proportionally more women are in prison for ‘other’ crimes such as drugs-related crimes and crimes against public justice (29 per cent compared to 21 per cent) and dishonesty (19 per cent compared to 12 per cent).”

The consequences for women who go to prison also differ. We heard great testimony from Mary Fee on that today. Women are more likely to lose custody of their children and to end up leaving prison homeless.

All of that indicates how right Dame Elish’s recommendations are. We definitely need one-stop shops that are based on the 218 service and support organisations such as Circle, which is a great organisation in Hamilton that does fantastic work. We need a suite of services that meet the needs of women and which take geography into account. Such services work; small facilities for about 12 people allow those people to access a consistent range of services so that they reduce their reoffending and change their behaviour.

I do not have time to go through all the recommendations. I believe that my colleagues across the chamber have touched on many of them that we can all strive to achieve. The crucial thing is that we look at them.

I close with some information from the Howard League, which has informed us all in all the debates on this topic over many years. The Howard League has strongly welcomed the decision, with John Scott QC, its convener, describing it as “bold”. That is a bit like civil service speak, but we will accept it—the decision is bold and brave, perhaps.

In underlining the importance of Dame Elish’s report, Mr Scott pointed out:

“Most women in prison in Scotland today have complex needs that relate to their social circumstances, previous histories of abuse and mental health and addiction problems. The report stated unequivocally that most women who have offended do not need to be in prison”.

I believe that I have previously used the phrase in Parliament that some women who are in prison need a hospital bed rather than a prison cell.

Mr Scott went on to say:

“the impact of imprisonment on women and their families is often catastrophic. It was for this reason that the report recommended that Cornton Vale was closed and replaced”

with a smaller specialist unit.

It is clear that the Government wants to move forward with innovative responses and that the cabinet secretary is determined to seek more effective and meaningful ways forward than exist in the current system. That is good government with integrity. If we can all work together over the next few months, just as we have expressed our support for the Government’s decision, I am sure that we can realise the change that is really needed.

16:25  

Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : 28 January 2015
Christina McKelvie

Like me, the member will know that three quarters of the women who are sent to jail receive sentences of six months or less. In 2008, the McLeish commission suggested that there should be a presumption against such sentences. Does she support that?



Welfare Reform Committee 27 January 2015 : 27 January 2015
Christina McKelvie (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)

I come to this from the opposite point of view from my colleague Ken Macintosh.

One of the issues that I have at constituency level is the element of trust that people have in the system. I have met many people who feel that they have not had a fair hearing. I welcome the proposal to include the review function. The review is very important and it is just as important that it is done independently from the local authority. On the human rights aspect of the bill, anything that has an appeal mechanism appeals to me, because there should be such a mechanism to ensure that people get the fairest of treatment and that we rebuild trust in the system.

Duncan Dunlop gave evidence to the committee—although I was not able to attend the committee, I have caught up with the stage 1 evidence—and said that when people have been rejected once by a system, they do not have the trust to return to the system and have any confidence in it. They need to have that confidence, and that is what the amendments give.

I have a couple of questions about local authorities. Can they be compelled to give information to the ombudsman, and should that be the case? What would be the timescale for them doing so? In my experience, if people attempt to appeal or if they go to citizens advice bureaux or other organisations for support in reapplication or appeal, the length of time that it takes can put great pressure on them at a time when they might not be receiving any funds at all. Some local authorities that I know, although not all, might drag out that process in the hope that the person will drop the appeal. That is a concern that I have, coming from a different point of view from Ken Macintosh, on the need for the ombudsman to be there.



European and External Relations Committee 22 January 2015 : 22 January 2015
The Convener (Christina McKelvie)

Good morning and welcome to the second meeting in 2015 of the European and External Relations Committee. I make the usual request that mobile phones be switched off because they interfere with our broadcasting equipment.

The first of the two items on our agenda this morning is the European Union strategy. I have great pleasure in welcoming back to Scotland, but to this committee for the first time, Jacqueline Minor, who is head of representation in the United Kingdom at the European Commission. She will give evidence this morning on the European Commission’s work programme.

Welcome to the committee, Jacqueline. I believe that you would like to make a short opening statement.



European and External Relations Committee 22 January 2015 : 22 January 2015
The Convener

Thank you. That was a very detailed opening statement. The committee has been taking a keen interest in many of the issues you mentioned, TTIP being one.

What kind of influence do you foresee the current political make-up of the European Parliament having, and what measures is the Commission looking at taking to ensure that any political influence is positive and that it enhances the Commission’s work programme rather than holding it back?



European and External Relations Committee 22 January 2015 : 22 January 2015
The Convener

The political make-up of the European Parliament will be watched with interest across all member states—quite possibly more so in the UK and Scotland. How big an impediment would a campaign for an in/out referendum be on the UK’s position in the European Union? I know that that is a very political question but, against the backdrop of the more diversified—to be diplomatic—political make-up of the European Parliament, what additional impact would a campaign for a referendum have on the programme?



European and External Relations Committee 22 January 2015 : 22 January 2015
The Convener

That sounds very familiar.



European and External Relations Committee 22 January 2015 : 22 January 2015
The Convener

I shall let that one hang, and I shall turn to my colleague, Jamie McGrigor.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12182.1 Alex Fergusson: The Chilcot Inquiry—As an amendment to motion S4M-12182 in the name of N
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12182 Nicola Sturgeon: The Chilcot Inquiry—That the Parliament calls for Sir John Chilcot’s offi
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12176 John Swinney: Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the gene
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12160.2 Michael Matheson: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Kez
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12160.3 Margaret Mitchell: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Ke
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12160 Kezia Dugdale: Women Offenders—That the Parliament welcomes the decision of the Scottish G
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12154.1 Lewis Macdonald: Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) – Supporting Indivi
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12120.1 Jenny Marra: 2020 Vision, the Strategic Forward Direction of the NHS—As an amendment to
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12101 John Swinney: Budget (Scotland) (No.4) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the general prin
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12095.4 Ken Macintosh: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Christina McKelvie
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12190: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12181: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 27/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12178: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 27/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12156: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12153: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12140: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12079: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12075: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12068: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 14/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11950: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 18/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Christina McKelvie
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-24161: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 23/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23843: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23845: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23844: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03859: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23617: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03805: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03767: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03639: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 29/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03622: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/10/2014 Show Full Question >>

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