Eye-opening visit to Malawi projects

MSP Alasdair Allan lends a hand with Mary's Meals initiative.
MSP Alasdair Allan lends a hand with Mary's Meals initiative.

Despite Parliament being in recess for a couple of weeks, the last few days have been a bit hectic, even by my standards.

As International Development Minister I had the privilege of visiting a number of Scottish Government projects in Malawi.

This is a country which Scotland has long links to, going back all the way to the Scottish missionary David Livingstone, and this connection is reflected in the fact that there are still congregations in Malawi partnered with the Church of Scotland Presbytery in Lewis.

Malawi has to be one of the friendliest places on the planet, and a visit is an eye opening experience. In the countryside the bulk of the population live a life which is possibly not unlike that of people in the Scottish Highlands around the time of the potato blight 150 years ago.

Six and a half million people in Malawi are uncertain how they will feed themselves between now and the harvest in March.

Scotland offers significant help though. Mary’s meals have fed millions of school children in the last ten years, and the one cup of porridge they provide is likely to be the only meal of the day for a child. In many cases, half the cup is taken home to feed others in the family.

After Malawi, it was straight off the plane and on to the SNP Conference in Glasgow where, as well as speaking on Scotland’s future in Europe, I took the chance to raise the Western Isles broadband and mobile coverage issues with representatives of both EE and BT.

From there, it was back home, and on to the Royal National Mòd in time for Prince Charles’ visit.

As I write this, I am at home in Back, getting ready to take part with Còisir Sgir’ a’ Bhac in the Lorne Shield competition. Work commitments this time have prevented me from getting to grips with the puirt a beul competition too!

The Mòd is a huge benefit to the Western, Isles both culturally and economically. To everyone taking part – tha mi’n dòchas gun tèid e gu math leibh uile!

I would not like to give the impression that the above is anything like a normal week for me, but hopefully it reassures you that I am not idle when Parliament isn’t sitting! Back to Holyrood next week.