MANY debates across a wide range of issues take place in the Scottish Parliament each week.

This week has seen debates on the Living Wage, adoption, the 2014 Commonwealth Games and also my first debate as a Minister, on Scotland's Relationship with Malawi.

I've led a debate in the Parliament before, on the closure of Gadburn School in Springburn, and it is both exciting and nerve-racking to raise an issue of great importance to your constituents in the chamber.

To lead a debate on our country's special ties with Malawi, and to announce the next funding round of £1.2million for projects aimed at helping the poor in Malawi, was a great honour for me.

Glasgow is such a cosmopolitan city that it was not surprising to learn about the many links between here and Malawi.

Many of these links come through the Malawi Leaders of Learning, which brings together Glasgow City Council education services and Malawi's South West Division.

Holyrood School has a long standing link with Malawi, and senior pupils from the school have helped to construct eight new classrooms and refurbish a further eight in partner schools over four years.

There are also a number of Malawian teachers in Glasgow who are here through the partnership with the city.

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning has recently announced the creation of 50 postgraduate scholarships – at least half of which will be for females – for Malawian students.

The opportunity for young people to attend university can sometimes be taken for granted in Scotland, where the SNP has abolished tuition fees. However, now we can help talented Malawian students to experience higher education without facing financial constraints.

As we look ahead to the bicentenary of David Livingstone's birth in 2013, it is only right that we work to maintain and reinforce the special, long-standing friendship between Malawi and Scotland that was established by Livingstone.

I attended the Scotland Malawi Partnership youth event, Yewo! and I've never seen a Parliament event so packed: there were more than 200 students, teachers, stalls from charities and groups linking Scotland and Malawi. With that many people there the enthusiasm was incredible.

Many of the students, including pupils from Glasgow schools, had been to Malawi after extensive fundraising to help communities there.

It was great to chat with them and hear their ideas about getting more young people involved. Universities in Glasgow were also well represented, with volunteers from the Mary's Meals Group at Glasgow University, the Students from Malawi group from Strathclyde University and Student Volunteers Abroad, based at Glasgow University.