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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
W/E 25th December 2004


W/B Monday 20th December 2004

Well, a short week this week - Chamber finishes on Thursday afternoon and then two weeks off for Christmas and New Year. I'm determined to finish for Thursday night.

Monday was a good day - email receipts winding down, not a lot of mail, time to finish these Christmas cards. I was shadowed all day by Kirsteen, a politics student from Glasgow University who lives in Hamilton - she's now an expert on sticking stamps on Christmas card envelopes! We did have a good day though - Kirsteen was especially interested in the Press Office and Research Office operation. She's in her final year at Glasgow, and actually came through for a few days when she was just in her first year, so she was able to see a lot of differences in how the Parliament is working, even apart from now being in its permanent home in Holyrood and having a lot more space to work in.

Tuesday morning brought local work, in particular a meeting about South Lanarkshire Council's proposed closure of one of the rural roads in the area - running between Strathaven and Stonehouse. The Action Group feels quite strongly that there has been a severe lack of public consultation about this proposed closure and an underestimation by the Council of just how much this road is used. There's a lot of public support for keeping this road open and because of the objections the Council has had to apply to the Scottish Ministers for the closure - a petition is ongoing and we'll keep up the pressure.

Through to Edinburgh at lunchtime and an afternoon of tidying up, last minute letters and memos etc. I'm sure I drive Morag, Davie and Calum crazy when recess or holidays come up, because I have this real psychological thing about clearing the decks; as if the world will come to an end if I leave a task undone for a week or so. It's funny what different reactions you get - Morag is so patient and calm, Davie just tells me straight to 'pack in the nonsense' and Calum just disappears as far as possible. I know its me that's the problem, but I've always been like this in every job I've ever had.

Christmas drinks at 5.00 pm with the other members of the Communities Committee - cross-party of course and  good to meet with colleagues socially.

On Wednesday morning the Public Petition about historical institutional child abuse was back up at the Public Petitions Committee. This was of course following the debate in the Chamber when the First Minister apologised on behalf of the State. I attended the Committee meeting to check on progress and the representatives of INCAS (Institutional Child Abuse Survivors) were back to update committee members. They have had a meeting with the Executive, but cannot yet comment on the Minister's promised enquiry because the remit is not yet agreed, so we have to wait to see what happens there. I still feel though that without a full Public Inquiry we won't be able to lay this one to rest. I was also disappointed to hear in answer to my question about apologies from the Institutions involved, that nothing satisfactory had been received by INCAS on behalf of survivors. I had hoped that following Jack McConnell's apology others would follow. I'm also still waiting to hear from the Executive what their study of the Irish Government's Public Inquiry.

I had visitors on Wednesday as well - both from East Kilbride constituency. A first year law student from Glasgow University and her mother who is a member of one of the School Boards.

Ailidh is doing a project on Constitutional Law and wanted to see how the Parliament works in action. One of the good things about the accessibility of our Parliament, in terms of Information Technology as well as the building itself, is that MSPs get constant queries and requests for assistance from pupils and students of all ages - this can only be good for the future of the country, with young people feeling informed and involved if they want to be. Ailidh and Catherine attended the Stage 3 Debate on protection for emergency works in the afternoon. Stage 3 of a debate is the final stage when the last amendments are debated upon. If the Bill is passed at the end of the debate, then it goes for royal assent and becomes law. This one passed with only the Conservatives voting against it.

Lots of clearing out and clearing up done on Wednesday evening, so I was feeling better by Thursday morning.

Finance debate on Thursday morning followed by First Minister's Question Time. A festive note here with Nicola Sturgeon referencing the Three Wise Men and Rosie Kane invoking Santa Claus. The afternoon was General Questions as usual and then the last member's debate of the Autumn Session which was about the closure of a community facility in Craigneuk, North Lanarkshire. A fairly sad note to end upon with workers losing their jobs. The Council is adamant that the replacement facility will be more efficient and that the public will not lose out, but again, despite all the talk of community involvement and participation in decision-making it would seem that the clients feel that their views have not been taken into account at all. We really don't have community planning quite right yet at any level of Government, as so many people feel disenfranchised from the processes.

So, the last debate of the session. But there was another sour note on Thursday. We learned that  Macalpines, a construction company which had tendered for the construction management of the Holyrood Project but had not got the job, had served a writ on the Parliament in the sum of 4.5m for lost profit. Seemingly the evidence they heard during the Fraser Inquiry convinced them that they had a case. Although everyone is now aware that all the decisions relating to the project were taken by the Scottish Office through Westminster prior to The Scottish Parliament being elected, Macalpines view is that the Parliament's Corporate Body, having inherited the project, also inherited the liabilities and can therefore be sued. It would seem to me though that the Parliament can only be liable from the point of signing of contracts, and not for the process which led up to it, but of course lawyers will be involved now and this one could run for a long, long time.

Talking of lawyers, I was hopping mad at the beginning of the week, when I learned that John Campbell QC, the advocate who had the leading role in the Inquiry carried out by Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, had been mouthing off with his personal views of the Holyrood Project at a Conference run by  the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.

Now, I was the SNP Member on the Holyrood Progress Group and had to give evidence at the Fraser Inquiry. It was daunting, but all that you can do in such a situation is tell the truth as you see it and that's what I did. Lord Fraser issued his Interim Report and the Final Report is awaited. Meanwhile therefore I have been reticent about my personal views of the experiences of my four years on the Progress Group and have not spoken to the press about it, despite being asked on many occasions.

It seems to me that to have worked as a professional Advocate for eight months on the Fraser Inquiry, being privy to much information, and to have been paid for this work (and paid well no doubt), Mr. Campbell is behaving dishonourably in embarking on the after-dinner circuit and espousing his personal views. This may even prejudice the final report. So, I don't know about my colleagues on the Corporate Body or the Progress Group, but I intend writing to Lord Fraser about this.

One bit of Mr. Campbell's speechifying did make me smile however. He speaks of the Progress Group Meetings and how "Professional Teams were kept waiting". Well, coming from a member of the legal profession that strikes me as pretty ironic. Kept waiting? How about witnesses turning up, having taken the day off work, and being sent away again; how about policemen sitting for days in court ante-rooms waiting to give evidence; how about trials being postponed, and postponed again? Pot calling the kettle sooty-ersed comes to mind here Mr. Campbell!

Gosh, I do feel better now!  A FINE NEW YEAR TO ALL.


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