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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
W/E 27th February 2005


Week beginning 21st February 2005

So this is how the week’s going to be! Arrived back at Glasgow Airport at lunchtime, went to collect my car, and there it was with a completely flat front tyre. So, three hours later, much sterling lighter, I arrived back at Strathaven to check my email – almost four hundred of them, and that despite Calum and Davie clearing out the spam. So, I must admit I just looked at them, and decided to leave it all ‘till the morning. Then I had a look at last week’s diary piece by Davie and Calum – dedicated souls the both of them!

Tuesday morning and back to reality, through in Edinburgh for the Standards Committee meeting. My colleague, Brian Adam, has set a Convener’s record I think – eight minutes the meeting lasted! I must add that this is highly unusual, but I’m glad I wasn’t late or I would have missed it. It was just general housekeeping stuff to set us up for the debate on Thursday about the proposed Members’ Interest Order Committee Bill. The Members’ Interest Order covers the rules about declaration of interests, heritable interests, remuneration from other sources, gifts etc. – remember all the recent fuss about the First Minister’s holiday with Kirsty Wark? Anyway, the Committee has been considering its content, making some changes with a view to enshrining it in legislation. All the work on this was done before I was a member of the Committee so I just joined in at the end of the discussions which have been going on for a long long time

Just before I went off on recess I was told that I had been allocated the Member’s Debate for Thursday 24th February:

S2M-2384 Linda Fabiani: Scottish Civic Forum—That the Parliament notes the concerns raised about the financing of the Scottish Civic Forum; further notes that the forum was set up to help fulfil the founding principles of the Parliament and, in particular, the engagement of Scotland’s people in the new democracy; considers that all those who have an interest in the open democracy heralded in 1999 should act to ensure a continued and healthy future for the forum, and believes that the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body should investigate the possibility of funding the forum directly.

So, must prepare. Since it began the Forum’s main funding has been by the Scottish Executive. This is now being cut in half and the Forum told that this year’s payment is the last one that will be made. A lot of good work has been carried out by the Civic Forum and the Parliament’s founding principle of power-sharing between itself and the people must be protected. Impartiality and neutrality is essential, so that’s why I believe that core funding should come from the Parliament and not the Government of the day. You can see what type of work the Civic Forum is involved in my logging on at: http://www.civicforum.org.uk

Quarterly Trustees Meeting at Just World Partners on Tuesday night. We are still having issues about European Union funding mechanisms on some of our projects, and it seems that other charities are having similar experiences. Alyn Smith MEP along with some Green Party colleagues in the European Parliament are trying to help out and organising meetings with the appropriate Commission officials. MEPs of all political persuasions in Scotland seem keen to learn of the issues and investigate, so once we have the urgent business sorted out I hope we can influence and change for the better. Small charities and non-governmental organisations all work ‘close to the edge’ in terms of their funding, with no resources to fall back on when there are blips and glitches in the systems. It’s extremely stressful for staff trying to focus their work on helping those less fortunate but end up dealing with needless bureaucracy and uncertainty about how to fund the administration of the organisation itself.

Wednesday morning and private session of the Communities Committee – no eight minute meeting this one! We were finalising our report for the Stage 1 debate on the proposed Charities legislation. Private session so I can’t say much more – sorry. The debate is scheduled for March. Stage 1 debate is where the Executive will present their proposals for agreement of the general principles. After the debate, and assuming the general principles are agreed, then we move to Stage 2 where members can propose amendments to the Bill.

Met up with a Strathaven chap at lunchtime – he was through with friends to hear Time for Reflection which was being given today by Irene Jovaras, Joint Co-ordinator of the Focolare Movement in Scotland. I had never heard of this movement, and my visitor explained it to me. ‘Focolare’ means hearth, or fireplace, and this was the nickname given to a bunch of Italian ladies who were active in helping their neighbours during the second-world war; their work was based on their faith. The movement has since grown, is ecumenical, and now operates in 182 countries. One of their tenets is ‘the Movement for Unity in Politics’ and the speaker urged us to put aside Party differences and work together for the greater good. There were some bemused faces on the benches, let me tell you!

Stage 3 Debate on the Fire Services (Scotland) Bill in the afternoon – nothing particularly contentious. Stage 3 is the final stage of the legislative process. Last amendments are debated and voted upon, and then if the Bill is passed it goes for Royal Assent and becomes law.

Wednesday evening and a really enjoyable reception in the Parliament’s ‘Garden Lobby’: CSV, Community Service Volunteers. CSV volunteers work full-time in various projects at home and overseas, for a small fee and living allowance. It was a really interesting evening and the variety of work carried out is truly astonishing. Over the last 10 years there have been in the UK 11,427 volunteers, 319,525 weeks given volunteering with an average time commitment of 28 weeks – loads more to know about this organisation, so have a look at their website: www.csv.org.uk

One of the things that particularly struck me about their presentation was the emphasis on how much the volunteers themselves felt that they gained from their experience – it works both ways, for the volunteer and for the individual or organisation being assisted.

And so to Thursday, and boy was I ‘no weel’ – some lurgy that seems to be doing the rounds. I spent the day in my ‘think pod window seat’, trying to sleep, and Calum wheeled me out when absolutely necessary.

The first ‘absolutely necessary’ was to meet Angelica Agurbash, the Belarussian entry for the Eurovision Song Contest! Varied job this – it’s a long story, but I had agreed to host Angelica and her party in the Parliament. She was in the UK to record her song at Abbey Road Studios and wanted to visit Scotland. Angelica was absolutely stunning (she was Miss Russia 2002), and male heads were turning all through our tour – the Security guards were fair taken with her and she even managed a photograph with one of the polis’s helmet’s on. Later that night when I was feeling a bit better my partner, Duncan, and I attended a short concert by Angelica in the Roxy Arts Centre, and yes she can sing as well – this girl’s got everything!

Scottish men are very honest – as evidence, see extract of conversation with Duncan below:

L: Angelica’s gorgeous isn’t she?

D: Oh aye, really beautiful – she doesn’t have to be able to sing.

L: I’m going to use one of the photos in my web-diary –  but I look like a wee Glesga bauchle next to her.

D: Aye, right enough, have you not got one of her on her own?

Never mind – I’m not proud!


Thursday night was my Member’s Debate on the Scottish Civic Forum – managed to get through it with the help of Kenny MacAskill, and we achieved cross-party consensus on the fact that the Forum should be funded by the parliament and not the Executive, so must start trying to get that implemented.

Didn’t do a lot on Friday I must admit – still a bit fragile, but managed to clear some emails and correspondence. All fresh for by-electioneering in Falkirk on Saturday morning – another Council by-election. Was all set to go to the Amnesty Ceilidh in East Kilbride on Saturday night, but sadly it was cancelled due to lack of ticket sales, the first time for many years. Perhaps there’s been so much fundraising for the Tsunami appeal that all attention is being focused on that meanwhile. Maybe the organisers will try to arrange something later in the year – I hope so, because previously they’ve been great nights.

Learned on Sunday that the BBC will be showing ‘The Gathering Place’ early March. This is the fly-on-the-wall documentary about the Holyrood project – I’m a bit nervous about its showing because I know I’ll be in it somewhere over the last five years, and goodness knows what I said! You really do very quickly forget that the cameras are there when you’ve involved, and let’s face it, five years of material can be edited in many different ways. Never mind, it’s hardly life threatening, maybe just embarrassing!

LF: 28.2.05


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