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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
5th September 2005


Week beginning Monday 5th September 2005

Well, back to reality – committees and chamber started again this week. Here I am late Thursday evening looking back over the week. A short week though as I’m off to England’s Peak District for the weekend tomorrow to celebrate a friend’s 50th Birthday – shop till we drop is the intention.

The week started well on Monday morning with a small Shadow Cabinet reshuffle which has meant that I am no longer Housing spokesperson (Housing has been made a Shadow Cabinet position, and Trish Marwick will do a grand job) but will be nominated by the Group to the position of Convener of the Europe and External Affairs Committee of the Parliament. I am absolutely delighted, and all going well should be in post by the end of this month; John Swinney’s a hard act to follow though as I know he’s gained much respect across the board for his stewardship of the Committee.

The morning continued in good vein: The RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) awards the prestigious Stirling Prize every year for architecture, and the Parliament has been shortlisted along with the BMW Building in Leipzig, the Jubilee Library in Brighton, a Technology Centre in Surrey, a Children’s Centre in London and a Gallery in Cork. The winner will be announced in October during a Channel 4 television programme. The judges and the TV cameras were in this morning, and I was interviewed for the programme – it took around 2 hours for what will probably be a 10 second slot. Extremely interesting though. I was delighted to meet one of the judges in particular – Joan Bakewell. My father adored Joan Bakewell (as I know did many gentlemen of his generation). My dad died not long before I was elected in 1999, but I know that my meeting Ms Bakewell would have impressed him more than anything else I have done since then!


The Scottish parliament, Edinburgh
Architects: Enric Miralles and RMJM
Odds: 5-1

"A remarkable architectural statement which has an enormous impact not only on the visitors to the building but also on the users who repeatedly move through a series of extraordinary spaces and their changing effects. The proof the extraordinary architectural ambition and vision is to be seen in every aspect and detail of the finished building."
Photograph: Keith Hunter

We also learned on Monday evening that the Cathcart by-election, forced by Mike Watson MSP’s resignation following his guilty plea to fire-raising, will be held on 29th September, same day as the Westminster by-election in Livingston, so lots of door-knocking over the next few weeks.

The Chamber sat all day on Tuesday to debate the First Minister’s Programme for Government, except the First Minister didn’t debate – he just read a statement, answered a few questions and scuttled off leaving his minions to justify the lack of ambition that the Executive has for Scotland. Nice work if you can get it! It was announced with great fanfare, however, that Scotland’s business rate poundage is to be reduced to bring it into line with that in England. Good news, but the SNP and the business community have been pushing for that economic initiative for the last 6 years in Holyrood, and prior, and suffered the derision of the Executive – better late than never I suppose. It’s not enough to turn Scotland’s economy around though, not nearly enough.

I wasn’t taking part in Tuesday’s debate, so I managed to read through some of the constituency issues that had arisen – Kilmarnock residents were busy writing this week! From dermatological services at the local hospital to the growing problem of mini-motorbikes being used both on roads and pavements. There seems to be confusion about the regulation of such vehicles/toys (whatever you want to call them) even though they’re capable of being driven at 30 mph in some cases. So, checking up on this to be done. I also got a smashing email from a young vet from Kilmarnock who has gone off to Venezuela to do voluntary work for a charity which neuters dogs and cats. There are so many people doing so much good all over the world – sometimes we forget this and become cynical, caught up in the day-to-day bad news stories.

Dinner on Tuesday night with the British Medical Association, and very good it was too. Actually, the conversation with my dining neighbours was extremely informative and interesting. As I’ve said before, it’s those who work at the front line of care who are most worth listening to. That seems to be what Professor David Kerr has done in his Inquiry into the health service – practitioners seem to be impressed at the widespread consultation and inclusive approach adopted. We’re still waiting for the Executive to agree to debate the findings though – we pushed for that before summer recess at the end of June, and here we are in September and no further on.

Last year, I had the honour of attending the unveiling of the Scottish Police Memorial, sited at Tulliallan Police Training College in Kincardine, and on Wednesday I travelled again to the first of what will be an annual service of remembrance for the families and friends of police officers who have died in the line of duty. The Memorial carries the engraved names of police officers who have died in the line of duty since 1770 up to as recently as 2004. The earliest known is Constable John Buchan of the Aberdeen City Watch who was stabbed by a thief he was trying to arrest. When I wrote here about last year’s service I talked about Jim McNulty, retired policeman, who was instrumental in gaining such recognition for his colleagues, and sadly reported a few weeks later that Jim had died. This year we viewed a memorial tree that has been planted in his honour near the monument – it was an honour to have known him.

Well, when I began this week’s diary I said it was a short week, and it was, but I’ll tell you, the rushing around I’ve done today, Thursday, certainly makes up for that! Three committees this morning – Communities Committee (my last attendance at this one – Trisha taking my place), Standards Committee to discuss the Standards Commissioner’s findings after investigating two complaints against fellow MSPs (confidential at the moment, report will be made public next week) and then the Public Petitions Committee to speak on behalf of a Public Petition submitted by constituents in North Lanarkshire.

This petition calls for the Parliament to urge the Executive to amend the Fatal Accidents and sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1976 to make provision for a mandatory inquiry in the case of a road death caused by careless drivers. This happens already in England and Wales. The petition was sadly prompted by a couple whose daughter was killed when another driver crashed into her whilst she was stationery in a queue of traffic. Mr. & Mrs. Curran are not looking for revenge or reparation in their case, but for facts to be revealed and recognition of the worth of loved ones who are killed in such circumstances. I was unaware, for example, that when a case of dangerous or careless driving comes to court, if someone died this is not allowed to be mentioned. It’s like the victim didn’t exist. The Executive seem to be against such a move, although I did not find the arguments of the Justice Minister or the Lord Advocate to be convincing. Neither did the members of the Public Petitions Committee who have asked for more details and further explanation of the Executive’s reluctance. I am always struck by the bravery of those who have suffered terrible loss, but move to ensure that others in the future are in some measure better treated.

East Kilbride matters in the afternoon – schools, hospital, carers’ rights, disability issues and then off to East Kilbride Village Theatre this evening for the annual fund-raising concert for McMillan Cancer Care. Absolutely brilliant as ever – songs from the shows. I love all that singalong stuff – childhood memories of watching Gene Kelly singing in the rain, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in High Society, the Busby Berkeley spectaculars. “’fings ain’t wot they used to be” right enough! I’ll be singing all the way down to Matlock tomorrow.

Linda Fabiani: 5.9.05

Email Linda at Linda.fabiani.msp@scottish.parliament.uk


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