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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
12th September 2005


Week beginning Monday 12th September 2005

What weather Scotland and England have! On Friday we drove down to Matlock in torrential rain, hailstones, flooding and thunder/lightening; on Monday we drove back home bathed in sunshine. All four seasons in one weekend. Come independence Scotland will demand sunshine during the day and rain at night!

Rain again on Tuesday morning when I set off for Edinburgh to catch up on what I’d missed over the weekend and what I hadn’t done before I left (loads). So, head down at the computer all day except for an hour’s break to take part in a Mori poll about perceptions of certain businesses in Scotland. I always take part in these because Mori make a donation to the organisation of your choice if you give up an hour of your time – it’s been raised to 100 this time so well worth doing, and I’m sure the East Kilbride branch of the National Schizophrenic Society will put it to good use – a power of support work is carried out by the volunteers in this Group. The interview also allowed me to vent my spleen about those companies mentioned which operate by voice-mail – a personal bugbear which I am sure is shared by many!

Back through to Avendale on Tuesday night to have dinner and speechify afterwards at the weekly gathering of the Strathaven Rotary Club. Great company and good discussion afterwards – generally along the theme of the ethos of public service, both local and internationally, and how these fit together. The objectives of the Rotary Foundation include opportunity for service, high ethical standards, application of the ideal of service and the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace. Internationally this organisation makes a huge contribution – it starts locally with each individual Rotary Club though, from small contributions great things build.

We also spoke at some length about collective responsibility for what is happening in the world – the obligation to help under-developed countries and how we were yet to see any benefit coming from the G8 discussions held in Gleneagles recently. My own political view on a national level  is that while Scotland votes to remain part of the UK then we cannot merely stand up and say ‘Not in our Name’ when the UK Government does something we don’t agree with – like the war in Iraq for example, or the posturing about helping the African continent. It’s only when Scotland takes her destiny into her own hands and votes for our own sovereignty and Government that we can truly hold our representatives to account and make them listen; we are after all only a small percentage of the overall UK population and easy to ignore.

Back through to Edinburgh on Wednesday morning – rush hour traffic so frustrating. As I keep saying to the environmental lobbyists who condemn car drivers – if I had decent public transport available locally, with the infrastructure to support it, then I would happily use it! Strathaven is only ‘semi-rural’ I guess, so for those in the Highlands, Borders and suchlike, it must be really galling to be preached at and to watch the price of petrol and its related taxes increasing so rapidly just now – a car is a necessity for many people, not a luxury.

On the ‘car theme’ I was saddened to read an article in the East Kilbride News recently about a chap with a disability who was visiting locally from overseas but was unable to utilise disabled parking spaces because there appears to be no scheme available for temporary passes. Confusion seems to be reigning with the Scottish Executive saying it’s a Local Authority issue and South Lanarkshire Council saying it’s an Executive issue. So, I’m trying to clarify this at the moment. It’s not a good advert for tourism if folk who have difficulty walking visit our country and cannot be given priority for parking. This also got me to thinking that residents who have passes in a particular Council area must have difficulty parking when they holiday in their own country or even when they visit tourist attractions outwith their local authority’s remit, so I’m trying to have this clarified too.

Standards Committee in the morning followed by what will now be a weekly meeting with the Clerks for the Europe and External Relations Committee (this assuming the Committee elect me as Convener at my first meeting). I noticed that in my diary last week I gave the Committee the wrong name – it’s External RELATIONS, not AFFAIRS – not a good start!

Chamber debate in the afternoon was about the tendering of the ferry services currently run by Caledonian Macbrayne. The Executive was defeated before by Parliament on this plan which they claim has to be done to meet European procurement rules – many of us are not convinced that a good enough case for exemption has been put by the Executive to the European Commissioners on the question of lifeline services which are essential for our remote, and particularly island communities. Anyway, they called the debate again and this time their plans were approved.

A lot of driving this week – rush hour again back through to East Kilbride for the Annual General Meeting of the Citizens Advice Bureau. A good meeting with the volunteers, and I was delighted to learn that they have now agreed a 3 year Service Level Agreement with South Lanarkshire which gives some financial confidence. This year the East Kilbride CAB celebrated 40 years of working for the people of the town, all under their four main principles of Free Service, Independence (I’m all for that!), Impartiality and Confidentiality. During the last year the EK CAB dealt with 5,543 enquiries – quite a workload. As always the main issue was debt – 54% of the workload, followed by Benefits problems at 17%.

Another two-and-a-half hour drive through to Edinburgh on Thursday morning for the main debate of the day; Stage 1 of the Family Law Bill which was passed on its general principles and will now begin the laborious scrutiny at the Justice Committee. There are a lot of potentially contentious issues in this Bill which are already attracting lots of letters from around the country to all MSPs – quicker divorce seems to be the main concern of those writing. I will of course follow the committee’s deliberations with interest, but the overarching principle must be what is in the best interests of children. It’s one of these subjects where there will be people upset at some of the outcomes, and that’s always unavoidable when what some term as morality is under debate – religion comes into it, personal beliefs come into it. It’s the same for legislators; we have the same internal dilemmas as everyone else, but I think that at the end of the day you just have to be true to yourself and your core beliefs. Some won’t like that and think that you should be putting across their views if you are elected to represent them rather than following your own conscience, but then that’s a whole big subject on its own!

Duties today as Convener Designate of the Europe Committee – lunch with a delegation of members of parliament from the Valencia region of Spain. They were on a fact-finding mission about standards, openness and accountability of Parliament. In the evening, my first quarterly meeting of EMILE (European Members Information and Liaison Exchange – I’m bad at acronyms generally, and there seems to be loads of them to learn in the European context) and the chance to meet up with many of the folk I’ll be meeting and dealing with in my new role. Dinner too – I’m going to end up like the side of a house at this rate!

Friday came round quickly and catch-up time on constituency issues, parliamentary questions, reading and arranging visits from local folks, but a great treat on Friday night – entirely personal when I met up with Maggie and Sharon, workmates from way back in Clydebank Housing Association. Yap, yap, yap – around 15 years to catch up on – you can imagine the scenario, and the noise!

I can’t quite believe it’s been a year since I was at Stresswatch Scotland’s AGM last September, but sure enough Saturday morning took me down to Kilmarnock to meet up with some of the volunteers and the Management Committee who do such a sterling job of raising awareness and helping to manage the effects of stress. It was interesting what one of the volunteers said to me on Saturday – that everyone has stress to varying degrees; some suffer from it, some manage it by personal subconscious techniques, and some need help to manage it. Two of the guest speakers were ‘in the business’ of helping folk to recognise and manage their stress which can manifest itself in many differing ways, from stress-headaches through to panic attacks, from agoraphobia and compulsive behaviour through to severe mental disorder. One chap was a kinesiology practitioner and the other a hypno-therapist – both fascinating to listen to and I guess just like people manifest varying symptoms, then varying methods of treatment suit. I was given a complimentary ‘Deep Relaxation’ CD by our hypno-therapist friend and commented that I needed that after driving to and from Edinburgh in the rush hour all week – he made me promise not to use it WHILE driving.

Ended the week with by-election work in Cathcart – the place was buzzing with political activists and I even ended up in the middle of the same close as the LibDems; they leafleting from the bottom up and me from the top down. I felt quite pleased with myself managing three hours of going up and down four-storey tenements, but I’ll tell you what, my leg muscles weren’t so pleased on Sunday! Never mind that Deep Relaxation CD, Deep Massage I’m needing.

No photos this week I’m afraid, but check out a brilliant exhibition that was held recently in the Parliament Garden Lobby – The Scottish National Photography Centre celebration of Scotland’s outstanding role in the history of photography – www.snpc.org.uk.

Linda Fabiani: 19.9.05

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


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