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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
26th September 2005


Week beginning Monday 26th September 2005

Conference over and I realised that I’ve now been writing this MSP Diary for a year, so I’m going to abuse my position and have a good old rant. Banks and credit card companies which use voice mail and call centres and don’t allow you to talk to the same person twice – abolish them! (Matter reserved to Westminster I’m afraid so Private Member’s Bill not possible). After two weeks of being harassed by telephone by one company and trying like mad to talk to a real person at another, despite the fact that in both cases the fault lies with the companies, I’m ready for cancelling all accounts and picketing their Head Offices to tell everyone else not to sign up. Internet and telephone banking was supposed to make all our lives easier – I don’t think so – takes more time, more energy and raises stress levels to an all time high. Well, I feel better now – I just wish I could name them, but sorry, haven’t the nerve, I’d no doubt get sued silly! Whatever bank goes back to branch operation, with branch telephones and staff you can see and speak to more than once will certainly get my business, and I suspect that of many other folk.

A short working week this week, what with the last campaigning days for the by-elections on Thursday – won one out of three, well done Burntisland in returning an SNP Councillor, and we’ll be back to fight for Livingstone and Cathcart. We had of course an increased share of the vote in both Parliamentary by-elections, so onward and upward as they say. When you have a vision of how much better your country could be, you soldier on despite attempts to rubbish your efforts and put you down – that’s what has always kept SNP activists going and we will keep going until Scotland is independent and we can start building the nation.

As far as rubbishing us and putting us down is concerned, add to that the deliberate with-holding of information perpetrated by UK Governments against the Scottish people. This was starkly illustrated of course by the release from the national archives of a secret report written 30 years ago, stating how Scotland’s oil revenues could have made a case for repealing the Act of Union. Economist Gavin McCrone’s report “The Economics of Nationalism Re-examined” said that estimates from the SNP that oil could yield £800m by 1980 were far too low, and that an independent Scotland could be transformed by oil revenues and become a leading power in Europe! He went as far as to say that the economy of an independent Scotland, properly managed, would “tend to be in chronic surplus to a quite embarrassing degree”. Well, you know, Norway has never been embarrassed by their oil surplus which has been put to the common good of the Norwegian population. In fact much of the debate around their recent election was focussed on how to use their oil income!

So much for the Scots being too poor to rule themselves; and those currently in charge are more than happy to allow this duplicitous behaviour to continue. I asked the Executive update Professor Gavin McCrone’s 1974 paper on the Scottish economy, but sadly their Finance Minister answered as follows – “There are no plans to update the McCrone paper.  The Executive’s existing annual publication Government Expenditure & Revenue in Scotland (GERS) provides a comprehensive picture of Scotland’s current fiscal position”.  This despite the fact that the then Secretary of State Ian Lang admitted in 1992 that he created GERS as a political lie to keep the truth about Scotland's wealth a secret! Well, it's now been adopted by Labour ministers for the same purpose, and that’s why those who believe in independence will never give up on the campaign.

I was finally installed as Convener of the Europe and External Relations Committee on Tuesday afternoon and ran my first meeting. I was quite nervous, but I think it generally went okay, so first hurdle over. Busy day and evening on Wednesday with visits from Loudoun Academy, the AGM of our Cross Party Group on Refugees and Asylum Seekers and jointly hosting a visit arranged by the British Council of representatives of civil society from all over the world – it’s so interesting to hear the experiences of others, and I was particularly fascinated by the representative from Afghanistan and her views on how her country is trying to move on from decades of warfare and civil unrest.

I was re-elected as Convener of the Cross Party Group. I find it a difficult position – immigration and asylum of course being a reserved matter – but we do have to keep a watching brief on the constant changes in UK policy and how that affects Scotland. Also, of course, it provides a forum for those working in the field directly to put forward their points of view, explain the services they provide and of course gain mutual support. It must be a tremendously frustrating and stressful job to work directly with people, care for them and how they are treated and then be helpless in the face of cruel government policy. I have faced criticism as Convener from those who think the Group should openly demonstrate and actively campaign on behalf of individual cases. The Group consensus is, however, that this should not be our role as we must remain genuinely ‘cross-party’ and credible in terms of trying to influence both the Executive and the UK Government as far as possible. From a personal viewpoint, I feel that individuals and party groups can already (and we do) campaign vocally and politically, and also that by taking up individual cases, especially if we invite people to Parliament, the Group would be in real danger of raising false expectation and hope; no matter how hard an MSP stresses to someone in such desperate circumstances that actually we are powerless in our Parliament, the hope is always there. It’s a hard conundrum – do you show you care by spending time with a family facing deportation and listening to their story, or is this actually just unfairly raising expectations which can never be met. I just don’t know.

Following on from the above, Thursday morning brought the sad news that the Vucaj family, who had been the subject of debate in the Parliament the previous Thursday had been deported back to Albania. Devastating for them and for all those in Drumchapel who had fought so hard for their right for their friends to remain in their home and continue to be such a welcome part of the community. The calls and letters from the children’s schoolfriends are heart-rending. Young Jamie O’Neill sums it up - his email reproduced here:

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 "From public bodies to children's organisations to school friends, there is recognition that these scandalous immigration practices are causing trauma and distress, and blatantly disregard children's rights. When Scottish society expresses such profound concern, it is right to expect the Scottish Parliament to do likewise."

Jack McConnell First minister, 23 September 2005

The government of 'our' country never listened to me, never listened to the Granparents, the mothers and fathers, the sons and daughters or the friends of this country - why did Jack McConnell think they would listen to him?

“Today, this country lost great people, sent back like an unwanted present.  The Vucaj family were not just another family - they made a difference in my life and my friend's lifes. The government cannot hear us, they can't even see us. They play dumb like they did when we told them not to go to war.  They are obsessed with causing heart-ache, fear and disappointment. When election time comes around, I can play dumb too.

 
Trust, hearts and people have been broken. I hold them responsible.
 
How many chances do we give them? They are wrong, we know it, they know it and now, my friends, Elvis, Saida and Nimet know it - why must we learn the hard way.

 
What scares me the most is that this will keep happening again and again. It doesn't make me want to belong to Glasgow, Scotland or any part of this country - it ashames me.

 
Does it make you proud to be british?”
Jamie O'Neill
 
“oh and by the way, thanks for listening!”

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Local work on Friday catching up with constituency cases in East Kilbride and visiting Sandford School to arrange the Christmas Card Competition with the primary 6 and 7 pupils. Sandford School is of course the UK’s first Fairtrade School and they deserve great recognition for that achievement, so we’ll have a fair trade Christmas card this year instead of the standard parliament issue.

Called in too to the McMillan Cancer Care’s ‘Biggest Coffee Morning in the World’. Coffee mornings held all over the country – the Strathaven one was buzzing – great soup and home-baking from ‘the Rural ladies’. I’m sure a lot of money was raised in the silent auction: I just learned today that I successfully bid for a jam-pot, some perfume and a pasta dish; missed out on the painting I wanted though, but never mind, someone must have bid more, so hope they enjoy it. I had donated a DVD player which I won in the raffle at the McMillan Concert earlier in the month and before I left the highest bid was only £15 – what a bargain if that’s all it went for.


Well done the Strathaven McMillan Committee

A visit to one of Avendale’s many farms in the afternoon and, as always, got lost on the way home – I have absolutely no sense of direction at all, but I do see a lot of the constituency when I do house calls! The men of my acquaintance always raise their eyes to heaven about my complete non-ability to go from ‘A’ to ‘B’ without numerous detours and make smart remarks about ‘women drivers’, but you know some men are just as bad; they just never admit it. After all, it was Moses who wandered about the desert for 40 years because he wouldn’t ask for directions – would never have happened to a woman.

So, my week ended on Saturday with Davie (all his teeth in place) and I covering more constituency cases and catching up on the past few weeks. September closed and heading for October – time passes so quickly. I can hardly believe I’ve been writing this Diary for a year – feedback appreciated!

Linda Fabiani
3rd October 2005

Email Linda at [email protected]


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