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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
3rd October 2005


Week beginning Monday 3rd October 2005

As regular readers know I have a manic clearout of the office whenever I’m going off on holiday, so yes, today, Friday 7TH October has been one of these days – Calum sloped off early muttering “she’ll be recycling me next”, and even Morag slipped away early! Davie sensibly stayed in Motherwell. So, I’m here in front of my computer this evening, in an extremely tidy office, feeling virtuous.

I seem to have spent the week listening to myself and other MSPs saying things like “yes, I’m going away for October recess, but I worked all through summer”, or “I’m heading off for a week’s holiday, but I only took one week in July”. Always justifying a few days off – I guess it’s because of the media presentation of parliamentary recess being ‘holidays’. Teachers get the same treatment I suppose.

Kilmarnock issues daytime Monday – complaints about children using mini-motorbikes in busy areas, and the speed cameras on the A77 (please be assured these two items are not related!). It turns out that the Executive can only deal with the mini motorbike issue in terms of the anti-social behaviour legislation. Licensing etc, is a matter reserved to Westminster. My initial questions were disallowed so this is the only answer we got:

S2W-19231 - Linda Fabiani (Central Scotland) (SNP) (Date Lodged 16 September 2005) : To ask the Scottish Executive whether it has any responsibilities in relation to the ownership and use of mini motorbikes.

Answered by Hugh Henry (29 September 2005): The Scottish Executive has given the police additional powers to seize, retain and dispose of vehicles, whether on or off-road, being used in an antisocial manner through the Antisocial Behaviour (Scotland) Act 2004. The new powers improve the ability of police to deal with irresponsible riders who race through public areas putting people in a state of fear and alarm.

I do think there’s an issue though about children being able to drive vehicles that can in some cases travel at 30 mph, so perhaps someone at Westminster will take it up.

With regard to the speed cameras on the A77, folk aren’t complaining about the new cameras which check average speeds, but about the fact that they can’t register motorbikes which are speeding (honestly, it’s not the mini-motorbikes this time!). Although the Minister has told me that as normal the police will monitor the road, the suspicion is that now that the cameras are installed, police patrols will be reduced and there will be further problems with speeding motorbikes. We’ll have to wait a while and check the statistics pre and post camera installation to see if there’s been a difference.

Road and parking issues in East Kilbride too – I got my answers from the Executive about temporary ‘blue badge’ issue for both those temporarily disabled and those visiting our country with that specific need.  Well, the scheme is being reviewed and temporary badges for temporary disability are likely to introduced, but no timetable yet agreed. With regard to tourists with a disability, it seems that there’s no problem with European Union countries (our chap in East Kilbride was visiting from the US), but if a tourist/visitor from outwith the EU has a badge from their own country, then it’s at the discretion of the local council whether they are willing to recognise it or not.

Rounded off Monday with a Reception at Edinburgh’s New Club, hosted by the German Consul to mark the Reunification of Germany 15 years ago. I told you – this Europe Committee Convenership involves lots of eating! I’ve been at the New Club once before – for a dinner a couple of years ago. It was quite an experience: I was early, the first there in fact, and wandered into a Reading Room, settled down and started to read a newspaper. Within minutes, a lad arrived and asked me to leave because “unaccompanied ladies aren’t allowed in the Reading Room”. Hard to believe in this day and age, but there you go!

Interesting day on Tuesday – a meeting with some academics to discuss the role of Parliamentary Commissioners and how independent they can be of political influence and persuasion. This came from my admiration of the Children’s Commissioner for speaking out on behalf of children of asylum seekers and how they were being treated, any my asking Parliamentary Questions as to how she would be protected from any political interference that may arise from her outspokenness against the UK Home Office. I am assured by the Parliament’s Corporate Body that no such scenario will arise – in fact they peculiarly stated that they are “not aware of what is meant by political pressure” – but I am concerned that although Commissioners are certainly independent in their actions, they may be affected when their terms of contract come up for renewal. We’ll see.

A treat on Tuesday night at Strathaven Academy’s school show – The Little Shop of Horrors – great production and so much talent on that stage.

A day of meetings on Wednesday – the Committee Clerks, the Chamber for the first reading of the Planning Bill, representatives of the Slovak Parliament, Group meeting, the Arbuthnott Inquiry team who are looking into our electoral system, parliamentary boundaries, whether or not Parliament and Council elections should be held on the same day. Great ‘do’ in Parliament on Wednesday evening though – the Scottish Food Fortnight Launch – samples of Scottish fare. That was certainly a well-attended function.

Two interesting debates on Thursday: Scotland having it’s own Olympic Team for 2012 – voted down I’m afraid, and the designation of St. Andrew’s Day as a national holiday – sent back for further investigation, even though the Enterprise Committee had UNANIMOUSLY agreed the principle. I’ve covered the Olympics issue in detail here before, and the facts certainly speak for themselves, but I wish that the Executive would even just consider the matter rather than rubbishing it and dismissing it out of hand as some nationalist plot. 78% of respondents to a recent survey are in support, so let’s investigate the possibility. As far as St. Andrew’s Day is concerned – can anyone think of a nation which doesn’t have a holiday on it’s national day? I can – Scotland.

In between-times Morag and I guided a really interesting group of chartered surveyors from Birmingham round our Parliament, and also heard that the project has won another award, the Andrew Doolan Award for Architecture by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. I had mixed feelings about this one I must admit as I had a soft-spot for another entry – the A’Chrannag housing project on the Isle of Bute for the Housing Association where I used to work; although I had left before the nominated building was designed and completed, I had been involved in the initial feasibility study for the site. It was quite gratifying to feel a degree of involvement in two of the shortlisted projects. Similarly, one of the Sunday papers last week ran a really interesting article about community projects in Cairndow, Argyll, and in the accompanying photograph I recognised some of those who had been instrumental within their community in achieving the award-winning housing project which we built there on land purchased from Ardkinglass Estate. I am a true believer in community ownership and involvement – that’s what makes for sustainability.

A meeting with the Ambassador of Armenia in the evening – the ex-Soviet state has a fascinating history and, I suspect, difficult future. Their parliament is looking to create links with other Parliaments, and they see the Scottish Parliament’s accessibility and civic involvement as an interesting model. They wanted to speak to me about potential links between their External Affairs Committee and our own.

And so to today and my clearout, interspersed with making arrangements for the recognition of the next two South Lanarkshire Schools which are about to attain Fair Trade Status, and the lads from East Kilbride and Hamilton who are going to work with me for a week’s work experience in November. That should be fun – perhaps I’ll ask them to contribute to the Diary their views on what working in the Parliament and shadowing an MSP has been like. Meanwhile, I’m off for a couple of weeks – over to Davie and Calum for the next two weeks. I just had to show you this photo though – our Chamber was taken over today. I’ve no idea why, but it’s a grand photo – spot our Fiona Hyslop hiding behind her youngest.


Bairns in Chamber

Linda Fabiani
7th October 2005

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


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