beginning Monday 31st October 2005
fairly short piece this week as I was in Germany Wednesday to Friday -
more on that later.
started well addressing a meeting of the Scottish Council for Trade
and Industry – members with a European interest who wanted to know the
Europe Committee’s work plan for the forthcoming year. Knowledgeable
folk and I learned a lot from the interaction.
fair chuffed with myself when the chap who introduced me to the SCDI
audience said that his teenage son, on hearing his dad’s agenda for
the following day, had said “Oh, Linda Fabiani, we did her in Modern
Studies – cool”. Wow, praise indeed! Well the swollen head didn’t last
long when I arrived at Greenhills Primary School in East Kilbride. To
quote one of the Primary 7 pupils: “I told my mum you were coming –
she said why couldn’t we get a real MSP”. Ach well, you can’t please
all of the people all of the time I suppose.
to Tuesday and Standards Committee followed by lots of frantic
catching up on the constituency work that I had intended to clear on
Monday and didn’t quite manage. I seem to spend a lot of time moving
large piles of paperwork into smaller piles of paperwork and then
combining them again! Thank goodness for Davie, that’s all I can say.
reception for the Estonian Foreign Minister in the evening, held in
the Parliament. Estonia is building links with Scotland now that it’s
a member of the European Union – 1.3m people in the country and
thriving as an independent nation! I wasn’t able to stay long because
I knew I had so much to do before I headed off in the morning. I
stayed long enough to hear the Estonian Male Voice Choir though –
fabulous and I noticed they were accompanied by a skin-drum very like
our own bodhran, although oval in shape rather than round. The small
drum was the only accompaniment, the mouth-music being music enough.
The Minister told me that they reckon they have a million Estonian
songs, and singing is a huge part of their folk culture – we should
celebrate our own song culture more, Gaelic, Highland, North East and
Lowland; a rich and varied song culture of which we should be truly
proud and determined never to lose.
until I almost fell asleep at the desk on Tuesday night, aware that I
was heading off for three days. So home, frantic packing to turn up at
Edinburgh Airport at 5 am (yes! 5 am – I was so terrified I would
sleep in that I hardly slept at all!). And so to Magdeburg via
Frankfurt and Berlin.
Fascinating trip – there’s a bi-annual meeting of reps from 4 of
Europe Committees where their respective Parliaments have similar
powers – ourselves, Catalunya, the Basque Country and Saxony Anhalt.
So this was Saxony Anhalt’s turn to host in their Land Capital.
Magdeburg is about a one-and-a-half hour drive from Berlin, in what
used to be East Germany. It’s the first time I’ve visited that part –
same for Dennis Canavan and Derek Brownlee, fellow committee members,
so it was a particularly interesting experience. The meeting itself
was extremely useful and we formally signed our Declaration of joint
working and agreed to identify particular forthcoming European
initiatives that we could respond to at a time early enough to perhaps
influence – one of the frustrations felt by all is that when you’re
not the ‘nation-state’ member of the European Union then often
directives and regulations are handed down from the National
Government with no opportunity for regions (how I hate referring to
Scotland as a region! Sadly in Europe that’s what we are for the
moment) to influence. What we have to ensure though is that our Group
doesn’t merely become another talking shop, but truly takes on useful
work. Once it’s up and running effectively, I hope other regional
(that awful word again) parliaments with similar powers will join in.
only it was an Independence Declaration!
I know we shouldn’t talk about national stereotypes, but they exist –
we were well organised by our German hosts, who laughed at themselves
I have to say about their insistence on timekeeping and having a
packed agenda. It was particularly amusing at times of gathering – the
German contingent all early, the Scots generally on time but one of us
always deciding to go to the loo at the last minute, and the Basques
strolling in late, taking photos, chatting away and finishing their
cigarettes. All interesting stuff though, business and social –
attending a session at the Bundesrat (where representatives of the 16
Lander meet to decide what to petition the National Government about
at the Bundestag), learning about the history of Magdeburg and its
cathedral, our evening walking tour around Berlin (the former East
Berlin) and seeing the remnants of ‘the wall’. All this of course
against the backdrop of the German national government not yet being
formed because of the election results being so close. No decision as
I write as to whether the election will have to be re-run –
interesting times for the country.
the big problems in the former East Germany is the loss of population
to the West. One of the Saxony Anhalt MPs was telling me that in his
own town the population has halved in the last ten years and generally
in Saxony Anhalt the unemployment rate is around 21%. Magdeburg itself
seemed strangely quiet. The hotel we stayed at in Magdeburg was just
new and seemed a bizarre design for their city centre – it was
Gaudiesque in style (internally the rooms were almost direct from a
Mondrian painting) and could have been transplanted overnight from
Barcelona. Very colourful and beautiful though. I did notice that
buildings constructed since the fall of the wall were colourful and
highly-designed, in contrast to the municipal housing blocks built
during the Soviet years. I wonder if this is a reaction to the
greyness of the communist decades. I took loads of photographs, but
see below our gingerbread house hotel, and the Wall – from one extreme
to the other.
got back late on Friday night, absolutely whacked, and all my good
intentions for work on Saturday went straight out the window, apart
from reading and telephoning some folk to catch up on their particular
cases. However, relaying at the start of this piece my stories of
Monday and how you can’t please all of the people all of the time,
have reminded me of a very bizarre phone call I received in the last
week or two. It was about 9.30 pm and I was in the office. It went
something like this:
Hello, is that that Linda Fabiani
Yes, how can I help you?
You can’t, I just wanted to tell you how hopeless you are – you know
nothing – you sit in that parliament and achieve nothing – you’re
rubbish – you’re just a *************** con-merchant
Please stop swearing
or I’ll hang up
you don’t want to listen to anybody – you’re useless – you know
absolutely nothing about anything – you haven’t a clue - you know,
there was a Roman Emperor once who made his horse a Senator … …
Yes, it was Caligula and the horse was Incitatus
See you! That’s exactly what I mean. You know everything.
Click – phone dead
see, there are people who you can’t please ANY of the time!
Linda Fabiani: 7.11.05
Email Linda at