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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
24th January 2006


Week beginning Monday 16th January 2006

Reading over last week’s piece I realised two things: First that I’d got the name of the by-election constituency wrong! It’s Dunfermline WEST, not East – so sorry, I’ve always had trouble with norths and souths, easts and wests, in fact I’ve always had trouble with directions generally (I am it has been said ‘directionally challenged’). I’ve had many spectacular unexpected journeys and consequences by getting lost, some good, some bad, but all interesting. So, Dunfermline WEST by-election, and a grand, hard-grafting candidate in Douglas Chapman:


Douglas Chapman

The second thing that loomed out of last week’s contribution at me today was that it was quite depressing. Again, sorry, but I guess it was written after some issues from constituents that I was just unable to help with; one elderly person who told me of experiences whilst in institutional care as a child and wants no more than recognition from the institution and society generally that these things happened – the Executive’s ongoing refusal to hold a Public Inquiry, and a couple of immigration cases – ‘reserved’ matters of course even though the folk involved are Scots or want to be. I know we can’t solve everything for everyone, but sometimes the frustration of not being able to help when you are faced with people’s pain just gets to you.

On the other hand there is a certain ‘buzz’ about getting a result for someone and over the last week David and I have managed to be of help to some folk. For example, an elderly lady housebound for over a year, struggling to get an electric wheelchair which would allow her to leave the house and aid her mobility inside her home too. Initial assessments of her abilities had judged that she did not fit the criteria for such a chair, but after some false starts with manual wheelchairs we helped her gain another assessment and it now looks as though our client will be receiving an appropriate chair in due course which will allow her a bit more freedom and independence.

Another successful outcome (two in one week - I'll be getting dizzy at this rate!) was with a constituent’s ongoing housing issue – some of her problems have been largely resolved and she has now had some reassurance of further help to upgrade her home and make it a more habitable place to live. Our involvement here was mostly to give support to someone who lacked the confidence to deal with officialdom on their own. Sometimes in fact, when it is shown that someone is no longer acting alone, but is getting a bit of help to argue their case, a change in attitude from that same officialdom happens pretty darned quickly! If only that were always the case/if only that weren’t necessary.

As I say, that is not always the case, and intervention from volunteers, Councillors, MSPs or whoever, does not always rectify matters, as recently when trying to secure an on-street parking place for a seriously ill, disabled person. Despite apparent contradictions in Council policy the request was refused and time is now against the family's efforts to make life a little easier for their loved one. Bureaucracy is often unwilling to consider unusual, individual cases on their own merits and seems blind at times to what seems to many people simple to be fair or decent.

In between dealing with constituency cases last Monday and Friday/Saturday of course the parliamentary side continued. Two committees on Tuesday (heavy!) – Standards in the morning and Europe and External Relations in the afternoon. Just before recess Parliament had debated the revised Members’ Interest Order as put together by the Standards Committee (this is the Order which determines what MSPs must declare etc.) and now it’s being passed to an ad-hoc committee for consideration and discussions of amendments etc.

We had a lively Europe Committee – we even had a vote! The big issue was how to deal with the Public Petition from the Cod Crusaders asking the Scottish Parliament to use its influence to return control over its fishing industry to Scotland. The question was whether the European Committee should refer it to the Environment & Rural Development Committee or write to the Environment and Rural Development Committee inviting it to consider the petition. Now, I know this all sounds very anoraky but there is a distinct difference; ‘referring’ would mean that the European Committee had ‘washed its hands’ of it and if the Env/Rural Committee agreed they did not want to consider it then that would be the end of the matter/‘inviting consideration’ would mean that if the Env/Rural Committee says they do not want to consider it, or they have no time to consider it, then it would come back to the European Committee for further discussion and decision. There were strong views expressed and at the end of the day the ‘inviting consideration’ option won by five votes to four (I got to be the decider). The weblink is at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/europe/meetings.htm for those that I know have been following this issue. If you need a hard copy, just let me know.

Wednesday brought more European work – in Glasgow this time attending a consultation day in relation to the next round of Structural Funding. Much reduced funding coming our way and changes to be implemented in how the funds are administered. I learned a lot that day before dashing back through to Edinburgh for a bit of the afternoon’s Chamber debate on The Executives International Strategy – I didn’t get to contribute, but what I did hear from the Executive wasn’t exactly exciting or inspiring.

Running around madly as usual on Thursday – chamber (the Air Route Development Fund/Social Work Inspections/First Ministers Questions/ Ministers Questions), meeting with VisitScotland to hear about their latest initiatives/Conveners’ Liaison Group Meeting (another committee – made up of conveners of the other committees!), Kilmarnock College students Question Time (it was more of a general discussion about our political system and the expectations of both elected members and the electorate, and highly enjoyable – I would like to do more of that).

So that was last week, apart from the quick Healthy Heart Check kindly offered to Ministers, MSPs and their staff, and parliamentary staff by the British Heart foundation and Pfizer on Thursday evening – I seem okay with blood pressure slightly low and cholesterol slightly high. I was told to take more exercise though and try to cut down on stress levels – I don’t feel stressed particularly, though unusually have had some trouble sleeping lately. However, my ‘trying to get to sleep’ story took place last night (Monday 23rd) so will have to wait until next week. You can have my ‘daft wumman’ story though; drove to the entrance of the Parliament’s carpark and was asked by Security to open my boot and bonnet for checking – boot fine, but I had no idea how to open the bonnet, couldn’t find anything anywhere that would help – no lever, bit of string, button, nothing. Had to get out and ask the Security chap to go in the car and find it – how embarrassing, and right up the street of all the chaps behind me in the queue. You know, I still don’t know how to do it, I forgot to watch what they did – too busy apologising, and I’m determined I’m not going to ask. Please don’t tell anyone!

Linda Fabiani
24.1.06

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


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