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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
2nd June 2006


Weeks Beginning Monday 15th and Monday 22nd May 2006

Friday night; into June already and a beautiful summer evening in Edinburgh, outside my office window! However, I shouldn’t be complaining – I’ve had a lovely day and evening, and I’m working tonight so that I can go to Perth to SNP National Council tomorrow and then stay over in Wigtown with friends on Sunday night and not worry too much about driving up-the-road early. That’s why I thought I would combine the last two weeks.

I’ve just got back from the annual celebration of Italian National Day – great food and wine of course, but smashing to meet up with old friends from within the Central Scotland constituency and beyond; also good to catch up with our Consul, Andrea Macchioni – a lovely young man from Rome, who’s done a tremendous job in drawing Scotland’s Italian community together, and representing his country. He’s been here a while now though, so it’s likely we’ll lose him soon as I’m sure he’s got a big future ahead of him in diplomatic circles; he wasn’t even 30 years old when he came here as Consul General!

Just before that I was at a lecture given by Jon Snow, journalist and reporter currently with Channel 4. I’d heard Jon speak before and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to hear him again. It was well worth it to hear him talk from his long experience about the ‘Axis of Evil’ and the UK’s Role in a Challenging World. His knowledge of Iraq and Iran, their respective histories, and indeed differences is immense – I wish I could have taped it. I understand he’s got a book about the subject coming out soon, so must look out for that. I understand too that he’s recently been filming in Iran for a forthcoming documentary series.

So, a busy evening, but then it was a busy day too in Kilmarnock constituency. Visiting some individual constituents with issues to be addressed and calling in at Nether Robertland Primary School in Stewarton to hear Primary 6/7 views on lack of sports and leisure facilities/vandalism and littering/air rifles and BB guns. The local community policeman was there as well and it was good to see the rapport he obviously had with the children. We were discussing afterwards how children in that age group generally have great respect for each other, their communities and what is perceived as ‘authority’, but that in some this seems to break down in adolescence; many reasons I suppose ranging from hormones to peer pressure. The constable was quite clear that he wanted to build strong relationships with the pupils from the three primary schools which feed into Stewarton Academy as he felt that would pay dividends later – good on him for putting in so much effort. Another interesting aspect of that school is that all their food is cooked on the premises and is all organic! A pilot project being run by East Ayrshire Council and seems to be going down a treat with the young consumers, although the head teacher did say that there was initial reluctance to trying new tastes and things with ‘fancy names’.

Today as over the previous two working weeks, most of the constituency queries and cases have been about the Health Service, a lot of it stemming from recent Scottish Government announcements that waiting time targets are being met. This was the message from Government following the recent court ruling that a patient waiting too long can go to another European Union member state for medical treatment and charge the cost to their own country. Well, a deluge of letters from people waiting months for particular treatments, treatments going wrong, waiting for hours in A&E Departments and then being told “you shouldn’t be here – we don’t do that test here!”. One particular letter made me laugh – the constituent had written to his GP, copy to me, saying that as he had been waiting xx amount of months for a particular treatment, he had identified a clinic at xxxxx in Italy which seemingly was renowned for treatment of this type; would the GP kindly then arrange his flights (he believes May and June are rather nice there at this time of year), and invoice the Health Minister! Yes, though it may be funny though there is a serious issue here about rhetoric not matching reality. So we’re looking into this further. Another medical issue which has come up and I’m determined to get to the bottom of is the use of mixed-sex wards in a local hospital. I could hardly believe it when I was told by some constituents because the Government stated some time ago that this was to stop. So I checked back parliamentary answers etc. and yes, it seemingly stopped a year ago! Well, not in my patch it hasn’t! Absolutely ridiculous practice – I know I wouldn’t want to be in a hospital ward with men (nothing against you chaps, but that’s the way it is). I think it would be distressing too for young women and particularly so for ladies of generations beyond my own. Not so good for gentlemen either I would think.

I’ve not been terribly involved with ‘Chamber’ business over the last couple of weeks as generally things discussed have been outwith my own portfolio – Police & Public Order Bill, Bankruptcy and Diligence Bill, Animal Welfare Bill, but a lot of it has been interesting. One of my moans now – please don’t be offended. I care about animals, and I think society should have rules that don’t allow cruelty to any living creature, and I generally support the Animal Welfare legislation. However, the amount of lobbying that comes in on behalf of animals (particularly ‘pet’ animals) – from individuals and from organisations – whenever an issue to do with animals is being discussed, actually gets me down a bit! If I got anywhere near as much correspondence/emails when we’re dealing with child welfare, or indeed people in general, then perhaps it wouldn’t annoy me quite as much. Okay, perhaps it’s me that’s got the problem, but actually, I care about humans more than animals.

Mind you, if the Scottish Animal Party read the above, then I’m in big trouble. Never heard of them? Well, they’re a new political party, formed just in time, by Primary 7 pupils, for my visit to St. Patrick’s Primary School in Strathaven last Monday. They even had a Manifesto, and you know, I can’t disagree with it: “Animals do have feelings! Obviously they need a home, food and water but they also need attention from their owners. They should be played with, walked or groomed every day (depending on which animal you have). We need a hug at times – so do animals!” I asked “what if you’ve got a pet snake or a parrot?”, “what if you’re a farmer and you’ve got loads of sheep and cows?”. Well, the disdainful looks that drew! “Obviously” said one young lady, “this is the main clause, and the sub-clauses will come later with much more detail”. Well, that’s me told! She sounded just like some politicians I know.

I also care about Scotland of course, and whilst promoting the independence cause whenever and wherever I can, I love to learn more about our history. I did that the other night when I attended a fascinating recital the other night; the launch of ‘Blowing Nordland’s Trumpet!’, hosted by the Consul General of Norway. I find it hard to describe the technicalities of this, but basically it’s a concern piece of photography and song which can be accessed on the net – the launch actually had the singer though and showed the images on the screen. If you want a look you can log on to www.nordlands-stream.com. It was enjoyable, but what really fascinated me was its concept which was celebrating the life and work of one Peter Dass, described as the father of vernacular poetry in Norway, and it turns out that this Peter Dass was the son of a Dundee merchant (Dundas) who was one of some 200 Scots to settle and register as burgesses in Bergen between 1600 and 1675. Again, so fascinating to learn about Scotland’s internationalism prior to the temporary closure of our parliament in 1707. Why was I not taught some of this stuff at school? I learned about the Romans, the Egyptians, wattle-and-daub houses, the Norman Conquest, the Empire, and of course the odd wee couthy story about Robert the Bruce and the spider. It is a wee bit better now, but we don’t learn nearly enough about our history and culture as we should.

Well, before I sign off for the week, I want to thank everyone who has emailed me about the current fighting in East Timor, and indeed Jim who emailed from USA to ask “if I was okay because I seemed a bit withdrawn compared to usual”. And then there’s Jim (it’s been a week for Jims!) in Canada who regularly emails but sent me a really funny world cup joke, which I would not dare reproduce here (for avoidance of doubt I’m supporting Ecuador because that’s the team I picked out in SNP Inverclyde’s fundraising world cup draw).

Well you’re right both Jims – I have been a bit off-colour and in need of cheering up. I am worried sick about East Timor generally and those there that I love in particular. The situation is horrendous, people hurting and killing each other, terrified families fleeing to internal camps and into the mountains. I won’t go into why and wherefore here, but it has been building up for a few months now and reached breaking point at the end of April. I never mentioned it here before as I just kept hoping beyond hope that it would all come right. It didn’t though - peacekeeper troops have been invited in (from Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and Malaysia) and things seem to be calming down, although the rebuilding of systems and indeed trust will take a long time. I'm spending lots of time on the web, checking out all the latest news, and of course I get a lot of media calls for updates too. I am getting emails from some of the Westerners I know there who seem to be in the quieter areas relating to their respective Embassies, so are well protected. Not so secure for the locals though and it’s almost impossible to get through on the telephone. The odd text does manage through – our Amorin and his family are okay, and I was so relieved to get that text message this morning. I just wish I could hear their voices.

Until next week.

Linda Fabiani
2.6.06

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


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