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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
9th June 2006


Week Beginning Monday 5th June 2006

Okay – so I’m cracking up! Just realised that my dates were wrong last diary piece and it should have been weeks 22nd and 29th May – sorry, sorry, sorry.  You know, I’ve been so worried about Amorin that beyond normal work my brain is addled. So, back on track with week beginning Monday 5th June.

It is Monday evening – 5TH JUNE – and I’m back in Strathaven after a relaxing couple of days in glorious Galloway. Every time I go to Galloway I marvel at the beauty of this forgotten county; The Machars, Kirkcudbright, Port William, Whithorn, Garlieston, and of course Scotland’s National Book Town, Wigtown; we stayed in Wigtown for two nights and, same as last time, filled bags with books from the variety of specialist shops which line the town’s streets:

http://www.wigtown-booktown.co.uk/

Anyway, back in front of my computer checking emails received since Saturday – one of the joys of Wigtown was that my Blackberry (crackberry) wouldn’t receive – Yahoo! No need to feel guilty as absolutely nothing I could do about it. Also tonight just checked my diary for the coming week and that’s why I’m writing now – busy week coming up so trying to get ahead of myself.

Tuesday now – late, and yes after my break I’m determined to write up my diary every night: We’ll see how long this lasts – ‘best laid plans’ etc.

Today started with an extremely bizarre meeting when a small group of we Tibet activists met with the Chinese Consul, Madame Guo. She was quite a lady. We had been told we had to submit our questions weeks in advance and just a couple of weeks ago, we found we had all had  delivered to us individually, a bag of books about how wonderful China treated Tibet, and how grateful the Tibetan people were about China’s having liberated them. Mme Guo began by saying that she couldn’t address all of our questions – the ones we submitted were generally in respect of China’s actions in Tibet (reports of arrests, torture, repression), the Chinese Government’s refusal to allow an independent UN observer to check on the safety and whereabouts of the 17 year old Panchen Lama (second most important Lama to Tibetans - he was removed from Tibet by the Chinese authorities), and potential constitutional discussions between that Government and the Dalai Lama as representative of the Tibetan people.

No surprises: To paraphrase Madame Guo:

    ·       The channel of dialogue was always open but the Dalai Lama closed the door – he must now state that Tibet and Taiwan are part of China

    ·       In Tibet people enjoy full freedom of religious beliefs

    ·       It’s the Panchen Lama and his family who don’t want visitors

    ·       Why is Scotland and Quebec’s devolution something that China should consider – perhaps Scotland and Quebec should take advice from China!

Oh well – not a lot of progress there then! Still, respect to Madame Guo for agreeing to meet. I rather liked her actually; I’m sure we’d get on fine if we avoided politics.

Europe and External Relations Committee was today too – 5 hours worth, mainly covering the Structural Funds Inquiry. Still taking evidence for our report about future implementation. Should wrap up that report next meeting though.

Busy Wednesday – rushing around from meeting to meeting. The first with one of the Parliament Clerks who is helping put together the ‘Festival of Politics’ which runs alongside the Edinburgh Festival in August. I’ve been asked to do a couple of events at this – one on Europe and one on Youth Participation in Politics so Murray was interviewing me to compile my ‘panellist’ CV for the programme.

The next meeting was my hosting an event for the Commission for Racial Equality. Around five years ago the Race Relations Act was amended to place a duty on a wide range of public authorities to promote race equality, so there is a legal duty to eliminate racial discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity and good race relations between persons of different racial groups. CRE Scotland is concerned at lack of progress. They gave a really thought-provoking presentation about how racism operates in a society (applies to other ‘isms’ too I guess), and the different levels of it. The ‘knowledge Gap’ analogy was used in demonstration of how racism is sometimes applied:

    ·       What we KNOW we KNOW
    ·       What we
    KNOW we DON’T KNOW
    ·       What we
    DON’T KNOW that we DON’T KNOW

One translation of this could be that some know they’re being racist, some recognise that they might be without realising, and some have no idea at all that what they are saying/doing can cause offence or difficulty. The Government in Scotland of course has many initiatives to combat racism – working groups, task forces, focus groups, ad-campaigns, awareness-raising sessions etc., but it may in fact be that by trying to deal with so many different aspects (all well-intentioned) the bigger picture is being missed. Perhaps time to all sit down and rethink the strategy – I certainly wouldn’t pretend to have all the answers, but maybe we’re just trying to address too many questions all at once.

I’ve just come back to my desk after attending a session of the Cross-Party Group on Palestine – where race relations really are at rock-bottom between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Dr. Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian General Delegate to the United Kingdom addressed us about the current political situation and its effects. Dr. Hassassian arrived as the Ambassador for the Palestinian people at the end of last year. It was a fascinating discussion, but heart-breaking. The strife seems endless.

I’m off home to do some constituency work now – housing and health, as ever.

Lots of Chamber duty earlier today, Thursday; Members’ Interest Bill final stage, and the big debate on Climate Change. I wasn’t taking part in either and tried hard to do some writing whilst there. Some of my colleagues seem to achieve that ‘double tracking’ in the chamber, but I never can – I think I’m just too bloomin’ nosey and feart I miss something! Anyway, did get to read some constituency work reports from Davie – Child Tax Credit problems again, and problems with Benefits payments. Westminster reserved issues actually, but when folk specifically ask you to help out, then I would contend that we must if we can – at least by pointing them in the right direction for assistance.

After Chamber off to address a meeting, organised by the Bertelsmann Foundation, which is a Foundation, based in Germany, which is dedicated to developing ideas and solutions for societal problems and promoting societal reform. This particular group comprised European scholars, deemed to be ‘Experts’ within their particular countries/regions and working on a 'Regions and EU' project. Interesting people – I thoroughly enjoyed the discourse. Morag and I also enjoyed showing them round the Parliament; or perhaps I should say Morag showed them around – I just hung on at the back and took some pictures.

And then home late to Strathaven. Today (Friday) started badly, with my feeling all stuffed up and rotten (sorry to share this with you but I really do feel sorry for myself and there’s the Gala tomorrow). Anyway I soon cheered up when I met with the Health Issues in the Community training course participants in Cumbernauld. Well grilled I was about current Government initiatives for child-care, why there are geographical disparities in nursery-place provision, why public transport is so bad in terms of practical use for those with certain disabilities, and indeed even for parents with push-chairs. The session was in the form of my (and a chap from the YMCA) being interviewed as part of the project. Grand strong women, now further armed with information to take on the authorities!

So, here I am, Friday evening, taking a break from emails, sipping a Lem-sip and deciding to open next week’s piece with tomorrow’s Strathaven Gala . It’s always such great fun that I know I won’t be home on time to write anything up, and then I’ve got a full day’s work on Sunday – Motherwell, Gilmourton and the Basque Country (no, I’m not really going there, just meeting up with their President and delegation on Sunday night.).

Until Monday … … …

Linda Fabiani
9.6.06

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


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