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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
18th September 2006


WEEK BEGINNING 11TH SEPTEMBER 2006

Difficult morning! On Saturday I went out and bought a new microwave – humphed it into the car and then into the house on my own. It felt fine at the time; then Sunday I did the Calderglen Park protest march with a bit of a stiff back. Still didn’t think about it; but, boy-oh-boy, did I think about it when I tried to get out of bed on Monday morning – serves me right for being so daft. Managed to do some work at the computer during the day, but had to cancel my Community Council meeting and my Fair Trade Group meeting in the evening. Suffered all week, and still some! It really has made me sympathetic to anyone who suffers a bad back generally, for whatever reason; I just never realised how debilitating this can be, and also how little sympathy the complaint of a ‘bad back’ invokes – I will certainly be more understanding from now on. Every cloud … … … … …

Drove through to Edinburgh Tuesday morning, with a few stops en-route to walk round the car and straighten up. First up Standards Committee – confidential I’m afraid – Standards Commissioner reports about MSP colleagues where complaints had been received by members of the public. The system is that where the Commissioner has found there is no case to answer, then it is kept confidential, but where the Commissioner has decided there has been a breach then the Committee has to act. One such case today, decision to be taken and reported upon next week in public.

I met a really interesting delegation of Czech Republic educationalists over lunchtime, from the Liberec Region. Our visitors were on a return visit to form partnerships and exchanges with the colleges here, and had come to learn about the way the Parliament functions. I was able to tell them that I’d visited part of their parliament during recess when we visited Prague.

Europe Committee in the afternoon and further evidence on the Energy Inquiry: We were expecting a Government Minister to come along and answer questions on issues raised through our Inquiry, but they backed out and sent along two officials. Committee members were not pleased – officials are limited in what they are able to discuss, and really this was just not good enough. The Minister will be in no doubt of the Committee’s disquiet, but will it make a difference? We’ll see. Talking of treating folk with respect, how about this extract from the Official Report!-

Convener: … …I am suffering from a bad back, so if I assume strange shapes during the meeting please do not worry too much about me; I am perfectly fine in the head.

John Home Robertson (East Lothian) (Lab): We will be the judge of that.

Never mind – I’ll get him back!

Good fun for Morag and I on Tuesday evening when the East Kilbride Kittoch Rotary Club visited us at the Parliament – grand tour and socialising. Really enjoyed it.

I was supposed to be addressing a Business Group in Grangemouth late Wednesday morning, and much as I was looking forward to meeting them and outlining the SNP policies on business rates, I was dreading the drive and coping with my sore back (I really am milking this - I know, I’m truly pathetic, but I’m not used to being unwell!), so was actually relieved when it was cancelled by the organisers. I don’t know why it was cancelled, but the same thing happened last night for a meeting I was addressing in Stirling, so I’m beginning to worry that I’m the common denominator here.

So, a normal Wednesday – general work, meeting with the Committee Clerks, Group Meeting and Chamber in the afternoon. I wasn’t involved in the Chamber debate – Stage 1 of the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Bill which was passed by a sizeable majority. An interview with SAGA Radio in the afternoon about the plight of elderly carers in South Lanarkshire who are looking after adult children with learning difficulties – yes, no resolution to this yet, and Madge and Jeanette are still fighting to raise awareness of the issue, whilst South Lanarkshire Council are still avoiding it. The Council have now spent thousands of pounds on an official study which concludes that everything the Murray Owen Group has been saying for years is correct. And now they’re going to set up consultation and working groups to talk to elderly carers! Aaagghhh!!!!! I don’t know what more I can say without becoming offensive you know, so I’ll just stop there.

Early night – flat on my back so I can get through Thursday.

I did manage to get in at some point on Thursday morning, but missed our own SNP debates on Health and on Education – black mark from the Whip. That’s not fair of me actually;  Alasdair was really understanding.

A forum on the new disability discrimination legislation coming in December – relates to workplaces for both employees and for those visiting to obtain a service, so I have to make sure our Motherwell office is compliant. It sounds complicated, but when it’s broken down it’s actually no more than fair. Problem is that when one is able-bodied, one just doesn’t think about how difficult things can be for someone who has a problem. I think the parliament is going to look at the provision of ‘disability audits’ for our constituency offices, so that will be worthwhile.

A meeting with Amnesty International in the afternoon – they’re concerned at Scotland’s relationship with China and the lack of mention of human rights’ violations in the Government’s China strategy. I can understand their concern and protest surely can be, and should be, made by our representatives and it can be done in ways that don’t necessarily mean falling out with the Chinese Government or damaging potential links. If we don’t make our views known then we are in danger of becoming complicit in human rights abuses.

Related to this whole issue, there was an interesting event on Wednesday evening which I was unfortunately unable to attend – a presentation by the Uighur refugee population of the UK. Their homeland region, Xinjiang, is close to Tibet – I only heard about the Uighur people recently and I think that’s the same for most folk. I’m told the presentation of their memories, culture and music was fascinating, and their story of oppression over the decades heart-rending. It seems that because they are predominantly a Muslim people, whenever they try to argue for some form of autonomy within their region the Chinese Government now find it easy in the current world climate to label them as ‘terrorists’. Well, what became even more interesting about this event was that the Chinese Embassy in London and of course the Consul here in Scotland went nuts when they heard this event was being held and tried to get it stopped! Rightly, the Parliament refused to comply with their demands. The day we allow our institution to kowtow to others and stop freedom of speech and expression would be a sad day for us all.

Thursday evening brought a delegation from Trondheim Council in Norway, hosted by Cllr. Angus Macdonald of Falkirk Council – I am always fascinated when I meet folk from Norway and hear of how they relish their independence and have pride in how they have used their oil revenues to the good of the nation. It’s not hard! It can be done!

An East Kilbride day on Friday – lots of running around and meeting up with constituents to discuss current issues in the town. Davie and I had a really interesting discussion with two gentleman members of East Kilbride Burns Club who are seriously concerned about the lack of Scottish culture, both taught in schools and portrayed in the media. the media in particular is an issue – whilst broadcasting is a reserved matter it’s hard to influence the output of programmes. We don’t even have a dedicated news programme, for goodness sake!

More culture on Friday night and a Matt McGinn Tribute Concert at EK’s Village Theatre. A great singalong with Alastair MacDonald and the Cameron Brothers. McGinn was a true voice of Glasgow.

When David and I went along to Coatbridge on Saturday night to meet the anti-trident peace marchers who had walked from Faslane, during my speech I recalled how Matt McGinn was in the forefront of the peace campaign in the 1960’s when the Holy Loch was utilised as home for the US Navy. Decades down the line, we are still arguing the illegality and immorality of nuclear weapons, and yet despite major opposition by the people the Labour Government in Westminster is intent on upgrading Trident to the tune of £25b+. Faslane 365 has been formed to oppose this and from 1st October there will be a year long protest at Faslane itself with a wide range of local, national and international groups from all sections of civil society, with each group committed to stay for 24 hours.

Sunday morning and back to Coatbridge to take part in the ‘long walk for peace’. I didn’t walk long though I’m afraid – I was put to shame by those who’d already walked 50-plus miles; like Davie’s wee brother, Robert:

SNP Forum in the afternoon for those of us who will be Parliament and Council candidates in May next year. I can hardly believe that it’s almost four years since the last election and that we’ll soon be going through it all again. I guess time flies when you’re enjoying yourself right enough?

A smashing event to round off the week. Sunday evening and at a concert in the Old Kirk in Strathaven – The African Children’s Choir; this choir were aged between 7 years and 11 years old and mainly orphans from Uganda and Kenya. I don’t have enough space or words to describe the work that is done by this charity which has been running such choirs for over 20 years. So, website reference: www.africanchildrenschoir.com. Please log in and take a look. Meanwhile, look at this picture of hope.

Linda Fabiani:
18th September 2006

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


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