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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
4th February 2007


WEEKS BEGINNING MONDAY 22nd and 29th JANUARY 2007

 

I can hardly believe it’s been two weeks since I posted my diary; the time has just flown, but I’ve been so busy, and any spare time these days is going towards campaigning for the election. It’s only three months away now and things are really hotting up – all go towards May 3rd. I’m off to Brussels later this morning (it’s currently 1 am on Sunday 4th February), so I thought I would do two weeks together and head off with a clear conscience!

 

I said last time that the story of the Scottish Executive’s bad handling of Scotland’s European interests was a story for this week, and right enough the Europe Committee on Tuesday 23rd was lively. You see, a detailed memo from the Exec’s top man in Europe to the Executive ministers was leaked and the newspapers were full of how Executive Ministers bowed down to Westminster, weren’t properly represented in crucial talks and were missing the boat when it came to what was best for the country. So, of course when we were taking evidence at the Europe Committee from three of our members of the European Parliament the issue came up – it said nothing more after all than we had surmised while drafting our report. What a stooshie – arguments abounded as to whether it was acceptable to mention the leaked report. As far as I was concerned everyone and their granny knew all about it, but no, I was assured by one of the Labour members that she knew nothing of its contents – this despite having quoted from it earlier in the meeting to have a go at Alyn Smith MEP! The Official Report is worth reading for the rammies that were going on.

 

Convening the International Development Group on Wednesday 24th – a really interesting session from The Leprosy Mission. Most of us think these days that leprosy is no more, but some of the facts are stark: in 2004 alone over 400,000 people were registered for treatment and in India a hundred times more people are disabled each year from leprosy than from polio, and it’s a disease which stigmatises people terribly. The work that the Mission does is so valuable because it can be fully treated, and those disabled by it helped into employment and to become part of their community again.

 

A meeting of the Strathaven Academy Action Group at night in Strathaven – the Council is still insisting that the only solution to replacing the school is to demolish and rebuild on the same site, which means bussing all the pupils to a temporary school building in East Kilbride for two years. I refuse to believe that they truly examined all available options because they won’t meet parents to justify their actions. The town and surrounding communities are absolutely furious, and no wonder – extra-curricular activities will be seriously curtailed, and 19 buses a day along the road from Strathaven to East Kilbride is a huge undertaking.

 

We had a parliamentary delegation from Tanzania in the Parliament on the Thursday and I had great fun at lunch with them – I’ve always found Tanzanian folk such good company, easy to be with. I’m a wee bit worried about my pal Flora that I met when I visited Tanzania, because we used to email quite regularly and now she’s not responding. One member of the delegation though promised to find out if she’s okay.

 

 


Tanzania Delegation

 

East Kilbride on Friday 26th and a pilot programme in Mossneuk Primary School. It’s being run by the Parliament’s Education Outreach Service – the officer visits the school, sets up a parliament project, then the teacher takes over and it culminates with a visit from an MSP (I had the privilege at Mossneuk), with Question Time, discussion and then a mock election. They were absolutely super, so well prepared – there are two Primary 7s at Mossneuk and both sessions were brilliant. The youngsters split into political parties at the end of each session, wrote their manifestos, presented them to the rest of the class and then we had the secret ballots. There was the School Party (extra holidays!), the Music Party (Ipods in class!), the Animal Welfare Party (jail for mistreating pets!), the Environment Party (jail for littering!), and the Sport Party (compulsory keep-fit!). The Sport Party won both times – winners below:

 

 


Mossneuk Primary School

 

Lunch meeting after that with some of the ladies from the Hillhouse and Earnock Art Club, so discuss the possibility of Lottery Funding for their Club. They’re certainly active artists (I bought a lovely painting of the Charles Bridge in Prague at the last exhibition I went to) and lively companions. You know, it’s not like work when you do things so pleasurable – I’d happily have lunch with them all any time.

 

Catching up on constituency work over the weekend – I’ve got some really difficult constituency cases right now. Nothing I can explain as they’re very personal to people, but we’re doing all we can to try to help and point folk in the right direction for a solution. Some issues go on for a long, long time though – I was looking back on some of the work we’ve been doing and two of our main things have been going on since before the last election! The elderly carers looking after their adult sons and daughters with learning difficulties, and the historic child abuse victims are still not being properly treated as far as I am concerned. Work on both of these campaigns continues.

 

St. Joseph’s Church in Blantyre last Sunday – they’ve been doing some good work to fundraise for ‘Mary’s Meals’ through Scottish International Relief. A lot of children in Malawi are going to school because they get a meal through this programme, all thanks to the members at St. Joseph’s. I wish South Lanarkshire Council would recognise this work and try to formalise an arrangement with Blantyre in Malawi because I am sure that this sort of recognition would be of huge benefit to both Blantyres – the historic links are huge after all, and there is funding available through the Parliament for Councils to tap into if they submit a feasible plan. Again, work continues on this campaign – it just seems such an obvious course of action to me!

 

Big week in Parliament week beginning 29th January. I was chairing a session for the United Nations Association which was having a day-conference on the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty and the UK Government’s announcement that they would be upgrading the nuclear deterrent at Faslane (where the daily protests continue). The conference wasn’t unanimous but there was certainly a large majority of those attending who were opposed to Trident Replacement – reflective of Scotland generally. Some quick facts about the current status of the weapons of mass destruction housed down the Clyde:

 

  • Each of the four Vanguard class submarines carries 16 Trident missiles.

  • The missiles can carry 12 warheads, with a maximum of 38 warheads per submarine.

  • Each warhead has a potential explosive power of 100 kilotons, seven times that of the bomb that killed an estimated 140,000 people at Hiroshima

  • The UK owns the warheads, but leases 28 missiles from the US government

The potential horror is unthinkable – surely we can’t be surprised at other countries trying to develop their own nuclear weapons when we’re sitting with this lot!

 

The Microsoft Corporation held their big international conference for heads of governments at the Parliament on Tuesday and Wednesday. Bill Gates was there, but I didn’t get to hear him as during his session I was away talking to 50+ Butler programme students from the US – they’re going to St. Andrews University for six months. I always enjoy doing the information session for the Butler students when they come because they’re really interested in Scottish politics – this lot were excited at the thought of being here during an election. I must get some of that excitement!!!

 

I was at the Public Petitions Committee on Wednesday too, to give a bit of support to Madge and Jeanette from the Murray Owen Group – elderly carers that I mentioned earlier. Their Public Petition about parents who have looked after their children with learning difficulties is still ongoing – all they want is for their children (adult sons and daughters) to be treated with the same importance as those who are being helped into communities when they leave institutions – and I’m delighted that the Public Petitions Committee are determined to help. This petition has been running for a couple of years now, I think, and the persistence of these elderly ladies (and energy) is astounding. They are fantastic. It was good to see them – it’s been a while, time passes so quickly.

 

What a day Thursday was. I literally never stopped running around – questions in Chamber (do you know that there are still areas of Scotland being monitored for contamination since the Chernobyl explosion two decades ago?), meetings with the British Council, Oxfam’s Trustees, MEPs, Ministers, colleagues, etc. etc. etc. But some emails from the Mossneuk Primary 7 classes fair relaxed me when they arrived. It seems the youngsters enjoyed the sessions as much as I did – a couple of extracts from the emails:

 

  • “I also liked when we voted. Our party only got one vote!”

  • “I am glad that you could answer most of our questions”

  • “You were very funny and interesting as well”

  • “If you don’t remember me I am the boy you twitched on the ear”

I promise you I did not assault that child! He had such a fun-filled face I couldn’t resist tweaking him; I wonder what questions I wasn’t able to answer … … … and what did I do that was so funny?

 

My Fairtrade Christmas Card Competition was held at Chapelton School this year and on Friday the two winners came through to the Parliament with their mums for a tour and lunch in the MSP Restaurant (that was the prize they asked for). I think they had a good time – certainly their mums and I had a good old chinwag.

 


Connor and Kirsty

 

Finished this week taking part in the Strathaven Academy Action Group protest on Saturday morning, outside the hall where the local councillor has his surgery. It was a very dignified, silent protest with around 50 parents holding placards detailing their concerns about the decant to East Kilbride. There’s strong feeling about this Council action – they really should take note. As one mum said to me – “they’re not even trying to justify their stance to us; they just treat us as if we’re invisible. It’s our children after all”.

 

So, I’m off to pack now – taxi at 7.00 am.

 

LINDA FABIANI

4.2.07


"For latest news and information about all aspects of Parliamentary business, MSPs and our work, visit the Parliament's website at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/

For information about how you can visit the Parliament, including details of our free public crčche, visit http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/vli/visitingHolyrood/index.htm

Watch Parliamentary business live at http://www.holyrood.tv/

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


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