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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
13th March 2007


Weeks Beginning 19th and 26th February and 5th March 2007

So – hands up – I’m guilty of neglecting my diary! Those of you who have emailed me to check I’m okay, thank you so much for your kind thoughts. It’s just that I’ve been so busy – as well as campaigning for the elections, there’s lots of extra parliamentary work because we ‘dissolve’ at the end of March. Also, there’s the added burden of clearing out our offices – everything has to be packed up in sealed containers and moved out, so ongoing work and constituency cases have to be collated and kept aside, old files ditched and decisions taken: “Will I keep this article? How long have I had this? Will I ever read it? Will the sky fall down if I stick this in the recycle bin?”

Actually, I’m quite brutal about binning stuff usually because I can’t stand working in a guddle (Morag’s the same – Calum drives us bonkers), but in an election situation everything is heightened and I become sure that the one article I dispose of will be the one which holds the killer line I need to ensure an overwhelming victory – candidatitis it’s called.

Lots been going on over the last three weeks, in-between sleeping! I think I’ve been semi-hibernating to stoke up reserves for the frantic campaigning month that April will be. either that or my Yoga class is relaxing me so much that I shut down: Yes, much to the amusement of colleagues here I’ve been exercising – well, of a sort, assuming strange Yogic shapes most Tuesday lunchtimes. Seriously though, I started this class, having assumed my half-century in December, because of what I’ve learned by being a Patron of East Kilbride’s osteoporosis Society. Yoga is an excellent exercise for women of a certain age, and after all, according to the current Scottish government, being ‘elderly starts at 50! Ridiculous.

So, before my regular osteoporosis Society Meeting at Hairmyres in the evening, my three weeks began with my speaking in Glasgow at a conference on Climate Change, and outlining the SNP’s thinking on the matter. All will be revealed of course in our Manifesto. That and much more. I’ve been doing some work on aspects of that too.

My work as convenor of the European and External Relations Committee has been coming to an end too, with lots to do in the final weeks:

    ·       Meeting with the Polish Regional Development Minister to discuss our Inquiry into Structural Funds – of course Poland as a recent entrant to the European Community will receive a comparatively large amount of Structural funding and are considering how best to disburse the funds

    ·       Presentation about the Scottish Parliament and the work of the Committee to another batch of Chevening Students (scholarships to overseas students awarded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) visiting Edinburgh University – a really interesting group from Eastern Europe

    ·       Consular Reception at Napier University, and a chance to have a chat with the Italian Consul bout the forthcoming visit of his Ambassador and to the German Consul about his Ambassador’s visit to the Parliament to hold a public meeting to discuss the priorities for the term of the German Presidency of the European Union; it actually was a really good event which I was delighted to convene – Herr Ischinger is very knowledgeable and interesting and I am sure everyone who attended left both impressed and enlightened

    ·       Visit to the House of Lords to meet with the Chair of the Lords’ Europe Committee – Lord Grenfell – again a pleasure to meet with someone with so many years’ experience in his field, and, let me tell you, lunch in the Lords’ Dining Room ain’t half bad! The serious reason for this meeting though was to try to put practices in place to enable the respective committees to hold the respective Government Ministers to greater account, so I’m all for that, and it was a very useful meeting, to be followed in the next couple of weeks by Lord Grenfell’s equivalent in the House of Commons.

    ·       Two-day study trip to Finland as part of an expert group of academics, MSPs (four of us, including my colleague Bruce Crawford) and journalists. Fascinating – a study of the knowledge economy and how Finland has turned round its fortunes in so many ways, both social and economic, since the 1980s – amazing what an independent country the same size as ours can do! Loads to impart from this fairly intensive trip – looking forward to helping compile the report.

During this three weeks, Fair Trade Fortnight has taken place and as always I was much involved in this – a debate in the Chamber about Scotland’s aim to be a Fair Trade Nation: Fine in theory, but as I said in the debate, if we are really serious about this and want to give it the attention it deserves rather than just pay lip-service to an ideal, then it’s about more than tea, coffee and small consumer goods. Procurement in public services is one of the keys, enabling the public sector to source goods fairly, both at home and globally. The current Scottish Government guidelines to Local Authorities are completely inadequate in my opinion, and that of many others including Oxfam and SCIAF in giving wrong information about what is acceptable tendering practice; the poor old European Union seems to be getting the blame here – too convenient, it’s actually the Scottish Executive, and the UK Government, who are wrongly applying the directives.

A good Fair Trade afternoon in Hamilton’s shopping Centre too, but the Fair Trade event closest to my heart - judging the poster competition for the Avondale Schools; two winners from each of the seven primary schools, part of the prize being to visit me in the Parliament – we had a great time!


Strathaven Fair Trade Visit

I want to thank young Michael Docherty from St. Andrew’s school for helping me during that week – he was here again on work experience (I guess he must have liked us the first time!) and not only did he do some research for the debate, he was a great help with our Avondale visitors.

Michael also came along with me to a play about Mary Slessor – to celebrate her centenary year and the wonderful work she did in West Africa, following in the footsteps of Lanarkshire’s own David Livingstone. It was really good – “Mother of All the Peoples”, a musical – so look out for it at a theatre near you.

The British Heart Foundation and the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists also held information receptions on the same evening, so Michael and I dashed between events at great speed. the next photograph perhaps suggests that I would be in need of a Chiropodist, but no, I gave these shoes away because wearing them once was enough!


Shoes

The ‘One Step Beyond’ campaign encourages people to donate their old shoes to be distributed in Africa and Asia and is trying to raise £160,000 to be distributed amongst Cancer Research UK, No More Landmines Trust, Children in Need and the Angus College Charitable Trust. You donate your shoes, with a £1 coin taped inside each one, and it is hoped to set a new world record to have the longest line of pairs of shoes ever laid out. so, I donated my party shoes, and Michael turned up with two pairs. I don’t think they were his though, I wonder if his dad has noticed his shoes missing yet.

There’s been quite a few charitable events in the Parliament over the last few weeks – the Oxfam event was memorable with guest speaker Kumi Naidoo, Director of Civicus, about which I have written before. The Civicus World Assembly will be held in Glasgow again this year. Alyn Smith MEP and I met with Mercy Corps too to learn about their work in Kosovo and the many challenges that are currently being faced, and no doubt will be faced in the future. Negotiations are still ongoing about Kosovo’s status, facilitated by the European Union. I met with Amnesty International too, to discuss their future work in Scotland and how they can best influence decision makers.

A brilliant event amongst many was the Young Women in Politics Event held in the Parliament – I was privileged to chair one of the workshops, presented by Amal Azzudin, one of the ‘Glasgow Girls’ who have been campaigning against dawn raids of asylum seeking families, and Jamie O’Neill (yes, there were some boys there too) who now works for Positive Action in Housing, but whom I first came across when he was campaigning against the deportation of the Vucaj Family. Sadly that deportation went ahead, and Jamie’s best pal, Elvis Vucaj, was deported to Albania with his family, despite having lived years in Glasgow and been educated in Drumchapel. The young people who attended this session were visibly moved by what they were learning, and shocked to discover that here, in this country, we are still kicking down doors, removing families in handcuffs and detaining them behind barbed wire before sending them away to places which the children barely remember – children with Glasgow accents, whose pals consider them as Glaswegian as themselves. As you know I could talk about this for a long time – suffice to say at the moment that not a lot has changed since Scotland’s First Minister promised to make a difference – shame on him and his Westminster equivalent.

Well, a lot has happened over the last three weeks – as well as the above, there has of course been work in the chamber, none of it historic, mostly finishing off legislation etc., and the Standards Committee – only one more of these to go I think. There’s been fun too though – Adoption Meetings and parties for colleagues standing for election, Burns Supper (ours in East Kilbride is always late) and a friend’s 40th Birthday Party.

I got a wee letter from Molli at Mossneuk Primary School – to quote direct:

 “When I grow up I don’t know if I would like too be a MSP because it looks like a very hard job (no offence) and a bit boring because it sounds like all you do is debate and talk about things, but I might be wrong!!!!”.

Aye Molli, you might have a point there, but you know, letters like yours make it worthwhile, and fun too.

LF: 13.3.07


"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 crèche, 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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