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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
W/E 1st May 2005

Week beginning Monday 25th April

Well, before I start in on week beginning 25th April, I must refer back to my Saturday afternoon with the local Territorial Army in East Kilbride – the Royal Corps of Signals, 52 Lowland Signals Squadron. The Squad has very kindly sent me some photographs of the day and also their email contact for any potential recruits. My excuse is that I’m far too old and one afternoon’s training alone would finish me off!


Mainly house visits to constituents on Monday – Davie and I sharing the load. I met one particular person whose experience I must take on board and check out just how our public services are meeting the requirements of dealing with people with disabilities fairly and equitably. This case centres round the local Job Centre and the attitude of staff in dealing with someone with a disability – a highly qualified and experienced person who has just come back home after working abroad and who feels that their potential for employment is being undervalued purely because of their disability.

Can I say to readers at this point that I realise that on reading the above it looks a bit vague, but when I write something in my diary which relates to a particular person I have to be very careful to guard their privacy and write nothing which could identify them to a reader. Unless of course permission is asked for and granted.

Monday night and an annual event which I look forward to every year – the North Lanarkshire Schools Bands Concert in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. My young pal Megan and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and marvelled at the quality of the performance of school children from all over North Lanarkshire – the Junior and Senior Chorus, the Wind Band and Wind Ensemble, the Jazz Orchestra and the Rock Ensemble. This year for the first time we heard the newly formed Pipe Band, and I was stunned to learn that they’d only been practicing since October last year. In fact they’d only received their instruments three weeks before and had been practicing on chanters and tables (yes, tables!) until their bagpipes and drums arrived! Well done to the members of the Shotts and Dykehead Pipe Band for tutoring the pupils so well.

There was also a very special performance at the concert this year: The Drake Music Project Scotland creates opportunities for people with disabilities to make music. All levels of ability are catered for and the project uses specialised music technology including touch sensitive switches, ultrasonic movement detectors and computer software for composing and performing. Three of North Lanarkshire’s special needs schools are involved – Clydeview, Glencryan and Bothwellpark, and they work alongside pupils from three mainstream schools. The half-hour session was wonderful and the enthusiasm and excitement of the participants was a joy to watch. It’s a brilliant project and well done to all at NLC for its promotion. Our own Evelyn Glennie is a Patron – log onto to learn more.

Tuesday and a day of meetings and deskwork at the office in Edinburgh, and preparation for the Wednesday morning Communities Committee. I don’t know where the day went, I can’t remember particularly what I achieved, but I do know that when I left the office around 9 pm I was whacked! I often hear it said from folk in all sorts of different jobs that meetings expand to fill the available time and just create more work which requires more meetings! Absolutely true I think. Anyway, realised early evening that I had to go home to Strathaven, so 6.00 am start again on Wednesday morning.

Busy Wednesday, as always. Communities Committee first thing – still on Stage 2 Amendments for the Charities Bill. Two particularly contentious issues upon which the Committee voted against the Executive’s position: One, the question of payment to Charity Trustees – the Executive’s proposals allow payments to Trustees, but the committee’s concern is that whilst there may be times when this is appropriate, folk should not be rewarded purely for BEING Trustees. I hope that the Executive takes the Committee’s views on board. If the Minister doesn't and tries to reintroduce this measure I suspect a lot of MSPs will agree with the Committee’s position. The other issue was the question of Trustees being guilty of ‘misconduct’. Committee’s concern is about the perception of the term ‘misconduct’. Whilst in dictionary definitions misconduct covers a broad range of minor to major misdemeanours, popular use of the term ‘misconduct’ conjures up images of ‘fingers in the till’ or deliberate bad actions. Surely, for example, being a bit late in submitting annual accounts to the regulatory body shouldn’t invite the same censure as, for example, deliberate fraud? The Committee’s view is that potential Trustees could well be discouraged.

Lunchtime visit from the Stewarton Community Council – what a fun visit, and I really must give special mention to Mary, an elderly lady with a great sense of humour who took a real shine to Calum. It’s a while since I’ve seen the laddie that embarrassed! Well done Mary.

 The Fine Folk of Stewarton

I had to miss a bit of Wednesday afternoon’s debate on Financial Services Strategy so that I, and the other MSP members of the Parliament’s Art Group could meet the new Art Curator. It was good to hear the Curator’s ideas about how we should move forward with the Art Strategy for the Parliamentary Complex and looking forward to receiving her draft document soon.

Final debate of the day was the member’s debate on the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign. Lots of good contributions but I get so frustrated when I hear about how the UK and Gordon Brown are ‘leading the way’. Aye right, very good, but as I said in the debate it’s been 35 years since the United Nations set the criterion for rich nations of giving 0.7% of their GDP to international development. The UK never has, still doesn’t even under the saintly Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, and are talking of meeting this target by 2013! In fact in 35 years the UK has short-changed the poorer nations by £76 billion. So, if the UK really is going to lead the way at the G8 summit this year, then meet that international obligation immediately – others have. So, off I went home with a bee in my bonnet, as I usually do after such discussions.

Thursday – computer-bound most of the morning except for First Minister’s Questions, Chamber all afternoon. In between though a visit to the Education Centre to meet Denny Primary School pupils for the ‘grill your MSPs’ session. Good questions as always. The Chamber afternoon began with Environment and Rural Development questions to Ministers and then Health and Community Care questions. I was hopping mad! I had question number 6 in the Health slot and wanted to find out from the Health Minister if he would encourage Lanarkshire Health Board to make provision in the area for the diagnosis, management and prevention of osteoporosis – there is no provision. But he took so blooming long in answering the first five questions, in my opinion some of the answers being irrelevant, that we never got to number 6. This is unusual, in fact during the slot before 9 questions were answered. I did have a moan at the Presiding Officer – to no avail, but made me feel better!

The afternoon debate was on the Criminal Justice Plan and Surrounding Issues – I took part in this because I wanted to raise the issue of how poverty can lead to crime. That’s not to excuse crime, but more to try and understand the root causes of some of it and act to prevent. After all, a recent study by Roger Houchin, the ex-Governor of Barlinnie Jail, revealed that a quarter of all prisoners come from just 53 of Scotland's 1,200 council wards—the 53 most deprived wards. Half of those in jail come from the poorest 13 per cent of council wards. One in nine men from deprived areas will be in prison during their 23rd year. There must be a correlation here and as a society we would do well to address it.

I had the pleasure on Thursday evening of chairing the International Development Group which welcomed Mr. Encho Gospodinov, Head of the New York Delegation of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. A fascinating presentation from a man of much life and work experience. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is actually the world’s largest humanitarian network with 178 recognised national Societies – one in almost every country in the world. the Federation was founded in 1919 with five founding member Societies: Britain, France, Italy, Japan and the USA. In Scotland, we have a Red Cross network of 5,300 volunteers and 500 staff!

A Trustees Meeting at Just World Partners and then home, to eat, snooze and watch telly, in varying order.

Early into the office on Friday morning, trying to clear up some stuff before heading off to Motherwell. The Bentley Hotel in Motherwell on Friday afternoon was the venue for a great occasion – the presentation lunch for the young people in the North Lanarkshire Council’s Access Programme who had completed their respective training programmes. I’ve spoken of this Group before and I was so proud on Friday afternoon seeing them collect their certificates – a job well done. All sorts of skills have been acquired – cookery, fork-lift driving, music project … … the list goes on. I was very honoured to be invited and be part of the celebrations. All the staff involved should also be commended for their obvious commitment and hard work. While I’m doling out congratulations, North Lanarkshire Council is deserving of mention for the innovative way they have dealt with the issue of homelessness and lack of employment for young people in their area. Long may they continue in this vein, and not be forced to rely on quick outcomes so that appropriate boxes can be ticked and statistics compiled. So often the real story is behind the headlines and surely for our youth who require a ‘hand up’, the time involved should be tailored to the circumstances.

The Outdoor Skills Squad, and Kirsty and Sean

I have said before that as an MSP you get asked to do some very peculiar things, and none more peculiar than when I got home on Friday afternoon. There, behind the door, was a written plea that I immediately call at a house nearby and officiate at a Wedding Ceremony! Of course I am neither ordained nor licensed, but when the call goes out, especially from youngsters, then you daren't refuse. So, I was happy to oblige, paying due respect to the solemnity of the occasion, and I hope that Jemima and Horace will be very happy – or hippy perhaps – see photo to solve the mystery! The cake was good.

Not sure if it was a marriage or the first Civil Partnership in Scotland!

Well, back to the reality of the weekend before the General Election, and leafleting and canvassing. C’est la vie.

Linda Fabiani 

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