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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
W/E 8th May 2005

Week beginning Monday 2nd May

I’m afraid it’s a very short diary this week! General Election week and as well as every spare minute going to helping campaigns over the last while, this week there was time out from work for the last push, and of course no Chamber at all on the actual day. I’m not going to talk about the election though as I’m sure everyone is fed up hearing about it by now!

So, straight to Tuesday and a day in the office with Morag, sorting out all my visits and commitments over the next while and trying to fit in visits from all the local groups who want to visit us in the Parliament complex. There are so many! It’s great though to walk through the Parliament and see so many visitors, from primary school children to Seniors Groups. Today we learned for example that the 300,000th visitor had arrived – a lot of visitors since the opening back in Autumn last year.

Took part in a panel discussion/question time in the evening down in St. John’s Episcopalian Church in Edinburgh’s Princes Street. A big panel of us, from political parties and from the Make Poverty History Campaign. Lesley Riddoch was in the Chair – always scary in itself, and the main discussions/questions were about international development in general, the Africa Commission and the United Nations. As always, never enough time for everyone to get their points and questions in and the discussion could have gone on a good while longer. Also, received an invitation today to a debate in our own Chamber on Monday 16th May which has been set up by the Presiding Officer’s office and is specifically to discuss the Report of the Africa Commission and make recommendations for action. So, looking forward to that.

And so to Wednesday morning’s Communities Committee and the last day of scrutiny and amendments to the Charities Bill. Again, the Executive didn’t get all its own way with the Committee voting against some of their amendments and recommendations, so it will be interesting to see how we proceed from here! Certainly the Minister has agreed to meet with Committee members to try to achieve common ground on the question of payment to Trustees and the terms ‘misconduct’ and ‘mismanagement’, so we’ll see how that goes before we end up debating it all again in the Chamber.

All we had on Wednesday afternoon in the Chamber was Question Time, and again I wasn’t taken! I’m beginning to take it personally you know.

In between times though I managed to meet up with some Strathaven ladies from the Bethany Group who were visiting Parliament for the day. Some of the group had visited before and were here for another day out, but those who hadn’t seen the Chamber or the Garden Lobby were fair taken – the sun was shining through the glass that day and the flowers in the garden are coming to bloom. It really is a beautiful place to work in, we’re very fortunate.

Dashed back to Strathaven late Wednesday to get an early start on Election Day. Well, Thursday passed, the polls closed and stayed up nearly all night watching the results come in. Slept most of the day on Friday, but managed out on Friday night to East Kilbride to attend a Theatre Nemo performance celebrating their fifth anniversary. I have spoken about Theatre Nemo before in this diary – a group for which I have the utmost respect.

Theatre Nemo is the campaigning theatre company whose aims are to raise awareness of social and mental health issues and give a voice to those who have been touched by mental ill health. They’ve been going from strength to strength and have just received funding to take their work into hospital psychiatric wards and to hold community workshops in East Kilbride and Hamilton. Over the time I’ve been visiting Nemo I have seen participants really blossoming, achieving confidence and becoming more talkative, more animated. There is also the feeling of being important and part of a group. Family members who, although they are not sufferers themselves, also take part and this helps understanding and relationships. The members talk openly about all of this and how drama, song and dance have opened up their lives. They performed a really powerful piece on Friday night about how so often folk with mental illness are shunted through the system and feel they have no-one to really turn to who can help.

I hope I haven’t made Theatre Nemo sound terribly serious and dull – let me tell you, their evenings are full of fun! I had a chat with one of the young men there on Friday who told me that. He had just performed in the play. This was the same young man who I noticed a couple of months ago when I went to one of Theatre Nemo’s Open Days – he had only at that time attended a couple of events, was standing on the side-lines and watching, not taking part at all. Now he’s a performer, with pals, and in company that doesn’t stigmatise him in any way. It’s like Isabel, the group founder says – pills aren’t the only answer.

Well, that was my working week – not a lot, but no doubt the next couple of weeks will well make up for that. Rounded off the week going to see Dick Gaughan in Strathaven’s Town Mill Theatre – fantastic! Hadn’t seen him in around 10 years, but he still has the power to stir the old blood! I keep hearing on radio discussions etc. that the day of the protest song has gone and that no-one writes or sings political stuff any more. Nonsense – that tradition is alive and well here in Scotland, you just have to make the effort to go and hear it. I really must do that more often.

Linda Fabiani
9th May 2005

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