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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
W/E 20th June 2005

Week beginning Monday 13th June

My colleague Andrew Welsh has just come into my office and said “You look jaunty!”; yes, I feel jaunty! Perhaps it’s end-of-term euphoria (recess on 30th June), but I had a really good week last week – workwise and personally. At least it feels like it this Monday morning of 20th June – we’ll see as I work my way back through.

First of all though, thank you to all those who emailed to keep me right about the correct term for those from Colorado – COLORADANS. Particular thanks to Lloyd, Laura, Patricia and Andy – it all set me pondering to how the ‘net’ has changed our lives with its speed of communication. Doesn’t matter how long I ponder though, I still won’t quite understand how it all works – please, email me about anything except the answer to how the world-wide web works, because I still won’t understand! Interesting how communities describe themselves – Glaswegians, Edinburghers, Dundonians, Bairns (Falkirk), Brandanes (Bute – but you have to be born on the island to be a true Brandane!).

My week was full of theatre and entertainment, starting on Monday afternoon at Rosehall High School in Coatbridge. 7:84 Theatre Company are touring senior schools with a play about the G8 called ‘The Tipping Point’ and the day also involves workshops and then a panel discussion with invited MSPs. The interest by the year 3 and year 4 pupils in all the issues under discussion was huge and we had a really detailed discussion about exploitation of developing (or non-developing in many cases actually) countries’ markets, sweatshop economies, climate change, debt-relief, poverty … … Rosehall is a community school with an obvious ethos of encouragement to all – recently won a Scottish Executive Healthy Living Award – well done pupils and staff at Rosehall!

SNP Meeting on Monday night in East Kilbride with our Leader in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, along to address the troops at our AGM. Also, the opportunity to meet up with Davie and catch up with each other on the issues of the day in the constituency, and of course individual cases – school closures, telephone masts, recycling, centralisation of hospital services, not being allowed a passport at age 16 without parental consent. Strange one that – unlike in England, you can get married in Scotland at 16 years old without your parents knowing, but you can’t go abroad on your honeymoon without their signing your passport form!

Through to Auld Reekie (do folk from Edinburgh mind being called ‘Reekers’ I wonder? After all, they refer to us Glaswegians as ‘Weegies’) on Tuesday morning. It took me two-and-a-half hours, mid morning, because of hold-ups. As I sat in the traffic queue in Livingstone, I thought of the journalist last week who told me that he could do Strathaven to Edinburgh City Centre in 60 minutes – in his dreams, or perhaps the Batmobile!

I said I had a theatrical week. Well, one of my visitors this afternoon was certainly theatrical! Heavy breathing along the corridor, MSPs and staff hiding beneath their desks, but the doughty Christine Grahame managed to bring everything under control:

Finn was quite delighted that the Security Staff had insisted his helmet and light-sabre go through the x-ray scanner!

Back to reality and meeting with the National House Building Council to discuss their views on the Housing Bill currently wending its way through the legislative process, then Social Justice Team Meeting, then Group Meeting – meetings, meetings and more meetings, all of which generate work of course, so tied to the computer for a few hours on Tuesday evening. Then reading through the Communities Committee papers for another meeting the following morning!

Communities Committee first thing Wednesday, and yes we cracked it! We agreed, across the parties, the Committee Report on the Housing Bill – no votes and no dissent; MSPs being impartial in reporting the views of those who came to give evidence to us. The time for personal/party viewpoints is when it comes to debates and amendments. That’s the norm with Committees, and it’s a shame that this kind of joint working isn’t much reported upon. I guess the media find it much more exciting to report on folk yelling across the Chamber at each other, but sadly that means that the commonly held perception of politics is that it’s all confrontation and entrenched positions. So often, school pupils ask me things like “do you not like anyone in any other Party?”, or “do you talk to any Labour MSPs?”. I tell them that working in Parliament is like working with colleagues in any other workplace – some you really like, some you don’t like much, and many you’re just indifferent to, and Party membership doesn’t come into it. I guess most of us are just doing our best, in the way that we believe to be best. Mind you, I must admit, that there are times in the Chamber when I can be every bit as confrontational as the rest!

Wednesday afternoon brought another debate on the Executive’s Sexual Health Strategy. At last we seem to be moving ahead with this. General agreement except from the Conservative Party who seem to want parents to be the only ones responsible for the education of their children in such matters. Well, as I said in the debate, that’s fine if you assume all parents can cope with that, but some find it very difficult to discuss sexual matters with their sons and daughters, whilst others, lets face it, aren’t particularly good parents – sad but true.

A few weeks ago I attended the East Kilbride Kittoch Rotary Club Ball and Duncan and I had such a good time that we invited some of the members and their friends to visit the Parliament and have dinner. Well, we did this on Wednesday evening and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Prior to dinner though I attended a very sensitive and thought-provoking session with the Marie Curie Cancer Care Charity. They were launching their campaign supporting the choice for those terminally ill to die at home. The belief is that every patient who chooses to die at home should be given the opportunity to do so, and asks that the Scottish Executive ensures that this choice is available and achievable across Scotland’s Health Boards.  The latest research has shown that although most people would like to be cared for at home if they had a terminal illness, the reality is that three-quarters of all cancer patients die in hospitals. Also, although 92% of people would in theory support the choice of a friend or relative who wanted to die at home, only 54% of those surveyed felt that they would realistically be able to cope. So, support required for this cause. Find out more at:

Eilidh Wiseman, whose husband John died at home, very bravely addressed the meeting: “Being able to have John at home provided a sense of normality to an otherwise totally abnormal situation. Our children could come and go and see their Dad for short periods of time at regular intervals during the day. John was much more secure and orientated in his own surroundings and I could sleep when he did rather than sit in a chair by a hospital bed.”

Two Stage 1 debates (agreement on general principles) on Thursday, neither of which I had any part in, so apart from Question Time was able to concentrate on real work at my desk! Thursday evening was important though. I have spoken many times in my diary about the East Kilbride Murray Owen Group – elderly carers who look after their adult children with learning difficulties. So, Thursday evening we had a debate for Adult Learning Week and I was able to raise this subject again – for the umpteenth time in the last three years. Madge and Jeanette from the Group came through with Davie for the debate, to hear me say yet again that all the mums and dads in this Group, and many others like them across the country, wanted was to see their children’s futures settled before they are no longer able, or indeed there, to care for them. South Lanarkshire Council refused to meet me to discuss this issue locally and Executive Ministers have also refused. However, success at last! Rhona Brankin, Deputy Health Minister, bless her, agreed to meet with me and the Group, to listen to the concerns of members. Rhona obviously understood that I was not criticising the good work that’s going on in allowing people with learning difficulties to leave institutions and live in communities, but pointing out that inadvertently the needs of a group of people were being marginalised – those who still had their adult children at home, and were not getting any younger themselves.

Madge and Jeanette were delighted at this step forward, and I know that the rest of the Group will be pleased too. I know too that the ladies were a wee bit chuffed when Fergus Ewing in praising their unstinting determination to see this issue progress referred to them as ‘feisty females’ – they certainly are.

Fergus's Feisty Females!

And so to Friday, and what an absolute pleasure Friday was. Started off at Sandford Primary School for a half-hour session on being an MSP and ended up there for an hour-and-a-half doing everything from swopping personal childhood stories to training in public speaking! And, some of these youngsters were good, let me tell you. Worries though from those who will be going up to Strathaven Academy, about the potential of bussing into East Kilbride for two years until a new Academy is built. I have of course written to the Council and the Executive about this, but haven’t had a response yet.

Sandford School is of course rural with a small pupil roll and the benefits that brings. But of course, every school has its own strengths, and the main strength that I see at Kirktonholme Primary in East Kilbride, a primary school with a roll of over 800, is their sense of ‘togetherness’ and ‘community’. I visited there recently of course, and attended their Assembly – this time I was back for the school show.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Chimchiminee-chimchiminee-chimchimcheree; a sweep is as lucky as lucky can be! Just a spoonful of sugar … …/Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag … …

Yes, you’ve guessed, it was Mary Poppins and I loved every minute – what memories it brought back. The Tivoli Cinema in Partick, my brother and I singing all the way home (usually accompanied by him walloping me at some point in the proceedings for singing the wrong words!). The Primary 6 and 7 classes at Kirktonholme were astounding, the content, costumes and sets a tribute to all the teachers and parents who helped. The chorus and dancers and all the actors gave us a great show, but I have to give special mention to Bert the Chimney Sweep who had a better Cockney accent than Dick van Dyke ever managed! I was assured young Greg wasn’t born within the sound of the Bow Bells, but I’m not convinced.

The Chimney Sweep Choir

I was still singing on Saturday when I met up with Davie to go over the constituency cases in Kilmarnock. Then we set off to the Tramway in Glasgow to see Celebr8, put together by Scottish Ballet’s Education Unit. The Dance 4 Glasgow scheme is funded by Glasgow City Council and the Lottery Fund and allows Scottish Ballet to teach dance to 1,200 folk across the city – mostly children and young folk, but the companies - Cre8, Activ8, Innov8, Motiv8, Elev8 and Gener8 – have participants aged from 5 to 77 years of age, and all performed in the show. Brilliant to watch and it was obvious that the dancers found it brilliant fun to do – I wonder if Davie was tempted? I was, but I have to look back again to my memories of Miss Ramsay’s Dance School. I so wanted to be a graceful swan, a fairy in tulle and satin. But no, grace wasn’t a natural attribute – my first dancing performance was in the circus set, in the ‘Nelly the Elephant’ ensemble, and that summed it up really. Never mind, we can’t all be prima ballerinas.

I started off this week’s diary by saying it was a good week, and yes it clearly was – a good mix of success at work and personal enjoyment. If only all weeks could be like that!

Finished the week off with a long Sunday lunch with friends – should do that more often, and maybe I would be jaunty every Monday morning.

Linda Fabiani

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