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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
27th October 2005

Davie McAnsh's report


Well here we go again, another holiday for the boss and another fortnight of panic for me because I have to write something that is going into the public domain.

As I deal mainly with constituency work I tend to see much of the same issues cropping up time after time, so you end up with a fair working knowledge of the system and its processes. To such an extent that you can effectively predict the outcomes of cases at the outset of an enquiry.

On the face of it this might appear as no bad thing that the mechanics of the system of government are so well laid that they can be followed by just about anyone. But the predictability of the bureaucracy within the system is also one of its foibles.

There is no doubt that a level of bureaucracy is necessary in a system of government, it is unavoidable, there does have to be rules that guide the administration in its decision making.

The shortcomings of bureaucracy are however exposed when plain commonsense is not applied to circumstances that in some small way do not quite match an entire governing criteria but nevertheless do not threaten to break the rules.

There are times when the bureaucratic system offers solutions to a problem that bizarrely settles on an option that was earlier rejected because the rules donít allow it. But change the argument, move the goalposts just a few feet and you arrive at the exact position that you have already been told you canít have.

What do I mean? Well because of confidentiality I canít go into specifics but for an example take the issue of disabled drivers and the problems they face, an issue that has been a regular feature of constituency work in recent months.

If you ask for a designated parking bay for a disabled driver in a residential street, for easy access to someoneís home, there are as you would expect a particular set of criteria that has to be met, fair enough. However when this criteria no longer fits exactly to the situation, then you need commonsense with which to judge the case.

So if I say to you I need a designated parking bay outside my front door and my circumstances quite clearly demonstrate the genuineness of the case, although crucially not quite matching all the criteria; you would imagine a reply from the responsible authority that is a yes or a no!

Or you can get an answer that is a piece of both. First you can not get the on street parking bay because (you donít entirely match the criteria) that would tie up a parking place in the street but, you can with the support of a council grant, build a drive way in your garden that will of course tie up an on street parking bay so you can be assured of access and egress.

I have thought about this and the principle is the same, both use up a parking space, the same parking space in fact. The difference is the rules say you can have one but not the other even though the outcome is the same.      

Hereís a cry for commonsense! It is easy to simply implement the rules but, fair and more just government would be better served at times by accepting that the rules canít fit every circumstance.

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