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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
31st October 2005

Week beginning Monday 24th October 2005

Before I do anything else, I must remind readers of the smashing photo of the babies and toddlers in our parliament chamber which I ended my last diary entry with – Fiona Hyslop and young Paul were in the photograph and Paul’s two older siblings tell me that they’ve never had their photos taken in the Parliament or put on the world-wide web – ridiculous! So, to make up – Sarah and Neil, two of the loveliest visitors I’ve had in my office (and their mum’s no’ bad either):

Back to Strathaven late on Sunday 23rd after a great two weeks in Cyprus – sunshine, food and good company of three sets of friends who also chose Cyprus for their October holiday. First time I’ve been in Cyprus and would happily return. I just love to travel and am lucky that I can. We came back to some sad news though – two elderly friends had died during the fortnight. Two grand characters who added richness to my life and to that I know of many others: McKillen of McKillen (John) who was so well known in East Kilbride for his love of Scotland and work on behalf of others, and who actually had been at school with my father when they were children in Whiteinch, Glasgow. And, another fine Scotsman – Malcolm McSporran from Clydebank who gave me huge support when I started work at the local Housing Association twenty years ago and was one of the most ‘lovable rogues’ I’ve ever known – like McKillen, Malky was always looking out for folk, and always had a twinkle in his eye. Rest well, both of you.

I see Calum had a moan in his piece about my taking my ‘crackberry’ with me on holiday to Cyprus and firing off ideas in all directions. I hate to admit it, but he’s absolutely right, I was being a right pain-in-the-tonsils – I’m not going to do that again (changing one’s mind is of course a woman’s prerogative).

Last year when I was in East Timor communication by mobile was possible in Dili, the capital. However, when we were staying in Peirara in the remote district of Lospalos, there was no electricity, no telephone or radio signals. It’s probably the only time in my life where I was completely cut-off, unable to contact anyone or have them contact me. There was something rather calming and pleasurable about that isolation. Since Amorin returned home after graduating though, he’s able to email and text us regularly because Peirara now has an electricity generator and a communications mast nearby.  I do feel a wee bit sad that when I visit again next year Peirara will have changed so much, but of course that’s an entirely selfish ‘western’ view, because the difference to those who live there is immense and should be welcomed.

I was glad to get back to work on Monday, especially as my first task was to welcome George, a pal from East Kilbride and a staunch campaigner for trade justice and debt relief for undeveloped nations, and do the ‘tour’ of the Parliament followed by lunch – a grand way to settle back into the routine. That was over all too soon though and back into the real work – meeting with the Committee clerks to discuss the next day’s Committee Meeting, checking the mail for the last two weeks, sorting, sorting and more sorting. It struck me, because there was two full weeks’ worth of mail, just how much paper comes into our workplace, and indeed how much is put in the recycle bin without even being read. At a guess, last Monday I must have instantly recycled 90% of the mail received over the preceding two weeks. I know that sounds bad, and as if I couldn’t be bothered, but it would be absolutely impossible to give attention to everything that arrives in my mail-tray. With the best will in the world I cannot read the annual report of every organisation which sends it to me, I cover Central Scotland (10 constituencies) and cannot possibly therefore read publications and missives from organisations which operate solely in other parts of the country. It’s the same with emails – organisations and individual folk often send an email to all 129 MSPs. Whenever I’ve given a presentation to community and other groups about ‘Contacting your MSP’ or ‘Making your Voice Heard’, I stress over and over again that the secret is to ‘target’ individuals/check who has particular interests in your field/make sure you know who it is who represents you. Too often it can be counter-productive to lobby every elected member – we get so many ‘round robins’. Also, when I think of the amount of wasted paper in my own small office and multiply that by 129 MSPs.

Catching up on constituency cases with Davie on Tuesday morning before heading back to Edinburgh, and parliamentary work with Calum on Tuesday evening. In between was the European and External Relations Committee. My second shot in the Convener’s chair, and you know, it felt quite comfortable!  We’ve decided that our business programme for the coming session will include looking at the new regime for the operation of European Structural Funding, the potential for co-operation and use of European funds between Scotland and Ireland, the European Commission’s Communication Strategy, and the operation of European regulations in Scotland. Quite a workload coupled with keeping a watching brief meanwhile on the European Services Directive and the Lisbon Strategy to promote social inclusion. Busy, busy.

When I look back on my diary for Wednesday and Thursday last week I have no earthly idea how I got through it! Calum’s revenge perhaps? Anyway, I’m still in one piece – that holiday in Cyprus must have done me good right enough. All meetings with work catch-up at night and at the few available free moments I had:

Rural Schools Campaign
– there really should be a presumption against closing rural schools as they’re often the heart of small communities.
German Consul General – to discuss my visit to the Saxony Anhalt Parliament next week.
Royal College of Nurses Forum – the ‘Wipe out Infection Campaign’ – Action Plan to combat MRSA and other such bugs.
Tibetan Delegation from India and Nepal
– Really fascinating people though, with such a mountain to climb in terms of Tibet gaining any degree of independence from China. These MPs in exile, and others, were visiting us to investigate the workings of devolution.  The Dalai Lama visits Scotland again in November – I would dearly love to meet him again if invited.

Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees
– rally outside Parliament to protest about the Home Office methods of removal of asylum seekers who are to be deported.

"Not too sure about that strange lady!"

"Maybe she's okay after all"

Our Lady’s High School, Cumbernauld – grilled by pupils in the ‘Meet your MSP’ session. Enjoyable as ever though.
Tibetan Delegation from India and Nepal
– over lunch this time – have you ever tried to explain ‘Mulligatawny Soup’ and ‘Pork on a Pyramid of Bashed Parsnip with Asparagus Drizzle’ to a bunch of Tibetans? You learn something every day you know – I thought, for some reason, that Tibetan Buddhists were teetotal. Not so; I learned this over lunch from the obvious enjoyment of the white wine which I was told was like a drink which Tibetans make from rice and grain. I understand now that it’s only the monks who are abstemious!
Film about the Vucaj Family – the family who were recently deported to Northern Albania after living 5 years in Drumchapel, Glasgow. Campaigners have visited them in Albania and filmed the reaction of the Vucaj children to their new home. I do have mixed feelings about the making of, and the content of the film I must admit, but no mixed feelings about the fact that these youngsters should have remained in Glasgow.

Of course, all of the above meetings took place in between running in and out of the Chamber for parliamentary business and taking part in debate. I was mad too that I didn’t get taken for supplementary questions on child safety and on brownfield development – I was hoping to raise in Chamber the issue of the two years decant from Strathaven Academy to East Kilbride, and the other ridiculous idea being floated by South Lanarkshire Council of building in East Kilbride’s much-loved Calderglen Country Park. I’ll try another day.

By far my most uncomfortable experience on either Wednesday or Thursday was my interview at SNP HQ to see whether I can go on the potential candidates list for the 2007 elections. It’s really hard to be judged by your peers – that Annabel and Colin can be right scary at times! Not true – they’re pussycats compared to Allison and Willie. This is me getting my defence in first.

Local all day on Friday and then the Consular Corps Dinner on Friday night in the magnificent surroundings of the Signet Library in Edinburgh University. The start of my weekend’s social activities, which saw me through Saturday afternoon at the Strathaven Fairtrade Group’s open day (as ever turned into an informal surgery!) and Saturday evening at the Greenhills 2000 ‘Seventies’ night – glam rock – happy memories. First of all, a confession to make though – I’m an Elvis freak – I had to have two days off work when he died. In fact at the time I was saving up to go see him in Las Vegas. My earliest musical memories are Presley and Sinatra – the first courtesy of my mum and the second of my dad – and I still love them both. So, Saturday night was fab, because Elvis was alive and well and performing at Greenhills Community Hall, East Kilbride. I even got the special job of mopping his sweaty brow at regular intervals –palpitations! Not only that, but I got a cuddle – see below – me and the King (King Joe Eddison fae Paisley actually, but never mind, a girl can dream … …)

Glamrock Greenhills

Linda Fabiani: 31st October 2005

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