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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
5th December 2005

Week beginning Monday 28th November 2005

Now this is certainly going to be a short piece this week, due to my dear pal Alyn Smith MEP. Alyn is always extremely generous and this time he has gifted me his rotten cold – there I was, in his office in Brussels, doling out sympathy to the Smith Team who were all snuffling around and feeling sorry for themselves, and here I am, back  in Scotland, feeling even more sorry for myself than all of them put together. Still, it didn’t hit hard until I left Brussels so, I had a good time – a busy and good time I hasten to add.

Early start on Monday 28th – loads to do before I set off at noon for Belgium, so up at 4.30 am and set off from Strathaven to Edinburgh at 5.30 am! (no wonder I’m no’ weel!). The Security chaps nearly fell through the floor when I walked into Parliament so early – with a suitcase of course, so goodness knows what they were imagining.

And, so to Brussels – just myself and the Chief Committee Clerk. I was being ‘familiarised’ as Convener of the Europe Committee, you see. What a lot of people to meet – Scotland Europa, Parliament’s Europe Officer, Executive’s Europe Officer, Commission Officers, UK Parliament’s Officers, MEPs, House of Commons folk, House of Lords folk and various other holders of strange acronyms which I’ve not yet managed to work out! What a lot of things to learn about – EU Subsidiarity Early Warning Mechanism, Reform of Cohesion Policy … … and so on and so forth. Still, I must admit I did find it all useful and think I understand the brief a bit better than I did when I was able to put faces to names and talk through the issues. I also must admit that slotted into the programme were some thoroughly enjoyable bits – Marta from Scotland Europa (a lass from Strathaven – amazing who you meet when you travel) was laughing when she read the three-day programme over and found only one bit of light relief printed; “25 minutes downtime” – including dinner with Ian Hudghton and pals when I rebelled and snuck off. So, regards to all from Ian.

Team Smith refused to be photographed on the grounds that they all had red noses and puffy eyes - that never bothers some folk I know ...

Back to Edinburgh late Wednesday night so I missed the launch of the Independence Convention being held on St. Andrews Night – heard from all that it was a smashing success, so let’s hope we move on from here. Finland celebrates its 88th year of independence next week – another small successful country. I hope we’ll be proclaiming ours well before Finland reaches its centenary celebrations.

Busy catching up with correspondence on Thursday and working on constituency cases, as well as meeting with a representative from the Western Isles Council to hear their views about the future dispersal of Structural Funds from Europe. We’ve got the Minister coming to our meeting on 20th December and I hope he’ll have some answers – certainly the main topic of conversation in Brussels (except for those representing the UK, one of whom actually said “The UK Presidency as been a success, except of course for the small outstanding matter of the budget”) is Mr. Blair’s inability to reach agreement on the EU Budget during the UK Presidency. So naturally there is concern in Scotland amongst those who receive EU funding, both in terms of what comes from Europe and how it will be administered by the UK Government and the Scottish Executive.

Friday was a fun morning visiting Robert and Flora Anderson in their lovely home in Carfin. Mr. & Mrs. Anderson had taken part in the Warm Homes Initiative and had central heating and insulation installed earlier in the year. What a difference it is making to them this winter having their house so warm. They had agreed with Energy Action Scotland that their house could be used for publicity so that other elderly people will be encouraged to apply for the work to be done.

A great way to spend a morning

Davie and I were, as we always are when we meet folk with such experience, fascinated by Robert’s stories of Motherwell in the past, how he and Flora met at ‘the dancing’, and tales of how well their son and grandchildren have done in life. You know, Davie and I could have quite happily sat all day listening to Robert telling a tale and Flora correcting him at every opportunity (“she’s aye been the same” says Robert), but set off back to the constituency office to try to progress some of our ongoing constituency work and start the process of trying to help out in new cases; Health Service again, I’m afraid, for individual issues, but also the ongoing concern in East Kilbride and Strathaven about the potential closure of the Accident & Emergency Department in Hairmyres Hospital. The EK News has begun a campaign and petition to save the Unit and of course we’re supporting this. Ridiculous travelling time from East Kilbride to either Monklands or Wishaw, if someone needs emergency treatment.

Friday lunchtime and Mr. Smith’s wee bug hit me with great force, so out of the game until Monday 5th December. One day, I’ll get him back … … …

Linda Fabiani: 4.12.05

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