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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
23rd December 2005

Weeks beginning Mondays 12th and 19th December 2005

It’s the morning (afternoon actually) after the night before and my last office task this year is to complete my weekly diary for the year. Last night was the office party – I’m saying no more about that except well done to our Karen for yet again organising a grand hooley! My intention was to finish work at lunchtime yesterday, but hasn’t happened. Still though, I’d rather be sitting here writing than elbowing my way round the shops.

The last two weeks have been busy in-between doing my Christmas clear-out and writing hundreds of Christmas Cards – the cards designed by Sandford School were brilliant and I was really proud to send them out locally and beyond. Same as I was proud to learn that a couple of weeks ago the Access Group in North Lanarkshire (the organisation which assists young people who’ve had a hard time and helps them attain and retain accommodation and work) had been nominated for a major UK innovation award for their sterling work. That was followed by shock last Monday morning when I visited them to hear that their funding runs out at the end of March and the service might disband – crazy! When something works, keep it going. So, I’ve been doing a bit of lobbying on their behalf and managed to ask the Minister about it in the Chamber this week after his statement on Homelessness:

Linda Fabiani (Central Scotland) (SNP): I was pleased to hear the minister's comments on the innovation fund and his assurance that we would build on successful approaches. Certain cross-cutting and innovative measures have already been taken on homelessness and its causes; for example, the minister has visited the youth-based accommodation, employment and support services—or ACCESS—project in north Lanarkshire. Concerns have been expressed that such projects could be closed because interim new futures funding has run out and that innovative approaches might well be lost if services are mainstreamed. Will efforts be made to ensure that existing successful approaches remain as they are?

Malcolm Chisholm: This summer, I visited and admired the work of the ACCESS project. However, I cannot give a detailed answer to Linda Fabiani's question because I am still looking into written correspondence that I have received on the matter. I can certainly write to Linda Fabiani when I have finished doing that.

So we’ll see what he says when he writes, but I know that Malcolm Chisholm MUST have been impressed when he visited, and that North Lanarkshire Council are fairly forward-thinking in such matters, so fingers crossed.

Last Tuesday evening was spent with another favourite local group – Theatre Nemo, based in East Kilbride but now working in Glasgow and Lanarkshire. Theatre Nemo is the campaigning theatre company which aims to raise awareness of social and mental health issues, and give a voice to those who have been touched by mental ill health. I was introducing their latest performance – “Ann-Marie and The Huge Bag of Worries”. As always, this was a powerful piece – fun mixed with serious messages about how to cope in life, and the actors in Theatre Nemo go from strength to strength. I get a real buzz from watching, and talking with participants and their families makes it very clear just how valuable this organisation is to them. I am so fortunate that so far in life I haven’t suffered from mental ill-health – I can’t begin to imagine, for example, how it must feel to suffer despair for ‘no apparent reason’. Prior to the play performance, Nemo showed a video which had been produced by members and depicted how one of them ‘saw life’. It was very dark to me and a bit disturbing. This lass has also written a poem giving her view of life ‘before’ and ‘after’ Theatre Nemo – what a difference it has made in her life.  A good news story here – Nemo has just been awarded three years of lottery funding to progress their workshop and performance programme.

And so to my birthday on Wednesday 14th December. Although I was working I had a grand time, with a thoroughly enjoyable lunch with Elspeth and Iain who had won my donation to a local charity of lunch/tour of parliament. Dinner in the evening with the Presiding Officer and the new European Commission UK Head, a Finnish chap, Mr. Kemppinen. A very good dinner too – not a bad way to spend a birthday! And they call it work – how good is that? Real work was going on all week – meetings, correspondence, debates – as ever. Apart from national campaigning issues in which I’m involved – Elderly Carers, Survivors of Institutional Child Abuse, Immigration and Asylum etc - I do have a few constituency cases which are really going on for a long time without resolution. I’ve been trying hard to progress these, but it seems to no avail. Perhaps the New Year will be a turning point for some of these people affected.

No dinners on Thursday I’m afraid, just work, but through to East Kilbride on Friday as a guest of the Lanarkshire Chamber of Commerce at the Maggie’s Centre Fundraising Lunch. The Centre will be built in the grounds of Wishaw General Hospital. The funding target is £1.5m, and I was amazed that Friday’s lunch raised £80,000. One of the main sponsors of the Maggie cause is Mrs. Vera Weisfeld, business woman originally from Coatbridge, and meeting her and listening to her speech brought back some funny memories to me. You see, Mrs. Weisfeld was the founder of that famous Glasgow shop chain “What Every Woman Wants”, and I remember so clearly that first wee shop in Anderson and how my pals and I were desperate to get there on a Sunday morning after we’d been paid for our Saturday job – skirts for 75 pence/two jumpers for £1. Great. I remember too when I worked in Anderson some years later, the shop had moved across the road to bigger premises and had a first floor too which was entered by a side stair off Argyle Street. My pal Trudy and I always had a giggle at the arrowed sign on the pavement – “What Every Woman Wants is up the Close”. A smashing lady Mrs. Weisfeld – she made a lot of young women happy, made a great success of her career and now she’s giving back.

Strathaven Academy’s Christmas Concert on Friday night, 16th Dec. They just get better and better all the time – two hours of sheer musical enjoyment, and some grand singing.

The last working week of the year was this week, and as I said earlier, I thought it would be a short week. But no, it was as busy as any other. Chamber on Wednesday and Thursday, Europe Committee on Tuesday – a fairly positive meeting I thought with the Minister not averse to the idea of Scotland making a bid for one of the potential European Institutes of Technology (which would be based in an existing university), and being quite up-front about the next round of structural funding. No decision yet though on how these are to be dispersed throughout Scotland – imminent I’m told, but I am concerned that it’s all being cut a bit fine, with the new funding due to come onstream January 2007; projects have long run in times.

The working week finished on a high with a visit from sixth-year modern studies pupils from St. Brides/St. Andrews in East Kilbride. They did the lot – committee rooms, public areas, sat in the Chamber, met lots of MSPs and ended up squashing into the window seat (think pod) in my office. A really bright bunch and the girls were so tall! Maybe I’m shrinking, but young girls seem so tall these days.

And then to the SNP Group, MSP and staff party last night – a fine finish to the year. I’ve enjoyed most of 2005, and I hope for readers it has been the same. If not; if it’s been one of these years that you just want to see the back of, then I hope 2006 will be better.

So, to those reading this on-line – HAVE A GREAT FESTIVE SEASON, and to those reading hard copy in January – I HOPE YOU HAD A GREAT FESTIVE SEASON.


Linda Fabiani: 23.12.05

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