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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
17th February 2006


As the third member of Linda’s staff it now falls to me to write something in Linda’s column as it’s recess in Parliament and, guess what, she’s left the country. 

So – where do I fit in?  Calum Cashley does all the serious research for Linda (yes, he does), Davie McAnsh deals with constituency matters and I (two days a week) deal with the everyday matters, general admin, invitations and, lastly, liaising with the many visitors who come to see Linda in the Parliament building.  With Linda being such a popular lady this part of the work has been growing.  In the pending file at the moment are visits from a group of visiting American students, the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Marks and Spencer Retired Staff Association.  Can’t say we don’t have variety.

My job is a job with a view.  From my desk (which I share with Calum, not fortunately at the same time), I look out over Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park – much better than Linda’s view which is either Calum’s or my back or (if she turns round) a concrete wall. 

Occasionally a local pigeon drops by (literally).  If you were to believe the rubbish quoted in the press by some MSPs then we are infested with flocks of feathered scavengers harassing us at our desks and dropping “stuff” all over us.  Since this would have changed my appearance to something like the Bass Rock and led to an increase in my dry-cleaning bill, I’m sure I would have noticed this sort of thing going on.  In fact we fare no worse than any other large building in Edinburgh.  I bet the Queen even has a few royal hawks keeping pigeons out of her nearby Holyrood holiday home. 

With the first weekend of recess, the usual office clean-up programme is underway.  Cleaners are hoovering carpets in all the offices and corridors and windows are being cleaned.  I was even asked to clear the desk as they were going to clean out the ventilation shaft directly above.  This conjured up a most unpleasant picture of what I might find this morning but, fortunately, the cleaning had not resulted in an unwanted pile of unsolicited guano covering the computer and phone and Calum’s coffee mug which must, incidentally, be due its annual wash.

Another thing about recess is that the public are here in force because the tours are running every day bringing large numbers of interested people into the building.  One of the principles of our new Parliament is accessibility.  Anyone who wants to can come into the public areas and, when Parliament is not in session, go upstairs in the debating chamber (otherwise you need a ticket).  Did you know that there are public seats in the committee rooms as well?  However many people prefer to take a tour to learn more about the award-winning architecture, the thinking behind the design and the working of the Parliament itself.  These run every 15 minutes and people of all ages are coming – particularly Pensioners and schoolchildren.  

In fact the Parliament Education Service is booked up well ahead with school visits.  Linda particularly likes these.  MSPs are informed when schools from their area are due to visit so that they can drop by the Education Room and answer questions from the children.  She also really likes going to visit the schools in her area which is one of the things that I organise on her behalf.  There are some great leaflets which the Parliament produces and she takes a bundle of these along.  (I sometimes think the kids know and understand more about their politics than the adults do.)

Now to social matters.  The Burns Supper season is finally drawing to a close.  The SNP one in my area (Balerno, west of Edinburgh) was on Saturday; we have a pecking order for booking the only venue in the village – we are third on the list so get the 2nd Saturday after the Saturday nearest the 25th (have I lost everyone by now?).  It went well and we had 73 people there.  However the phonecall from hell arrived at 11.30am.  It was Duncan, Linda’s partner, our “Haggis Addresser”.  Could we manage without him?  He was suffering from one of the many horrible bugs which are going the rounds just now.  Panic!!!!!!!!!!!  However a couple of phonecalls later we had a replacement, the programme printer re-printed and all was well.  Several years ago the Immortal Memory person called in the same day as the Supper, having completely lost his voice.  That caused a bit of panic too.

Some star speeches were given and I must mention Shirley-Anne Somerville as a person to watch in the future.  She gave an excellent reply to the toast to the Lassies.  She was all the more impressive as she is (what you might describe as) “slightly-built” contrasting with most of the men present who looked like they had been over-dosing on haggis suppers for years.  However her speech carried just as much weight as them, most of whose kilt waistbands were indeed very sorely stretched.  Someone to look out for in the future – she’s been chosen by the SNP to stand in Edinburgh Central.

Another really good speaker is our Calum.  He has definitely got the makings of a great candidate.  Last year he did our Toast to Scotland and people actually asked for copies of it afterwards.  This time we gave him a more relaxing role – the toast to the Artistes/Guests.  This is the last one on the programme and is often forgettable due, not to the quality of the speech, but to the quantity of alcohol some people seem intent on consuming with the excuse that haggis acts like a sponge.  However, he managed to make what is really a vote of thanks very entertaining.  If he’s reading this he’ll think I’ve taken a funny turn but, honestly, he is worth serious consideration as a candidate.

Well – the mail has just arrived in the in-tray – better get going on that.  What variety!  a copy of “the Scottish Gamekeeper”, an Audit for Argyll and Bute Council, a report on “Tackling Waiting Times in the NHS”, Strathaven Academy newsletter, an invitation to a concert, several briefings, a press cutting sent by a regular correspondent about builders taking drugs and a warm letter of thanks from the Austrian Ambassador who met Linda on his recent visit to Scotland.  That wasn’t too taxing.  Time for coffee!  Might as well make the most of things – herself is back next week.

My solution to the Holyrood pigeon problem

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