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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
4th March 2006


I sit here Saturday morning, having packed my case to go off to Malawi in the next couple of hours. I'm heading off with my Westminster MP colleague, Pete Wishart, just for a few days to build links with politicians there. We're also going to Blantyre, Malawi, so that will be particularly interesting for me as Blantyre, Lanarkshire is in my constituency. Mulling over the last week, brings back the horror of Monday when we got the sad news of the death of my pal Danny Coffey, renowned SNP Councillor in Kilmarnock. Yesterday was Danny's funeral, and the huge amount of folk who were there to pay respects was testament to just how much Danny was loved and respected. We'll all miss him.

Started off on Monday morning visiting Madge and Jeanette from the Murray Owen Group - the elderly carers of adult children with learning disability. As regular readers will know this has been an ongoing campaign to achieve recognition and help for those parents who have raised their children, looked after them all their lives and now as they are old, want to be sure that their sons and daughters will be looked after properly and have happy lives when mum and dad are no longer there. In the case of South Lanarkshire a study has been carried out by the Council and now made public after some months. We await further developments ... ... ...

Glasgow in the afternoon to learn about the current situation in the city with asylum seeker children who have arrived unaccompanied in Scotland. There are over thirty such young people in children's units in Glasgow, and it was heartbreaking to hear some of their stories: the fear, trepidation and loneliness they must have felt being sent from home by relatives who wanted to save them is unimaginable to me. I think Glasgow is the only city housing such young people, but the Scottish Refugee Council is currently researching the issue and will present their findings soon.

East Kilbride SNP AGM in the evening, and a good turnout - everyone's getting excited about the elections next year, both for the parliament and the Council. Of course we've got our Council by-election in Avondale South and Bill Holman's working hard for us! Dragging us out on cold nights from now on to spread the word.

Europe and External Relations Committee on Tuesday and a packed Agenda - the Executive's programme for the year, the report on the economic benefits to Scotland of last year's G8 Summit at Gleneagles, and the return to our Committee of the Cod Crusaders' Petition on EU fishing policy. I had hoped that the Environment and Rural Affairs Committee would want to look at this further, but they declined, so we agreed to carry out a form of inquiry into the constitutional position and will firm this up next meeting. Back to Strathaven in the evening, stuffing by-election envelopes, sticking them through doors. We're all heartened by the party's recent council by-election win in Milton, Glasgow - a breakthrough always gives heart to the campaigns following. We've got three actually on the same day, 30th March - ours, one in Stirling and Kings Park in Glasgow; the triple would be good - a grand slam.

Interesting times in the Chamber Wednesday and Thursday - debate on regeneration of the Clyde (Glasgow and Inverclyde) on Wednesday afternoon; as I said, deja-vu, initiative-sickness, confusion, more task forces and agencies. When will they just get on and do something! It's a disgrace that successive UK governments of Scotland have presided over such deprivation, and in the absence of the real economic levers for change that independence would bring, the devolved administration can do no more than stick plaster over the wounds. The real interesting time was Thursday late morning though, when one of the big wooden beams in the Debating Chamber came loose and swung over the Tory benches - chamber cleared and engineers called in. As I write no news yet as to whether we'll be decanted next week, or allowed back in. It was somewhat ironic that the afternoon debate which had to be cancelled was on Architecture. It also meant that there was no vote on the SNP call for a Public Inquiry into the Case of Shirley McKie, the detective who was charged with perjury for denying that a fingerprint at a crime scene was hers. Of course she was proved right, and there certainly seems to have been strange goings-on since - over five years since! Surely the only way to satisfy the truth is to have a public inquiry. Everyone, barring the Scottish Executive, seems to think so, but they won't budge. The vote will take place next week - somewhere! I had also hosted a group of mature, educationalist students from Ohio the night before and we were enthusing madly about the chamber roof, so fingers crossed that this seeming defect is not structurally serious.

Fun on Wednesday evening taking part in a pilot for a radio quiz show based on the Scottish Quest board game; light-hearted, MSPs against Journalists. Can't tell you who won or who else was on - sworn to secrecy!  Rounded Thursday off with meeting up with Aicha from the Western Sahara campaign. We had been so worried because we hadn't heard from her for so long (to refresh your memory - Aicha is the only Sahrawi with refugee status in the UK and moved to Edinburgh last year), but here she was, looking well and fairly positive about current events in her homeland. She's been away for some time dealing with some family things, but back and studying at Napier University. She's going to pass me some details about what's happening, so once I get these I can bring readers up-to-date.

And, so to Friday, and our farewells to Danny. I was telling him last week that I was off to Malawi and he was laughing and accusing Pete and I of junketing, saying he never got the chance to get out of Kilmarnock. The truth was actually that Danny loved and cared for Kilmarnock so much that he never wanted to be out of it (unless it was a Kilmarnock away-game of course). His memory will stay with us all for a very long time

Linda Fabiani

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