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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
31st March 2006


Yes two weeks - well almost two weeks and I sit here at 10.30 on Thursday night in my Edinburgh office, looking back over what I've been doing. You see, I'm off to Toronto in the morning, to see the family - I've been so busy over the last couple of weeks, what with work generally and the Avondale Council By-election (awaiting result as I write), I literally haven't had time to keep up my diary as I usually do. So, as I've still to drive home, pack and try to be somewhat organised, please excuse my quick catch-up.

Monday 20th started well with a really fun visit from the Lanarkshire Branch of the Marks & Spencer Former Staff Association. A great bunch of folk and Morag and I had a smashing time with them. It took my memory back to when I was a teenager and worked on a Saturday in Littlewoods in Glasgow's Argyll Street - Marks and Spencers was next door to us and the Saturday staff in there really thought they were a cut above us Littlewoods girls! But then, we looked down our 15 year old noses at the Woolworths girls across the street! It really was ridiculous when I look back on it. I've said before that the 'think pod' in the MSPs offices is the main attraction for visitors, no matter what age they are, and it was no exception for our visiting Marks & Spencers girls:

Off to Brussels that Monday evening, for a Tuesday absolutely packed full of meetings and briefings, and briefings and meetings - all about the issues which the Committee is including in its forthcoming work programme; energy, research and development, structural funding, the Services Directive for example. A busy programme ahead. We were all stunned to learn late on that Tuesday afternoon about my colleague Margaret Ewing's death - so unexpected, and so sad. Margaret was liked by all - fellow MSPs/MPs/MEPs of every Party and none, SNP staff, civil servants and parliament staff - genuinely so. She was such a lovely woman, so helpful and always there to listen if anyone wanted to talk. My memory of her in this Parliament is that back in 1999 when most of us were newly elected, most of us without her Westminster experience, she would regularly come along the office corridor and drop in for a casual chat and whilst there manage to make sure that we were coping with Parliamentary Questions, laying of Motions, speeches, and the general day-to-day business of being an elected representative - it was hard, you see, at the start, and I don't mind admitting that there were times when I thought I just wouldn't be able to cope. Margaret made it easier though, without every making me feel inadequate. I thought about her a lot on that late plane home on Tuesday night, and then on Wednesday too when there was a very moving tribute to her in the Parliament that afternoon - I guess that was the first point where it seemed real that she wouldn't be around any more.

The rest of that week was very subdued for all of us on the 'SNP Floor'. I was glad to get out of the office a bit to meet with the British Council to discuss Malawi, and on Thursday evening to meet up with some MPs from Burundi in Central Africa. Fascinating people and great company - they came across as people working extremely hard to try and make things better for their country after years of civil war. Sometimes just a short phrase from someone makes you realise with a jolt just how peaceful our lives in Scotland actually are - one of the ladies said to me, just in passing, that things were becoming far more settled in Burundi, in fact there hadn't been any killings for a week! The adversity that some people face in their day to day lives, yet still carry on with strength and fortitude, fills me with admiration.  Margaret Ewing had a great love for Africa, and visited often, again passing on the benefit of her experience to those she met, and always coming home with a determination to make sure that she would do all that she could to try and improve their lives where at all possible. When I first went to East Timor in 1999 as an observer to the UN sponsored ballot which brought that country's independence, Margaret told me that the first such place you visited was the one which always remained in your heart - she was right, for me East Timor has become very special. For Margaret it was Africa.

We had a debate on Thursday afternoon about the Scottish Executive's Strategy for Older People. I took part in it because I wanted to raise (yet again!) the issue of elderly carers who I believe get a rough deal. I was horrified to learn just before I got to my feet to speak that as far as the Executive is concerned 'older people' starts at 50 years old! I've only got nine months left of being a young thing! How ridiculous is that? On one hand we're all being told that as people are living longer and healthier, then the retiral age has to be raised; employees are being told all over the place that their pensions will be inadequate because too many people are living too long and here we are saying that fifty is old! As Christine Grahame said during the debate "I may be sixty but there are many bits of me still in perfectly good working order". Quite right too Christine. Let me know what you think.

At home in Lanarkshire and Kilmarnock Friday through to Monday, local work and of course campaigning. Still local in Edinburgh though later on Monday, with our annual visit to the Parliament of the Avondale Schools Fair Trade Poster winners! Run ragged we were, but enjoyed every minute of it. How many Primary 7 children can you get in a think-pod?

Citizens Theatre in Glasgow on Monday night, chairing a debate about whether or not Turkey should be allowed to enter the European Union - extremely lively discussion - around 50 participants and every one with something to say. Just the way a debate should be. We had some of Glasgow's Turkish community come along so it was particularly good to get views from both Scots and Turks. I had hoped some of the Kurdish community would be there too to add another dimension, but no, it didn't happen. There was discussion of Turkey's treatment of its minority populations though - good that these issues are openly discussed, in fact CAN be openly discussed without fear of reprisal. Like any other open discourse, there were Scots who agreed with Scots, Turks who agreed with Turks, Scots who disagreed with Scots, Turks who disagreed with Turks, and absolutely every other combination! And then there were the Irish, and the Germans - as I said, a lively discussion.

The rest of the week, up until tonight has been spent running around in circles - committee meetings, public meetings in the constituency, by-electioneering, and then tonight a meeting of reps from Europe Committees from here, Westminster and our chaps in the European Parliament. And now I'm going to head home to run around in circles trying to get to Canada.

Back soon.

Linda Fabiani

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