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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
1st May 2006


First of all thank you to Peter in Ontario who confirmed that, right enough, Larry Gowan was born in Glasgow – I just knew it! What is it they say – you can take the laddie out of Glasgow, but … … … …!

Stayed home in EK Constituency on Monday trying to reduce the great big pile of paperwork, but only succeeded really in creating lots of wee piles. Lots of answers to Parliamentary Questions kept arriving in my in-box (someone from the Executive must be fired up with enthusiasm after their Easter break!); some as expected, some confusing, some just plain annoying.

A local issue for example is the accident rate on the road between East Kilbride and Strathaven, especially as all pupils of Strathaven Academy are likely now to be ‘bussed’ along it twice a day when they’re decanted to a school in EK. So, who carries out the safety audits? When was it last done? Well, according to one answer the Executive monitors the accident rate every year on this road and reviews its responsibility for safety, and according to the other answer they don’t do anything because it’s a local road and not their responsibility! And, both from the same Minister too.

And as for just plain annoying – the First Minister again, shouting off at the mouth about all the wonderful things he’s going to do and then no back up: One of the strands for the Fresh Talent Initiative announced by Mr. McConnell 3 years ago was that “we will actively encourage these expatriate Scots to return home”. Fine, but according to the answer I just received when I wanted to know how many folk have migrated from Australia to Scotland in recent years they tell me they don’t have that information, nor do they have any systems in place to monitor it. So, who knows? Certainly not Scotland’s Government.

Had a chat with a local lady on Monday too who was telling me that she and her husband were having difficulties getting their new national concessionary travel passes. The government had previously said that they were aiming for receipt of all new cards by 1st April. However, Mr. & Mrs. F were told by the Local Authority that the new passes were taking a long time to process and that if not received within the next couple of weeks, best to reapply! Hardly customer-friendly. So, looking into that one too because it might affect a lot of people.

Local Party meeting on Monday night, so away to Edinburgh at the crack-of-dawn on Tuesday morning for a whole day of Committee Meetings. Standards Committee in the morning, discussing the revised Code of Conduct for MSPs and the Members Interest Order legislation up for final debate on Wednesday. I know these ‘housekeeping’ things are important (and someone has to do them!) but I get frustrated at the internalising. That is wrong of me, I know, and my colleague Brian Adam, Convener of the Committee, works very hard on a complicated portfolio. When I was Director at East Kilbride Housing Association, the Committee and I spent many hours on policy and regulation to ensure probity of staff and voluntary committee members – this is very similar, just on a bigger, more public scale. In relation to the voluntary sector though, I do have concerns that many small organisations are over-regulated, that the balance has tipped too far and it’s almost as if we just don’t trust anyone any more. One of these other things which I want to look at in detail at some point.

Europe Committee in the afternoon, setting up our Inquiries on Structural Funds and Scotland’s business growth compared to other European regions and independent nations, agreeing to take evidence from the Minister on the international Development brief, and agreeing again, following more heated discussions, that we should in fact take evidence from the ‘Cod Crusaders’ about Scotland’s fishing industry in relation to the Common Fisheries Policy. We’ve also requested the attendance of a Westminster Minister to discuss this, but no response yet – don’t think they like coming up here much!

So, Wednesday afternoon in the Chamber and the final debate on the Members Interest Order – this is the rules which say what has to be/should be declared by MSPs on the Register of Interests etc. All MSPs had a ‘free vote’ through this I think. I was on the losing side for most of the votes! But never mind. I do however, believe (one of the issues discussed) that the interests of spouses/partners are relevant to an MSP and should be declared at times – yes, I also accept that a partner’s business and assets should not necessarily be in the public domain, but having thought it through from both sides I do come down on the side of transparency. For example, if a spouse/partner owns and rents out a portfolio of domestic properties, then shouldn’t that be declared by an MSP who takes part in forming legislation relating to private landlords? I think most MSPs would voluntarily state that information, but if there’s no compulsion then you’re into the realms of … “oh, I forgot”, or “I had no idea that my husband/wife/partner had that interest/signed up for that loan from that man … …”. Sound familiar? Anyway, I retreat, roundly beaten. Same too with the declaration of gifts issue and just about every other aspect.

Of course, this was the week of the Moray by-election, so every spare minute that folk had was spent on running up to Moray, or telephone canvassing. I don’t mind at all doing telephone or doorstep canvassing – most folk are pleasant – and it was a real pleasure to be phoning folk in Moray as the response was overwhelmingly positive for the SNP. So Thursday came, we went through the motions at work of course, but all thoughts were on our Richard Lochead, and what a triumph he pulled off. Maggie Ewing would be overjoyed. Increased turnout and majority - Richard's face says it all.

So, like everyone else by-election watching, whacked on Friday, but thankfully I was only due in East Kilbride late morning and afternoon for housecalls and catching up with community representatives.

Back to by-electioneering at the weekend – Kilmarnock Council by-election on 18th May – campaigning for independence never stops.

Linda Fabiani: 1st May 2006

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