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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
13th November 2006

Week beginning 6th November 2006
Another week passes and we’re another week closer to Christmas, New Year and next year’s election. I can’t believe that’s almost four years since the last one; it’s definitely true that time passes more quickly the older you get! This week passed quickly – in a blur. It was only four days because I had a personal commitment over the weekend, but what a lot was packed in.

Still catching up with emails and mail on Monday – sometimes I feel swamped and inadequate in that I can never get to the bottom of it all; in fact the nature of the job is that I never will, nor indeed should, so the trick is to stay cool about it and do what I can; and also to remember that everyone else is in the same boat, it’s just that some don’t like to admit it!

Great fun on Monday night though when 50+ members of the East Kilbride Camera Club came through to Edinburgh to visit the parliament. I had visited their Exhibition in Calderglen Park during recess and was absolutely stunned at the quality of the photography on show (I bought a couple in fact, and could have bought more had I the money and the wall-space!). Well, this was the return visit and Morag, Calum and I had a great time showing the members around the complex – it was quite a strange feeling in fact; 50-odd folk all with cameras flashing constantly – so many shapes to study, so many angles to consider, so many people to look after! I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, I’m afraid, and was fascinated to see what fascinated the photographers; bits I’d never noticed before, studies that I would never have considered. Group photo below, and link to the website for anyone who wants to see more of the grand photographs which resulted:

A Fine Looking Bunch!

Spent Tuesday morning in interviews with European students studying in Scotland and carrying out comparative studies of how Scotland relates to the European Union as compared to, other ‘regions’ like, for example, Catalonia or Bavaria. I get a lot of requests for interviews like this these days; I always like to help where I can, but it takes up to much time. Was fairly relevant to the afternoon’s Europe Committee business though where we were taking evidence on the ‘Lisbon Strategy’ (Europe’s strategy on economic growth and jobs) and how Scotland is competing/likely to compete. Our inquiry is looking at comparisons with other ‘regions’ and with other small independent countries.

This week’s evidence taking was from the higher education sector and focused on how we are equipping our school-leavers and graduates to participate in economic growth. Worryingly, where Scotland once used to be leading the EU, we are now falling behind. America, Canada, Norway, Netherlands & Denmark all have a higher percentage of graduates in the workforce than Scotland. Failure to invest now in skills and knowledge will have potentially disastrous effects on Scotland’s economy in the future. Further evidence sessions, from various sectors, to be held over the next few weeks and then our report compiled.

Early evening and representing the SNP at a seminar/presentation by the Commission for Racial Equality about the lack of ethnic minority representation in local and national politics. Hugely busy event. Myself and other Party representatives had been filmed previously giving a quick presentation of their own Party’s views and actions in the regard and these were shown on the ‘big screen’ prior to questions and discussion. Awful having to sit there and watch yourself, thinking “oh no, I shouldn’t have said that”, or “If only I’d said so-and-so …”. Well, we’d all be brilliant if hindsight could be converted to foresight I suppose.

Rush, rush again and off to dinner at the European Commission Office  - various worthies (seems I’m becoming one of these myself these days! Transient though, as temporary as elected political posts). Thoroughly enjoyed the company and discussion though with the Commission’s UK Rep. and Scotland Rep. Neil Mitchison, the Scotland Rep has an interesting family background – his grandmother was that wonderful novelist, Naomi Mitchison.

A good day for catching up on Wednesday as I didn’t have to be in Chamber. Meeting with Amnesty International on Wednesday morning – their UK Chair Tom Hedley, Scottish but now living in London. Good to hear from the point of view of a voluntary Board member. I have huge respect for Amnesty International and the work that is done by staff and volunteers, all over the country. East Kilbride used to have its own Branch, but of late it has been formally disbanded although I know that the individual members are still campaigning on human rights’ issues. Check out Amnesty’s website if you haven’t already:

Chamber Thursday morning and speaking in one of the debates – Housing Stock Transfer – sponsored by the SSP. Nothing new, either from the SSP who continue to misrepresent housing associations, and have a ‘Local Authority or nothing’ approach to rented provision; or from the Executive, who still won’t answer questions about their plans for Glasgow’s ex-Council housing stock and previous commitment to real community ownership. I have always doubted that commitment – from the moment years back when Labour committee members refused to countenance the ‘right to community ownership’, or the ‘right of housing co-operatives’ it was apparent. Strikes me as strange that some folk laud and applaud community-ownership when it occurs in Eigg or Gigha or Caithness, but decry it or deem it less important when it’s mooted in Easterhouse or Greenhills or Craigmillar.

Lunch with our Presiding Officer, George Reid, and his guests from Malawi, including the Health Minister Joyce Banda. The Malawi delegates were guests of the Executive for the week, but although invited I was unable to attend meetings and events which had been planned. So, it was good to have the chat over lunch, and listen to suggestions from the Malawians themselves as to how the Scotland/Malawi Partnership could be improved.

Reception with the Carbon Trust in the evening at Parliament – an East Kilbride based Agency which helps businesses cut down their carbon footprint. Excellent presentations made, although I expected nothing less having taken evidence from their Mr. John Stocks at the time of the Europe Committee’s Energy Conservation Inquiry. I really must visit the premises and learn some more.

Well, after working late on Thursday night that was the end of my short working week, though looking back over it we certainly packed a lot in. More to pack in though before we’re formally ‘dissolved’ at the end of March next year!

Linda Fabiani:

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