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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
21st November 2006

Week beginning Monday 13th November 2006
Actually my week began on Tuesday this week and straight to Edinburgh University’s beautiful Playfair Library in the morning to open a seminar about the ‘7th Framework Programme’ of the European Union which is about research and development funding from the EU to institutions within nation states. The programme begins next year and it is crucial that Scotland gets its share. Edinburgh University has always performed well in this regard, and in fact it’s part of a wider Scottish success story, with our universities punching well above our population weight in bringing in EU funding for research. With only 8.5% of the population of the UK, Scottish institutions brought in 12.5% of EU research funding awarded in the UK in 2004/05. That is hardly surprising, though, when we consider the quality of our universities and the engagement they have had with Europe over centuries. Scotland has world leaders in research in many areas from biotechnology to nanotechnology, in renewable energies and in healthcare, and it is research done in Scotland which is helping to drive the reinvention of the modern world – you know, everyone recognises this except the Scots!

Squirreling away at the computer on Tuesday afternoon and then a lovely treat in the evening – dinner with Mercy Corps to talk about their ongoing global relief work. Mercy Corps is headquartered in Portland, USA and Edinburgh and I have long been a fan of their work and their insistence that wherever possible ‘in-country’ staff should be local – over the last five years more than 90% of their resources have been allocated directly to the programmes, a fact much appreciated by donors, both public and private.

The Mercy Corps website is well worth a look – I was particularly struck by this recently posted article – One Night in Ogonyo – about the current situation in Uganda where thousands fled their homes due to civil strife. Now following recent peace talks many people are in “return camps” with at least some hope of getting home.

Public Petitions Committee for me on Wednesday morning – I’m not on that committee but there was a Petition coming up which I just had to support. This was the petition by veterans of the Malayan Emergency from the mid-1950’s to ‘60’s, to give them the right to wear the Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal as presented to them by Malaysia itself in gratitude for their endeavours and sacrifice. For some crazy reason Commonwealth veterans (eg Australia) are allowed to officially wear this medal, but British troops are not. How ridiculous is that? Anyway, I’m happy to report that the majority of the Public Petitions Committee members recognised this anomaly too and queries have been duly sent ‘down the road’ to Westminster. The case put by Andy Nicoll and Donald Fairgrieve was indisputable – men who had served and having been honoured by Malaya just wanted recognition in their own land; not a lot to ask for. I’ll keep everyone posted, but should anyone want to read more, either let me know, or have a look at the Public Petitions Committee page on the Scottish Parliament website. Or, join the Campaign.

Regular meeting with the Euro Team later in the morning, talking through our plans for the next week’s meeting and our Maritime Conference to be held at the beginning of December – so important to Scotland, and more info at the time.

The rest of Wednesday and Thursday was taken up with the final stages of the Planning Bill – in Chamber all the time with constant voting. The SNP argued for greater rights for those other than developers to have the right of appeal against planning decisions, but I’m afraid we were unsuccessful. In theory, however, although this new planning legislation doesn’t go far enough in my opinion, it seems better than what we have at present – let’s wait and see.

Some colleagues manage to sit in the Chamber and get on with other work whilst Stage 3 debates are going on – me? no chance! just can’t do it; I guess I’m too nosey and scared I miss something, though having said that, often I’m in a dwam and miss what I’m supposed to hear. So, another weekend of catching up on constituency work I’m afraid.

Fair Trade Meeting in Strathaven on Thursday night – always a pleasure, and reminded me that I really must get my Christmas Card competition sorted out: Last minute as usual – Chapelton School this time, visiting on Friday morning.

And to Friday morning and Chapelton School – loads of ideas from the children as to how we do our Fairtrade Christmas cards this year. We’ve decided that pupils of primaries 6 and 7 will design their cards and then a boy winner and a girl winner will be chosen by the Strathaven Fair Trade Group (I’m staying well out of that one!), then we’ll print and go! Interesting that the children also decided that the winners’ prizes should be lunch with me for them and their parents! Don’t know what the poor parents will make of that one.

Linda Fabiani

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