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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
15th January 2007


A guid New Year to all, and here we are in 2007 – I find it so hard to believe that we’re in an election year already, as it doesn’t seem four years since the last one. But, all systems go – things are looking good for us and there’s been a real shift in how folk talk about the potential of independence. Now there’s no talk of whether we can do it, afford it etc. etc., but rather, a sense that of course we can and the decision is ours. I’ve been picking this up at so many events I’ve been at lately and from general discussions with groups and individuals. Of course, the Labour Party are still trying to scaremonger about passport points at the border, terrorism, poverty and the usual guff – no-one is falling for that, they’re way behind the times, and dishonest. Even the Tories have moved on from that stuff!

Monday 8th started the working year with the elected representatives’ protest at Faslane. Faslane 365 is of course organising protests all year against the renewal of the UK’s weapons of mass destruction housed on the Clyde. Some of the rhetoric from those who support Tony Blair’s plans has been appalling – talk from Labour and Tory MSPs and Councillors about wasting police time, criticism of the protesters, false accusations of troublemaking and baseless aspersions about criminal behaviour. I still, even after almost 8 years of dealing directly on a day-to-day basis with Labour politicians, find myself astonished that so many of those who protested about so many things during the Thatcher/Major years, but who are now in power and hold themselves up as representatives of the people, have turned their back on their principles and go so far as to try to deny freedom of speech and the validity of peaceful protest.

Anyway! A load of us turned out on 8th January, despite the wind and rain – here’s Jim Mather MSP (and Greenhills’ own Cllr Archie Buchanan just behind him).

Faslane Jan 2007

More fun on Tuesday morning; a good start to the year’s business right enough – if only my work could always be like this. I went up to Strathaven Academy’s first year assembly to show my photographs and talk about my experiences in Tanzania and Malawi, with particular reference to education and schools. You see, Strathaven Academy’s first year pupils are taking part in the ‘backpack to Malawi’ initiative this year, and each pupil will fill a back-pack with things useful for their counterparts in Malawi. The youngsters were fascinated to learn about the realities of education in parts of Africa – lack of equipment, difficulty in attending school if you’ve no parents, distance to travel and general hardship. Fascinated, and caring, with a thirst to learn so much more. I notice at the start of this paragraph I said ‘fun’ – how can it be fun to talk of such things? But, some of it was – see below our Masai warriors and pals – all from Strathaven!

Strathaven Academy and Africa

Through to Edinburgh in the afternoon – piles of mail/oodles of emails/loads of reading to do. Nothing exciting to report about Tuesday afternoon and evening, or daytime Wednesday – catch up time. But Wednesday evening was grand. I was at Gilmourton Women’s Rural Institute to talk about being a woman in politics, and we had a really good discussion afterwards about the different approaches men and women take, both in the hard frontline politics, and on constituency issues. I know most of this is generalisation, and there are exceptions to every rule, but studies have come up with some very interesting conclusions. For example, with constituency cases men are more likely to immediately go public on a thorny issue, whereas women are more likely to informally discuss the situation with a Minister or officials to reach a solution for the individual. All very interesting. I had a new experience on Wednesday night at the Rural too – I got to judge the baking competition! Years since I had an empire biscuit! Very enjoyable work.

Back to Auld Reekie on Thursday for a day in Chamber – Tory debates on Health and Education, and Stage 1 debate on the Custodial Sentences and Weapons Bill. I wasn’t taking part in either, but I did manage to get a question to the Justice Minister on what I believe is discrimination within the recruitment policy of Strathclyde Police. Strathclyde Police is the only force in Scotland which refuses admission to recruits with a particular minor form of colour blindness. I am acting on behalf of some young constituents who have been denied entry to the Strathclyde force but told they can probably be recruited by another force – this seems strange to me. My entirely personal view, from what I’ve read and heard, is that Strathclyde Police wrongly interpreted the regulations in the first place, and now they just will not admit to having made an error – goodness knows how many lads and lasses have been disadvantaged by this arrogant attitude. I’ve been digging at this for ages now and the Justice Minister continues to sit on the fence, hiding behind the Chief Constable’s right to decide. Seems to me though that if you issue regulations then you should stand by them. The latest information I have is that the regulations should in fact be deemed mandatory, so the Justice Minister really must sort this out.

And so to Friday and delighted that I managed to clear my desk and deal with some urgent issues (not clear the work you understand, but merely to separate the big pile into lots of little piles). I like being organised so that at least I know what I’m supposed to be doing, if not actually doing it.

Working weekend – more African fun on Saturday, courtesy of the African Community Integration Centre who held their New Year event celebrating Scottish and African traditional culture – lots of dancing and singing and a thoroughly good time. The Centre was set up almost two years ago and meets in Glasgow’s East End. It has a management committee of 20 volunteers – Scottish and from various countries in Africa. They work to both support the African community in Glasgow and to help them (if help is needed) to contribute socially, economically and culturally to Scotland. I got some great photographs on Saturday, but I really liked these two - cultures coming together:

African Integration Centre

African Integration Centre

And so to Sunday and the end of 2007’s first working week for me. Constituency cases on Sunday – Sunday’s usually a good day to get folk at home. So, starting the week on Monday with lots of follow-up letters and phone calls. Back to reality right enough.

Linda Fabiani

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