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Political Shadowing Scheme - Sharmili Shadowing Monica Lennon MSP

Day One

How did Day One go at the Scottish Parliament?

I was met by Sinead, Monica Lennon’s Parliamentary Assistant, and taken to get my pass for the Parliament in order for me to be able to come in and out of the parliament without having to go through the security every time I go in and out to the building. This had all been put into place before I started.

Once the pass was obtained, I was taken to the section where Monica’s office is in parliament building; here with the help of the IT team I was set up on the system. Once all this nitty gritty was sorted, I was given a general update on what was planned for the 6 days while I was here at the Parliament building. Yes! I will be based here all six days as the constituency office is usually quiet I was told. This was decided keeping my commuting in mind and where it would be more interesting. I am very happy with this arrangement of being at the Parliament, as I know the area and can get here without any problem.

This was an interesting first day - not what I had expected. Monica was busy in meetings so, Sinead went over the general programme that was created by her as per her understanding of what I was meant to do.

It was an interesting first day and the programme laid out looked good. I even got an opportunity to have a look at the collection of Donald Dewar, the former First Minister. There is a library named after the former First Minister called the Dewar Room. The family donated the collection in there in memory of Donald Dewar. It is a very interesting room, which is very uniquely designed for a library. It is more like a little respite room for someone who would like somewhere peaceful and nice to sit and have a little read. I almost forgot to mention the amazing view on a lovely day from the window in the room.

If I was allowed, I would probably spend all my quiet time in there. However, I have been kept busy with the newspaper clipping search and scanning to save for future references and with looking for any news articles online about Monica Lennon. This has again proved very useful and now I know the constituency Monica seems to be most involved with is East Kilbride and Hamilton.

Although this is not related to Scottish Parliament, I was able to visit my friend at Johnston Press after work and get some papers for 31st May 2018 a day in advance. This was very interesting to get a tour of the office where all the decisions happen.

Overall I would say it was not what I expected but still very interesting and eye opener to what the people within Parliament do.

Day Two

How did Day Two go at the Scottish Parliament?

Did I forget to mention that I had an interesting first day at security? I needed to get a bag search as they detected a rectangular electrical object in my bag. I had to open every bit of my bag and purse for them to see. When the keys came out they asked about the card on my keychain. Guess what - it was my car key card which put them on the alert. Okay, not so interesting, but still it was a small adventure as they were so thorough about the whole thing. However, they apologised for holding me back and said could give me a security reason for being late.

Day Two started with going down to the main reception to see if I could get an overspill ticket to First Minister’s Questions. I was not in luck as there was a long queue of visitors for the ticket. I was told to join the queue and my name would be taken. I had to again go down at 11:10 to overspill room to see if I had been allocated a ticket. Seeing the time needed for the whole process, I decided to book for next week but again that was all booked up and I was told to follow the same process next week.

After making the decision, I returned to commence with the work at hand. I came back to the office and started with video clip research of Scottish Parliament debates. This was very interesting as I found out that I could access this through the website and listen to the debates in the areas that interested me on my own time. I was only looking for debates that Monica took part in and selected the clips in which Monica was speaking. I found this very interesting as I could see how passionate some speakers were and how well prepared (thanks to the researchers) everyone was on the debate topic.

I attended Gaelic Language Cross Party Group meeting. It was interesting to find out about all the work being put into promoting the Gaelic language and hear everyone’s input in the way the language should be given more importance with highlights on benefits of bilingual skills for children. However, there were a few differences of opinion on the subject from each speaker on different benefits. Overall, there were good points made by each speaker on how to promote Gaelic language in schools and encourage families to show the benefits of learning the language.

Glasgow was apparently the first city in the whole of Scotland to have a Gaelic language school, with another school opened two years ago. It is a challenge for teachers as 80% are from non-Gaelic speakers. There are further Gaelic language schools that are going to be introduced in Scottish cities, including Edinburgh. During the lunch break we watched First Minister’s Questions on remotely.

Day Three

How did Day Three go at the Scottish Parliament?

Day Three was quiet as it was Friday and most of the MSPs were either in their constituency offices or attending meetings/visits.

My day consisted of checking emails (this was interesting as it was emails about support for Bills to be voted on by the MSPs for their constituency or general public) and then going through the old constituency newspaper clips to find all the articles on and by Monica Lennon and her opponents. I had to read through all the newspapers, scan the relevant articles, and then file them in monthly order in the right folders. This took up most part of my day as I had to go through newspapers from November 2011. This was backlog work, which is usually done by Monica’s other assistants.

After lunch break I had to go through all the Scottish Parliament chamber debates and First Minister’s Questions, that Monica had taken part in. I had to select and edit the clips where Monica was actually speaking and download and save it in the media folder. This was bit time consuming and there were restrictions on how many clips a day I could download. I found this very fascinating, as there were some very interesting debates on the Planning (Scotland) Bill, the Land and Building Transaction Tax (Scotland) Bill, the Housing (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill, procurement, City Region Deals, International Women’s Day, the Scottish Budget, and many others. This gave me real insight into what the day-to-day life of some of the MSPs were, what all the debates were about, and how Bills are passed. It was also good to see how strongly each MSP presented their argument for or against the subject of debate.

Some of the debates dated back to 2017 and the debates of the above mentioned subjects were very interesting. If you are interested in politics and the way policies are implemented, you should definitely attend or watch the live debates on the issues you are interested in. It really gives you more insight into how presenters speak, what is presented by each speaker and if they make valid points or not. It is good to see how each speaker has prepared for the part of his or her debate. The opening and closing speeches were the ones I thought would be the most important part of the debate, as the first speaker who is presenting the debate would have to be really well prepared to grab the attention of the chamber and closing speaker would have to conclude the debate.

The rest of the day was spent reading articles and listening to all these debates. This part of my work was done on most days when I was not attending a meetings or doing some other interesting task.

Day Four

How did Day Four go at the Scottish Parliament?

Day Four was a busy day. This was a long day, as I wanted to attend Monica Lennon’s Cross Party Group meeting at 6:00pm.

The day commenced as usual by checking incoming emails of all the recommendations and requests for support to pass motions. I had to do bit of research on motions on the Scottish Parliament website by reading up on the guidelines.

At 10:00am I attended the Justice Committee Meeting on the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill; this consisted of a few parts. In the first part of the meeting, the Justice Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson MSP introduced the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill. This part of the meeting consisted of mostly talking about the Bill and how each county sheriff court was going to deal with the cases depending on the type of case. The criminal justice process was focused on the principles and purposes guidelines. There were few speakers on the issue during the second part of the meeting. The last bit was more of a discussion on resources and how monitoring should take place to improve the judicial system.

This meeting took up most of the day. The rest of the day was the spent downloading media clips of Monica’s article from websites and video clips from debates and First Minister’s Questions. I stayed on to attend Monica Lennon’s Cross Party Group on Women’s Health AGM.

The main topic of the meeting was on menopause and the workplace. There were women from different organisations who had been part of a group to help men understand what women go through, especially in workplace to stop women feeling that they had to suppress their feelings. I was amazed to see and hear about how big of a matter menopause and periods were and see the importance it had been given by this organisation.

Where I grew up, I had seen just few of my friends complaining of stomach pain when they had their periods. Moreover, we never heard any adults talking about menopause. But listening to the speakers at this meeting was very interesting. In the years I have been here I have seen how there are support systems for nearly every issue, and seeing that menopause had such an impact in some people’s lives and learning how this community group was working on and doing everything it could to help people understand the issues connected to it was very interesting.

The STUC Women’s Group gave a talk on the on the issues women face and all that was being done to introduce menopause clinics to the wider public. Events and surgeries were run previously, and they had been successful. As such, the group is planning to have more events in the future to spread awareness to the wider public.

It was an amazing experience to get an opportunity to meet all these wonderful people and the MSPs supporting this movement. It was nice to see male MSPs taking part in this issue and helping encourage introduce more male members into the awareness program. I am interested in keeping up with this group and attending the next meeting to see what progress has been made and what other events are going to take place.

Day Five

How did day five go at the Scottish Parliament?

This was an early start day as I wanted to attend the SPICe breakfast Brexit Seminar. As we were not allowed to take photos of speaker without permission, I just took this one for an idea of what the layout was like at the seminar.

8.00 Breakfast served – nice selection of breakfast rolls, pastries, tea, coffee and orange juice was available

8.30 Welcome and opening remarks – Gordon Lindhurst MSP welcomed all with an introduction to the seminar and the speakers that were to follow.

8.35 The context – Anouk Berthier (SPICe) further explained the 3 sections of financial services future that the Brexit seminar will be on following the UK withdrawal from the EU.

8.40 Greg Sachrajda, Head of Department for International Delivery, Financial Conduct Authority

8.55 Professor Andrew Lang, Chair in International Law and Global Governance, University of Edinburgh

9.10 Questions and Discussion – there were some very interesting questions which were mostly answered with further insight into what to expect post-Brexit. This really strengthens my view about Brexit, I was never for it and the more I hear about it the more I feel it was a very big mistake made by someone who thought it would be beneficial at one point. Hearing the constant debate and the regret from the government bodies that agreed to it in the first instance has just affirmed my feeling about Brexit.

9.30 The seminar ran bit long than it was intended to like most seminars when there are people with intellect and interest in the field, everyone likes to put forward their thoughts in it.

This was indeed an interesting seminar, not being my main area of working life, I was bit baffled with all the post-Brexit impacts and implications that were being explained. I got an insight into the research being conducted by every financial regulatory system and consumer market about what to expect in future. Research was mainly on Scottish national financial services such as effects on banks and asset management, even though they have international dealings. Alongside research there were actions being implemented, these include speaking to local EU regulators, a temporary commission regime, UK to work with EU consumer. There were other actions being implemented but I did not understand them fully due to their academic nature and the financial jargon used to discuss them. The pros and cons of deals such as market access control after Brexit, mutual regulation and no deal WTO were talked about, discussion took into consideration the EU’s interest on the open market.

Overall my understanding of this presentation was to explore the major concepts in financial services trade deals including at a WTO level, such as ‘equivalence’ and ‘passporting’, and their relevance post-Brexit. It was an analysis of what the future might look like by considering where UK regulation may diverge from the EU’s in future, and how existing EU trade deals such as EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) treat financial services. As mentioned before, I did not fully grasp the ideas being discussed, however I hope to do further personal research to gain more understanding in future!

Day Six

How did the final day 6 go at the Scottish Parliament?

Program of the day;

  1. Main Reception for overspill ticket for FMQ

  2. Meet Sally for Education Program

  3. Attend FMQ with the Education Program Group

  4. Meet Outreach Team (Sally, Alastair, Hayley)

  5. End of Shadow Program at the Scottish Parliament

Day 6 was very fast paced I had one thing after another lined up for today. As the final day and it being Thursday, the day of the First Ministers Question Time (FMQ), it was especially busy day at the parliament and many different groups were in to see the Scottish Parliament and attend the FMQ. I arrived got settled in and it was time to go and queue for the overspill ticket for the FMQ. As it was first come first basis I went early to make sure I got one as I had missed it the last time. It was as usual very busy with all the people visiting the parliament with interest in FMQ queuing up for the tickets. The queue ended as soon as the ticket distribution started as it was limited. I was one of the early birds hence, I was lucky to get one. First Job completed.

AS one of my interest and background was education, my next program of the day was to attend the Education group. This was made up of high school students from Pitlochry. This was an interesting session. The children had all been given and interactive pad to answer the quiz questions by pressing answers as per instruction. They all seemed to have enjoyed it as it helped to get rid of any shyness from the young adults. They were also given an opportunity to ask questions which they had prepared in advance. It was definitely educational for the students to be able to experience and interact with the MSPs find out about the parliament first hand by seeing the live FMQ. I definitely find the FMQ very interesting and get right into it. I find the questions and answer both very interesting and the way opposition parties try to backfire any answers/questions from the MSPs.

The last group of the day I was to meet were the outreach team. I met 3 team members who each played different roles in this project. They worked towards promoting understanding of functions and aims of Scottish parliament in schools. Promoting and introduction of Gaelic language in Scottish schools and the final project is Community outreach project to work with people to help them understand the new policies that gets implemented that may affect them. Depending on the type of policy and who it affects, the team member goes and work within that community group to help them understand the policy. This is funded and reliant on volunteers to make it work. There are 4 team members in each group and constant research is done for the improvements to reach the goals set.

Lastly, I had a few minutes with MSP Monica Lennon, who was very nice and said sorry for not having been able to spend more time. However, it was understandable as she was constantly attending meetings, debates, of some sort.

I was well impressed to see so many females MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. Will this turn into a world where women will rule the world, but the glass ceiling is still to be reached/ breached!

Overall, a very interesting day and the whole experience were amazing. If ever I worked for the Scottish Parliament, I would like to work for the Outreach Project where I can go out to the community groups and help them understand the policies and procedures and encourage them into further education, work and involvement in the improvement of the future. Any work I do would have to be challenging, motivating and provide job satisfaction. I enjoy getting good results and seeing happy content faces. I have seen this in the faces of the Cross party group meeting members and have been motivated by the success stories of their projects

I would definitely like to thank CRER and all the MSPs who are involved in this shadowing scheme. The scheme has definitely given some of us great insight into the Scottish Parliament and I hope this opportunity will be available for others in future.

I will be looking forward to seeing MSPs from BME group in the next FMQ I attend at the Scottish Parliament.

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