Political Shadowing Scheme - Deepmala Shadowing Pauline McNeill MSP
It was 7:30 am when an excitement grew inside me and made me jump from the bed. What was so thrilling? The answer was that it was my first day of shadowing. First day anywhere is exciting, and I would be lying to say I wasn't nervous. I ran to the washroom, took a bath, and soon was already with my professional dress. I was keen to make a first good impression by arriving on time, as punctuality always counts.
Mr. Peter McDade came down to pick me from the reception with the warmest smile on his face. On our way to office, he told me about Ms. Pauline McNeill's health - that she is well now and on holiday for a week. I was happy to hear about Ms. Pauline's good health. He led me to the MSP's office and showed me my desk. I was then asked to read a booklet about 'how to write motions' which consumed most of my time. Then, we went for a lunch break with other colleagues. I think the canteen is the only noisy place in the Scottish Parliament other than the debating chamber (where MSPs bang on table with robustly expressed opinions)!
After lunch I was told to write a motion on any news article from today's newspaper. However, the areas of interest were housing, homelessness, fuel poverty, food banks and social security, or any Glasgow based subject. I wrote a motion on commending the contribution of Sir Angus Grossart for the restoration of nation's leading museum. As I gave most of my time in reading how to write motion, it helped me to write it in perfect tone, structure and language. Later, I was praised by Mr. Peter for my first attempt of writing motion with next to perfection.
In nutshell, it was a really good experience, however, I left early as it was my niece’s birthday!
My second shadowing day was in the constituency. I arrived shortly before 10:30am at the constituency office in Glasgow, where Ms. Pauline McNeill is one of the regional MSPs. I went for the first time to my MSP's constituency office; I was very excited about it! Today was a less busy day; we were just three people in the office working for Ms. Pauline McNeill. I was asked to write about the recent fire that caused extensive damage to the most beautiful architecture of Glasgow, the Glasgow School of Art. I started getting involved in compiling material regarding the proposed plans for the building. Later, I browsed the local newspapers and media to see if there were any developments or events in Pauline’s constituency or something that related to her special focuses. In short, it was a quiet day with not much active work.
It was a great work experience for me as it gave me real contact with one of the most important political institutions. It was incredible to see how MSPs divide their time between the areas they represent as a constituency and the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh. I learnt a lot from this experience about how to effectively manage time and accomplish set objectives. I was told by Mr. Peter that he would suggest my MSP to take me out to surgeries for the day. I never heard about surgeries session before. It was something new to me! It is common for MSP to hold surgeries outside normal sitting hours. Surgeries provide an opportunity for members of the public to meet with their MSPs and raise any issues or concerns they may have. Wow! This sounds so interesting, allowing the MSPs to be more accountable to the people they represent. I also learnt that MSPs are free to decide the best way to deal with the issues raised by members of public. They may choose to deal with issue in a number of ways, including: contacting relevant bodies, initiating a debate, writing to the relevant Minister, proposing an amendment to a bill and so on. However, they are always expected to respect the privacy of the person who has contacted them and any confidentiality surrounding the issue.
I agree it's not an easy job! This experience helped me understand what we theoretically learnt in books and how it is being applied in reality - it also showed me what my interests are!
It was another amazing day in the Scottish Parliament. Indeed, I do not shadow a MSP everyday so I was extremely happy for the opportunity that my MSP and CRER has given to me. So it was finally the day when I met Ms. Pauline McNeill. It was good to see her and that she speedily recovered from her bad health. I had a good short talk with Pauline. I was happy to know she was very connected to Indian culture. It was quite a busy day as Pauline was in office and everyone was on their toes. I was asked to write on Glasgow City Council’s response to the recent fire that left the city and the people mournful. I was quite happy to know that Glasgow City Council announced that, ‘It will help the local businesses to keep up to date and will provide financial help to the businesses affected by the recent fire’. And in all this time flew by and it was time for me to go back home.
However, I could get an insight in what being an MSP entails. The experience helped me to understand the large amount of empathy and knowledge MSPs need in order to form close connections with their constituents and help them in their struggles. I think I understand politics more now and can say that there is much more in it than what is portrayed by the media.
For me, some of the great opportunities of being part of the scheme that I have come to understand and embrace gracefully were: (1) networking, (2) meeting new people, (3) going to places I have never been, (4) exchanging ideas and (5) learning new things.
I would like to thank Rebecca Mark and Mr. Peter McDade for making this possible and for being so understanding and helpful!