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Political Shadowing Scheme - Caresse Shadowing Alex Cole Hamilton MSP

Day One 11.06.18 – I awoke at the crack of dawn - for me that is 6:30am - after quite a tense night’s sleep. As usual my nerves managed to get the best of me! In my mind, I tried to go over the training sessions that preceeded to the best of my ability in the hope that any little bit would help me feel more prepared. Anyway, as the saying goes: 'Time and tide wait for no man.' Before I knew it I was on my way to Edinburgh to shadow Alex Cole-Hamilton, Member of Scottish Parliament for Western Edinburgh. Needless to say, tension gave way to excitement and I was beginning to have a good feeling about what lay ahead. I was looking forward to this new experience. Arriving well in time at the constituency office in Corstophine, I was welcomed by the bright, smilling faces of Alex and his team: Jenny, Vita and Mhairi. The office environment was something that pleasantly surprised me – everyone seemed laidback and friendly, as opposed to any representation of a cliché office hierarchy. Jenny showed me around the office and made me feel very comfortable. My first task awaited me – I was asked to make my way through a rather invincible looking policy document. This policy document looked at the primary care services’ plan to deal with the demands of the growing population. It laid out how, through multidisciplinary teams, the workforce will see itself in better shape to address these needs. Following this task, I had the opportunity to shadow Alex in two very informative but different constituency meetings that took place across the day. It really inspired me seeing such dedicated and thoughtful individuals taking measures to make a difference in the local and global community. Following this, I was asked to draft two motions to put forward to the Scottish Parliament on the topics of these meetings. At first I wasn’t sure exactly what was expected of me, but I was given a handy guide to writing motions which was very helpful and included many tips and examples.

The day reached its end as I finished up with some reading and interacting with the team!

Day Two 12. 06.18 – Today is my day at the Scottish Parliament! I was really excited to be back for the first time since the CRER training. The parliament building is truly magnificent and makes for some good photo opportunities to send to eager friends and family! I was greeted by Rebecca, another member of Alex’s team, who I was also lucky to have met during our previous visit. She signed me in and handed me a work placement pass for the day. All this made me feel very important. I also had the opportunity to meet another like-minded student on his work placement, which made me feel a bit more at ease. Rebecca showed me to their office space and I was introduced to many friendly faces - too many to name - but it was truly a dream work environment! I sat in on a couple of Cross Party Group meetings, the first of which was the Mental Health CPG, which was looking at suicide prevention. Apart from being one of the most pressing issues of our time, This was certainly something very close to my heart. It was insightful to hear Alex and the other MSPs speak with so much of empathy and relevance on such an important issue. The second CPG meeting was another truly inspiring one – this time it was the Children and Young People CPG meeting about the ‘Year of Young People’. It was amazing to see a room full of confident, intelligent and socially aware young people and hear them voice their very important opinions. I came out of both meetings feeling incredibly motivated. We made our way back to the office space and headed for lunch to the parliament canteen, where I got to interact some more with the LibDem team. Then headed back to the office and I was asked to draft some more motions regarding Diabetes Week 2018 and Pride Edinburgh 2018, which were both currently going on that week. Later on, I was able to sit in on a parliamentary debate regarding ‘Improving the Lives of Scotland’s Gypsy/Travellers’ and hear Alex’s speech on the same - very educative, to say the least ! Day two has been overall very exciting and busy!

Day Three 13.06.18 – It was my third day and I was already beginning to feel the strain of commuting – kudos to everyone who does this on a daily basis. Today was a bit quieter but just as engaging. Firstly, I was given a document regarding the “Review of Part 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and Creation of a Family Justice Modernisation Strategy” to study and highlight important material that Alex could then refer back to at ease. This consultation consisted of 15 parts with a number of wide ranging topics. It asked the members for their views on the subsequent reforming of Part 1 of the 1995 Act and other concerns of family law. It was quite an exhaustive document, if I’m being honest, but enlightening and thought-provoking, and tied in with the Children and Young People CPG that I sat in on the previous day.

Later on, I had the chance to oversee some constituent meetings which is always incredibly engaging. I feel that through watching Alex and the team talk with constiuents, I have noted and picked up some communication skills which I’m sure will be invaluable for the future.

Now half way through my shadowing and it couldn’t have been going any better!

Day Four 14.06.18 – Today was unexpected, in a good way! Alex and his team were out of the office and so it had been arranged that I go to the office of Christine Jardine, MP for Western Edinburgh, and shadow some of the work done there. The office was located just a short walk from Alex’s constituency office and I was greeted there with warm welcomes from Christine’s team! The day went by quickly and I always had a task at hand to keep me busy. First, I was given a briefing on how Christine’s social media handles are run – from content creation to content optimisation! This was especially engaging since I have some previous work experience with a digital marketing company and I was able to understand and pick up new techniques easily. After this, I was given a document of news stories to work with. I wrote motions regarding the same and as this was quite lengthy, it took up most of the morning. After my lunch break, I made my way back to Alex’s office – Vita was back in after her morning meetings. I was requested to help her with maintenance work on some constituents files and I immersed myself into this as best I could.

Towards the end of the day, one of Christine’s team members came by to ask if I could help them with some letters that needed to be sent out that day to their constituents and so, I went back to help them get those letters sent out and we able to accomplish this! This day really opened my eyes to the more regular and routine aspects of work in day to day politics. The huge amounts of monotonous paperwork and laborious nature of the work that goes into achieving their desired ends is a real eye opener.

Day Five 15.06.18 – Before I realised it, my final day of shadowing was before me and I had mixed feelings about this – I was sad to say goodbye as I was really starting to enjoy the experience but also pleasantly satisfied with a sense of accomplishment nearing the end of this journey. My main task of the day was to help complete the paperwork and filling from the previous day, which was by no means complete! The huge number of files on the desk was indeed a material reflection of all the hardwork and effort made by this very small, but extremely effective team of Alex Cole-Hamilton and his dedicated assistants Jenny, Vita and Mhairi!

On a final note of conclusion, massive thanks to Alex for this truly inspiring and invaluable experience and each and everyone one, who added perspective and purpose to my first political internship. In the not too distant future, I definitely see myself pursuing my chosen path with a little more confidence and zeal, but for the present I look forward completing my undergraduate degree and more opportunities like the CRER BME Political Shadowing Scheme, and putting to good use some of what I have learned.