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Political Shadowing Scheme - Frederick Shadowing Alex Rowley MSP

Day One

The First Day Working With Alex Rowley MSP: Meeting Alex Rowley in Scottish Parliament – 2019/04/23

This was the first day of my Political Shadowing Scheme and I was appointed to work with Labour MSP Alex Rowley. Overall he is an absolutely nice person, easy to approach, easy to talk to and communicate with. In the following paragraph, I will talk about what I have learnt through the day.

On that day, Alex and I had an in-depth conversation about the society and globalisation. We mentioned about how neoliberalism is changing the world and affecting global economy. We both agreed that neo-liberalism and globalisation have worsened the global inequality due to dependency of other countries and exploitation of labour. We had tried to think about what we should do and Alex gave me inspiration about political philosophy. He is a positive person with actions. For example he spoke to me about left-wing ideology from different angles and supported his analysis with empirical evidence.

I introduced the subject of relations between China and Hong Kong and Alex showed his interests in understanding the topic more. I hope he will start to mention people’s concerns on rights of abode of British National passport holders who are overseas (British Hong Kong, though I understand that this may not be a prominent topic as immigration is a reserved power.

After our talk, Alex and I attended a debate about the global environment and reusable energy. Speakers around the table discussed the solutions for making Scotland more environmentally friendly and most importantly, ‘green’. Overall, the discussion was insightful with the Scottish Green Party MSPs advocating for greener politics and the cooperation of private sector and public sector in Scotland. My knowledge about the field of green politics increased after listening to the talks delivered by speakers in the meeting.

Moreover, we had done some research on Alcohol licensing and local government issues regarding Brexit and Scotland. It was Alex Rowley’s opinion that alcohol licencing needs to be strategically monitored and evaluated, rather than controlling people consuming it. And I agree, deliberation is always the important step of liberating and modifying the society. For instance, MEANS group in 2013 highlighted structural issues with local licensing forums, including a lack of power about their role. Therefore, the public sector should strengthen its power and make things changed.

Day Two

The Second Day working with Alex Rowley MSP – the Committee on Local Government, and the Meeting of the Parliament on Education and Skills

Today’s shadowing mainly focused on the communication I had with Mr. Rowley’s office staff. I attended the committee on Local Government and meeting of the Parliament in terms of education today, and I was mainly observing the working form of the parliament. This included the meeting’s regulations and conduct in conferences or in debates in Scottish Parliament. In the following paragraphs, I will briefly introduce the things I have learnt, and discuss the topics I have been attached today.

In the morning, Alex Rowley and I attended the committee which was mainly discussing the relations of Brexit and the operation of Scottish government. I was impressed that there was an organisation which spoke passionately and suggested the way the Scottish government should be like after United Kingdom leaving the EU. The discussion could be divided into three main points. Firstly, the government should start to focus on the law’s advocacy. Secondly, the structural funding should be considered with different perspectives, in order to modify the Scottish society, and ensure that the Scottish society will be affected to the least extent due to Brexit. Also, one of the MSP from SNP thinks that “the partnership” should be focused. That means, friendly relationship between Scotland and European Union should be maintained, and cooperation between those two sectors should be increased.

During the office hour, I was having a chat with Jayne Baxter about Health and Social Care in Scotland and the bill about it. I have learnt the qualification and the expectation of social workers/ social carers in Scotland. The information is useful as I am going to be in the industry of social care. Jayne was ambitious that she explained lots of things which are the operation of parliament and conflicts between parties to me. After all the discussion, I started to reflect on the Social Care industry in Scotland. I agree with Jayne that reform is needed as there should be more public funding invested in social care. This would improve people’s lives in deprived areas, for example mid Scotland and Govan in Glasgow, which could be counted as the most deprived areas in Scotland.

At the end, I attended the meeting about Education and Skills. Discussion in this meeting also centred around Brexit. Specifically members of Scottish parliament wanted to know the impacts of Brexit on higher education in Scotland (see questions by David Stewart MSP and Jenny Gilruth MSP). The Government promised that it would minimise the harm of Brexit. Secondly, members were also concerned about the employability of Scottish students. I think employability is really important for a society as it affects the quality of life of individuals. The government should promote and advocate more plans to increase employability rates in scotland in a transparent way.

Day Three

On 2/5/2019, I was given the opportunity to attend the debate in parliament, which is the section of “Scottish First Minister’s Questions”. Except attending the meeting, I felt I learnt a lot from members of parliament, for example, the way they speak, act and think.

The questions from the Tories to the first minister of Scotland, were about if the Scottish Independence is the right path for Scottish people or not. The first minister used empirical evidence on Brexit and Scottish government to argue that the Scottish independence is the “alternative” for Scottish people. The SNP government also supports Scotland staying in the EU. Moreover, SNP argues that the Scottish people should have the right to determine their own path which it considers the most beneficial option for them.

Watching the FMQs enabled me to understand the Scottish political structure more. For instance, I got to understand the working form of democracy and the importance of the term “process” in democratic development. I believe that the Scottish society will be better in all aspects if the democratisation is more expanded, as the practice of deliberative democracy, participatory budgeting. There is no doubt that Scotland is representative-democratic, but I still suggest that Scotland could work on the hydro democracy. It means, Scottish government could give more power to the public, as letting them to participate in legislative and budget control process directly.

The topics discussed in the FMQs were interesting. I want to express what I have learnt in terms of the politicians’ manner. Speeches from one party’s representatives to another one can be fiery discussions in the Scottish Parliament remain civilised. Moreover, I learnt the importance of logic flowing and word choice when drafting a political speech. For instance, speeches from the Scottish Conservatives to the current SNP government are provoking, they still contained useful information with various expressions by the Tories.

Day Four

This is the fourth day working with Alex Rowley. I headed to Fife which is located in mid-Scotland and the place where Alex’s constituency office is. Today I felt excited and interested in understanding the works in the constituency office of a member of parliament. Jayne explained to me about the use of office and the reasons of establishing the constituency office in terms of being a member of Scottish parliament. I got the chance to work on some social issues such as the energy development in mid-Scotland, the education reform in Scotland, and the discussions on the new 5G network that is being developed and promoted by China.

There was useful information provided by Jayne in terms of the working form of a politician. She explained to me that because Alex is a regional MSP, he has to bear the responsibility of staff in his constituency office. She explained that staff in the office are required to maintain the general operation of the constituency office, and for instance, staff might need to meet the general-public who have concerns on certain issues; like complaints to the formal government. Moreover, I realised that being a politician is about not only solving questions, but also discovering questions. This is because Jayne informed me that they also need to do investigations on all societal, political, and economic aspects in order to bring residents in Scotland the maximised benefits.

I also got the chance to speak to Jayne about the political structure in China and Hong Kong including the credibility of Chinese government and Chinese private sectors also known as the Chinese entrepreneurs. While the office is investigating the new 5G network’s effects to Scotland and to the whole Europe, we both agreed that there is no need to practise the new 5G network across Scotland due to unpredictable environmental impacts and impacts on human health (e.g. radiation, and engagement in exercising may be affected).

Working with staff in the constituency office was insightful and enjoyable. Jayne explained to me the importance of the politics and its real-life implications. That means we all should study more and think more to find out if one practice or one policy brings negative implications. I look forward to working with Alex next week. I hope to use the skills that Jayne taught me in future. I hope that I could help people to claim benefits and they will be entitled with the support we could provide.

Day Five

My time in the Political Shadowing Program reaches the end today. I was lucky to attend the cross-party meeting with Alex on my last day. The meeting was about the Basic Income for Scotland. In terms of the brief introduction of the Basic Income, it was an alternative to the existing benefits system. The Basic Income around which communities develop active support mechanisms for their citizens by bringing together public, private and voluntary assets and resources.

During the meeting, the organisation RSA (Action and Research Centre) acted as one of the secretariats. RSA had introduced the model of Basic Income for Scotland and argued that the Basic Income, as the new economic model and a new benefit system for Scotland, could improve residents’ life physically and mentally (medical support, material support and changes toward attitude from residents to society). During the meetings, representatives of citizens pointed out that opinions from general public is the most important element in terms of the process of policy making or the decision making in the political arena. MSPs in the meeting promised that dialogues would be considered carefully and sensitively.

After the meeting, Alex and I discussed the poverty in Scotland, we agreed that Scotland is suffering from the failings of welfare system, deliberation, and administrative pathways. For instance, the Basic Income system is well practiced in Northern America. In Scotland the welfare system should be considered and advanced by listening organisations’ words.

Moreover, Alex explained to me that Scotland is way poorer than middle class here could imagine. He pointed out that in mid-Scotland, people lives are not well secured by a ‘healthy’ social welfare system; for example heating poverty is a huge problem there. He argued that the Scottish government should consider working on the social welfare and civil engagement in mid-Scotland, in order to improve residents’ lives and encourage them to speak out in the political arena in Scotland.

In terms of the program of Basic Income, after the discussion, we both agreed that the program could reduce the level of stress due to financial issues of residents. Secondly, we both agreed that the program would benefit from start-ups of grassroot community groups to provide more support and options for residents.

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