I woke up refreshed and super excited! It was Thursday the 26th of April and my first day at the Scottish Parliament to shadow Fulton MacGregor MSP. Prior to this, I had completed different training courses organised by CRER (Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights) to prepare all participants for the shadowing scheme. Before the 26th of April, I contacted Fulton MacGregor to arrange suitable dates to shadow his work, and he responded immediately and connected me with a member of his staff. Maithilee Kanthi, an intern working at the MSP office, contacted me afterwards to provide me with dates and all necessary information to prepare me for the task ahead.
On my arrival at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday the 26th, Elaine Gladstone, a case worker to Fulton MacGregor, came to pick me at the reception and we attended FMQs together, which I found very interesting. I resonated with different topics that were discussed. One topic that struck me the most was the discussion regarding childcare and early years provision. From the FMQ session I found out that the Scottish Government have an on-going funding deal with the councils to boost early learning and childcare. This funding will increase free nursery provision from the current 600 hours to 1,140 by August 2020. It was also discussed that the government will give a further £476m in capital funding between 2017/18 and 2020/21 to build an effective workforce.
I was so delighted to listen to all the important information, which I believe will be life transforming for many parents, most especially women. This project if sustainable is likely to reduce poverty for low income parents, as mothers may be encouraged to increase their work hours. Some MSPs also asked the First Minister to mount pressure on Westminster to stop the UK’s ammunition sales to Saudi Arabia, because their activities were confirmed to be breaking international humanitarian law in Yemen.
After this, Fulton MacGregor asked me to accompany him to address some high school students that visited the Parliament. After his speech, I returned to the office where I spent the rest of the day carrying out contact searches for SNP party leaders in different Councils across Scotland. The atmosphere was very friendly and welcoming. It was an incredible first day!
It was another beautiful day and my second day at the Parliament. I joined the train from Glasgow Queen Street and decided to walk to the Parliament after I got off the train at Edinburgh Waverley. I used a taxi on the first day, as I wasn’t sure which direction to go. After I got off the train, it dawned on me that I have lost my way. This happened a couple of times but finally, I found my way and arrived at the Parliament after about 30 minutes of walking around.
Maithilee Kanthi was kind enough to wait for me at the reception as arranged. We got into the office and I settled down to start the work of the day. What a relief! However, there wasn’t a spare computer. Oh no! Maithilee and I shared her computer the last time hoping one would have been arranged for me on my next visit, but there was none for now, so Maithilee advised that I bring my laptop next time.
Since there was no free computer, to make the best out of the day, I had to do some reading. It wasn’t a bad idea - I love reading and I am very inquisitive. Yes, I am. I like to know about everything and enjoy activities that challenge my brain. In my own words, it’s good to be a critical thinker. So, I started off by reading some of Fulton MacGregor’s past and current work.
Then I got a task to write a response to a letter received from a member of Fulton MacGregor’s constituency regarding a Council plan to reduce the speed limit of some mapped-out areas to 20mph. From the letter received, the complainer was worried that the speed limit, when introduced, could affect businesses, which could lead to traffic on busy roads during peak hours. My response considered all her worries, but also detailed the safety reasons and consultation processes that the Council had carried out before the 20mph implementation was agreed. I discussed the drafted response with the team and all possible corrections were made.
After this, I had my lunch and ended the day by attending different Committee Sessions that cut across different public issues. The most exciting of all was having the privilege to listen to how MSPs argued their concerns and answered questions from one another.
It’s me again! Let’s continue from where I stopped. It is day three of my political shadowing and the most anticipated of all. Yes, it is, because I am going to be spending the day at Fulton MacGregor’s local office and amazingly, I will be attending surgery with himself and members of his team. How sweet is that!
Fulton MacGregor’s constituency office is based at Coatbridge, a part of Scotland I have never been to. 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 walked down the city centre of Glasgow to Queen Street station and got on the train. With the help of Google Maps, I was able to have a clear understanding of where I was going. Like I said earlier, I have never been to this part of Scotland. I was confused by the roundabout before the office, but surprisingly, I finally found my way. What a big relief!
On getting to the office, I met other staff members and they explained what they do, and I also had the privilege to introduce myself. After I settled in, I was told there was going to be a meeting. Guess what! I could be part of the meeting and one of my tasks was to take minutes during the meeting. Unfortunately, the meeting didn’t happen. However, I was given other tasks to work on.
After about 3 hours in the office, myself, Elaine Gladstone, and Fulton MacGregor got ready to set out for the local surgery, with people from within Fulton MacGregor’s constituency. Believe me, I was super excited about this. I have always enjoyed any given opportunity that allows me to engage and listen to people - this is no doubt one of my strengths. I joined Elaine in her car - she has also been very helpful since I started the shadowing scheme. Elaine is very nice and always engaging. The journey was smooth and interactive which I found very interesting. Meeting and listening to different people’s problems provided me with fundamental insights on some of the grassroots issues that people face individually and at the community level. However, this was the most exhausting day since I started the shadowing scheme. We moved from town to town within the constituency. But in all honesty, it was my best day so far and I will forever cherish every moment I spent being part of the surgery session. Having the opportunity to connect, engage, and listen to people’s problems make the scheme very relevant, which has opened up different research topics for me. I am now looking forward to working on them when university resumes.
Afterwards, Fulton MacGregor dropped me at the train station, which was very kind of him. I was lucky to catch a train after about five minutes of waiting at the station. What a day!
Today is the fourth day since I started this amazing journey and is likely to be the last of my political shadowing experience under this scheme. Undoubtedly, I have enjoyed it, learned new things, and met amazing and selfless people. Yes, very kind people with great personalities and wide-open arms!
I am sure you would have noticed that Maithilee Kanthi comes up in all my blogs so far. It’s simply because of her dedication in ensuring I get the best out of each day I was at the Parliament. As usual, Maithilee Kanthi picked me up from the reception to go to the office. As mentioned earlier, she has been so helpful, friendly, and good company throughout my political shadowing scheme. I spent half of my total hours in the office navigating around the Parliament website. My task for the day was to make list of some MSPs with their contact details, the Committees they belong to, Cross Party Group they belong to, their current motions, and questions they asked during Parliamentary Sessions. It was an exhaustive list but was an interesting piece of work.
I also had the opportunity to write a motion and press release on behalf of Fulton MacGregor. The motion has to do with a letter of recognition to some members of Fulton MacGregor’s constituency to acknowledge their remarkable commitment to dental nursing education in the New College Lanarkshire campus in Coatbridge . After this, myself and Maithilee attended an awareness session on the current humanitarian crisis in Palestine and watched as MSPs dropped in to give their support. Prior to this, I had little knowledge about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and attending this session has helped me to understand what is going on in this region.
Overall, I had wonderful moments throughout my shadowing experience and permit me to say a massive thank you to Fulton MacGregor for allowing me into his space to shadow his work. Most importantly, I want to thank him for taking me along to his local surgery.
Many thanks Fulton MacGregor and many thanks to CRER for making this possible!