Second week was another jam packed one. As I mentioned in my last blog, it was a week of inductions from various people in corporate roles around parliament.
Firstly I had a meeting with the Access and Control manager based in security, the procedures and protocols fascinate me. Obviously I was given the basics and it would be unwise to share any of them with you. I was also taken into the control room – Big Brother is very much watching us. I was told by a few staff that hardly anyone has been taken in there, I felt really privileged. The meeting was really useful because it’s important to understand the reasons for the security policies being enforced, but always in a firm and polite manner.
Next it was a meeting with David the Group Head of Chamber and Reporting, who has one of the nicest and biggest offices in Parliament. From what I understood there were a number of teams that David was responsible for and they had slightly different roles. To me they are there to help the members to write policy and assist them with its technicality and wording. I am in the middle of arranging work shadowing with some of his team members so I hope to have a clearer view afterwards.
On Tuesday I met with Susan from the Head of Official Report and Editor. The work the office carries out seems to be extremely stressful. Basically they transcribe every chamber and committee meeting word for word but ensuring it’s a historical document – ensuring it can be read and understand in ten, twenty, fifty years times. I asked Susan if people found their role stressful, considering that a five minutes worth of speaking takes time an hour to complete. She replied that people find the work demanding but rewarding as it’s always different every day. The service is at an immense cost but worth it in terms of transparently and providing a document of how parliament changes over the years.
The next day I met with another Susan who is Group Head of Committees and Outreach. Committees play a central part in the work of the Parliament – taking evidence from witnesses, scrutinising legislation and conducting inquiries. I am also in the process of arranging work shading and I think first-hand experience of this would be really useful for my personal project.
In the afternoon I met Denis the Head of Research and Library, SPICe. The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) provides facts, analysis, briefings, research, impartial expertise, news and current affairs to MSPs, their staff at Holyrood and in local offices, and Parliament staff. He was really helpful and pointed me to the researchers I could contact who had expertise regarding my personal project. I think I will be using SPICe many times during my internship!
Thursday it was First Ministers Questions – the last one before the referendum! It was heated and things where said with hardly anyone listening to their opponent’s views, with Members booing, mocking and clapping in the right places. I however thought it would have been more engaging – I found it rather flat. The debate in the chamber on the Future of Scotland was probably more sensible and all party leaders put forward a well-balanced and articulated arguement for their reasons which way they believe people should vote. Though I must admit I found many contradictions in Ruth Davidson’s argument, but that’s expected.
On Thursday Rhoda, Eva and I sat down and talk about my personal project, earlier that day I had read a report published in May 2014 by Scope. It was looking at current social attitudes towards disability. The thing which struck me the most was this finding:
‘People are more comfortable with the idea of a relative marrying a disabled person or the person next door being disabled than they are with their MP or boss being disabled.’
I want to explore these attitudes, I think it is appalling people don’t want to see disabled people as people of authority or power. I would like to research ways of coming up with guidelines and / or recommendations for employers to enforce to change these discriminating social attitudes. I am not exactly sure where I am going to end up doing for the personal project but I hope it comes to something good and tries to change these social attitudes.
The parliament is now in recess so it’s not as busy in terms of people being around. Rhoda will be up in Inverness with her constituencies campaigning for the referendum but Eva and I will be busy getting motions set up, going through some policy ideas and sorting out Rhoda’s diary – she’s a very popular lady!
Second week was really useful and informative but I’m looking forward to getting into the political side of the internship.