Last week parliament was in recess and the building is very much empty, with the odd researcher and MSP who’s constituency is close by. The atmosphere is very much different, everyone in casual clothes and trainers.
There was no corporate inductions and the Chamber is out of session so it was very much a week of office duties. Apart from reading and sorting through Rhoda’s emails and responding to invites and diary organisation, I wasn’t really expecting to do much more than my personal project, thankfully this wasn’t the case.
On my first day Eva mentioned that I would be doing motions, notions are used by MSPs as a device to initiate debate or propose a course of action. Motions can be lodged for debate in Parliament as part of parliamentary business, for debate as part of Members’ Business, to propose that legislation is agreed to or passed or simply to generate support. Other MSPs can sign up in support of motions that have been lodged.
As Rhoda is a member of the health and sport committee she generally submits motions in support of health days. Eva asked me to research forthcoming health days in the next few months, I emailed a few charities and organisations and all were more than happy to give me detail and informative replies. There is a certain style and writing that the motions need to consist of. I then sent it to David in the Chamber Desk, he read over it made some changes and then I sent it back to the charity then got their approval and sent it to all of the MSPs and their researchers. My first one was Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Day. Others included World Contraception Day, Jeans for Genes Day, Family Planning Associations’ Sexual Health Week and World Reflexology week.
As I am a researcher I got an email from myself – I thought it was really cool and special. Though I do get about 30 motions a day so I bet the novelty wears off!
Another exciting thing I got to prepare and research was a Freedom of Information Request (FOI). Rhoda and Eva are researching the Care Tax, there has been some research and survey carried out on the subject. I do not what to write too much about it but I do not believe that the most vulnerable in society should give up to 100% of their disposable incomes to cover the cost of their care – the percentage merely depending on what local authority you happen to live in. I believe social care is an equality and human rights issue.
There are some sums that we wanted to check which have not been published yet – Parliaments resource centre, SPICe said the best way to find them was to do a FOI. I am still in the progress of completing it but once it’s sent the local authorities have 20 days to respond to the request – but each time they ask a question about the FOI, the day limit stops and starts again at 20 the days period (good for stalling!) so it is important to be precise so it doesn’t go on forever. If it’s going to cost the local authority more that £500 to produce, they don’t have to do it or the individual who requested the FOI has to pay for it.
Obviously I am in the Parliament during the Scottish Referendum campaigns – the vote is just over three weeks away. I am noticing that the issues surrounding child and disabled poverty are hot topics, I get the feeling that the disabled are being used on both sides to tug on emotional heart strings. I do not hear about how each side will actually achieve in helping the poor vulnerable in society, it only seems to focus on the currency and oil.
On a personal note I find it ironic when most people grudgingly pay the least possible tax as possible, giving social services the least as possible and hence harming the most vulnerable in society. When Facebook is filled with Ice Bucket Challenges with people in their summer clothes giving donations to charities – it all seems a bit narcissistic! Honestly I would like to see more conclusions in solving child poverty and disabled equality. From what I see from my internship Labour is a party that cares and believes in social services, perhaps the current perceived association with the conservative party is damaging their case for a union. After the referendum whatever happens I feel the conservative party will grow and grow in popularity and I hope Labour will still be present giving a strong moral compass.
Perhaps more referendum thoughts next week!