Tuesday, October 13

A few months in the Scottish Parliament.

This summer after many email and much begging I got and internship at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh working for my local MSP. (props to my local MSP and the Greens for replying) Admittedly rather jaded with National and Scottish politics I did my best to appear truly interested during my interview. It appeared to work!

So began my 2-3 months in a tunnel-like MSP's office in the Scottish Parliament. Many people don't really know what areas in which the devolved parliament at Holyrood has authority over, most things is the answer, with a few important exceptions such as full-tax raising power and foreign policy. In many ways the Scottish system is entirely independent from Westminster (although it is still technically where it derives it's power from). Most of my friends for example are vaguely aware that there is a Scottish Parliament but they are not very sure of what it really does.

Day 1 - I turn up eager to be involved in 'real' politics - whatever that may be - I arrive to find a deserted line of dark and closed offices with very few people around. I had started the week after Queens visit which it turns out many MSP's themselves did not attend as they were eager to begin their summer holidays. Some like Christine Grahame MSP came in merely to sit in her office professing her distaste for the monarchy in front of as much of the media as she could find.

So there I was.. an exciting opportunity to experience real politics. 10 weeks later I was still waiting. Admittedly my time in the Parliament was not the most enthralling of my life - still I learned quite a bit.

Firstly, Many MSPs do work damn hard and have some genuinely good ideas. I've gone from having no real opinion on the Scottish Parliament to thinking it can do good things for Scotland. (Al-Megrahi furore aside!) For constituency MSPs with a tiny majority with changing boundaries it would appear to be a rather thankless job.

Parliamentary assistants can be an odd and cliquey bunch, hawkishly eyeing the intruder into their floor in the same manner they would observe the two MSPs from a different party who had the misfortune to be on their floor. It was an odd experience being an intern, the only intern in both the constituency office and parliament. The variations in how people would treat you was a surprise too, both in good and bad ways.

You have to love the odd calls you get from constituents to brighten a dull research project; 
"When will Mr Salmond end this prohibition on cannabis?"; 
"When are we going to attack Iran?" and 
"How could you release the Lockerbie Bomber?!"' 

All questions my friends that I will have to politely direct you on to other people to deal with. :)

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