Shadowing a shadow in the Scottish Parliament

Take your seats? Creative Commons picture of the debating chamber by gnomonic

Monday 10.15 am at the Scottish Parliament – we clear security and head ‘backstage’ to the MSPs offices where Sarah Boyack is printing out her diary for the week.  Since there is nothing confidential in there she lets us have a quick peek: lots of meetings both in and out of the parliament but the day starts with an inroduction to David Ng Hop. And that of course is why we are here.

I am very conscious we don’t have a big enough representation of people from black and minority ethnic groups in the parliament.

David is the tenth shadow to take part in the Opening Doors shadow scheme and he has specially asked  to observe the work of his constituency MSP, Sarah Boyack.  “I would like to see every aspect of the work of an MSP,” says David who is a support assistant in the City of Edinburgh Council health and social care department.  He is particularly interested in anything to do with environment, equalities and care of the elderly.

He has come to the right place.  For the first time Opening Doors is getting the benefit of shadowing two different MSPs doing very different kinds of work.  Sarah Boyack (representing Edinburgh Central), who is Labour’s spokesperson on the environment will provide insight into the work of the shadow cabinet while Malcolm Chisholm (representing Edinburgh North and Leith), will offer David the chance to see the work of committees – perhaps the most important and distinguishing feature of the Scottish Parliament.

This is a particularly busy week before parliament takes a break for Easter.  “The week before recess is always busy,” says Sarah, “Busy but good, it’s a good time to come and see what we are doing.”

We take another look at the diary  – today’s issues include fair trade, school meetings and cuts to care of the elderly.  In the evening and at weekends there are meetings with groups in the constituency about the impact of cuts on local services. And we have to ask: why is Sarah making time for the shadow scheme?

“I am very conscious we don’t have a big enough representation of people from black and minority ethnic groups in the parliament,” she says, ” I meet many people who are actively involved in their communities but they don’t know how to get involved in the political system.  I see this as a way of giving people a view into the parliament.”

By now it is time to let David get on with what sounds like a full and fascinating week.  We’ll be back to find out how he got on.

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