Coalition for Racial Equality & Rights

Sanah Saeed Zubairi: Shadowing Scheme

Sanah Saeed Zubairi: Political Shadowing Scheme 

Shadowing Scheme Day 1

I was excited about starting my political shadowing scheme with Bill Kidd MSP as I knew that I would gain valuable experience and be exposed to interesting work tailored to my interests and skill set. As ever the sun was shining as I strolled through the Royal Mile to reach the Scottish Parliament where I waited for John Docherty to receive me at reception. I ran into Lebo at reception and we chatted away about our expectations and excitement to start the shadowing aspect of the scheme. My day began by rushing through some parliamentary security forms to be able to gain a security pass for the Parliament. I felt lucky that I was going to have my own security pass so I can make my own way around the parliament without an escort. I then settled into my desk in Bill Kidd’s office where I browsed over a number of emails regarding the Research team at SNP. I was first tasked with writing a motion to acknowledge the Chinese New Year. I searched through previous motions submitted by Bill Kidd to get an idea about the format of parliamentary motions. John Docherty had a number of messages from a cultural advisor on his phone from which I gained some information on Chinese cultural practices during New Year celebrations. I drafted a motion which was later distributed to other MSP’s for support that day. Gong xi fa cai! At lunch time, I found Lebo’s office number in the address book and called her to arrange to meet for lunch. It was great to run into Samuel at lunch time too and we shared our experiences about the shadowing thus far!

After lunch I went onto calculate expenditure for long and short campaigns within the Glasgow North West constituency for the UK General Election. This proved more difficult than I initially expected as the electoral register had not yet been distributed by Glasgow City Council. The calculations involve a fixed amount plus 3p per constituent. I contacted Glasgow City Council to retrieve the most up-to-date electoral register for the Glasgow North West constituency from which I drew up an estimation. This took me up to 5pm and I had a considerable sense of achievement at the close of the day. I was glad that I was of use to the parliamentary office and I was easing into the work environment.

Shadowing Scheme Day 2

Now with my security pass I made my own way up to the 5th floor of the Scottish Parliament it was a little difficult at first to navigate my way around but I managed to make my way to Bill Kidd’s office. As Bill Kidd shares office space with Sandra White MSP I often get work from her parliamentary assistant Christopher White so that I have plenty of work to keep me occupied. Christopher gave me the task to follow up a constituent query. An MSP’s work is varied but also rewarding in the sense of helping others. At 11.40, Bill Kidd had tickets for First Ministers Questions and I enjoyed attending that as an exciting break from my work. At the First Ministers Questions, I ran into Kashain and we arranged to go for lunch after the debate with his MSP. At the First Ministers Questions, I am always left in awe of Nicola Sturgeon and the tenacity and knowledge with which she responds to the questions posed to her.

After lunch, I attended a meeting that Sandra White was having with a charity called the ‘Friends of Queen Mary’. I was tasked with taking the minutes and notes for that meeting which I really enjoyed as it was such an interesting case. Sandra White was mediating negotiations between the charity and a dealer who owns the TS Queen Mary Ship. The charity want to restore the ship and tow it to the Glasgow Clyde which is a natural home for the historic ship. There is an extensive background to the negotiations with a number of actors including the Maritime authority and BAE systems. It was most interesting to help out in that meeting as it was such an intriguing case. When I returned to the office, I typed up my notes and fleshed out the information provided by the charity representatives by providing links to the articles and authorities that he was referring to. Bill Kidd took me downstairs to introduce me to the Spice (research) team and arrange for me to do some work for them during my shadowing days. I thought that was really great and I am looking forward to doing more parliamentary research for the SNP central office. John then gave me the task to follow up a constituent query for Bill Kidd regarding nuisance calls and how to avoid them. I called up Councillor Graeme Hendry to get the contact details for the constituent. I then wrote to the constituent providing her with information on the number to call to avoid nuisance calls.

Shadowing Scheme Day 3

When I came into office I was introduced to two other interns that Bill Kidd was hosting in his parliamentary office, Annie an intern on a US exchange programme and Shannon a student from Glasgow College. I began my day by drafting a motion to congratulate 3 charities that had been awarded funds through a Lloyds TSB foundation that supports grassroots charities. Then I wrote letters on behalf of Bill Kidd to the 3 charities to congratulate them on the funding awards. John Docherty then gave me work regarding the Glasgow North West constituency boundaries and to see how these have changed for Partick ward 12 and collate demographic information for the constituency and individual wards. This involved desk based work looking through Glasgow City Council and comparing constituency maps for Glasgow North West and Anniesland from the Scottish Boundary Commission.

Kashain had told me that he had arranged to have lunch with Humza Yousaf MSP and that he wanted me and others from the PSS to join too. It was great to join Kashain and Humza Yousaf for lunch and talk about the upcoming General Elections and getting involved in politics. I was really grateful to Kashain for arranging this lunch meeting, thank you! I was pleased to meet Humza Yousaf he was very friendly!

After lunch, I followed up a constituency query that I had previously been working on for Sandra White. As I was aware of the particulars surrounding the case I drafted two letters to the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board and to a hospital in England. I am hopeful that a good outcome will be achieved from the letters to the benefit of the constituent. Moreover, I returned to the constituency boundary work that I was doing for John Docherty.

Shadowing Scheme Day 4

My 4th day already I can’t believe that the time is flying by so quickly. Today, I started by following up some research on postgraduate funding opportunities in Scotland. I made a paper with an overview of funding bodies like the ESRC, application procedures, deadlines and contact details for more information that I sent to John Docherty. I then watched the First Ministers Questions from the television on Bill Kidd’s office. It is always great to watch the first minister’s question, especially as there were questions on helping disadvantaged children get the best start in life and NHS waiting times. I then went onto draft two letters regarding a complaint to private companies who are responsible for overseeing the letting of public space such as schools out-with school hours. Secondly, I drafted a letter to the Scottish Funding Council to request that they heed the underrepresentation of women and diversity in the allocation of Research Excellent Grant funding to universities. I was pleased to write this letter as it is a topic that I am passionate about and I really hope that the Scottish Funding Council will use its resources to ensure that universities are doing more to promote diversity and secure outcomes agreements to tackle under-representation of women in academia.  

Shadowing Scheme Day 5

I started the day by drafting a letter to be sent to charities and third sector organisations in the Glasgow North West constituency area regarding resources for grants and funding. Using mail merging I sent the information and attachments to around 70 local charities who can benefit from the award. I then drafted a letter to Jordanhill School regarding provision for children with additional needs and a letter to the Minister for Education to address these concerns. It was interesting to work on this case as I learned to be diplomatic and only write what I know and can prove as MSP’s have to protect the interests of all their constituents.

Later after lunch, I wrote a briefing for Sandra White regarding the first stage Mental Health Bill. I gathered information regarding the proposed changes in legislation and the possible implications of the Bill for users of the justice system. Some argue that the proposed Bill legislates administrative changes to the Mental Health Tribunal that may weaken the rights of people who are mentally ill and exacerbate patient care. I communicated this information to Sandra which would be useful for a meeting she was attending the following morning.

Shadowing Scheme Day 6

I began by working on a case regarding transport to the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. I then drafted a letter to a constituent to inform them of recent developments in transport provision to and from the hospital. Furthermore, John Docherty told me about an event regarding Health Equality and Islam that Bill Kidd was chairing the following week. I was asked to assist in the event and I was interested in the topic and the number of stakeholders involved in the event including representatives from a number of consulates.

In the afternoon, I shadowed the work of the SNP Central Office Team that includes researchers, communications and marketing staff and parliamentary business staff. I was pleased that Bill Kidd had arranged this shadowing for me as I could see how parliamentary briefings were prepared and other materials prepared. I gathered information regarding the format of parliamentary briefings that involve a statement regarding the party line and a recommendation of key phrases and statistics that members of parliament could communicate to the media. Furthermore, I learned about the use of social media to reach constituents and to raise discussions regarding key political debates. Furthermore, I learned that the Central Office team liaise with Spice and others to source information on key political topics.