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A week in the life: MSP Lewis Macdonald describes working at Holyrood during the coronavirus crisis

North East MSP Lewis Macdonald.
North East MSP Lewis Macdonald.

North East MSP and newly-elected Deputy Presiding Officer Lewis Macdonald kept a diary of a week that saw the Scottish Parliament return in unusual circumstances.

The Labour MSP’s week began with preparing for his new position.

Monday April 20

I was elected before Easter as an additional Deputy Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, to help Holyrood cope with the challenges that come from the coronavirus crisis. Today is spent preparing for the return of Parliament, when I will preside for the first time.

Tuesday April 21

I drive to Edinburgh in the early morning of a warm and sunny day, on very quiet roads. After nearly three weeks without venturing far from home, this is the first time I get to see what the lockdown looks like outside Aberdeen. Travelling through such a beautiful country in the sunshine, it’s hard to believe we are living in such tough times.

Presiding over a meeting of the Scottish Parliament for the first time, I begin with a word of thanks to MSPs of all parties in Gaelic: moran taing a h-uile duine. I appreciate the support of all parties in Parliament, and the good wishes from many of my constituents and friends.

The business in hand is a question and answer session with Fiona Hyslop and Kate Forbes, on the economic impact of the coronavirus. As I call Ministers and MSPs in turn by pressing buttons, I soon discover that the Presiding Officer’s desk is designed for right-handed people!

One of the family has just started a new job in the Emergency Department at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and when we chat on the phone I hear all about the challenges facing health and care workers up and down the country.

Wednesday April 22

Back at home in Aberdeen, I convene the first online meeting of the Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, to plan how we will examine the impact of the coronavirus crisis on health and care. We will hear first from eminent microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington.

I am very sorry to hear of the death of Sandy Brown, licensee of The Blue Lamp on the Gallowgate and host of countless parties, live music sessions and post-match pints since I came to Aberdeen as a student many years ago. I worked with him only a few months ago on changing planning laws to protect live music venues. Sandy will be sadly missed.

Thursday April 23

More virtual question times, for MSPs to quiz Scottish Government Ministers online, and more private meetings by video-conference with colleagues from the Scottish Parliament. The way we work is changing, and some of the new ways of working may well continue after the lockdown is over. I really feel for all the people who cannot be sure they will still have a job in a few weeks’ time.

Friday April 24

I write to Oil and Gas UK, because too many oil companies seem to be making workers redundant without trying to use the Government’s furlough scheme first. Hundreds of people in the North and North East are facing redundancy at what is already a hard time for everyone. I want employers to do more to keep jobs open, despite the current low oil price, because what goes down can still come up again.

I wrap up lots of constituency casework at a video-conference with my office staff, who are all working from home in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire or Edinburgh. It’s amazing how many queries they’ve managed to deal with, and how many questions we’ve asked Ministers on behalf of local people: everything from childcare for key workers’ kids to personal protection for posties. Working from home turns out to be at least as busy as going into an office every day – but maybe the homemade snacks make up for it!

 

Now read about West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie’s week at Westminster.

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