Coalition for Racial Equality & Rights

Aswad Choudry: Shadowing Scheme

Aswad Cho
udry: Political Shadowing Scheme

Shadowing Scheme Day 1

I didn’t know what to expect on my first day as I was getting ready to sort out my clothes the night before for the visit to the Scottish Parliament. I was fortunate enough to have met my mentor previously when the whole CRER group had visited the Scottish Parliament. I did as much preparation as I possibly could and was ready to start my first day on the shadowing scheme. I woke up bright and early to catch my train to Edinburgh. I’m always fascinated by the beauty of the city & even though I’ve visited the city since I was a very young age, I always felt that there is always something to do there. The Scottish Parliament is a government building that really stands out from the traditional offices that are located across the country.

I headed into security where I felt like I was in an airport but my worries had evaporated once I made my way to the visitor center. I told the receptionist at the office that I was here to watch the committee hearing on the Assisted Suicide Bill & was told to wait while someone at Bob Doris office would come to see me. I was introduced to an Intern who was recently working for Bob Doris. He took me to the place where the hearing was held. It was a good chance to have a quick chat about what it’s like to work in the parliament & got a better insight into how I could get a future job working for my local MSP or any government official in the parliament. Bob Doris came to greet me as the intern had introduced me to him & also saw Patrick Harvie, leader of the Scottish Green Party who was really kind and had greeted me too.

The committee hearing was ready to commence as they had let all visitors into the meeting room. It was a long hearing that had lasted approximately 3 hours but tried to get as much information out of it as possible. I did feel a bit annoyed that visitors weren’t allowed to drink water as I felt a bit thirsty but I guess they assume that someone would throw a glass of water on one of the politicians. Patrick Harvie was the one who was chairing the meeting & taking questions from other members of the panel. After the hearing had finished, Bob Doris had formally introduced himself & told me to wait near the café & visitor center for 30 minutes. This gave me an opportunity to remember all the things that were mentioned at the hearing & have a quick bite at the café. The sandwich that I ate was really nice but not cheap though. After my quick lunch, Bob Doris came to take me to his parliamentary office on the top floor but not before bumping into Humza Yousaf who I was also introduced to. I was fortunate enough to have known him before he became a MSP as I was part of his Young Muslim group which used to be held at Arlington Street mosque. I was surprised that he remembered me really well as it was a while since I last met him & was a really good friend that used to give me a lift back home. We managed to have a quick catch up before he headed off to have lunch.

As I stepped into Bob Doris’s Parliamentary Office, I was introduced to Bill Kidd who I also managed to have a quick chat with & was interesting to hear what he had to say and the kind of work that he does. He talked to me briefly about how the committee hearing was and he also expressed his own opinion on how he felt about the assisted suicide bill. I had received a call from Bob Doris’s Constituency Office where I was introduced to the staff who worked there & I also received my first task of putting forward a motion to the Scottish Parliament. I did feel nervous as I didn’t know what a motion should include but my worries were put to ease when Bob Doris showed me examples of previous motions. I then felt a bit more confident that I could write a fairly good piece of motion and this was on a WWII Veteran who will be turning 100 years old in a few weeks’ time and is a survivor of the Dunkirk Evacuations in 1940. But before I could get a start on that, Bob Doris also informed me that he had another meeting at 3:00pm and that I should also attend and take notes.

This was a really interesting meeting as it was with a survivor of thalidomide & is actively involved with the thalidomide trust. He shared his story and own personal experience about how this has impacted his life and others who have also suffered from the same condition. At first I didn’t know much about thalidomide but after hearing about it I realized just how lucky I was as I always complain about the smallest of illnesses that I have suffered from and realize how hard and difficult it must be to live with no legs or missing limbs. He requested from Bob Doris that the Scottish Government should be aware about this issue and the root cause being the German company who has yet to give full compensation to all the suffers of thalidomide. At the end of the meeting, I was also able to ask a few questions about what it must be like with the condition & able to get a better understanding about thalidomide. As we both headed back into the office, I was tasked with putting the notes together into one piece of essay which I managed to have completed before 5:00pm.

At 5pm, both of us had left together & managed to reflect on my first day of the shadowing scheme and also just how many meetings you have to go to in just one day. As I took the train back home to Glasgow, I felt excited about the opportunity that I was given to be able to follow Bob Doris around and learned a lot on my very first day and also given plenty to think about. I was definitely looking forward to what the second day of the shadowing scheme would bring.      

Day Two: Visit to Bob Doris’s Constituently Office 

I was really looking forward to my second day of the political shadowing scheme. I received a call from Bob Doris’s Constituency office a day before telling me what was on the agenda for the day. It was certainly going to be a productive day as I have a few assignments that they will brief me on when I head to the office.

I had my breakfast & was able to relax and chill as I didn’t have to go till 1:00pm, this also allowed me to do a bit of research on the assignments that I was given to do on the day. The office wasn’t too far from where I live so it was simply a case of taking the subway from Hillhead Station. The journey was a shorter one in comparison to when I had to travel to Edinburgh on my first day.  I headed straight to the Empire House where the office is located. I was introduced to Gillian who works for Bob Doris at his Constituency office.  I’ve also spoken to her a few times over the phone. Gillian showed me around the office which isn’t that big but the view was fascinating & I was able to observe shoppers from Sauchiehall Street as well as Cineworld.  I was told about the kind of work that gets done on a day to day basis.

Gillian assigned me the task of creating a parliamentary letter to send to Aileen Campbell, the Minister for Children and Young People about colleges and access to universities.  As I was doing the task, Gillian also give me responsibility of handling some of the phone calls that are received to the office. I was taking messages and was interested by the different type of calls that I’ve received such as housing & immigration issues. This brought me back to a time when my grandfather from Pakistan was in the same position regarding immigration and George Galloway who was the MP for Glasgow North at the time was really supportive and wrote a strong letter to the UK government which managed to solve the immigration issue that my grandfather had. It was really good to know that there are politicians out there that value immigrants and will support them and recognize their contributions to Scotland.

The time was moving on and it was 5pm., Gillian was really impressed by the effort  I’ve put in. She said that there were minor changes to be made but this felt like an accomplishment as I’m dyslexic & do find it difficult to express myself on paper. It certainly felt more like a normal day for me at the office as opposed to when I was following Bob Doris around the Scottish Parliament to attend meetings. I did manage to have more of an insight into what his staff at the office do for Bob Doris & just how valuable their work & contribution is towards Bob Doris.

I'm certainly looking forward to what the next day will bring.

Day Three: Visit to see local resident at Roystonhill & the Whisky Bond

I was definitely looking forward to visiting a local resident from Bob’s constituency. I was informed at first that I would also be visiting a local housing association near Roystonhill in the morning but received a phone call in the morning that his schedule had changed & would instead just meet him up at Roystonhill in the afternoon. This meant that I was able to have a relaxing morning & prepare myself for any questions that I can ask before heading off.

I had taken the number 19 bus to get to the house at Roystonhill. The bus doesn’t actually stop at Roystonhill and had to walk another 5 minutes to get to my destination. I was amazed at how this place had even existed in Glasgow & felt as though it was separated by the M8. I recognized the star at Roystonhill which I have seen when passing by on the motorway. As I headed to a constituents house where I was meeting Bob Doris, I managed to take in some of the surroundings. I finally saw Bob Doris in his car & was able to finally get inside as I was starting to feel a bit chilly outside.  The local constituent shared some of their experiences about Roystonhill & how the council haven’t given enough attention to the safety of this area. They had mentioned how the footbridge that connects Roystonhill to Denniston isn’t very safe at night & not well fenced from crossing above the M8. It was great to know that Bob was there to support the people of Roystonhill & this definitely made me think more about the kind of things that I could do to help my own local community.

As we said goodbye we headed to Bob’s next meeting at the Whisky Bond he told me more about the area & what needs to be done to make it a more vibrant place for local communities to meet up. The next meeting was on a local housing association near Possil Park & this reminded me of the time when I volunteered a few years ago at Queen’s Cross Housing Association. I was a financial inclusions advisor who would give presentations to the local communities in the Maryhill region on how to better manage their finances & how to create an effective budget to ensure that you only spend money on the essentials. It was a good feeling that I gained from working in that kind of environment and also how the conversation that he had with the local housing association was related in some way. I had an opportunity at the end to ask a few questions on the work that they currently do & also how the government is helping to support people who are in real need of a house.

It was a truly a great experience on being able to visit a local resident & see the concerns that they raise up about their local area & to experience the kind of work that a local housing association does to help people in their area. 

Day Four: Royston Strategy Group Meeting

This was a really special day as not only was I going to be shadowing Bob Doris again which I was looking forward to but it was also the day of the solar eclipse. I still remembered the last one in 1999 but didn’t get a chance to see it properly as the house that I live in now has a better view of the sky and can see from all directions. I got up really early to ensure that I did not miss the spectacular sight. It was a cloudy day however so wasn’t sure if I would be able to see it but was fortunate at around 9:30 when clouds gave way to the sun that only looked like a smiley face and was darker too. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life to be able to experience this as the next full solar eclipse won’t be for another 70 years. I took some photos too but was envious of the people from Faroe Islands who experienced full darkness.

After the solar eclipse I was ready to meet Bob Doris at his constituency office at Empire House. When I met him he had told me a bit about the meeting that he was attending & also how important it was towards shaping his constituency. This was a group meeting in Royston & remembered the last time when I went to Royston to meet a local resident. We were meeting at the Rosemount Development Trust. Bob briefed me about the organization and their involvement in regenerating the local area of Royston. As we got to our location, I was fascinated by the business park and how it stood out from the rest of the area that was deprived.

Bob Doris introduced me to the leader of the Rosemount Development Trust who was chairing the meeting. It was interesting to see people from different organisations around the Royston area and how they are all coming together to discuss the agenda about what needs to be done. Most of them were in agreement about what needs to be done but some were also skeptical about how not enough has been done.

The next meeting wasn’t for another hour so we decided that we would walk back to Bob’s office. Bob showed me some of the buildings around Royston & what the development trust had proposed they would do to them. He also briefed me about the next meeting which includes an interview on sectarianism & the Scottish referendum. At the end of the interview, I was asked briefly about my views. I didn’t really have a lot to say but on reflection, Scotland is more accepting of different races & backgrounds & that they want more migrants to come to Scotland.    

I attended another meeting with Bob and by the end of it I realized it was such an interesting day filled with a lot of different activities and topics. I am looking forward to my last few days of shadowing.