Here’s a thing – 129 MSPs, 129 different ways of working. I have colleagues who sit at the desks close to me whose job is nothing at all like mine because their employer is looking for something different from their staff. I work for two MSPs who operate in different ways and expect different things from me.
On a daily basis I conduct a number of duties such as sit at writing speeches, seeking out information, speaking to journalists as well as deflecting lobbyists or any number of other related subjects. While my duties revolve around equipping the MSPs for whom I work with information to use in the chamber, my colleagues in the constituency offices focus on dealing with constituents who have turned to their MSP in order to deal with a local issue. It could be argued that their work is more effective for constituents, dealing with some very difficult, sometimes very harrowing, cases and make a difference to the lives of the people who come to the MSP.
Researchers based at the parliament have a slightly different role - I like to think it is high politics rather than artful dodging but involves dealing with mundane jobs such as incoming emails, separating them into those which are constituency issues and have to be dealt with straight away, those which are portfolio related and should be looked at in the near future, and the rest, of course, many and varied. Proper mail comes next, with the same categorisations, and then there are numerous phone calls. However as I’m part of the backroom staff, I must ensure that MSPs go into the Chamber with the facts and figures they need. Like many of my colleagues, I buffer the politicians against intrusion while facilitating constituents’ access to the MSPs. Every day the work is different and every day it feels worthwhile.
While I’m in the strange position of not being able to answer that question "what do you actually do?" with any degree of ease, I’m also in the very privileged position of being paid to do a job I love doing with the opportunity to improve the lives of people in Scotland.
Calum Cashley is a researcher for both Linda Fabiani and Christina McKelvie.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own personal opinions and may not reflect those of Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP.