Alejandra Lemarque, a third-year at UC Merced, was one of four UCEAP Scottish Parliament Interns last semester. Her experience working under an MSP in Edinburgh has shown her how surprisingly personal politics can be, in a positive way! Read about her experience below.
Hello! My name is Alejandra, and I was a Scottish Parliament Intern in Edinburgh this past semester. I was assigned to Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) Mike MacKenzie’s office where I helped with various tasks like writing press releases, motions, and a research project among other things.
One of the best parts of working for Scottish Parliament was being able see the differences between Scottish and American government. In Scottish government, they oversee a lot of the services provided to people domestically, so they have a lot more control over water and infrastructure departments. The interactions between the bodies of government were interesting, but it was nothing compared to how people solved problems.
The MSPs were always available for their constituents needs, and they would investigate and take on cases that were for lower levels of government. My MSP was great at addressing the public’s calls and emails. He had several personal meetings with constituents and made his best effort to represent them in the chamber. The politicians in Scotland operate differently. Although political parties share significant differences and are big entities, the politics seem a lot more civil than in the U.S. It’s common for different party MSPs to get lunch together and share cabs, which helps them when negotiating.
While I was there, the majority party was the Scottish National Party (SNP), and they held the majority seat by many numbers. This last election, they’ve lost some seats, so it’ll be interesting to see how the politics play out.
Apart from the politics, the internship gave me a chance to interact with civil servants. My supervisor, Liz, was encouraging and patient from the second I arrived. She let me go through the files to see what projects the office had done in the past and gave me advice and feedback on projects I did. I went into this internship not having any concrete government experience, but I learned a lot during my time there.
My MSP was also very patient and kind when it came to projects and my stay in Scotland. If he had time, we would have tea and cake on Thursdays. We each had to share a story, either from history, books, or real life. He taught me about Scottish history and recommended Scottish books that are now on my reading list. He took his and I out to dinner, where we just had a long discussion just getting to know one another. It was different from any work environment I’d been in. It was relaxing and demanding at the same time which helped me develop a better understanding of the separation of work and personal life that school hadn’t allowed me.