Work Experience in the Scottish Government

A Work Experience Student from James Hamilton Academy, Kilmarnock writes about ‘life as a Civil Servant’ for a week.

Why politics at 14?

At the age of 14, the Scottish Independence Referendum had a major impact on my outlook on life and my goals. As a strong Yes supporter without a vote I was extremely heartbroken when the results came through and Clackmannanshire set the tone for the night. After the vote, I didn’t give up, I became an activist. Over the last two years I have been extremely interested in politics and have been encouraged to do something about the huge unfairness on the working class of Scotland. I have been trying to improve my political knowledge and experience in any way possible. When I found out about the Fairer Scotland event in Kilmarnock, I knew I just had to go.

I was majorly impressed to hear that Government were going out and about into communities to let them have their say on a Fairer Scotland. When have the government previously journeyed to Kilmarnock to actually listen to the views of the people? I went along with a few friends from Yes East Ayrshire and was really amazed at the set up! I had the image of a formal meeting, suits, rows of seats and hushed silences not tables with sticky notes and pens, people in jeans and t-shirts and to actually have a discussion led by the people who were in the room not someone talking to us.

How did I end up in 5 Atlantic Quay for a week?

Being the youngest person at the event at 15, I felt this gave me an ideal opportunity to give my personal input on issues surrounding the youth and how the Scottish Government could help with this. After giving my views around the table and after some debating with my fellow participators Karen – an amazingly kind, hardworking member of the Social Justice team – mentioned the opportunity to do work experience in the Scottish Government if that would be of interest to me? Obviously I was delighted! I was hugely interested in the work of the Government and thought this would be a great opportunity to really find out.

I arranged my work experience with the school and was shocked at how bad the WorkIt system was for pupils. WorkIt is a ‘web application which provides pupils, school and local authority coordinators and Health and Safety officers with a single point of contact as they plan, prepare and take part in work placements. It ensures that everyone is kept informed and can track their involvement in the work placement programme.’.

It definitely doesn’t do what it says on the tin…….. It has hardly any work experience that related to pupils preferences and also their preferred future aims in relation to jobs. I was one of the extremely lucky pupils who got something which could be useful to them in the future. Most were stuck in Kilmarnock doing jobs such as cleaning a gym and being a barista for a week when they wanted to be a mortician or a graphic designer! I’m also very lucky as I have been able to travel to Glasgow to do this. I was the only pupil allowed to leave the Kilmarnock area! I was lucky I got out without being tagged.

The anticipation, visions and surprises

On the build-up to my first day I had formed a vision in my head of the building being immensely bland, and for the staff to be super formal, smart and very ‘yes minister’ type. Well, what I surprise I got, huge glass tower, funky décor, modern, spacious, good IT equipment and decent grub. And the civil servants of Atlantic Quay wore pink glittery lanywards, jeans, trainers, t-shirts, some suits, dresses, colourful  and even mosher style. All smart but casual and smiling, didn’t think that would happen! Everyone I met was so friendly and happy to talk to you! I was worried that they would look down on me as a working class girl from Ayrshire but it was the complete opposite. I was so lucky to be met with such an amazing team in the Social Justice and Regeneration Division. It was made up by some of the best people you could meet. They were all so welcoming and I felt part of the team straight away.

There was one thing though…

Despite the positives, there were a few things I noticed that I feel needs to be addressed. The lack of ethnic minorities within the government I feel is concerning, it’s an issue in politics in general but also in Scotland and the UK in general. Much more needs to be done to get those who wouldn’t normally be interested in politics or those who are deterred involved. Another thing I noticed was  the lack of those with disabilities within the government. I understand that people from within Government are trying to change these issues and I welcome this and give full support. I felt comfortable enough to feed this back this back to the division who seem to have taken it on board.

Day 1 – Antics and excitement

I was introduced to the House Team and was given a tour around the windowed roasting glass tower. I was happy to hear of the partnership between John Paul Academy, in Summerston, and the Scottish Government. We need more youth involvement in both politics and Government. My favourite part of the day and week was that I met with policy officials from zero hours contracts. I grasped this opportunity with both hands to engage in a debate and give my side of the argument. It was truly a memorable debate and feel that my points were listened to but understood the challenges that Scottish Government face and how difficult it is for them to change things for the better.

Day 2 – Unique Opportunities

On Tuesday my schedule was changed last minute to include a meeting with Jeane Freeman, the new Minister for Social Security. Believe it or not, not many civil servants actually meet the Ministers that they serve let alone having them come in and personally meet their team.

After my introduction to Minister I spoke to the Social Justice Delivery team who focus on food poverty and informed about the government’s plans and actions to help those in need. I was surprised to hear of the work Centrestage does within my area in Ayrshire. I had no idea of the work that went on literally up my street.

Despite not being able to meet those who focus on the Named Persons Act I had the opportunity to email them with questions as this is an area I’m interested in and sceptical on. I was glad that the team I was working with were doing all they could to give me as much experience as possible.

Day 3 – A trip to the Capital

Off to Edinburgh to meet the Elections Team and visit the Young Scot. When Shona – an energetic, spectacular team member with hope and real life experience – and I got to St Andrew’s House we spoke with the Team Leader of the elections team who Shona used to work with. She informed me about the work they do but also that the day was unique due to the issue of the registration to vote in the EU referendum had crashed and they had to prepare for the possibility of it coming up in First Ministers Questions. The whole building was buzzing and a bit more stressed than usual.  It really was a unique experience for anyone in Government but as an ‘outsider’ it was fascinating.

Next stop was to find out about the work of Young Scot as I had no idea of all the work they done.  Most young people my age just know about the card and the discounts available but I don’t feel that they truly showcase the other amazing work that they do. They do a lot of great stuff such as day schools and giving young people the opportunity to work in teams to create new innovative ideas.

Day 4 – My 15 minutes of fame

On day one and within an hour of starting they asked if I would be willing to deliver a presentation on my working week. It was to be delivered at a Divisional meeting and I had the scope to deliver it however was most comfortable for me. I chose just to talk and had a PowerPoint to speak to – the latter designed by Andrew, a diligent worker who was an incredible pleasure to be a fellow team member with. It went down a treat and I was thankfully for all the amazing and positive feedback. It was great to get this experience as I quite enjoy public speaking but being able to present to a division in the government is a very original experience for anyone let alone a 15 year old girl from Ayrshire.

After my 15 minutes of fame I found out more on the Modern Apprenticeships and Graduate Interns in the Scottish Government and thought this was a good opportunity for youth to get involved in areas like the government if they felt school wasn’t for them.

Day 5 – The end of this journey but the start of another

Friday was sadly my last day. I was truly disappointed that I had to leave such an amazing environment and team but was so thankful for the opportunity to actually get into the Government  and witness first-hand the hard work of the civil servants and how all the cogs work behind the scenes.

I feel that too much thanks and praise is placed on MSPs and ministers. In reality it is the civil servants that are the real cement in the government and keeping things together. Overall I have enjoyed my time at the Scottish Government so much and I am so glad I had the amazing chance to experience the ‘life of a civil servant’.

I am looking forward to the next part of my political journey whether it be in the Civil Service or challenging them. We shall see what doors and opportunities open for me as I start chapping away and having my voice heard.


To find out more please see the following links

The story so far….

Fairer Scotland


Since June last year the Fairer Scotland conversation has been going strong throughout the country. People have had their say on how they perceive Scotland to be fairer and what has to change to help us all achieve that goal. We encourage people to continue this conversation during this difficult time following the EU Referendum.

On the 14 March 2016 we published ‘Creating a Fairer Scotland, What Matters to You, Summary Report’. The aim of this report is to provide a snapshot of the key issues raised during the discussions. It does not represent a national or representative view.

Our next step is to publish an Fairer Scotland Action Plan during summer 2016. More of this to follow soon.

A New Future for Social Security in Scotland


On the same day we published the summary report we also published ‘Creating A Fairer Scotland: A New Future for Social Security in Scotland’. This is the first look at how Scotland will build a new Social Security system for the people of Scotland and to ensure that at the heart of it all is to be fair and treats everyone with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

The Fantastic Four of Southcraig Campus

An inspirational chat with four awesome students…..truly the ’Fantastic Four’.

On the 10th November I had the honour of meeting four remarkable young adults at Southcraig Campus, Ayr. Their teacher, Yvonne, had written to the Fairer Scotland Team [via the mailbox!] inviting me to talk with the fantastic pupils of Southcraig campus, who had something to say about a ‘Fairer Scotland by 2030’.

The students of Southcraig are all on the autism spectrum and often have very complex additional and/or supporting needs. There are 97 students, from pre-school to 19 years-of-age, with a comparable number of teachers on-hand to support through their school years.

Some of the students need one-one support. The four students I met with – Harley, Rory, Louis and Zoe – were in the senior phase of their schooling, aged between 15 and 19. My fantastic four, all of whom have additional and complex needs in everyday life and learning.

We started with an explanation of the Fairer Scotland initiative and discussed how it was important to have our say in this. We then focused on what fair and unfair mean, using scenarios on cards to decide if a situation was fair or unfair.

The four picked 6 topics that were of most importance to them. Over a five week period they discussed the topics and articulated their thoughts of ’what mattered to them?’ on a poster and a video.

What was different?
Through the entire Fairer Scotland journey – meeting dozens of communities and organisations – the team often returned to a central issue. That of Social inequality. This visit was no different.

What was different was the way the four described their vision for the future, designing their own posters to express what they believed Scotland would look like. In fact, what a fairer country looks like.

Not only did they design an amazing poster, but they also had the courage to stand up and speak about their ideal world as part of an ‘SVQ N2 Talking and Listening’ class award. They delivered their visions with confidence and pride – in front of the camera (something that a lot of people would find too intimidating to even contemplate).

What mattered to them?
Some of the common elements central to the Fairer Scotland conversation include areas like housing, welfare reform, health and income and employment. However, Harley, Rory, Louis and Zoe’s focused on:

  • Being safe
  • Money
  • Being healthy
  • Jobs
  • Being Equal and
  • Being included.

The leading light for the Fantastic Four was their wonderful teacher, Yvonne Cameron. From the outset, Yvonne was on-hand to help them with their conversation, ensuring the students said what they wanted to say.

“We started with an explanation of the Fairer Scotland initiative and discussed how it was important to have our say in this. We then focused on what fair and unfair mean, using scenarios on cards to decide if a situation was fair or unfair.

We moved on to discuss what is important to young people in a Fairer Scotland. Each week we looked at a different aspect eg. money, jobs, equality, good health, being safe, being valued and most importantly for our young people, inclusion. We discussed this fully and then videoed each individual pupil’s input. During the Scottish Government visit we looked at all of the contributions and challenged our young people to narrow their suggestions down to the most important item to them under each heading.

This has been a really interesting and enlightening project. I have known these four young people for several years and through this class I know a lot more about what is important to them.”

Sure enough, all four students had a lot to say about the kind of Scotland we all want to see.

Zoe’s Vision
Zoe would like to see:

  • Being equal – people who sign should get the same chances
  • Money – families should have enough so that poor people can get home
  • Being healthy – looking after the environment keeps us healthy
  • Being included – people should play together and not leave anybody out
  • Jobs – jobs should have good wages
  • Being safe – tell the police if you are getting bullied. If you don’t, they can’t help you.
15-year-old girl standing next to a poster of how he sees a 'Fairer Scotland' by 2030.
15-year-old Zoe just wants “To learn skills to go to work”.

Zoe is interested in drama and is a very confident and articulated speaker. She said she was nervous, but you would never have known. She was brilliant. Zoe is the youngest of the group and explained that she often feels safer at home – just now, she couldn’t think about being on her own.

Rory’s Vision
Rory would like to see:

  • Being equal – people in wheelchairs should get the same chances
  • Money – more money to live on my own and money to go to college
  • Being healthy – going to the dentist gives me healthy teeth
  • Being included – ramps for buildings
  • Jobs – to learn skills to go to work
  • Being safe – hospitals keep us safe.
A lad standing next to a poster of how he sees a 'Fairer Scotland' by 2030.
Rory would like to see “People in wheelchairs should get the same chances.”

Rory would like to be able to live on his own one day. He was very shy, but delivered his story very well, and was proud that he done it. We all were. Rory was very interested in ensuring he had the opportunity to speak up for his friends in school. He felt many of them would not feel confident speaking out about the issues and difficulties they face, on a day-to-day basis. He explained that many of them felt they simply didn’t have the same chances as others, because they were in a wheelchair. It was a very admirable and thoughtful gesture, and I was taken back by Rory’s selflessness in thinking about his fellow students.

Harley’s Story
Harley – AKA ‘Miss Chatterbox’ – was on the ball from the outset, and a fantastic host. Harley wanted to see:

  • Being equal – boys and girls have the same chances
  • Money – more money for people to buy food
  • Being healthy – opportunities to go to free dancing and exercise classes keeps us healthy
  • Being included – everybody should have the chance to play
  • Jobs – work experience like “work out” will help me get a job
  • Being safe – I don’t want to live on my own. I want to stay with my mum and dad. They keep me safe.
A girl standing next to a poster of how he sees a 'Fairer Scotland' by 2030.
15-year-old Harley wants “Opportunities to go to free dancing and exercise classes keeps us healthy.”

Harley’s passion is dancing and exercise and she often accompanies her sister, a dance teacher, at classes. She loves keeping fit and being a social butterfly. Harley is the oldest of the group and it was clear that she really cares for her fellow students and the teachers. She really does have a heart of gold.

Louis’s Story

17-year-old lad standing next to a poster of how he sees a 'Fairer Scotland' by 2030.
17-year-old Louis just wants “People should treat me the age I am”.

Louis is a tall, strong, strapping lad who can’t wait to live on his own. All he wants is to be treated as an adult, and the thriving 17-year-old he is – not as a child. Louis is passionate about web access for all, so he can learn and gather advice on things that he is interested in.

  • Being equal – everyone should have access to Youtube
  • Money – we need more money in schools to buy things for leisure time and fun
  • Being healthy – getting the chance to eat cheap healthy food and drink bottled water
  • Being included – people should treat me the age I am
  • Jobs – get the chance to go to work
  • Being safe – watch out for animals. Keep animals safe. I don’t want to see animals run over.

My Fantastic Four were uber excited to have us along as it gave them the chance to have their voices heard by the Scottish Government. They put a lot of time and effort into their projects and were delighted that they could showcase them for us.

From the outset of the Fairer Scotland conversation, the Scottish Government wanted to engage with and encourage people across Scotland – in particular those with lived experiences of inequalities and who don’t normally get the chance to discuss the things that are important to them.

Harley, Rory, Louis and Zoe certainly did that – and in the most dynamic, interesting and fun way. It really was a truly memorable experience.

What next?
The Fairer Scotland conversation is on-going. We want to make sure we continue to engage with those who have helped us through this journey so far. Now, we plan to delve a bit deeper into “what’s changed?” and “what still has to be done?“.

My Fantastic Four are going to help me kick start this next chapter, and I’ll make sure they are very much part of this adventure. ‘Real Lives, Real People’.

Watch this space.

More information
Southcraig Campus, Ayr
Southcraig Campus, Ayr, is a Primary and secondary special school for pupils with additional support needs.

Autistic Spectrum
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.

Enhanced by our diversity, combined by our humanity…

BEMIS Scotland host their lively Fairer Scotland conversation in Perth on 24th November.
BEMIS Scotland host their lively Fairer Scotland conversation in Perth on 24th November.
Danny Boyle (Parliamentary and Policy Officer – BEMIS Scotland).

Previously as part of the Fairer Scotland conversations BEMIS had submitted a blog encouraging diverse communities to stay politically engaged in post referendum Scotland regardless of their political allegiances.

The truth is that ‘Fairer Scotland’ equality issues, and in particular ‘Race Equality’ and all that that entails will only ever be adequately enhanced by experienced, informed, diverse citizens pro-actively shaping the communities, sectors and services in which our lives evolve and interact.

Details of the small grants programme from BEMIS Scotland
Details of the small grants programme from BEMIS Scotland
Scotland’s future is a collage of identities, expertise, history, oral tradition and cultural characteristics. In this context, the sub-heading for a Fairer Scotland could read ‘enhanced by our diversity – combined by our humanity’.

As we strive to create a ‘Fairer Scotland’ sometimes it is important to stop, reflect and allow ourselves some time to consider where we are at this moment in time? The world is in the midst of volatile and often overwhelming global challenges.

Domestically our most vulnerable communities face a decade of further austerity and an onslaught of financial responsibility they neither sought, created nor benefit from.

Since the devastating events in Paris the veneer of ‘tolerance’ has been lifted for some people who have used this social trauma as an excuse to vent their own deep-seated prejudice, bigotry and racism.

The hard truth however is that in reality the ‘Scotland’ they think they live in and are defending has never existed, apart from in their own heads, ignorance and bile cultivated by their own cultural deficit.

Scotland has been shaped by millennia of global influence. Our national instrument, the Bagpipes, are most likely from Ancient Mesopotamia (Modern day Syria and Iraq), the time signatures which drive our music are shared by India, Pakistan and many others international communities.

Arabic has been a spoken language in Scotland since the 12th century, why? Because Christian bishops decreed that you could only fully appreciate the sentiments of the bible if you could speak a ‘Semitic’ language.

In short the global influence on our day to day lives in Scotland is profound. The direct influence of countless generations of migration underpinned by intangible cultural heritage.

Over the coming 10 weeks we will go full circle and the global cultural characteristics of Scotland will come alive is a stramash of diverse community celebrations focussing on St. Andrews weekend, The Winter Festival season and Burns day. The 65 diverse local community events taking place as part of the BEMIS / Scottish Government led Year of Food and Drink and Winter Festival celebrations represent Scotland’s past, present and future.

Domestically, a Fairer Scotland is not merely about initiating new policies and structures but rather about enhancing and advancing the rights and responsibilities of the diverse communities, collectively and individually.

Part of Scotland has always been – and is eternally – African, South Asian, Middle and Far Eastern, European and all the diversity of culture, language, religion and beliefs inherent around the globe.

In relation to a Fairer Scotland we should be:

  • comfortable recognising these influences on Scotland and retrospectively Scotland’s place and influence in the world, for better or worse
  • brave enough to acknowledge, in a spirit of reconciliation and acknowledgement the influence of Empire in Scotland and Scotland’s place in the Empire.

Danny Boyle maps the ideas from the BEMIS Fairer Scotland conversation in Perth on 24th November.
Danny Boyle maps the ideas from the BEMIS Fairer Scotland conversation in Perth on 24th November.

Domestically, a Fairer Scotland is not merely about initiating new policies and structures but rather about enhancing and advancing the rights and responsibilities of the diverse communities, collectively and individually.

It is time we acknowledged that we all have a role to play in this process when we start functioning as responsible active citizens who equally contribute towards building, sustaining and advancing a fairer country for all.

Thus, through our endeavour to advance and progress a Fairer Scotland, it is a prerequisite that we, as diverse communities, continue to play a positive part in this process harnessing the most cherished environment of participative democracy that we all experienced through the referendum.

In a Fairer Scotland, we have a duty to pledge and enrich relevant debates in relation to equality, rights and responsibilities, diversity and citizenship as well as a dynamic inclusive identity.

Creating a Fairer Scotland, the people’s conversation

The 2014 Independence Referendum was the catalyst for a titanic increase in participative, diverse, democratic citizenship.
The 2014 Independence Referendum was the catalyst for a titanic increase in participative, diverse, democratic citizenship.

Danny Boyle (Parliamentary and Policy Officer – BEMIS Scotland).

Scotland is changing. The public appetite for progressive, informed and collaborative development within issues which affect our everyday lives and those of future generations has showed little sign of abating since September 18th 2014.

Social Justice is both personal and at the heart of our communal aspirations. It is an experience we want to live in our everyday lives and a process through which we strive to make Scotland a country which reflects the potential and diversity of its citizens.

The 2014 Independence Referendum was the catalyst for a titanic increase in participative, diverse, democratic citizenship. Inherent within this process were the hopes and aspirations of the people of Scotland. Amongst others education, health, employment, housing, equality, human rights, internationalism, trident and Scotland’s place in the UK and the world were articulately debated, considered and discussed in front of global audience.

From the streets, civic and community centres of our cities, towns and villages. Down the local pub, around the dinner table and in churches, mosques, synagogues and temples the richness, confident and dynamic diversity of the people of Scotland evolved into questions, solutions, aspirations and belief built around a pivot of social justice.

The 2014 Independence Referendum was the catalyst for a titanic increase in participative, diverse, democratic citizenship. Inherent within this process were the hopes and aspirations of the people of Scotland.

The Social Justice agenda is not new. It has been a cornerstone of political theory and discussion since the foundations of representative and equitable framework of governance were set down and progressed by the ancient Greeks.

Danny Boyle, Parliamentary and Policy Officer [BEMIS Scotland]
Danny Boyle, Parliamentary and Policy Officer [BEMIS Scotland]
At its heart is creating fair and equitable responses to the needs of diverse citizens. Not elite groups or vested interests and certainly not systems upon which the criteria for social justice is benchmarked against a profit sheet.

A true democracy underpinned by an objective of ‘social justice’ will always place the people at the heart of the process, in its inception, development and implementation. A process articulated by diverse people, with varying interests combined by a spirit of humanity, cultural diversity and active citizenship.

In 2015 Scotland has never been more diverse. The 2011 Scottish Census indicated that over 8% of the population identified themselves as being from ethnic or cultural minority communities. Within this 8% there are intricate, nuanced and beautifully unique identities which offer significant opportunities for Scotland.

In the context of the social justice process our diversity is a strength. Invigorating and informed ideas reside within us all regardless of age, disability, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion or belief.

People and communities are also best placed to articulate what ‘social justice’ means to them. As it’s experienced on a day to day basis. How the process should be informed and how it can be made better in the days, weeks, months, years and decades to come.

In truth it should never end but it must come alongside action, outcomes and tangible change.

Scotland, all of us, are in an advantageous place to continue the process of social justice and it is right that the emphasis on its design should reside in the knowledge and experience of diverse citizens.

BEMIS Scotland are the national Ethnic and Cultural Minorities led umbrella body supporting the development of the Ethnic Minorities Voluntary Sector in Scotland and the communities that this sector represents.

Our vision is of a Scotland that is equal, inclusive and responsive: A society where:

  • people from the diverse communities are valued, treated with dignity and respect
  • have equal citizenship, opportunities and equality of life
  • and who actively participate in civic society.