Come the Holyrood election, I will have fourteen years’ experience in Local Government, in Administration and in Opposition, serving communities as a public representative and local decision maker. The vast majority of services used by our constituents, while funded by the Scottish Government, are delivered by Councils, and I know how Councils work; I can be a real and informed friend in Parliament for our Council groups and an advocate for locally delivered services.
My experience as a Council Leader has seen me have to forge good working relationships across Party lines and bring others on-board with SNP policies for the benefit of our communities.
For example, I was key to persuading the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats in COSLA to support an SNP motion backing the Scottish Government’s call for the devolution of borrowing and other powers to help us through this pandemic crisis. Every Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent Councillor backed my call when I eventually tabled a motion for voting on; I do not however hold my breath for a change in policy from the UK Government of course.
This diplomatic ability can hopefully be helpful in delivering for our constituents.
Speaking of COSLA and my ability to build good relationships, my relationship with Scottish Government Ministers has seen me working at the highest levels, advising the Scottish Government on Climate Change Policy and leading for the SNP across Scottish Local Government on Police and Fire Service reform, to ensure that our Party’s policies were able to be implemented for the benefit of our communities.
I have excellent relationships with the most senior member of the Party and have earned their respect. Even as a newly elected MSP, I will have open lines of communication with the Scottish Government and won’t have to work to build all my bridges. That can be of huge benefit to us locally.
I am just an ordinary person. Started campaigning for the party when I was 14, and have been part of every campaign we’ve had since then, and I joined up at 16. I know the grassroots of the party because I am one of us.
I have real life experience. I’ve lived on the poverty line, hand to mouth, deciding whether to put gas and electric in the meter or to buy a loaf.
I was a frontline care worker before being elected as a Councillor in 2007 and I’ve worked jobs in offices and in the great outdoors. Being out in the community working as a care worker, let me see how others struggled to get by with differing abilities and opportunities.
I’ve also lived with type 2 Bi-Polar disorder since I was 13/14, only being diagnosed and getting help in 2012, so I understand the stigma of mental health and the barriers, real and imagined, to getting the help you need.
I am also learning about other hidden disabilities, my partner Amanda lives with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, commonly known as M.E. or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The symptoms come and go and range for mild to severe with serious and chronic pain, yet the hardest part is ignoring the judgemental looks as she steps out of the car and walks to her wheelchair when we’re going to do a shop.
I’m also aware of my limitations and when I recruit my team, I’ll build it wisely, and when I need specialist input I’ll seek advice from experts. I know what I know and I know what I don’t know and I’m not the sort of person to try and bluff my way through with non-answers and bluster; there’s nothing wrong with saying I don’t know but I’ll find out. I’m about doing whatever needs doing to get the best outcome for the people I represent.
I strongly feel that more than anything, we need honest politicians who don’t try to be something they’re not for the sake of saving face. Be who you are and be sincere and people will respect and trust you for it.
All of that is to say that I’m not a typical career politician. I’m a real person who wants to represent this region, our communities, our members and our party, and to do so in an honest and straightforward way.
I want independence for our country and the only way we will achieve that is by showing that we are competent and credible at all levels. I would not put myself forward for your consideration if I did not honestly believe I could represent the Scottish National Party well.