New Blood: In the run-up to election day in Scotland, we profile some of the candidates hoping to become MSPs, such as Gillian Martin in Aberdeenshire East who stands for the SNP.

LIKE tens of thousands of others, Gillian Martin joined the SNP on the morning of September 19, 2014, writes Kathleen Nut.

The college lecturer became politically active during the independence referendum campaign, at first through the cultural organisation the National Collective, before heading the Women for Independence organisation in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

“I was at the count in Aberdeen when it became obvious we hadn’t won,” she says.

“I was standing outside with my friend Mark McDonald, the SNP MSP. Mark had been on at me for a long, long time about joining the SNP, and I had kept saying to him, ‘Oh no, I like to have my own views’.

“But after the result I just turned to Mark and said, ‘I have to join’. I felt I had to step up and put myself forward. I had spent the last year or so persuading women to be more involved in politics, and it was only right that my actions should follow my words.”

Martin, 47, a former pupil of Ellon Academy, believes she would have been content as an activist but quickly found herself approached to stand as a candidate in last year’s General Election.

She made it through the party’s vetting procedures, but missed out on selection by the party.

However, she was philosophical about her internal defeat and quickly threw herself into the campaign to get the former first minister Alex Salmond elected for Gordon.

The day after his election, Martin was approached to stand as a candidate in the Scottish Parliament elections in Salmond’s Holyrood seat of Aberdeenshire East and she decided to go for it. The SNP’s only other candidate for the constituency, former party staffer Jennifer Dempsie, pulled out at the last minute and Martin was subsequently endorsed.

She had worked for 15 years as a college lecturer in TV production, as well as run her own television production company, but says getting to grips with being a political newcomer was a big challenge.

“I’ve been a lecturer in higher education, run a small business, raised a family – so I have a huge chunk of experience behind me, but it has been a daunting experience,” she reveals.

“A lot of people who traditionally become candidates are steeped in politics, perhaps in student politics and youth politics. They have done a fantastic training course, but if you’ve never been involved in the mechanics of party politics, are not familiar with its etiquette you face a steep learning experience.”

Martin has been boosted by the support of local politicians, as well as her husband John, a teacher at Turriff Academy, and children Louis, 17, and Eve, 13.

If elected, Martin says her priorities will be campaigning to improve infrastructure, including the role of broadband, and more support for those affected by the downturn in the oil and gas sector.

“The downturn in the oil and gas sector is affecting people very much in the region,” she says.

“Just taking a snapshot of my campaign, one of my campaign members was recently let go by his company after 25 years and a lot of families are affected.

“People have either lost their job, had their hours cut or forced to take a drop in rate. It’s been a shocker.

“We have an opportunity to keep engineering skills in the area and allow people to transfer them to the renewable energy sector but we need to act swiftly to prevent people leaving the area rather than retraining for jobs locally.”