SHE made history as the first MSP to take the oath in Holyrood using British Sign Language.

Now Karen Adam has opened up about how she plans to use her life experiences – including growing up in a same-sex home, being a teenage mum, surviving an abusive relationship and being a member of the Mormon Church – to help others in her new parliamentary role.

The SNP MSP told the Sunday National: “If there is anything I have learned in life it is I understand the barriers there are for people out there.

“It is something I am determined to break down.”

Adam won the Banffshire and Buchan Coast seat in the north east of Scotland in May’s Holyrood election. She was previously a councillor in Aberdeenshire.

The 45-year-old, who has six children between the ages of nine and 30, faced challenges and took on caring responsibilities from an early age.

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She said: “I was brought up in a same-sex home, with my mum and her partner. That was throughout the 80s, so that was quite a challenging time really.

“There were a lot of questions from peers, some bullying and teasing and that kind of thing.

“My dad, who is deaf, was still very much part of my life, so I was also a translator for my dad from a very young age whenever we were out and about in public.”

The National:

Her first child was born just after she turned 16 and she married at the age of 19.

She said: “It was a teenage pregnancy and then I ended up marrying up very young to her father. He was a heroin addict, and he was also abusive.

“It was extremely difficult; I had no experience navigating any kind of serious long-term relationship or commitments.

“It was something I found really difficult to get out of. I was back and forth to him quite a lot of times.

“I didn’t tell anyone it was happening. He tended to be violent at some moments – at one point I did think I was actually going to die when he was attacking me.

“I didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t even tell my family or his family a lot of what was going on at that time – I was ashamed and embarrassed for some reason, I don’t know.

“I think because I was such a young mother, I had something to prove. I have always been a very determined person and I thought ‘I will prove you wrong’, I was hearing all these naysayers saying you can’t have a child that young; you will never be able to do it.

“So, I think I didn’t want people to think I was failing in this family set-up, that I could do it – so there was part of the pressure as well to be successful.

“It ended up I just had enough of it – it did come close to a very serious situation, so I moved away to get away from him.”

After divorcing her husband, Adam says she “threw herself” into the Mormon Church, which she was a member of for around 20 years.

She said she always felt restricted by her faith, particularly as a woman and now regrets allowing Mormonism to “consume my life for the length of time it did”.

During that time, she married again and had another five children, but the relationship fell apart when her husband had an affair.

After they divorced and she left the Mormon Church, she started to get involved in politics.

Her mum and dad were SNP supporters, and like many others, she joined the party the day after the independence referendum of 2014.

“I just found I was much more empowered as a person, getting involved in being a political activist,” she said.

“I found my niche – something that just brought so much positivity to my life, I found a purpose, something that was for myself. I am a person who is quite triggered by injustice and social injustice, and I could see a case for a socially just and inclusive Scotland.”

When she became a councillor, she was determined to use her own experiences to tackle issues, including helping and supporting women who have experienced domestic violence.

She added: “The first thing I did when I became a councillor was approach the council in regards to their autism strategy which was completely out of date.

“They are continuing to work on that now – that is something I really pressed on, as I had lived experience of that with my own son within the education system. I also saw the British Sign Language plan that came before us and I was able to scrutinise that along with my dad and the connections I had within the deaf community, to make sure the plan was absolutely what it needed to be.”

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Adam said the Mormon religion was “very patriarchal” and it was only when she left, she realised the barriers for women.

She said it is vital to have women in politics shaping policies, such as the baby box.

ONE of the issues she is most passionate about is recognising the value of unpaid care, while she also wants to tackle the stigma around claiming benefits.

“When I was staying at home for 20 years because I wasn’t working, I was a carer, I did a lot of volunteer work within my community,” she said.

“But I didn’t get paid for any of that. And when my husband left, and I was on my own with five children still at home, I had to depend on the welfare system.

“I realised I had not contributed enough National Insurance, even to have a pension.

“Even though I had worked really hard in my life, it contributed nothing financially to myself or my family. I didn’t have any security – my future was looking quite destitute. It is really important we get women’s issues at the heart of government, and we recognise the importance of unpaid care.”

Adam said it is not only important to encourage people into politics, but also to provide an environment where they can juggle responsibilities at home with their career.

“We can encourage as many people as we want into politics, but what are we doing to help them once they are in there?” she said.

“Are we making sure they can still do school pickups and drop offs, attend important events in their children’s lives, a disabled family member’s life, or help elderly parents?

“It is really important we are not just encouraging people to come forward, but that we make it an environment where they can thrive in.

“But I would certainly encourage everybody to come forward, as the more diverse people we have, the more there is pressure to change the system.”

She said the message she would give to her younger self would be to “believe in yourself”.

“I think my 15-year-old self was maybe just as much determined as I am now – although a lot more naive,” she said.

“Regardless of what happens in life, try and learn a lesson from it, take that experience on – and use it.”