WHEN Jacqueline Cameron discovered she had been chosen as the SNP candidate who will fight to replace Mhairi Black at Westminster, there was one person she wanted to tell more than anyone - her mum.

Tragically, two days before the result of the ballot was released, her mum Margaret had died following a severe decline in her health over the past year. 

Cameron, 55, says she remains in disbelief she can’t just tell her the good news and is finding the grief particularly difficult to process given she also lost her sister Lynne in the run-up to the local elections in 2017, where she was elected as a councillor in Renfrewshire.

“I just couldn’t believe I couldn’t tell her. I’ve still not got my head around [the fact] she’s not there,” she told The National.

“My sister died during the 2017 election campaign so there’s a horrible sense of déjà vu about it all.  She didn’t get to know I was going to be a councillor and my mum didn’t get to know I’d won this contest.

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“I was pleased and relieved when I found out I was the candidate, but it was secondary. It just felt a wee bit wrong because I was getting all these messages of congratulations and that was nice, but it didn’t feel right having lost my mum two days earlier.

“We had just got back from the funeral directors and were still reeling from the gruelling questions. It was a blur of feelings really.”

Despite not having much of an interest in politics, Margaret clearly encouraged her daughter having pushed her to go to the recent SNP conference even though she had recently been told she may have ovarian cancer.

Margaret (below) died just a few days later aged 76 when both Cameron and her dad Gus were holding her hands as she went.

“We told her we loved her and just before she went she opened her eyes and looked at my dad,” she said.

“As things go, it couldn’t have been anymore more peaceful really, which is a cold comfort, but still a comfort.”

The National:

Cameron – who is currently depute leader of Renfrewshire Council - will attempt to hold onto the Paisley and Renfrewshire South seat for the SNP at the General Election, which has been famously held by the vocal Black since 2015.

Although the SNP’s majority was reasonably strong in 2019, it is traditionally a Labour stronghold and Cameron has insisted it will be difficult to retain.

However, she remains up for the challenge and has not been phased by the SNP's deputy Westminster leader's claims of a “toxic” culture down in London.

She added: “I was asked whether I was tough enough at hustings to handle Westminster and what I said was that I worked 10 years in an organisation where there was quite a toxic culture.

“One of my ex-colleagues sent me a message saying ‘if you can put up with that, then Westminster will be a skoosh’. I’ve had a long career and I’ve been in lots of tough environments. I know how to handle it.

“My default position is nice, that’s how I treat everyone, with compassion and respect, but I’ve got a very strong, resilient core.

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“I think what we [the SNP] need to think about is, it’s not going to be an easy one [retaining the seat], and we just need to get our support out.

"Andy [Steel, fellow councillor] and I are determined we’re going to get out and just chap doors and talk to people. That’s when you galvanise support and people appreciate you’ve come to the door.

“The SNP is just such a broad church of opinions. You’ve got someone who says we’re not doing enough about independence and someone else who says we need to calm down on it. It’s quite hard to appeal to everyone, so I just need to think about what my values are and hope that people align with them.”

Although independence will be front and centre of her campaign, Cameron (below) is currently chair of the Fairer Renfrewshire sub-committee - a council taskforce formed to tackle the cost-of-living crisis – and so will also have a strong focus on tackling poverty and fighting to get people financial support.

One of the things she would like to see happen if she gets elected would be for the UK Government to bring back the £20 uplift to Universal Credit that was in place during the pandemic.

The National: Jacqueline Cameron

The councillor for Johnstone South and Elderslie ward said: “I’m very conscious of people struggling. The £20 uplift for Universal Credit lifted thousands of children out of poverty. Westminster can afford that and it would make such a difference.”

There are many people behind Cameron hoping she can keep the seat yellow for the SNP, and none more so than the band Franz Ferdinand who released a song about her in 2004.

Cameron once dated the band’s drummer Paul Thomson when she was living in Glasgow and once told Alex Kapranos – the lead singer – about a time she met cult poet Ivor Cutler while working in a poetry library in London in her 20s.

Cutler, despite being 72, attempted to chat the horrified 26-year-old Cameron up, which ultimately served as the inspiration for the song Jacqueline.

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It’s something she’s been asked about plenty over the years and Cameron said they had been in touch following her bittersweet success.

Cameron said: “Alex has been in touch and he’s delighted. Bob and Paul as well. They were in touch about my mum but also about the contest.”

She added: “My mum didn’t think Westminster was for me. She just said they shout at each other like a bunch of weans! But she would have been proud [of my candidacy] and I’ll always have her voice in my ear."