ON May 6, 2021, I was honoured to be elected by the people of Uddingston and Bellshill as their constituency MSP. It was a humbling day. One year later, I have not forgotten the immense pride I felt at being entrusted by my own community to represent them. Indeed, the trust placed in me on that day is something that is ever present and it is what has motivated me every day since.

First and foremost, the past year been an enormous privilege. Despite having lived in the constituency almost all my life, becoming its MSP has given me the opportunity to meet so many inspiring people, voluntary organisations and businesses that had previously been invisible to me.   I have heard many stories of compassion, innovation, partnership and success. It has been a joy to hear them and a pleasure to bring some of these hidden gems to a wider audience across the constituency and indeed across Scotland.

During the past year, I have lodged more than 60 motions in the Scottish Parliament recognising the wonderful achievements of so many across the constituency.  It has been heartwarming to promote the often humble, unsung local heroes working quietly and tirelessly among us to improve our communities and support our neighbours. 

It has been so satisfying to share news of major academic, scientific and sporting achievements by local people. It has also been exciting to promote the launch of new cultural and food and drink events, which are so important as we build back local confidence. In Parliament, I have challenged myself to speak in a series of debates, with a particular focus on areas of local or personal resonance.  I have made speeches covering topics ranging from apprenticeships to long Covid.  I have tried to ensure I embed local illustrations and voices into my speeches. So many local people have important stories to tell and more importantly wonderful ideas to respond to the big challenges that face us. It is my job to ensure that these local voices are heard.

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Outside of the Holyrood chamber that everyone is familiar with, I am also a member of two enormously important committees that have a vital role in shaping our collective futures – the Education, Children and Young People Committee and the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee. On the days the Scottish Parliament is not sitting, you will find me out and about doing what I love best – talking to people.  It has been inspiring to talk with young people across the constituency. Their views on a whole range of matters have given me plenty of food for thought, particularly on the climate emergency. Visiting schools and talking with students is something that will also be important to me.  

It is clear from the conversations I have had, as well as the correspondence I receive, many local people are facing huge challenges. In the past year, my constituency team has responded to around 850 matters raised by constituents. Health, housing, education, transport, social care and the environment are the most common type of cases being managed each week. Unsurprisingly, during the height of the pandemic health issues were the most prominent types of cases we worked through on behalf of constituents. But every case is unique and every matter raised by local people is important to my team.  I want to take this opportunity to thank my wonderful team, who have supported local people magnificently. I feel truly blessed to work with such an empathetic group.

Politics can sometimes appear hostile and divisive. I am happy to say I don’t see much of this. Rather, I am surrounded by colleagues who are determined to make a positive difference in the communities they represent.

It can be challenging getting the work-life balance right, particularly whilst Parliament is sitting, but I am so grateful to be blessed with a great partner and three wonderful children who continue to support me 100%.

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I set out to put kindness and compassion at the heart of my work as an MSP. Nothing over the past year has changed my thinking. Similarly, Scottish independence remains my driving passion. It is the one thing that will unlock Scotland’s real potential.    

My first year in office has been frenetic, it has been scary, it has been emotional, but most importantly, it has been humbling.  I have learned so much about myself, our communities and our businesses.  I see the challenges, but I also see the opportunities. Over the next year, I am determined to play my part in supporting people as they face these challenges and I am driven to seize the opportunities to enhance the lives of everyone living and working across Uddingston and Bellshill.