ON International Women’s Day, the world comes together to celebrate the strength and power of women everywhere. This IWD falls on my 50th birthday, so I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be a woman and what inspires me.

The dreams and ambitions of a younger me came with the energy and optimism of youth that made anything seem possible but the realities of life’s journey are where the real lessons are.

We red-headed Scots women are expected to have fire in our bellies, and I do try not to let the side down. The past few years have taught me that keeping the passion for achieving your dreams alive is not a solo effort – collective strength can move mountains when we boost each other up when we flag.

The National: Dolly Parton performing at Glastonbury Festival back in 2014. Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

I’ve just been listening to Pitbull’s collaboration with Dolly Parton (above), in awe not just of this powerful woman who overcame so much but also of the incredibly relevant lyrics to Powerful Woman as we celebrate this year’s IWD. When I consider my career and ambition for Scotland, the lyrics “want to move ahead, the boss won’t seem to let me” jump out!

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Winnie Ewing is a hero to many of us, and particularly to women politicians, as she demonstrated the breaking of the glass ceiling. “Stop the world; Scotland wants to get on” was an instruction, not a request.

That inspired me to follow my heart and head in 2022 to resign from my ministerial role, allowing me to vote with my conscience on GRR. When faced with brick walls, I was always raised not to give up but to find a new path.

Few expected me to stand for SNP leadership in 2023 but meeting expectations doesn’t create real change. My campaign sought to inspire others with new ideas and show that we must step up when we have something important to say.

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After careful consideration, I resigned from the SNP late last year to join the Alba Party. There’s been much commentary on the what and why of my decision but in the end, it was simple – I wanted to be where I could constructively contribute to achieving the kind of Scotland that will benefit all.

The National: An Alba supporter holds a sign outside an Aberdeenshire polling station

Achieving anything in politics is a team effort. I am bringing back the constructive challenge to the parliamentary discourse that Scotland needs to best serve our constituents by connecting across politics and beyond where a common purpose exists and by having a constructive dialogue where it doesn’t.

I want to thank all those who have inspired me, supported me through the challenging times, and encouraged me to grab and create every opportunity to achieve my dreams.

The grassroots women’s movement I am proud to be a part of is an influential collective whose purpose is to protect and advance our rights. This common thread binds us as we celebrate the diversity of womanhood as a positive as we celebrate the strength and resilience of women everywhere.

This International Women’s Day, let’s listen to Dolly and change the focus from celebrating a woman’s strength to endure to her power to achieve. Here’s to powerful women everywhere. May we know them, may we be them, and may we raise them!