I am an SNP MSP for the South Scotland region. My office is based in Dumfries.
Before being elected to parliament in 2011 I had a long career in journalism and I still write a weekly column for the Daily Record each Wednesday. I have also been deputy editor of the Herald Newspaper and editor of the Sunday Times Scotland.
I attended university in Glasgow where I received a joint honours in Scottish History and Economic History and followed this up with a post graduate diploma in newspaper journalism from City University, London. Media is important for democracy as it gives ordinary people a platform for their views and talents and should hold the powerful to account. Since being elected I have campaigned for improved commercial television coverage for the South of Scotland and as a result changes have already happened - including the introduction of current affairs programme 'Representing Border'.
I take a keen interest in the arts as a way to boost the economy and make us all feel good. I support festivals such as the Big Burns Supper in Dumfries which has seen its government funding rise to make it the best publicly funded winter festival event outside Glasgow and Edinburgh. I’m keen to support young people and I was delighted to attract one of the Scottish Government’s first Youth Jobs Forums to Dumfries in 2012 and have tried to work closely with local employers, colleges and universities – especially on the delivery of apprenticeships which I am delighted to say have doubled in the region under the SNP government. In Parliament I am the Convener of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee, which is keeping me very busy since the UK voted to leave the EU in June 2016. I also convene the CPG on Culture, a group that former MSP Jean Urquhart and I set up during the 2011 parliamentary term.
Another of my interests is supporting people with a learning disability. It is very important that their voice is heard and I regularly speak to Enable, Downs Syndrome Scotland and the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability. I have campaigned to ensure that they and their families get the opportunities and support they need, despite the cuts being imposed on Scotland by the Westminster government.
Outside of politics, like most people, I am a very focused on my family and love spending time with my daughters Grace and Eleanor.