I am an SNP MSP for South Scotland.
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 are already being planned.
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 sat on the Economy Energy and Tourism Committee, as well as the Welfare Reform Committee.
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. I was a member of the Cross Party Group on Learning Disability. I also co-convened the CPG on Culture, the CPG on Carers and was the vice-convener of the CPG on Volunteering and the Voluntary Sector.
Outside of politics, like most people, I am a very focused on my family. I like to spend time with my two daughters Grace and Eleanor, and our dog Toffee, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.