Central Scotland’s first ever Green MSP has settled quickly into the role at Holyrood.
Gillian Mackay was already very familiar with the Scottish Parliament and its processes.
Despite being a newcomer to the debating chamber the MSP worked as a staffer for the Scottish Greens prior to her success in May on the regional list vote.
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The new role will provide a broad view of the problems people face and she is urging constituents to get in touch.
As a representative for the region she can help tackle issues affecting people living in North and South Lanarkshire in places like Hamilton, East Kilbride, Wishaw, Shotts and Motherwell, and in areas as far apart as Bo’ness and Bellshill, Thorntonhall and Harthill, or Stepps and Stonehouse.
The 30-year-old, who grew up in Grangemouth one of three children, is herself thankful for the help of others in times of need.
Gillian suffered the heartbreaking loss of two of her closest family members in the months before the election.
Her mum Audrey, a music teacher, died in December last year, aged just 60. Then weeks before the vote her granddad died.
The support of her team helped her through what was an extremely tough time.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” Gillian told Lanarkshire Live.
As the Greens’ health spokesperson, she knows through personal experience with her granddad the important role that care workers provide in communities, and is advocating better pay and conditions for people working in the sector.
May wasn’t the first election Gillian had contested. In 2017 she stood in a council election in Edinburgh, the European Parliament election in 2019, then the UK General Election in December that year – in the Linlithgow and East Falkirk seat.
“It was the fourth time of asking but I really didn’t think we would do it this time,” the MSP admits.
“We found out the result at the same time as everyone else, when it was announced.
“I still have to look twice at emails or interviews that say Gillian Mackay MSP on them and then I think, ‘Oh yeah, that’s me’.
“For a wee lassie from Grangemouth it’s really quite a big deal.”
It was an unusual if not accidental route into politics for the MSP, who has a hearing disability.
Studying a Masters Degree in Marine Biotechnology and Biodiversity, and with a lack of availability of suitable job posts, led Gillian decided to apply for an internship through Inclusion Scotland.
She explained: “I have Ménière’s disease which affects my hearing and can make my head spin, like vertigo.
“I was interested in legislative procedure and applied for the internship. I didn’t think I would be successful but the next thing I knew, there I was alongside Patrick Harvie.”
Gillian went from the internship to become a campaign officer for the Scottish Greens.
She has wasted little time settling in to being an MSP but does admit: “It is a bit different sitting there in the chamber with the button to press when you want to speak, and making speeches”.
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