I was born and raised in the Scottish Borders and if you’d told me when I was growing up that one day I would become the local MP, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. My mother is from Morebattle and I’ve always felt a deep attachment to the village and the surrounding countryside. My father, who would go on to become head teacher of Peebles High School, was brought up in Kelso.
After leaving school I studied history at St Andrews, before working as in the telecoms industry for over twenty years. I moved back to the Borders to start a family with my wife Ros. For years now we’ve been lucky enough to call this part of Scotland home and raise our three kids here.
Politics and people
My path into politics was far from simple. But as is often the case, the unexpected and the unplanned can have the greatest impact on where you end up.
When the company I worked for faced widespread redundancies in 2009, I began to reassess my priorities. Though I may not have realised it at the time – seeing a vast organisation have such a negative effect on the lives of so many colleagues was to spark an interest in politics and community activism that had been dormant since university.
I began to make more time for the issues, places and people that mattered to me. I became a Director of the local Citzens Advice Bureau, joined the Peebles Round Table, became the treasurer of Peebles Highland Games and also got involved in football coaching with my son. At the same time I also began to move towards a position of support for Scottish independence.
In the run up to the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence I was closely involved in setting up Yes Scottish Borders and would go on to chair the group.
Despite the fact that my side lost the referendum, the campaign itself was transformative, for me and for thousands of others. I was amazed by the number of people I met who had never taken an interest in politics before but decided to become active and engaged in the debate about Scotland’s future.
Standing for the Scottish Borders
The phenomenal grassroots energy that I witnessed in 2014 persuaded me that I could make a real difference. So it was a combination of two strands – the people power of the Yes movement and my sense of belonging to the Scottish Borders – that led to my decision to stand as an MP.
My journey into politics was unexpected and a bit unconventional. Personally I see this as a strength. My background in business means that I’m results driven – since getting elected in 2015 I’ve proven myself capable of working on a cross party basis in order to get things done.
The day I was elected changed my life – only getting married and having kids has been more significant. But it was alocan be a new start for the constituency too.
I’m a new MP, from a party with thousands of new supporters in this region. My ambition to deliver for the Scottish Borders is at the forefront of what I want to achieve.
I believe that if we're able to come together and look to the future, this part of Scotland, which has often been forgotten by decision makers in the past, could be on the cusp of major positive changes.
The issues that I campaign on at a national level – as the SNP’s spokesperson on both Rural Affairs and Digital – are highly relevant to the concerns of the region.
We need to protect the traditional base of our rural economy from a distant and centralised UK government, but we also have to look forward and understand that delivering rural connectivity is the next great infrastructure challenge for our times. If we can achieve this, in line with the Scottish Government’s plan for 100 per cent superfast broadband coverage by 2020, the results will be transformative.
I came into politics to make a difference. In the Scottish Borders we have proud traditions and strong communities, this makes me confident that our vibrant and diverse region has a bright future ahead of it, whatever challenges come our way.