Mairi McAllan: an interview with Clydesdale's new MSP

Mairi McAllan may be a new name in Scottish politics but her family are far from newbies in Clydesdale.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 5:00 pm
Mairi McAllan is used to working hard and is looking forward to her new role.
Mairi McAllan is used to working hard and is looking forward to her new role.

She’s the fourth generation of McAllan’s to call this area home and, as such, knows only too well both its plus and minus points.

And that history will stand her in good stead as she begins her new role as the Clydesdale MSP for the SNP in Scotland’s political heartland – the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

While the building is not unfamiliar to Mairi, who worked as a special adviser to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the environment and climate change, it’s a whole new ball game in terms of her role.

But representing the people of Clydesdale, and making sure they get their fair share, is a role Mairi plans to put her heart and soul into.

The 28-year-old is used to jobs that are all-consuming. Having been educated at Biggar Primary and Biggar High Schools, she studied Law at the University of Glasgow

A diploma in legal practice followed before she qualified and started work with Harper MacLeod in Glasgow, where she specialised in renewable energy projects and the environment.

Mairi said: “It was while I was working there that the First Minister asked me to join her team in 2017.

"I’d been active in the party for over a decade by that time so I was delighted to be asked. Roseanna Cunningham was then the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment.

"One of the biggest projects we worked on was the climate change plan, looking at what needed to be done to meet the net zero target by 2045. We also did quite a bit of work planning for COP26 this year in Glasgow.

“It was a brilliant job and I think it really helped to prepare me for my latest role!”

In 2017, Mairi also took her first steps into the political ring – standing against David Mundell as MP for for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale.

She said: “We never really thought we’d be able to do it as David has such strong support in that area but I loved the campaign. It was great fun and a good way to cut my political teeth.”

While they don’t share the same politics, the rivals remained friendly.

"I actually got a lovely card from David just the other day, congratulating me on becoming an MSP,” said Mairi.

While some of the newbies may have been struggling to find their way at Holyrood, it would be fair to say it was easier for Mairi. However, it’s still nerve-wracking waiting for her turn in the chamber.

She said: “It’s so much bigger than it looks on television and there’s so many people watching. It is a little bit daunting.”

While Mairi loves the area and lives here, on a hill farm in the Biggar area tended by her partner Iain Renwick, she knows there are many issues.

Among her top concerns are transport routes to aid tourism and broadband connections – thrown sharply into focus by the pandemic.

She also hopes to ensure Clydesdale gets a cut of the £60 million recently allocated for Scottish playparks.

However, constituents will be at the heart of her work too and she is now busy setting up an office with her three-strong team.

She added: "I need help to keep on top of everything but I’m used to working hard and I will give this job my all.”