5 minutes with…
What’s your background in psychology?
I trained as a clinical psychologist and then went on to specialise in forensic and clinical psychology. I have worked at the high secure unit (State Hospital) as a consultant and in the forensic service at NHS GG& Clyde. I am an accredited risk assessor with the Risk Management Authority (Scotland) and with the Scottish Court service in relation to provision of evidence and expert reports in cases of historical abuse. I have a BA Hons Psychology (Strathclyde University), MSc Psychology & Health (Stirling University) and DClinPsy (Glasgow University).
How did you move from that into parliament?
I became interested more avidly in politics during the Scottish Referendum debate. We had a local group of Psychologists for Yes and I was active in the local community in relation to the Yes campaign more generally. I am a member of the Scottish National Party, and was a trade union representative with Unite for 14 years. I have a long-held interest in social justice, inequality and issues of discrimination. I moved into Parliament as an MP this year as you know after the general election campaign in my hometown of East Kilbride. Scottish voters were keen to elect people who were not career politicians but those who brought valuable experience from other realms including the NHS.
Will you be trying to take psychological evidence into policy?
How else might you use your background in your new role? It is important to consider the role of psychology in health, education and occupational aspects of policy. As a scientist practitioner we have a unique ability to critique research papers/policies and to apply them to practice. I hope to utilise these skills in committee work and in questioning the government and holding them to account.
What are you expecting psychologically from your socialisation as an MP?
Much of politics is fundamentally psychology in my view. As psychologists, we have an ability to analyse situations, appraise individuals’/parties’ motives and personality drivers and to think through issues of social influence. In relation to socialisation as an MP, Westminster is truly unique and it is important to maintain a sense of self outwith politics so that one does not become institutionalised or lose touch with constituents and the reasons that you were elected. It is about serving other people, a privilege and responsibility in my view and therefore a sense of integrity is fundamental. As psychologists we can analyse our own reactions (and others) and are aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy balance and family contact. I hope that my skills will help me both to adapt and to buffer the stresses of parliamentary life.
BPS Members can discuss this article
Already a member? Or Create an account
Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber