Annabelle was elected as MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife region in May 2011. She was previously elected as SNP MP for Perth (2001-2005). We recently caught up with MSP Annabelle Ewing and had the opportunity to ask a few questions.
1. What made you interested in politics as a whole?
Obviously, growing up in such a political family, it might not be surprising that I took an interest in politics but it wasn’t compulsory and I guess it could have had the opposite effect! I certainly did my fair share of campaigning as a youngster. I suppose there was a certain inevitability in my becoming involved more on the front line, so after training and working as a lawyer for a number of years, I wanted to have a more direct involvement in the legislative process, having the ability to change the law to protect people against the inequalities we see all around us.
2. What made you decide to run for a seat in the Scottish Parliament?
The Scottish Parliament has a far more sensible approach to carrying out its business than Westminster where the pomp, the privilege and the pointless traditions suck up time and energy. Where Westminster is an exclusive club, literally slamming the door in people’s faces, Holyrood is far more welcoming and inclusive as an institution.
3. Are you, or would you, be interested in running for a seat in Westminster? Why?
Been there done that! I represented the Perth constituency at Westminster from 2001 until boundary changes intervened meaning that in 2005 we came fairly close to just getting the new seat but unfortunately not close enough. Despite the shortcomings of the way in which the House of Commons works I do think that I managed to make my mark. For example I campaigned on behalf of Hepatitis C sufferers and to Save the Scottish Regiments. One of my proudest possessions is a Red Hackle presented to me by the Black Watch for my role in that campaign.
4. Do you have any thoughts on the high polling for the SNP?
As an SNP member and supporter – but particularly, of course, as an SNP candidate – I am absolutely delighted by the extremely high figures that the opinion pollsters keep citing for the SNP. I can assure you, however, that neither I nor any of my colleagues take that support for granted. We have been campaigning for decades to secure people’s trust through hard work and policies which meet people’s needs. It is that hard work that has brought the SNP to the levels of popularity that we are now enjoying and we will continue to show the same standard of commitment and determination as we did when support seemed to be harder to come by.
5. What are the three most important issues in the next five years, and how do you hope they will be addressed?
Giving our children the best possible start in life, closing the attainment gap, and ensuring the NHS continues to adapt to the changing demands of our society.
Examples of how each of these will be addressed include adapting the successful Finnish model which has helped to improve lives for babies and toddlers by offering essential items for a child’s first weeks to every new-born in Scotland in a ‘baby box’; the doubling of free early years education and childcare for vulnerable 2 year olds and all 3 and 4 year olds.; increasing investment in the Scottish Attainment Fund by £750 million over the course of the next parliament, with more money allocated direct to headteachers; and reforming the NHS to meet the challenge of an ageing population by investing an additional £1.3 billion in our health and social care partnerships, reforming primary care and increasing the numbers of GPs and nurses working in our communities.
More details on our wider ambitions for these and a wide range of other issues important to the people of Scotland and this constituency have been published in our manifesto – available online at www.snp.org/manifesto.
6. What is Scotland’s responsibility in regards to the pollution output of the UK?
I think we all have a responsibility, individually and as a community, to think very carefully about what we are doing to the planet and how we can change or adapt our behaviour to reduce pollution and other forms of waste. In terms of pollution on a larger or more general level, I very much believe in the ‘polluter pays principle’ and one perfect example of that here in Fife is the scandal over the radioactive waste at Dalgety Bay and the foot-dragging that we have seen on the part of the UK Ministry of Defence in getting it dealt with.
7. How may pollution be lowered at a local level?
We are deeply sceptical about fracking and have ensured that no fracking can take place in Scotland by putting in place a moratorium. We have also put in place a very thorough research process and plans for a public consultation so that any decision is based on both evidence and public opinion. Unless it can be proven beyond any doubt that there is no risk to health, communities or the environment, there will be no fracking or UCG extraction in Scotland.
We will take forward the actions set out in ‘Cleaner Air for Scotland’ – Scotland’s first distinct air quality strategy – to further reduce air pollution, with the first low emission zone put in place by the end of 2018.
We are committed to increasing low-carbon transport and travel in Scotland and by 2020 we will deliver a Low Carbon Travel and Transport programme with £62.5 million investment to create low carbon infrastructure. We will refresh the National Transport Strategy and review national and local guidance to ensure that communities have a say in influencing their transport needs to ensure people, goods and services can get around their community but also be connected to the rest of Scotland and beyond.
So these measures, and more, provide a national framework for tackling pollution but far more localised action matters too. The Climate Challenge has seen many communities around the country really taking issues relating to the environment and their local areas very seriously indeed. Local action can truly have a global impact.
8. The Holyrood election will have a serious effect on the next few years. What is one topic that you, personally, feel deeply about?
For my part, doing everything that we can to ensure that young people have the chance to lead fulfilling lives is a deep personal commitment. For it is surely unacceptable in 21st century Scotland that any young person fears that there is simply no future for themselves and that their life is without purpose. I am proud to be standing on a policy platform that puts the next generation firmly at the centre of our plans. Our policies will mean a better start in life for Scotland’s children and more opportunities for the rest of their lives.
9. How do you think people can have more intimate communication with their MPs? What is the best way for the public to contact you?
I established a Parliamentary Office on Cowdenbeath High Street and constituents have always been welcome to come along or phone in – even if I was in Parliament they could speak to a member of my staff. I have held regular surgeries and constituents have also been able to approach me by email and by post. I have also been happy to visit constituents in their homes or businesses if that is easier for them. I also use twitter and recognise that social media is useful as a means of communicating thoughts and ideas, but for those seeking assistance on a particular matter of concern, I find that the more traditional forms of communication work better.
Constituency Office: 113 High Street , Cowdenbeath , Fife , KY4 9QA
Phone Number: 01383 611067