I first met Gail Ross shortly after her election in 2016 when Paul Laverty – the screenwriter for Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake – and I attended a private screening for MSPs at Holyrood.
During her time in Parliament, she has supported a number of causes dear to my heart, even – admirably – when it has placed her at odds with her own party.
Last year, for instance, she pledged to break the party whip on the universal provision of sanitary items before an SNP U-turn.
Having joined the SNP in 1997, Gail was elected to Highland Council in a by-election in 2011.
She was re-elected in 2012 before standing in 2016 as the MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, a constituency covering a third of Scotland’s landmass and larger than the whole of Wales.
Such is the level of rurality that her constituency office is more than two hours from her home in Wick and travelling between meetings can take her more than five hours to arrive, excluding the return journey.
When I asked Gail why she is leaving Holyrood after only five years, she said: “I have missed many sports days, parents’ evenings and bedtime stories, and when the time was approaching for me to make a decision concerning whether to stand for reselection I asked my son Max, who is 10 years old, what he thought.
“He asked me, if I were not to stand again, would that mean I would be able to spend more time at home?
“When I said ‘Yes’ he replied: ‘Then I don’t want you to do it.’”
Gail stated that Parliament only becomes more family-friendly the closer you live to it but believes change is needed.
She said: “I wrote to the standards committee and asked if they planned to make use of video conferencing and remote voting, and Jenny Marra and I worked together on proxy voting.
“They indicated they were not considering it because of security reasons.
“Then we have a health crisis and, lo and behold, it becomes standard practice.”
I asked Gail if she has any regrets.
She said: “I wish I had the courage of my convictions to support increasing the minimum age at which a child can become a criminal to 14 years of age rather than remaining at 12.”
She added: “I was persuaded by government colleagues that not enough work had been done but the European Court of Human Rights highlighted other European nations which had made the change and I felt it was right.
“I went with my head rather than my heart and regret doing so.”
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Gail believes the forthcoming session will be the most important yet and offers the chance to establish a mandate for independence.
She concluded by saying: “I will miss it but I have given 10 years to elected politics and it’s time for a new chapter for me.”
Our loss is Max’s gain.