I was born in Aberdeen but grew up in Edinburgh. My first job was as a teacher in Glasgow but I soon returned to university to study law. This allowed me to work for a solicitor’s firm in Edinburgh that dealt with people receiving legal aid. I focussed on family law and represented clients in cases involving divorce, child protection and adoption.
I also did a lot of work for women who were victims of domestic violence, and developed close links with the charity Women’s Aid. As a result I got involved in setting up the Edinburgh Women’s Rape Crisis Centre in 1979. This provided advice for victims of rape and campaigned for more thorough police investigations and changes in the law of evidence to improve conviction rates for rapists.
I’m also a keen cyclist and I don’t own a car. I find it a really practical way of getting around Edinburgh. I was heavily involved in Spokes, a campaign for better cycling facilities in Edinburgh and the Lothians.
I was elected as Labour Councillor for Moredun in 1991. This was an area in which many houses lacked such basics as central heating and double glazing. I campaigned to get improvements carried out and new housing built and was appointed Convenor for Housing in 1999. I retained this position until I stood down from the council in 2007.
I was selected to be the Labour Party candidate for Edinburgh East in April 2009, and was elected in the General Election on 6 May 2010 – you can see my result here. During my time as MP I developed interests in a number of areas including disability benefits, welfare to work and pensions. I regularly asked questions and spoke in debates on these and other issues – you can find all my speeches on the parliament website.
I also held a number of formal positions:
- I was a member of both the Work and Pensions Select Committee from 2011 to 2015, the Public Administration Select Committee from 2013 to 2015, and the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee from 2010 to 2013.
- I was the chair of the backbench group of Labour MPs with an interest in work and pensions issues.
- Between 2013 and 2015 I was Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Michael Dugher MP, in his roles as the Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Shadow Transport Secretary, and Angela Eagle MP, in her role as the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons.
- I was a member of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) Parliamentary Committee, which meets once a week to convey the views of backbench Labour MPs to the party leadership.
- I was also a vice-chair of the Scottish group of Labour MPs between 2014 and 2015 and a member of the Women Labour MPs’ Executive Committee from 2010 to 2015.
I stood again at the General Election on 7 May 2015 but was defeated. You can see the result here.
During my time as an MP I tried to keep my expenses to a minimum. All my claims were made to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) and can be viewed on their website www.parliamentary-standards.org.uk.
I made all my journeys between Edinburgh and London by train as opposed to plane. This minimised my carbon footprint and, in a small way, helped to prevent climate change.