I REMEMBER watching Mhairi Black win her seat. I was sat on the sofa of an election results party in Burntisland with fellow campaigners – we were all knackered after a full 24 hours of election campaigning. As goes election day for political activists.

As much as I wanted to see her take it, I just could not picture a reality where a young woman, who was somewhat unconventional in the political realm, would successfully take that seat from someone as established as Douglas Alexander.

She was a 20-year-old student, worlds away from the polished and well-rehearsed politicians I was used to. As much as the prospect thrilled me, I knew better than to employ wishful thinking in this scenario.

I was optimistic about the election – if I’d had a pound for every time someone on the doors told me they were voting SNP I could’ve quit my supermarket job there and then – but we were hot on the tails of our indyref defeat, and so that optimism was cloaked in a sobering caution.

I learned very quickly in politics that underestimating your success will serve you far better on election night than overestimating it.

A notion that did indeed serve me well in the wee hours of June 8, 2015. I was only 18 at the time, still at school and fresh in my political activism. I was deeply unsure of where I could or even wanted to go with it, and had the “young people needed life experience to earn a place in parliament” sentiment firmly drilled into me.

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I couldn’t quite believe the gall of a 20-year-old woman putting herself forward and defying those outdated perspectives that I was simultaneously allowing to hold me back.

Not just any young woman, an openly LGBTQ+, working-class student – an ordinary person, motivated exclusively by her passion for making the world a better place. The power she held was firmly rooted in the people who saw themselves reflected in her.

She afforded all of those people, myself included, the proof that they could do it too – that there is space for your voice wherever you make space for it.

Naturally, she took the world by storm following her election. Her maiden speech went viral for the refreshing perspective it offered – and it almost seemed like after so long of the status quo, life was finally breathed into the House of Commons.

Certainly for young people, her election and subsequent impressive presence in Parliament felt like a new era in British politics, which is notoriously oversaturated with out-of-touch politicians there solely for the status it offers.

The trouble with offering such a stark alternative is that there will always be those very comfortable with the way things are – and who have a vested interest in keeping it that way.

The National: Mhairi Black was just 20-years-old when she became an MPMhairi Black was just 20-years-old when she became an MP

The world watched as that took hold – ridiculed and torn to shreds by opponents, clearly shaken by her talent and insight and envious of the public reception she enjoyed. If it wasn’t her accent it was her hair or the clothes she wore.

Every inch of her became fair game for those that found themselves threatened.

The harassment she endured served as a constant reminder to me, and those like me, of why we could never do it. Whilst her very presence reminded us that actually, we could.

Young people – and particularly young women, face a myriad of challenges in public life. If we dare to be seen, we are ridiculed for how we look, what we wear, who we associate with, our sexuality. If we make a mistake, no matter how big or small, we are tarnished with it for life.

If we want in, we must strike the delicate balance between assertiveness and likeability. Too much in either direction and it’s game over. The decider of where we sit on that scale is ultimately decided by the media’s perception of us.

Being a young woman in politics is widely regarded as being like throwing yourself into the lions’ den – but for the greater good. Despite such little representation, misogyny still manages to permeate the walls. Expected to sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of others, for a tiny fraction of a seat at the table.

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I don’t grudge her this decision.

As much as I will be sad to see her leave office, it’s understandable why this weight becomes unsustainable over time and she has carried it for long enough.

Reminiscent of her own speech for International Women’s Day in 2017, where she delivered a scathing critique of sexism and misogyny in politics.

She called out the pervasive culture of harassment and discrimination that women face, both inside and outside of Parliament, and demanded change. Her speech sparked a broader conversation about gender equality in politics and inspired many women to speak up about their own experiences.

It feels like a catastrophic failure that this same woman has been forced to leave politics for these very same reasons. A few years ago, in

Wells-next-the-Sea during a visit to my grandparents, I came across Mhairi’s maiden speech, printed in a book about inspirational women.

At that moment, when I saw her bravery nestled within the pages of a tiny independent bookstore – tucked in beside the likes of Michelle Obama – I realised that it didn’t matter what her opponents said or who wanted to see her fail.

What mattered was that because she was brave enough to stand tall, little girls were going to read about her for years to come. The book still sits on my windowsill to this day to remind me of that fact.

This is what she contributed to politics. The belief that it’s for everyone, and that we can all make a difference. If she is tired, and I understand why, I hope she goes knowing that her presence in that chamber will be felt for generations to come.

Every so often, a political talent comes along that truly makes a difference and changes things in a way that is unique, memorable and can never be undone – that was Mhairi Black.

It’s now up to the rest of us to make sure we welcome those that she has inspired.