ABBI Garton-Crosbie spoke with Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay on the 10 things that changed her life. 

1. Star Wars

THIS is probably a pretty obvious one. Through my then student job, one of the department managers of the shop I worked in was setting up a not-for-profit convention and asked me to come and help with some of the running of that.

I met my now husband via Star Wars costuming and things and kind of never looked back since. Now for Christmases, birthdays and whatever else, I’ve had bits of Star Wars kit. It’s been in Parliament, there’s eight lightsabers in the house – and I can’t say that that’ll be the last of them either, knowing Alex.

It’s a big part of what we do with our weekends – going out and raising money for charity and all that sort of thing. It’s the way I met Alex, so it’s definitely a special thing for us.

The National:

Those I costume with, it is a proper wee family. We’ve been and done end-of-life visits and kids’ funerals and stuff like that. We were in Edinburgh Children’s Hospital last year and just seeing their wee faces seeing Chewbacca and a couple of X-Wing pilots and stormtroopers kicking about. It’s quite something.

There’s nothing quite like those kids who are terminally ill, or their siblings, who just look like you’ve made their day by being there. When you’re in this line of work, it’s quite nice for someone to look like they’re pleased to see you. 

2. Disney

DISNEY parks are my happy place, which is probably a really un-Green thing to say, but I absolutely love a theme park.

We got engaged at Disney World, and it tends to be one place where I’m not worried about looking at my phone or checking messages. I’m bad for doing it, but when I’m at a Disney park that seems to be off limits in my brain.  I think everybody has that bit of escapism somewhere.

We love rollercoasters – the bigger the better – although I will absolutely not speak to Alex the first time we go on anything because I’m a big fearty-cat. I will scream the whole way round like it’s the worst thing I’ve done in my life – then get off it and insist we go again. 

3. Alison Johnstone, Presiding Officer

IT’S all her fault – she taught me everything I know. It was Alison who gave me my internship and basically got me into politics in the first place, and goodness knows where I’d be or what I’d be doing if it wasn’t for that internship.

She was hugely supportive, and anyone who knows her knows how nice she is, as well as being so influential in making quite a few folk in the party realise that they could stand too. Passing on her wisdom and her guidance – she’s a big miss from the corridor.

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It’s great she’s doing what she’s doing and I’m so proud of her, but being selfish, I do miss her down the stairs. It’s not the same without her. 

4. University sports

I WENT to a campus uni – Heriot-Watt – for an undergraduate in biological sciences, so everybody knew everybody really well. I had a lot of phenomenal times doing really daft sports stuff up and down the country.

When I went to uni, all I really played was badminton. I started playing hockey and rugby as well and getting to do some really interesting things and getting thrown into some different stuff.

I ended up as a hockey goalie rather than playing outfield purely because I am just built for stopping things rather than running after things quickly.

I made some really good pals who are still friends to this day and are very good at telling me when they think what I’m doing is rubbish or not. Which is always nice, to have that level of grounding from people who know you.

5. Brora, Sutherland

IT’S where my dad’s originally from. I swithered a bit about putting Brora for this or ice cream, keeping in mind I’m a health spokesperson, but it is still quite a lot about the ice cream.

We used to go up to Brora as kids, and even now with dad and things as well, we go up and see grandparents, great-aunts and uncles. We’ve got family absolutely everywhere up there because my granny was one of 10 and I think my granddad was one of 11 or something like that.

We were up for my great uncle’s 80th, and I think either directly or through marriage, we were related to 90% of the room. I needed a bit of A1 paper and some time to figure out who everybody was.

There were an awful lot of walks on the beach and an ice cream and that sort of thing.

It was really weird for us coming from Grangemouth to up there, where they literally just open in the back gate and you were allowed to go across the road and into the park, or you were allowed to walk down to the shops yourselves.

6. Portobello, Edinburgh

THIS is where my mum’s side of the family originates. Again, we used to get chucked down the beach. That used to be one of our treats at October and Easter holidays, going down to Portobello, having a run about on the beach and going for some lunch and stuff.

My granny used to go into the amusements with us, give us two quid and say, “go see how long you can make that last”. That really was a challenge to the point where it was turned into a competition between myself and my sister. It’s amazing how slowly you can put 2ps into the penny-falls machines when you’re trying to make them outlast someone else.

The National:

We were down there rain, hail or shine. I think it’s the first time I’ve probably ever experienced the term storm force make over.

It’s also where Alex and I had our wedding ceremony. It was the church mum and the family went to, and it was the church my granny and grandad got married in. 

7. Getting elected

IT changes an awful lot of stuff that one. I’m now getting to the stage where people look at me weird in Tesco, and I don’t know whether that’s because they do know who I am, or whether they just know my face.

I have had a couple of times at various things where folk have said, “oh we really we really like your stuff on safe access zones” and things like that. That happened actually when we were at one of the wedding fairs last year and my in-laws were there, and it’s the first time that they’ve experienced that happening. I don’t think they fully understand what it is that I do all week. But it’s just an entirely different way of living.

I’m lucky that I can come home through the week. I prefer being out of the bubble as many weeknights as I can and get back to some form of normality.

8. Grangemouth

EVEN though it didn’t influence me to get involved in politics in the first place, it very much does influence my politics, if that makes sense.

All the stuff around the refinery the last couple of months has been really fascinating to me how many people think it’s interesting that there’s a Green MSP talking about Grangemouth.

That’s certainly been the hook for some people to speak to me about it. It’s like, “oh, that’s weird”, when in actual fact, I don’t think it’s that weird at all. We’ve been talking for a long time about a just transition.

The National:

It’s actually just really annoying that it’s being dictated by the companies rather than by the workers and the local people.

Folk in Grangemouth – having grown up here – are always sort of my barometer, again of whether things are hitting right and whether I’m representing them well. There’s an awful lot of folks in the town who have known me since I was literally wee, and like to remind me of that, and tell me that they’re really interested in some of the stuff I’m doing or not. 

9. My mum

MY mum Audrey had a massive influence. She sadly passed away in December 2020.  It’s entirely her fault [I got into politics] because she set me off on the trajectory to not do teaching like she had.

I think partly because she was at that stage where when I went to uni she would have been 50, she was maybe looking at the last 15 years or so of her career, and going “would I like to be doing other things?”.

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I mean, she was very good at what she did – she was a primary music teacher, so there was not a kid in our school that didn’t think she was brilliant.

I think she thought it was a bit bonkers when I applied for the inclusion Scotland internship that ultimately got me to where I am now. But she encouraged me every single step of the way.

She was just phenomenal, very influential.

It’s really funny because had she been here, she would have had like six new best pals out of the current MSPs. You would have never kept her out of the place, honest to goodness. I’m fairly confident she and Kevin Stewart would have been best pals.

10. Golden Retrievers

WE’VE always had Golden Retrievers. My granny and my grandpa had three. They had Holly, Willow and Rowan – all the dogs had plant-themed themes because they were big gardeners.

They got Holly before I was born, and Holly used to guard my pram when I was little. My parents were informed when it was okay for me to go home by the dog.

They had Willow and then Rowan is – you know how people say there’s like your heart dog – that one. When she was a puppy, she used to eat everything too quickly, and have to be burped like a baby. When she didn’t feel well, she took to sitting, or attempting to sit on my knee, as a full-grown dog.

You just didn’t go into granny and grandpa’s with anything black on, you were coming out covered in fluff.