North East Scotland is a pretty big region - stretching as it does from the Banffshire coast in the north all the way down to Dundee in the south, and as far west as Braemar. Since first being elected to Parliament in May 2007, I've tried to meet as many people across the region as possible (and I'll keep on trying!), but for those that I haven't met yet, I'd like to take the opportunity to let you know a little bit more about me.
Originally from Ayrshire, I moved back to Scotland, along with my husband Tom, to settle in the Aberdeenshire East area about 25 years ago now. Tom runs his own successful media company, and we have two grown-up children. I'm a keen follower of the Arts, from literature through to the performing arts. I also have an interest in architecture, and, back in the days when I had more spare time, I enjoyed gardening and cooking as well!
I originally got involved in politics back in the early-1990s, taking part in a number of local campaigns, before being elected to Gordon District Council, and, subsequently, Aberdeenshire Council to represent my home ward of Ellon.
I worked as a councillor for 15 years - right up until my election to Holyrood - and in that time I like to think that I was able to play my part in promoting the interests of Ellon and Aberdeenshire locally, nationally, and indeed across Europe.
I was fortunate enough to chair Aberdeenshire Council's Infrastructure Services Committee for eight years, and I also chaired Nestrans - the North East's Regional Transport Partnership. In those roles, I helped put in place a number of important projects for the region, and frequently lobbied the Scottish Government for vital local transport and infrastructure improvements.
Being a councillor in a vibrant region as the North East brings with it a hugely diverse workload - and during that time I also held a number of roles away from the council. I served as an Areas Board member with Scottish Natural Heritage, as a non-executive director with Scottish Enterprise Grampian, and I was also elected on to the North Sea Commission for a number of years, a European organisation on which I chaired the Sustainable Development Group.
I believe that my experience locally held me in good stead once I became an MSP. I took on the role of Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Transport, Local Government and Climate Change at Holyrood - a really diverse portfolio, but one that covered many of the issues that I have long worked on and campaigned for locally. After the 2011 election my portfolio changed to Justice and Health, and I now sit on the Parliament's Justice Committee. In November 2012 my responsibilities became Justice spokesperson and Parliamentary Business Manager.
Away from formal Parliamentary business, I have been successfully nominated to the Council of JUSTICE Scotland. I've also taken part in a number of Cross Party Groups reflecting both my personal and local interests - Climate Change, Visual Impairment, Epilepsy, Oil & Gas, Tibet, Human Rights and Civil Liberties. I'm also keenly interested in social progress , and so was delighted to recently be made a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Advancement of Arts.
I was surprised and delighted to be included in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in 2013, being made an OBE for my services to the public and politics. I am really proud to have been able to help constituents over these 21 years, first as a councillor and now as an MSP.
And, of course, I'm still committed to the ideal that made me get into politics in the first place - trying my best to make a difference for the people of Ellon, Aberdeenshire and the North East. I firmly believe that we are best served by politicians by having a truly local voice in Parliament, and so my promise to constituents is that I will carry on putting you first.