Meet the 21 alumni who, elected to the Scottish Parliament in May 2016, will help shape the future of their country.

At a time when Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom and the European Union has been thrown into doubt by the EU referendum, we meet the 21 University of Edinburgh alumni who were elected Members of the Scottish Parliament in May 2016, including two party leaders. They are among the 129 men and women who will help shape the future of their country.

The Scottish Parliamentary election saw a continuation of the dramatic shifts in the Scottish political landscape that have taken place since the first cohort of MSPs was elected to the newly devolved body in 1999.

The Scottish National Party was the clear winner, as it was five years earlier, though this time the party fell slightly short of a majority, winning 63 seats out of 129, down from 69 in 2011.

The Scottish Conservatives, under the leadership of Edinburgh alumna Ruth Davidson, more than doubled its presence in the Holyrood parliament, from 15 seats to 31, while Scottish Labour, led by another alumna, Kezia Dugdale, suffered the brunt of the losses, losing 13 seats to fall into third place with 24 MSPs.

Below we introduce our MSP alumni, taking the largest party first, with individuals listed in alphabetical order apart from party leaders, whom we place first in the lists.

Roseanna Cunningham


Name: Roseanna CunninghamSNP-logo130
Born: Glasgow, 1951
Party and role: Scottish National Party; Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform
Constituency or region: Perthshire South and Kinross-shire
Elected: 1999
University of Edinburgh education: LLB 1982
Other degrees: BA politics, University of Western Australia 1976 (Ms Cunningham grew up mostly in Australia); Diploma in Legal Practice, Aberdeen 1983
CV: Worked as a solicitor then an advocate. Won the Perth and Kinross seat of the Westminster Parliament in the 1995 by-election. Stood down as an MP in 2001 after becoming a Member of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

Ms Cunningham has been dubbed “Republican Rose” for her vocal support for the replacement of the monarchy with an elected head of state.

Kate Forbes

Kate Forbes MSP

Name: Kate ForbesSNP-logo130
Born: Dingwall, 1990
Party: Scottish National Party
Constituency or region: Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch
Elected: 2016
University of Edinburgh education: MSc Diaspora & Migration History 2013
Other degrees: BA History, University of Cambridge 2011
Brief CV: Has worked as an accountant and as an assistant to Dave Thompson MSP. Volunteers in a care home.

Ms Forbes lived in India between the ages of 10 and 15, where her father worked to provide healthcare to those unable to afford it. She says it gave her a passion to defend the vulnerable and fight inequality. Ms Forbes says she greatly enjoyed studying Highland emigration to North America and wants to “ensure that today’s Highlanders can realise their dreams without having to leave”. She speaks Gaelic.

Christine Grahame

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Name: Christine GrahameSNP-logo130
Born: Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, 1944; grew up in Edinburgh
Party and role: Scottish National Party; Deputy Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament
Constituency or region: Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale
Elected: 1999
University of Edinburgh education: MA Arts 1965, Diploma in Education 1966, LLB 1983, Diploma in Legal Practice 1985
CV: Worked as a teacher after her first degree; later returned as a mature student to study law and then worked as a solicitor until joining politics.

Ms Grahame has a reputation as an outspoken politician. Reflecting on her days as a mature student at Edinburgh, she recently told Holyrood magazine: “I remember being quite a nippy person in the law library if people were talking. I remember a whole lot were talking and finally, I just said, ‘look, you may have the rest of the evening to do this, I don’t’. Having said that, I felt awful and I couldn’t study after it.”

Fulton MacGregor


Name: Fulton MacGregorSNP-logo130
Born: Coatbridge 1980
Party: Scottish National Party
Constituency or region: Coatbridge and Chryston
Elected: 2016
University of Edinburgh education: MSW Social Work 2005
Other degrees: BA Psychology, University of Strathclyde
CV: Worked for more than a decade as a social worker in South Lanarkshire. Has also served as a councillor for Coatbridge and Glenboig ward, North Lanarkshire Council.

Mr MacGregor’s election ended a 17-year tenure by Labour’s Elaine Smith.

Ben Macpherson

ben macphersonMSP_sq

Name: Ben MacphersonSNP-logo130
Born: Edinburgh, 1984
Party: Scottish National Party
Constituency or region: Edinburgh Northern and Leith
Elected: 2016
University of Edinburgh education: LLB 2012, Diploma in Legal Practice 2013
Other degrees: MA Philosophy and Politics, University of York 2006; History course at Open University 2007-8.
CV: Worked as a solicitor after his Edinburgh degree and training. Previously worked at Standard Life and Aquamarine Power, both in Edinburgh, and as a volunteer English teacher in China. Has walked from Edinburgh to London to raise awareness of the organisation Peace One Day, which campaigns for a global day of peace on 21 September each year.

Mr Macpherson was captain of the football first team at York University.

Mike Russell


Name: Mike RussellSNP-logo130
Born: Bromley, Kent, 1953; brought up in Troon, Ayrshire
Party: Scottish National Party
Constituency or region: Argyll and Bute
Elected: First elected 1999; lost seat in 2003; then elected again 2007 to present
University of Edinburgh education: MA Scottish Literature and History 1974
CV: First stood for public office in 1984, in the Clydesdale local government election. Was later Vice-Convener of the SNP and ran Alex Salmond’s campaign for the SNP leadership, and was Chief Executive of the SNP before being elected as an MSP in 1999. In the early 1990s he ran a media and education company and established his own TV production company. He has written, co-authored or edited nine books, including several on Scottish cities and Scottish politics, and one novel. In the Scottish Parliament he has been Shadow Minister for Education and Culture, Minister for Environment, Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.

Mr Russell has contributed a photograph every day for more than five years to the Blipfoto website.

John Swinney

john swinneyMSP_sq

Name: John SwinneySNP-logo130
Born: Edinburgh,1964
Party and role: Scottish National Party; Deputy First Minister of Scotland
Constituency or region: Perthshire North since 2011; North Tayside 1999-2011
Elected: 1999
University of Edinburgh education: MA Politics 1986
CV: Worked for Scottish Coal Project, as a management consultant and as a strategic planning principal for financial services firm Scottish Amicable. SNP’s National Secretary at age 22, then Senior Vice-Convener 1992-7,  Depute Leader 1998-2000. Was elected MP Tayside North in 1997, then MSP two years later for the same constituency. Gave up his Westminster post in 2001 election. Was leader of the SNP from 2000 to 2004. Has served as Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy 2007-16, and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills since May 2016.

Mr Swinney joined the SNP at the age of 15, citing anger at the way Scotland was portrayed by TV commentators in the Commonwealth Games.

Paul Wheelhouse


Name: Paul WheelhouseSNP-logo130
Born: Dundonald, Northern Ireland, 1970; grew up in Edinburgh
Party and role: Scottish National Party; Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy
Constituency or region: South Scotland
Elected: 2011
University of Edinburgh education: MBA 1999
Other degrees: MA Economic Science, University of Aberdeen, 1992
CV: Worked for 19 years as an economist and economic consultant for Pieda and BiGGAR Economics. Has been active in his local Community Council. Has served as Minister for Environment and Climate Change, and Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs.

Mr Wheelhouse was named Politician of the Year 2015 in the annual RSPB Nature of Scotland Awards.

Ruth Davidson


Leader, Scottish Conservatives

Name: Ruth DavidsonScottish-Conservatives-Logo130
Born: Edinburgh, 1978
Party: Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
Constituency or region: Edinburgh Central
Elected: First elected to Scottish Parliament 2011 to the Glasgow regional list. Has been her party’s leader since 4 November 2011, succeeding Annabel Goldie. Elected by Edinburgh Central constituency 2016
University of Edinburgh education: MA General Arts 1999
Other degrees: International Development masters, University of Glasgow, 2010
CV: Was born in Edinburgh, brought up in Selkirk and Fife, and has lived in Glasgow most of her adult life. After studying at Edinburgh she became a journalist, starting at the Glenrothes Gazette as a trainee reporter and moving to Kingdom FM and Real Radio before joining BBC Scotland as a journalist, presenter and documentary maker. Served as a signaller in the Territorial Army 2003-6.

Ruth Davidson is credited with achieving a major revival of the Conservatives in Scotland, becoming the leader of the largest opposition party as her victory pushed the once dominant Labour into third place and denied the SNP a majority. She also won a personal victory, taking the Edinburgh Central constituency, where the Conservatives came fourth in 2011.

Jeremy Balfour

Jeremy balfour400

Name: Jeremy BalfourScottish-Conservatives-Logo130
Born: Edinburgh, 1967
Party: Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
Constituency or region: Lothian
Elected: 2016
University of Edinburgh education: Diploma in Legal Practice 1992
Other degrees: Studied theology at London Bible College
CV: Trained as a solicitor, then studied theology and became an assistant Baptist minister in Edinburgh. He was elected a city councillor in 2005 and went on to lead the Conservative group in the council. Is currently the Scottish Conservatives’ spokesman for childcare and early years. Was born with no left arm and a right arm that ends at the elbow, and is the only MSP who identifies as a disabled person.

Jeremy Balfour and fellow Conservative candidate Iain McGill received the same number of votes from their party to stand in the Lothian regional list. So, in accordance with party rules, they cut a pack of cards to decide their order on the list. Mr Balfour was elected an MSP and Mr McGill missed out.

Liam Kerr

Liam Kerr400

Name: Liam KerrScottish-Conservatives-Logo130
Born: Edinburgh, 1975
Party: Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
Constituency or region: North-east Scotland
Elected: 2016
University of Edinburgh education: MA Sociology 1997
Other study: University of St Andrews 1992-4, University of Law CPE and LPC 2001.
CV: Has worked as a Senior Associate at law firm CMS. Has also taught at Robert Gordon University 2006-12 on the Employment Law Practice and Procedure degree.

Mr Kerr studied the piano at Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester, in 2013-14 and gained the ABRSM Diploma in Music Performance. He sails an 18ft yacht from Stonehaven.

Gordon Lindhurst

gordon lindhurst400

Name: Gordon Lindhurst
Born: 1967Scottish-Conservatives-Logo130
Party: Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
Constituency or region: Lothian
Elected: 2016
University of Edinburgh education: LLB 1989
Other study: Diploma in Legal Practice, University of Glasgow, 1990; LLM Heidelberg University 1994
CV: Has been an advocate based in Edinburgh for 20 years, having been called to the bar in 1995. With Westwater Advocates he built a wide civil practice, including property disputes and employment law cases, and has acted as defence and prosecution counsel in criminal cases. Has worked as a visiting lecturer in Scottish and English Court Procedure at the University of Bonn.

Mr Lindhurst has been a member of a “care van” team for Bethany Christian Trust, taking soup and rolls to homeless people at night. He has also been a team leader for charity work in Romania, taking supplies to orphanages.

Oliver Mundell


Name: Oliver MundellScottish-Conservatives-Logo130
Born: Dumfries and Galloway, 1990
Party: Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
Constituency or region: Dumfriesshire
Elected: 2016
University of Edinburgh education: LLB 2012
CV: Has worked as a paralegal for oil and gas firm Royal Dutch Shell and as a researcher for Geoffrey Cox MP.

Mr Mundell’s father is Scotland’s only Scottish Conservative MP, David Mundell, who reportedly did not initially wish his son to stand for office, because of the challenges of political life, but was talked round by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.

John Scott


Name: John ScottScottish-Conservatives-Logo130
Born: Girvan, 1951
Party: Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
Constituency or region: Ayr
Elected: 2000 (by-election)
University of Edinburgh education: BSc Civil Engineering 1973
CV: Is the Scottish Conservatives’ spokesperson for sustainable development. Was spokesperson for rural affairs 2007-11 and was Deputy Presiding Officer 2011-16.

Mr Scott has been a farmer for more than 30 years, and still runs a farm in Balkissock, South Ayrshire. He established the Ayrshire Farmers Market in 1999 and founded the Scottish Association of Farmers in 2001.

Liz Smith


Name: Liz SmithScottish-Conservatives-Logo130
Born: Edinburgh 1960
Party: Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
Constituency or region: Mid Scotland and Fife
Elected: 2007
University of Edinburgh education: MA Politics and Economics 1982, Dip Ed 1983
CV: Has worked as a teacher and as political adviser to Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP. Is Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.

Ms Smith won seven caps with the Scottish Ladies’ Cricket XI, and in 2014 was elected the inaugural President of the Scottish Women’s Cricket Association. She has “bagged” all 284 Munros (Scottish mountains higher than 3,000ft), a quest she began in 1982 and completed in 2012.

Kezia Dugdale

Kezia dugdale_sq

Leader, Scottish Labour

Name: Kezia DugdaleScottish Labour logo130x37
Place and year of birth:
Aberdeen,  1981
Party: Scottish Labour
Constituency or region: Lothian
Elected: 2011. Was elected leader of Scottish Labour in August 2015.
University of Edinburgh education: MSc Policy Studies 2006
Other degrees: LLB, University of Aberdeen, 2003
Brief CV: Campaigns and Welfare Adviser for Edinburgh University Students’ Association (2003-6); Public Affairs Officer at the National Union of Students Scotland (2006-7); Political Adviser to Lord George Foulkes MSP (2007-11). As well as leader of Scottish Labour, she is Scottish Labour’s Finance Spokesperson and is Co-convener of the Cross Party Group on Children and Young People.

Ms Dugdale said she was “heartbroken” after her party was pushed into third place in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, but vowed to stay on as leader, saying: “There’s no doubt that our defeat for the Labour Party is painful but it is not the end of our campaign. We will continue to argue for Labour values, Labour ideas and Labour principles.”

Claire Baker


Name: Claire BakerScottish Labour logo130x37
Born: Kelty, 1971
Party: Scottish Labour
Constituency or region: Mid Scotland and Fife
Elected: 2007
University of Edinburgh education: MA English Language and Literature 1993
Other degrees: PhD English Literature 1997, University of Glasgow
CV: Has worked as a Research Officer for the Scottish Parliamentary Labour Group, for the trade union Amicus and for the Royal College of Nursing. When elected to parliament she was working as Policy Manager for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

In December 2015 Mrs Baker launched a pamphlet at the University of Edinburgh celebrating the work of the famous Fife politician and Edinburgh alumna Jennie Lee, who played a central role in the founding of the Open University. 

Iain Gray


Name: Iain GrayScottish Labour logo130x37
Born: Edinburgh, 1957
Party: Scottish Labour
Constituency or region: East Lothian
Elected: East Lothian 2007. Was MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands 1999-2003.
University of Edinburgh education: BSc Physics 1978
CV: Taught maths and physics in Edinburgh, then taught in Mozambique. Spent 12 years with Oxfam organising for social justice and poverty around the world. Has held four ministerial posts, and spent four years as Special Adviser to Alistair Darling when Darling was Scottish Secretary in the UK parliament. Led Scottish Labour 2008-11 and served as interim leader for a short time in 2015.

Mr Gray is a passionate supporter of Hibernian Football Club and Chair of the Hibernian Community Foundation.

Ken Macintosh


Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament

Name: Ken MacintoshScottish Labour logo130x37
Born: Inverness, 1962
Party: Scottish Labour
Constituency or region: West Scotland
Elected: 1999. Was constituency MSP for Eastwood from 1999 until 2016, when he was returned as regional MSP for West Scotland.
University of Edinburgh education: MA History 1984
CV: BBC News TV producer 1987-1999. Also worked on Breakfast with Frost, and the Nine O’Clock News.

Mr Macintosh stood against Kezia Dugdale in the 2015 contest for the leadership of Scottish Labour. In May 2016 he was elected Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, beating Murdo Fraser, Johann Lamont, John Scott and Elaine Smith. The Presiding Officer chairs proceedings in the parliamentary chamber and is the official representative of the parliament.

Alex Rowley


Name: Alex RowleyScottish Labour logo130x37
Born: Dunfermline, 1963
Party and role: Scottish Labour; Deputy Leader
Constituency or region: Mid Scotland and Fife
Elected: 2014 (Cowdenbeath by-election); Mid Scotland and Fife 2016.
University of Edinburgh education: MA Sociology and Politics 1993, Community Education MSc 1994
CV: Was previously a leader of Fife Council. Has also worked as an education official with the TUC union and as an assistant to Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the UK.

Mr Rowley took his degrees as a mature student. He says: “I started off my working career as a gardener before returning to full-time education.”

Liam McArthur

liam mcarthur400

Name: Liam McArthurscotLibDems130
Born: Edinburgh, 1967; moved to Sanday, Orkney, aged 10
Party and role: Scottish Liberal Democrats; Spokesperson on Education and Energy
Constituency or region: Orkney
Elected: 2007
University of Edinburgh education: MA Politics 1990
CV: Was researcher for Jim Wallace MP at Westminster and later special adviser to Wallace as Deputy First Minister in the Scottish Parliament. Has worked for EU public affairs consultancies, and communications companies. Has served as Shadow Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism and Spokesperson on Environment, Rural Development and Energy.

Before studying at Edinburgh, Mr McArthur spent a year in Mexico with the American Field Service youth exchange programme. At Edinburgh he captained the Edinburgh University football team and played for Scottish Universities in the UK finals. Today he is goalkeeper for Burray Football Club.

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