ALISON Dickie used to help run the Scottish Parliament as a senior official, writing speeches for the presiding officer and organising the opening ceremony for the Holyrood building.
Now she is bidding for a place on the political benches after being selected as SNP candidate for Edinburgh Central in next year’s parliament elections.
The 49-year-old, who now works as a P7 teacher at East Craigs Primary School, won an internal contest following the decision by sitting Edinburgh Central SNP MSP Marco Biagi to stand down.
Ms Dickie will be up against Labour’s Sarah Boyack, who held the seat until 2011 and also Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who is moving her political base from Glasgow to the Capital.
Ms Dickie moved to Edinburgh 16 years ago and spent ten years as an official at the parliament, working for presiding officers George Reid and Alex Fergusson, including spells as private secretary and international and European officer.
She had not been involved in politics before. She said: “I caught the bug from the beginning. But as an official, I had to be impartial, serving all parties. I was really lucky and got good jobs at the parliament.”
She said she eventually got frustrated by the need to remain above the fray and decided on a change of career.
“I had thought about teaching a long time ago so I left the parliament and literally went next door to Moray House to do a one-year post-graduate teaching course and I immediately joined the party. I wanted to make a difference by teaching, but I also wanted to be part of the whole political scene.”
She has been an enthusiastic campaigner, not least during the referendum.
She said friends kept asking her why she was not standing for election and she decided to throw her hat in the ring to become an MSP.
“I believe I can do a really good job in parliament, speaking up for people.”
Ms Dickie is married to the senior pastor of Granton Baptist Church, the Rev Ian Dickie, and the couple have two sons – one a teacher in West Lothian and the other currently working in the Scottish Parliament.
The SNP won Edinburgh Central from Labour at the last Holyrood election with a majority of just 237.
Mr Biagi announced in May he would not seek re-election, saying he wanted to pursue an academic career. The party ruled there should be an all-female shortlist to choose his successor and Ms Dickie was selected from a group of five women bidding for the nomination.
She said leaving the “bubble” of the Scottish Parliament and going to work in a school had been a major learning experience. “Moving out into the ‘real world’ again, you see very quickly how much politicians impact on the classroom floor.”
She said she felt passionately about the need to close the attainment gap between pupils from different backgrounds.
“That has a lot to do with resources and funding. We all have work to do.”
Ms Dickie said rents were an obvious concern in Edinburgh Central and added she would be listening to people within the constituency to find out what their other priority issues were.