SNP MSP Ash Regan is my 2022 Edinburgh and Lothians Woman of the Year – Susan Dalgety
Now that the turkey has been picked clean, almost, and the last of the cold Brussels sprouts eaten (trust me, they’re very tasty), it’s time to turn my attention to my annual Boxing Day tradition – choosing the Edinburgh and Lothian Woman of the Year.
I am the sole judge, there is no prize and to be honest, it’s not really on the same scale as Eurovision, or even Strictly. But it passes a few hours in that dead zone that is the week between Christmas Day and Hogmanay.
Faithful readers will recall that last year’s winner was Karen Everywoman. We all know her – she is our mother, sister, aunty, granny, best friend, wife or partner. She isn’t rich or famous, but she is the woman who holds families and society together, and without whom we would all struggle.
I was tempted to choose her again, but I decided that in the interest of variety I would find a different but equally worthy winner for 2022. I didn’t have to look far, and rather surprisingly I found our hero in Holyrood. Now I know that most of you have a pretty low opinion of our MSPs, and I can’t really blame you, but once in a while one of them surprises us with their integrity and, yes, their courage.
Step forward Ash Regan, the MSP for Edinburgh Eastern, and until recently the minister for community safety. Ash did something almost unheard of in politics today – she resigned from her well-paid and influential job as a government minister, not because she was involved in a scandal, but on a point of principle.
She quit her job – giving up £30,000 a year and a ministerial limousine – because she did not agree with her boss’s plans for gender recognition reform. In her letter of resignation to Nicola Sturgeon in October, she said she had considered the issue “very carefully over some time" and had "concluded that my conscience will not allow me to vote with the government”.
And again last week, when the controversial gender bill was passed in the parliament, Ash broke her party’s whip and voted against it. So what, you might shrug? A nurse who does a 12-hour shift in a busy A&E ward is far more deserving of an award – even a made-up one like mine – than a very well paid politician. Even after taking a £30,000 pay cut, Ash Regan will still earn nearly £67,000 a year – more than double the average salary for a woman in the UK.
But what Ash did – give up the status and salary of a government job because of her values – is so unusual that she deserves every accolade going. Even my hand-crafted one.
It took courage too, to defy Nicola Sturgeon. No doubt SNP bosses will advise Ash’s local party to ditch her before the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2026, so she risked her career as well as sacrificed her position to stand up for what she believes in. So, for reminding us all that politics can be an honourable profession, Ash Regan MSP is the 2022 Edinburgh and Lothians Woman of the Year. I only hope she doesn’t expect a trophy.