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Foysol Choudhury a Bangladeshi-born businessman and long-time chair of Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council (ELREC), was elected to Holyrood as a Labour list MSP for Lothian in last week's elections.
He said it felt “fantastic” but “still hard to believe”.
"It feels like I have always been asking questions; now I'm thinking I will be on the other side, answering the questions, being part of the decision-making and finding the solutions.
“It does feel great but I think it will take time to get used to it – it's a totally new thing for me.”
Mr Choudhury was born in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, and came to Edinburgh with his family as a teenager. He joined the family business, working in his uncle’s restaurant, became involved with ELREC and in 2004 was made an MBE for his fundraising and charity work. He became active politically during the 2014 referendum, campaigning against independence, and stood as Labour candidate for Edinburgh South West at the 2017 general election.
He said he hoped his election would be a boost for communities who felt their concerns had not up until now been properly reflected in the parliament.
"It will make a big difference to the minority community. It will encourage other people to come forward. I think it is important we have a diverse parliament.”
And he said it would reassure people from ethnic minorities who were active in political parties that they were not just there to tick a box or make up the numbers.
“It will show them that if you work hard you can get elected. I have received so many calls and congratulations from people in the community – people are so happy to see me here.”
He said he saw recovery as his priority and especially education. ELREC had worked during the pandemic to help families with food and also with devices for children having to learn at home.
"It is really sad to see poverty quite high in Edinburgh and that in a country like Scotland people are having to rely on that kind of help. We need to forget party politics and work for the communities who elected us.”