Veteran MSP Sarah Boyack returns to Holyrood

Sarah Boyack has replaced Kezia Dugdale as a Labour Lothian MSPSarah Boyack has replaced Kezia Dugdale as a Labour Lothian MSP
Sarah Boyack has replaced Kezia Dugdale as a Labour Lothian MSP
SARAH Boyack was first elected an MSP 20 years ago and was catapulted immediately into one of the most high-profile roles as Minister for Transport and Environment in the first Scottish Government.

She served 17 years as a Labour MSP, first for Edinburgh Central and then on the Lothian list, before losing her seat at the last elections in 2016.

But now she’s back, replacing former Scottish Labour leader and Lothian MSP Kezia Dugdale who stepped down last month. And Ms Boyack is eager to get going.

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“There is so much that I feel is unfinished business for me,” she said. “And having been out of parliament for three years has given me a new perspective.

“There’s almost an impatience outside for parliament to get on and sort things.”

She cites ever-rising rents, which make living in Edinburgh unaffordable for many, and the growth of Airbnb-style short-term lets, leading to a loss of housing. “Outside, people ask why that has not been acted on.

“We’ve obviously got a discussion going on about where the country goes - for me, Brexit is just crazy and what the Brexit people are being offered is not what they voted for, so I think it’s time to call a halt to that - but the day-to-day stuff is getting lost.

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“Things are getting worse when we’ve got more powers to actually make things better.”

Ms Boyack said her top priorities were likely to be climate change, poverty and affordable housing.

And she added: “I know from speaking to my Labour council colleagues that the council is under huge financial pressure, so I see one of my roles as pushing the Scottish Government for a fair deal for Edinburgh and things like a tourist levy, long overdue.”

When she was first elected Labour was in government; now it is the second opposition party.

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Ms Boyack acknowledged: “It was very different in 1999, we had Donald Dewar, we had just been elected, we were all enthusiastic, we had new powers.”

But she insisted: “We can still change the world and I’m really looking forward to being back in the Scottish Parliament and being one of the team.

“Sure we are in opposition, but the dynamics in here are there is no majority so each individual MSP and each party can influence.”