Fourth term for Michael Matheson – one of the Holyrood parliament originals

Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson thinks he's too young to be known as a "grandee" - he is, after all, only 50.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Monday, 10th May 2021, 4:26 pm

But as he returns to Holyrood with another thumping majority, he'll be among a handful of politicians to have served continuously since the parliament convened in 1999.

In 1999, the then 28-year-old became a list MSP for Central Scotland, beaten in the race for Falkirk West by the veteran politician Dennis Canavan, who had left the Labour party to stand as an independent.

When Mr Canavan stood down, Mr Matheson took the constituency for the SNP and he has held it ever since - winning the seat for the fourth time in Thursday's election.

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Michael Matheson retains his Falkirk West seat (Pic: Michael Gillen)

It was an election like no other, of course, in the midst of a pandemic - and a campaign like no other.

Speaking after the result was announced, Mr Matheson admits it was frustrating that for much of it there was no real way to get out and about, talking to voters and rallying supporters.

It was only in the final three weeks of the campaign that they could get out and chap doors "on a limited basis".

"During election campaigns, I can get a real sense of what people's priorities are and the issues they are looking for politicians to address," he said.

Michael Matheson at the Falkirk count (Pic: Michael Gillen)

"When you're a sitting MSP, you find you pick up a lot of enquiries and often you realise its something you can help with, so I've missed that."

When he did eventually get to speak to people he found, unsurprisingly, that "people want us to get through the pandemic as safely as possible.”

"But people also talked about some of the positives that have come from the past year - the number of people I've talked to who are working from home and they are keen to look at how to keep a good home and work balance.

"People have also engaged with their local area - finding good walks and also getting a strong sense of community."

The defining issue of the campaign, however, was the question of whether Scotland should be independent or not.

Mr Matheson said: "People recognise that Scotland's future should be in Scotland's hands.

"It's for the people of Scotland to decide - not for someone remote from Scotland to decide terms."

But whatever the problems on the campaign trail, any fears that the pandemic would have an effect on the turnout were misplaced.

Despite a cold day and extra safety measures that meant many people having to queue, the numbers were well up on 2016.

Mr Matheson gained a mammoth 21,492 votes – 54.1 per cent of the vote.

He said. "It's the honour of my life to be the MSP for Falkirk West."

He's keen now to get back to business, adding: “I'm hoping that within the next couple of weeks I can meet constituents face to face and be able to visit some of the businesses and local organisations again, in a way I haven't been able to."

Despite that, in the past few months, his office team has been busier than ever - dealing with "a record number of enquiries" while they had to work from home.

"My constituency staff have been fantastic!" he said.

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