A common criticism of politicians is that they don't represent the people they serve and with the political awakening which followed the Scottish independence referendum in September last year, an influx of new and diverse prospective political candidates was sure to challenge that notion.
Jamie Szymkowiak is a 34 year old nominated SNP candidate hoping to run in the Edinburgh North and Leith constituency in the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. Jamie is a seasoned equality and disability campaigner and was fundamental in launching the One In Five Campaign, which aims to remove barriers to disabled people participating in politics. In a poll in my article highlighting the launch of the campaign, over 71% of people confirmed that they felt their disability was a barrier to taking part in politics. As a small business owner Jamie has spearheaded a campaign, which encourages businesses in Leith to invest in their staff by paying the living wage and doing their bit to ensure staff can concentrate on their work and not how they'll pay the bills at the end of the month.
Being relatively new to politics, Jamie was disheartened by the realisation that Scotland was to be subjected to another Conservative government it didn't vote for and decided to put himself forward as a candidate in the 2016 Holyrood elections. A disabled person himself, Jamie recognised the most vulnerable have the most to lose from another Tory government and is committed to working hard to protect welfare, deliver social justice, promote fairness and to work closely with a range of partners across the political spectrum to achieve the best deal for the most vulnerable within his constituency and more generally across Scotland.
Speaking to me about his concerns in relation to the Tory 'welfare reform' agenda Jamie said:
"I'm deeply concerned by the UK Government's current 'welfare reform' agenda. I believe it's ideologically driven; risks ripping the fabric of our society apart and potentially harms the lives and prospects of many women, young and disabled people across Scotland. The financial repercussions are huge! As much as £1bn could be taken from the Scottish budget and many of the most vulnerable across Scotland could be losing out on hundreds of pounds."
Independent Highland and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart lent her support to Jamie and his campaign by saying:
"If we are lucky in life we may meet a person who not only is passionate and inspirational, but is wholly committed and dedicated to a cause. One such in my experience is Jamie Szymkowiak. His ability to lead, persuade, influence and motivate are the prerequisites for being an effective elected representative in the Scottish Parliament. I'd vote for him, regardless of party allegiance. If you get Jamie on your ballot paper, consider yourself one of the lucky ones."
I personally have had the pleasure of working with Jamie in his campaigning and equality pursuits and couldn't imagine a more ardent, dedicated and honourable set of hands to represent my constituency at Holyrood. Sadly there is only one of Jamie and he isn't running in Glasgow South!
The nominated candidates will find out on 3rd August who members have voted to go forward as the PPC for 2016's election.