Shirley-Anne Somerville – Get to know your candidate.

SHIRLEY-ANNE Somerville is determined 2016 will be her year to enter Holyrood.

imageThe SNP candidate for Dunfermline had to overcome disappointment at the ballot box when she failed to win Edinburgh North against Labour’s Malcolm Chisholm in 2011, and then missed out in the Dunfermline by-election in 2013 against Cara Hilton, who was also standing for Labour.

But Somerville, who was the Yes campaign’s director of communications, believes her campaigning skills and talents as a politician have been strengthened by her setbacks.

“I have learned from my experiences of defeat and grown a lot as a politician. I believe I’ve come back a more experienced candidate,” she said. “I have a great deal of respect for Malcolm, he had a strong personal vote, which made him a difficult candidate to be against, but we ran him close and I think I just lost by about 600 votes”.

Somerville was born in the Fife village of Cardenden and attended Kirkcaldy High School before studying economics and politics at Strathclyde University.

The 41-year-old, who has two young daughters, began her working life as a housing officer before moving into campaigning roles, including for the Chartered Institute of Housing and for the Royal College of Nursing.

Interested in politics at an early age, she joined the SNP at 16 and quickly got to know fellow youth activists Shona Robison, who is now Health Secretary, as well as party leader Nicola Sturgeon.

In 2007, she entered Holyrood on the regional list as a Lothians MSP and served as a parliamentary aide to Finance Secretary John Swinney during the session, as well as being the party’s deputy whip in the parliamentary group.

She was also a member of the cross-party group on men’s violence against women and children, and a co-convener of the cross party group on climate change.

But the unexpected landslide victory of the SNP in the constituency seats in 2011 meant Somerville lost her list seat.

“It was a bittersweet feeling,” she said. “I was defeated because the SNP were so successful in the constituencies. If you are going to get defeated then you may as well do so because your party has done so well. It gave me some comfort.”

Looking ahead to next week, she hopes to be given the opportunity to represent the people of Dunfermline in the next session of the Scottish Parliament.

“I was pleased that the SNP manifesto included a commitment to look at a feasibility study for the extension of the Stirling-Alloa line to Dunfermline.

“That would be a tremendous boost to local commuters, it would give direct access to Glasgow and would be great for businesses in the area. There is so much potential in tourism and West Fife, and a link [like] this would help,” she said.

Somerville is also keen to keep up pressure on the Labour-controlled Fife Council about school facilities in a growing Dunfermline.

“A lot of families have moved over to Dunfermline from Edinburgh but one of the issues is making sure there is adequate schooling and other services to meet the extra demand,” she added. “It’s fantastic that Dunfermline is booming but the council has an obligation to make sure it is providing enough facilities – that will be one of my key priorities if elected next month.”