It’s been a hectic two weeks for new Inverness councillor Colin Aitken.
The Liberal Democrat member was elected to Highland Council to represent Inverness West in the recent by-election on August 12.
Yet the trials and triumphs of local democracy are not entirely new to him.
In fact, Mr Aitken traces his political aspirations back to his Canadian roots.
“I’ve always wanted to get involved in local government,” says Mr Aitken. “I did an internship at Edmonton County Council and my Mum did six years in the council, so I’ve seen it at its most basic, day-to-day level.
“It’s more localised in Canada though. There are 6,500 people in my town and it had its own council.”
Falling in love
The two nations may have different political landscapes, but it’s the natural landscape that brought Mr Aitken here permanently in October 2015. “My grandparents are from the UK, so I was able to visit in 2014 on an ancestry visa,” he said.
“I just fell in love with it here. The natural beauty of the landscape mixed with the history… in Canada we have the landscape but not the history. Also, everything is so much closer here.
“Transport gets a bad rep but in the Highlands you’re far more connected than in Canada. You can get on the train and visit Edinburgh and London. I’ve been to every corner in the time I’ve lived here.”
On the doorsteps
While Mr Aitken has praise for the transport infrastructure, he knows it falls far short of what his constituents expect.
It’s one of the issues that was pressed upon him on the doorsteps of the campaign trail.
Many of the issues people raised, he said, were the basic elements of everyday life.
“The state of the roads was one of the big issues,” he says. “Improvements to footpaths, lowering the speed limit to 20mph and improving bus services were others.”
While he acknowledges that it’s “hard to get passionate about potholes” he recognises his role as a voice for his constituents.
“I spoke to about 1,000 people in the course of the campaign – we did a lot of door knocking and face-to-face conversations,” he said.
“I think that’s what got me the win, I wanted to listen to local residents to see what they want.
At the end of the day, I’m just one person and the people who live here know what’s best of their community. If it’s important to them, I’ll voice that.”
Get out and listen
Two weeks into post, Mr Aitken is grateful for the support he received from the Liberal Democrat group and has busied himself getting to grips with the demands of the role.
“I’ve been doing lots of reading, trying to get up to speed, but I’m really just taking each day as it comes,” he said.
With less than a year left of the current political term, Mr Aitken is keen to get his sleeves rolled up.
“I had planned to run in the election in May next year but when I was given this opportunity I decided to jump for it,” he said.
“It seemed a natural thing for me, and my priority now is to get out there and listen.”