Karen Adam, newly elected SNP MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, reflects on her first week at Holyrood as part of our diary series on the experience of some of Scotland’s newest MSPs.
Tuesday May 11
“On day one, as I walked down the Canongate to the front entrance, I was equal parts excited and nervous.
“It’s a surreal experience being met with press photographers as you go to work but the last few days had been quite overwhelming and surreal; it was like a continuation of that but also another beginning of more surreal experiences.
“I was met by very friendly parliament staff who guided me through what seemed like a maze of a building.
“I had been before but unless you are a regular it’s still quite disorientating to most, I expect.
“My guide for the day was extremely helpful; she went through all the plans, which I’m sure I forgot almost instantly as my mind was still absorbing the fact I was an MSP in the parliament building.
First day. 🏴 pic.twitter.com/7cu6eF7EwJ
— Karen Adam MSP (@KarenAdamMSP) May 11, 2021
“The orientation programme was great. Myself and three others were led through basic information, security passes issued and offices allocated.
“IT equipment and a briefing were, of course, essential and I was surprised to see so many emails already waiting for me as I logged in for the first time.
“We also enjoyed a fantastic tour of the building with many pieces of art explained. It was a lovely touch.
“With Covid restrictions in place, there were many strict guidelines which might be strange to regulars but, in some respects, the limited numbers and arrow-stickered floors were perfect for a newcomer.
Wednesday May 12
“Day two started off lovely, as I bumped into two colleagues on the walk to parliament. I had only ever met them virtually before.
“Perhaps it was the blethering or being newbies that got us lost on our way in on our second day.
“The staff couldn’t have been more helpful and I’m sure we weren’t the first to be a little lost.
The following day we would be voting in a new presiding officer.”
“Today we were in the chamber for the first time; it was a very humbling experience.
“I pondered the responsibility on my shoulders, which was perhaps overwhelming but also an extremely energising feeling, to know I could be a voice and an advocate for those who put their trust in me.
“To feel such an honour given by constituents is something I’ll never forget.
“Chamber business and other legal requirements and duties were discussed.
“The presiding officer spoke to us before his last day. The following day we would be voting in a new presiding officer.
“I had a FaceTime with a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter and a Teams meeting with the parliament’s BSL officer so I could ensure my BSL affirmation would do the language justice. It was wonderful being able to sign and chat online from within the parliament.
Thursday May 13
“Day three was an unbelievably poignant day, one I shall never forget.
“I was worried I was in the wrong place, only to realise I wasn’t seeing anyone as I was very early.
“Perhaps the nerves were to blame for a 45-minute early arrival. It was the first day I would meet most of my colleagues in real life, not virtually, and the day I would be sworn in.
“I pinned my white rose on my lapel and headed for the chamber.
“Alphabetical order meant I was the second to go after the leaders of the party. I was glad of it, not only to have any nerves settled early on, but because for my first official duty I was able to watch, from as close as anyone could, the leaders swear in.
“When I heard my name called I felt a sense of pride and poignancy. To bring BSL to such an audience was extremely significant, not just to me, but to our Deaf community.
“I remember sitting down afterwards and I glanced at our First Minister who gave me a smile and thumbs up – sign language for well done. Overwhelmed doesn’t cut it.
“The first business in the afternoon was to elect our new presiding officer.
“Alison Johnstone gave a wonderful speech after her election, one of inclusion and respect.
“I’m sure there will be many tough days ahead but today was one full of promise, which I will reflect on many times, I’m sure, over the next five years.
“A reminder that will help bolster the challenges ahead.
Friday May 14
“On day four and as I packed and dressed early, knowing I would head home after business, I couldn’t believe the first week was over, but in some respects I also felt like it had lasted much longer than it had.
“I managed to find my way quite quickly to where I needed to be and was just starting to feel I had found my bearings.
“Today we were to elect two deputy presiding officers. The voting system meant that it could go on for some time, and it did, but with good outcomes, I believe.
“Annabelle Ewing was the first to be elected, which was a wonderful sight to see.
“I couldn’t help but ponder about Winnie and look around the chamber, still amazed I was here with such inspiring people.
“I was able to talk to quite a few people who I had admired over the years but I was also able to talk to many new faces who I know will do incredible things.
“Some very sobering first questions to witness. We finished just before 5pm and I headed home with a print we had been gifted of our swearing in.
“I had been captured signing ‘law’, it ended the first week perfectly, although, as an MSP, the week never truly ends.
“I look forward to continuing and progressing as I get to setting up office and employing staff.
“I will carry my memorable first week with me for my tenure, I’m sure.”