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Meet the Fife family hoping to bring Holyrood to the people

Miriam Hussain (left) with dad Fateh and mum Fatima
Miriam Hussain (left) with dad Fateh and mum Fatima

Miriam Hussain and her family never used to think about politics – and to them the Scottish Parliament was nothing more than a tourist attraction.

They felt their background and day-to-day life kept them remote from the institution.

Miriam’s dad Fateh immigrated to the UK from Pakistan in the 1970s, and her mum Fatima followed suit in 1981.

They moved to Glenrothes where they run the Leslie Mini Market shop, but never thought about getting involved in the decisions that shape lives across Scotland.

I wanted to see them reflected in parliament so I streamed my speech from their shop.

– Miriam Hussain.

However, Miriam, 32, was determined to change all of that, and now the Hussains are fronting a Holyrood campaign to get more people involved in what the parliament does.

“When I finished university, like most folk I had no idea what I was doing,” Miriam said.

She saw a project called Young Women Lead being advertised on social media, aimed at ethnic minorities.

That took her to parliament to talk about leadership, learning how to speak publicly.

Thanks to that, Miriam was selected to give the weekly Time for Reflection in parliament – often a thoughtful or spiritual address to MSPs before their work gets under way in the chamber.

Livestreamed from the ‘wee shop’

Livestreaming the address from her parents’ shop got them interested.

She said: “I felt like there are so many other people who have immigrant parents or parents who run a wee shop.

“I wanted to see them reflected in parliament so I streamed my speech from their shop.

“I felt I had a voice and was being heard for the first time – but it had an even bigger impact on my mum.

“Mum never imagined getting involved in the Scottish Parliament and never saw that as an opportunity for herself.”

She added: “We would go and vote but we never saw South Asian MSPs growing up and the parliament always felt like a tourist attraction.

Miriam and Fatima Hussain

“They thought they didn’t have the language to articulate themselves and thought of politics as using big words, but they can get engaged in their own way and in their own language.

“I remember visiting Holyrood for the first time and I felt so foreign, but once I was actually there I knew I was Scottish and should be more involved.”

‘My voice can make a difference’

Now Miriam and her parents talk openly about their political views and encourage their family and the customers in their shop to go out and vote.

They’ve even started taking an interest in Pakistani politics as well as Scottish politics.

Mum Fatima said: “After Miriam did Time for Reflection at the parliament, I saw for myself what a difference it can make.

“I felt like I had a voice.

“And my voice can make a difference.”

How can you get involved?

Members of the public can fill in a survey asking what the parliament can do to get their voices heard.

MSPs say they are particularly keen to hear from people who have never engaged in the work of the parliament before.

Jackson Carlaw MSPJackson Carlaw, who leads Holyrood’s citizen participation and public petitions committee, said: “It’s so important to see the difference that the parliament can make to people’s lives and the positive impact it can have.

“I hope learning more about Miriam’s story will encourage other people to see the parliament as something for them.”

The survey can be completed here online.

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