Why enthusiasm wins the day for Gethins a year on
One year ago this week 650 men and women from across the UK, from all walks of life, entered the hallowed portals of the Palace of Westminster, to take their places on the green benches of the House of Commons, amongst them some weel-kent faces, but also many taking their first steps into the Chamber.
North East Fife’s MP was taking first steps – the SNP’s Stephen Gethins was one of those who had been part of the party’s rout of Scottish parliamentary seats.
One year on, he was in reflective mood, taking a few minutes out from what has become a regular round of visits in his constituency.
This week he’s visiting Moira and David Henderson’s accessible holiday facility The Rings at Chance Inn.
He’s working on that work-life balance, spending most of the working week in Westminster where he’s the SNP’s Europe spokesman and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, heading north to carry out his constituency duties over the weekend – meeting constituents, visiting local businesses and organisations, and finding time to spend with his young family.
“I seem to spend a lot of time in airports,” he commented, “but I try to keep Sundays as free as I can, fortunately I have a very understanding wife!”
Despite the pressures of juggling a hectic schedule, he is clearly loving his new job, particularly the local work.
“The constituency work for me is the most important. Representing north east Fife is really special and I am proud to be able to do it,” Mr Gethins said, adding: “My favourite time of the week is when I can come back home and get stuck into constituency cases and meeting people, like Moira here at The Rings.”
Over the year he’s seen the impact of national policies on local people, as well as dealing with issues unique to north-east Fife.
“Changes to the Universal Credit have brought a lot of cases to me,” he said.
“And there is a lot of local interest in the work I am doing on the Foreign Affairs Committee around Syria.”
But local issues are of enormous concern to him from the planned library closures to Madras College, to the future of the Elmwood Campus in Cupar, to volunteering.
He has just finished campaigning in the Scottish Parliamentary elections, and is undoubtedly disappointed that the SNP failed to hold on to the North East Fife seat: “Rod Campbell was a really hard-working MSP and it was disappointing that he lost his seat, but I look forward to working with Willie Rennie – I don’t care what colour a person’s rosette is if they are working for the people of north-east Fife, and I am sure we will have a good working relationship over the next few years.”
Having just finished one campaign, he’s now concentrating on the European referendum, slightly concerned about voter fatigue as Scots will face a third trip to the polling booths in a year when they vote in next year’s council elections.
But he stresses: “This is an important vote,” before pushing the party line: “The EU makes us greener, wealthier, healthier. It’s a straightforward decision, I think we should say yes to staying in Europe.”
And as he heads off from The Rings to the next appointment, the next round of hand-shaking, or the next round of making small talk, his enthusiasm continues to burn as brightly as it did a year ago.