Getting to know you - Ross Greer MSP
The West of Scotland Green is is the youngest ever MSP. He reveals his secret love of bouncy castles to Tom Freeman
Ross Greer MSP - Scottish Greens/Holyrood
You must be fed up of everyone talking about how young you are?
It can be a novelty and great fun, both because of the reaction it brings out in other MSPs who are not quite vying to be the youngest member of parliament and how stressed it seems to make them, but also because it gives me extra platforms I wouldn’t normally have. The flipside is the people who try and use that label to depoliticise me.
What about your old pals in the Scottish Youth Parliament?
That’s where I’m beginning to feel old. All my friends in the youth parliament have moved on but I’m still young enough to be a member of the youth parliament. If I decide I can’t hack it in here anymore I could always apply to be a MSYP again… but to them I’m an old person.
Doesn’t that make you feel good, though?
There’s definitely a novelty to it. All the great things they’re campaigning on, I can say, ‘yeah, I’ll bring that up in the chamber and do something about that’, or ‘here’s what I’ve already progressed from the stuff we all used to say needed to get done’ and there’s a nice sense of satisfaction there.
You’re not wallowing in the power, are you?
Er, no. We [the Greens] do hold the balance of power, and that’s nice, but I’m not quite walking the corridors of power surrounded by an entourage of spads.
Do you want an entourage?
No, that’s not my style. My cultural background is west of Scotland Presbyterian. It inclines quite heavily against that.
We usually ask what you were like at school, but I don’t suppose you were much different?
I was in school in the last session of parliament, but I think I was probably far more serious at school than I am now.
Yeah. The first thing I did coming out of school was work for Yes Scotland, the most stressful thing I’ve ever done in my life. On the back of that, I’m much more laid back about everything else, because nothing could be as traumatising and stressful in terms of work than that was.
At school I was the one who got things done. I was the one in sixth year booking bouncy castles for the leaving day or sorting out the curry for the curry karaoke night. I’m a compulsive organiser.
What was your nickname then? Captain Sensible?
The name on the back of my leavers’ hoodie is Trotsky. That was a political thing, but his organisational skills were something to be admired as well…
Do you fear an ice-pick in the forehead, then?
I think the level of political intrigue in here tends to run itself to 140 characters.
What’s your greatest fear?
Losing control. I’m not the kind of person to have a fear of spiders or heights or fast rides. I love climbing but because I’m so laid back, I don’t feel strongly one way or the other about a lot of that stuff. My struggle has always been, because I’m so task orientated, is when I’m not in control of a task… it’s absolutely my personality flaw. I can’t quite handle it.
You’re a control freak?
Absolutely a control freak. Yeah.
Most treasured possession?
It would be the totally clichéd thing if I said my bible or the church tie I got sworn in with.
Not really, most people say their family…
I try not to think of them as possessions. In terms of possessions, though, there’s a whole load of stuff I couldn’t live without – my laptop and my phone and things. I don’t treasure them, though. I feel liberated from them if they break. If they’re not broken they’re on all the time. I haven’t turned my phone off since I left school.
How long after that feeling of liberation do you panic because you’re not in control anymore?
Six or seven seconds. Absolutely traumatising.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
I do a lot of the youth activity stuff for our church from the wee kids in the crèche to the youth group of 12 to 17 year olds. Twice a year, for Christmas and the summer barbeque, we book a bouncy castle for the kids. But it arrives at least an hour and a half before they do, and leaves at least an hour after they do. The reality is I book a bouncy castle for myself twice a year.
There’s a theme emerging…
I must have got the idea from school, yeah. Because I’m at quite a young age, I’m doing a job that you have to take absolutely seriously and where a lot is expected of you, so the rare opportunities you get to act like a fool without any consequence…
If there’s a bouncy castle in a town centre and I was the local MSP and it was the town fair or whatever they would want me on it but it would end up with all the photographs, like Miliband and the banana. Politicians are terrified of those stupid photographs, whereas if I book it, and this is back to the control thing, it’s in my church hall with my youth group then I’m safe.
Do you terrify your church group by bouncing with wild abandon?
The kids love it, because when there are adults on the bouncy castle, the force of us bouncing throws them further in the air.
The best advice you’ve had?
I got an incredible volume of advice when I got elected here, and it might not be the best advice I’ve ever had but the best advice I got going into this job was when I bumped into Mike Russell on the Monday morning before we were all sworn in. He said: ‘Enjoy every moment of this job, it is an immense privilege, but stop doing it the moment you stop enjoying it.’
It’s been a pretty intense 18 months, though. It can’t possibly sustain this level of excitement.
My entire adult life has been encapsulated by this. I left school in May 2012, the month we launched Yes Scotland… It’s an over-saturation point. Everything’s urgent, everything’s important.
I prefer lying in a darkened room to a bouncy castle, but each to their own.
I love crisis management. It’s up there with control freakery. There’s a bit of me that loves it when it all goes wrong and you just have to respond.
Dream dinner date?
Oh, that’s a hard one. I’m vying between Lenin and Trotsky or Martin Luther from the Reformation. The chat would be pretty intense, I would imagine, even at dinner. But having dinner without the fear of being in the next purge list would be stimulating conversation. Actually, Michael Collins would definitely be a better laugh than Lenin or Trotsky and he generally avoided the use of firing squads!
So if you could back to any time in history it would be the Russian revolution, then?
That era, but not just in Russia. You had the battle of George Square, in the area I represent, you had Red Clydeside. 100,000 people in George Square singing the Internationale. The Easter rising in Ireland. It was an era of revolution.
Would you have a bouncy castle?
Well, it was an era of airships. Patrick’s into airships. We could travel from revolution to revolution.
Last book you read?
I just finished ‘Politics in a Time of Crisis’ by Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos. He wrote it just before Podemos took off. But I do read stuff that isn’t politics as well! I tend to be reading Warhammer science fiction or Star Wars science fiction as well, alongside the politics and history.
Warhammer? Did you play wargames, then?
Oh yeah. Warhammer 40k, Fantasy, Lord of the Rings, War of the Ring, Necromunda. Painting the models and stuff was relaxing and playing the games themselves encourages strategic thinking, but it probably just fulfilled my need for control. ‘Look – a whole army, and they do exactly what I want them to.’
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