Getting to know you: Donald Cameron
Donald Cameron MSP sits down for a light blether with Holyrood’s Tom Freeman
Scottish Conservative Donald Cameron was elected on the Highlands and Islands list in 2016 and was quickly appointed Ruth Davidson’s shadow health secretary. Relatively new to politics, he served as an advocate for 10 years, focusing on public, agricultural and crofting law, and as a standing junior counsel to the Scottish Government from 2009 to 2016. Son of Donald Angus Cameron, 27th Lochiel, chief of the Clan Cameron, he attended boarding school in London before going to Oxford University to study modern history. He then worked at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank specialising in international relations in Washington DC. He qualified as an advocate at the Scottish Bar in 2005.
What is your earliest memory?
I remember walking to nursery school with my mother and being splashed by a car and being completely covered in water.
Were you angry?
Angry. Yes. But not as angry as my mother was, shaking her fist at the driver. I remember it very, very clearly.
Who would be your dream dinner date?
There are lots of political people I’d love to have dinner with. I’d love to have dinner with Barack Obama, actually. He’s got more time now if he ever fancied it. Maybe it’s just because it’s the sunset of his presidency that I’m saying that but I genuinely would like to meet him and talk to him – as a fellow lawyer-turned-politician.
Would you have Trump at the table too?
No. Not really.
What’s your greatest fear?
I’ve always feared sharks.
Did that come from seeing Jaws?
Definitely. I was traumatised by watching all the Jaws movies, one after the other, as a child. I’ve never quite dared to swim in open sea as a result.
What, you’ve never swum in the sea?
No, I have, but always with one eye over my shoulder!
What’s the worst thing anyone’s ever said to you?
Crikey. As children, we were very wet. My cousins called us ‘the cry-baby Camerons’. I suppose that’s not the worst thing anyone’s ever said to me but it is one of those childhood things that sticks with you and you never quite escape. I mean it was a justified criticism, but it definitely hurt.
You were wet because your mother didn’t dry you off after being splashed by a car?
Exactly. No, we were pretty pathetic.
If you really were pathetic, when did you find your fight? Or are you still ‘wet’?
We were bad. We used to cry when my dad went over the speed limit. But just growing up, the knockabouts at school, you soon toughen up. And I suppose being a courtroom lawyer for so long, you get used to the slings and arrows pretty quickly.
What do you dislike about your appearance?
Plenty of things! I suppose the usual process of ageing, losing my hair. I don’t really think about it very much actually, but I turned 40 last year and I suppose I feel age is catching up with me now.
There was no hesitation there.
Yeah. I suppose doing the health brief for the Conservatives means we talk a lot about active lifestyles, so I have to start practising what I preach.
You’ve become more aware of it since taking on the role?
Definitely. It’s made me think about things like the food you buy, what you get your children, things like that. I’ve never been that sporty, to be honest. You can’t talk about an active healthy lifestyle then go and tuck into a sausage roll…
You wouldn’t be the first...
I’m sure! It’s a work in progress.
If you could go back in time where would you go?
You know, I’d love to go back to the 19th century. The middle of the 19th century in Britain was a fascinating time in terms of politics, with political giants like Disraeli, Gladstone. It was a fascinating time intellectually, culturally. That’s where I’d like to visit.
No cars to splash you either…
Best piece of advice you’ve ever had?
To be yourself. I think that applies to every aspect of your life. It was said to me when I was training to be an advocate, and it’s been repeated to me since I was elected. To be true to yourself and trust your instincts.
What’s the worst pain you’ve ever experienced?
I remember as a child tripping up and gashing my knee on a nail. The ensuing pain and trip to the local hospital for a tetanus jab is combined in a hideous memory of agonising pain. It’s probably not nearly as bad in reality as it has become in my memory, but it’s one of those things. I do remember writhing in pain on the floor.
Top film of all time?
Do you remember The Mission? With Jeremy Irons? It’s a bit of an 80s throwback.
What was your best holiday ever?
My wife and I, before we were married, went to India for three weeks and travelled all across the country. It was absolutely fascinating. India is great, and very memorable. It was brilliant.
The last book you read? It was Conclave by Robert Harris. It’s about the election of a pope. It was excellent, and very gripping. And I’m currently reading All Out War by Tim Shipman about the Brexit vote. That’s a real political page-turner.
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