Getting to know you - Finlay Carson
Scottish Conservative MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries discusses school, Forrest Gump and beef Wellington with Gemma Fraser
Image credit: Holyrood
What is your earliest memory?
My brother always laughs that I remember things from before I was born. I have the ability to remember all the stories my family tells, so half the memories probably aren’t mine at all! But I do remember being in a pram on Blackpool pier and going over the slats. I also remember playing on the farm where I was brought up, in Twynholm, with my cousin who came to stay for the summer holidays, and building a dam with him.
What were you like at school?
I was head boy at Kirkcudbright Academy, which came as a great surprise to me. I was in 6C and was told I was lucky to be at school at all being in that class! But I loved being head boy, and remember at the time thinking it couldn’t get any better than that. I wasn’t very academic, and was told by teachers not to aim higher than agricultural college, but I was very fortunate to be offered a place at Aberdeen University.
Did you ever go back to those teachers and say ‘look at me now, look at what I’ve achieved’?
No I didn’t. If anything, I should go back to the teachers to say thank you.
Do you still own the family farm?
My brother and I took over the farm from my father and uncle in 1989, but it wasn’t big enough to sustain four families. My claim to fame was my father and I won the coveted silage making competition and went to the Grosvenor Hotel in London. We were the first dairy farm in Scotland to win it.
Who would be your dream dinner date?
My partner and I were talking about this the other day. Tom Hanks is someone I think would be fascinating at a dinner because he has played so many completely different roles and is very believable in all of them. I would like to find out what it was really like behind his characters. I liked him best in Turner & Hooch and also Forrest Gump.
Would you do the cooking?
Yes, I love cooking. I do most of the cooking at home. My default used to be a curry, but I do a fantastic beef Wellington. But it has to be a lovely piece of Galloway beef!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I was speaking to Merryn Fergusson, Alex Fergusson’s widow, about dealing with workload. As an MSP, you get an enormous amount of different things coming in every day, and it’s easy to get weighed down. Alex once told me to look at every day before you go to bed and always think about something you have achieved that day, something positive. There’s always something, even if it’s just something small, or something seemingly unimportant.
What’s the worst thing someone has said to you?
In Galloway we don’t get the nasty people on the doorsteps – most people are happy that we have taken the time to knock on their door. But I remember when I was first elected to Dumfries and Galloway Council in 2012, a councillor called me a ‘Tory Toff’. It annoyed me more than anything that the assumption is still that all Tories are toffs. You just have to look at our MSPs to see that that is absolutely not the case. But it made me think that we have a bit of a job to do to make sure everybody realises that our party has changed a lot in the last 50/60 years.
What was the last book you read?
I’ve now taken to listening to audio books. I like Tom Clancy and Dan Brown. I don’t read as often as I would like.
What do you do in your spare time?
I’m a sports fan and enjoy sport of any kind. My daughter plays ice hockey for Great Britain ladies and my son plays rugby, so I love going to support them. I loved playing for the parliamentary rugby team, but I got injured in the last two outings so I have hung up my boots. I’m also a big motorsports fan. I’m a keen gardener too – my kids say my ghost will be seen cutting the grass!
What is your proudest moment?
I’ve got a few proud moments. I was very proud of my father when he won the silage competition, and also recently when he received a certificate for 50 years as a church elder. I was proud of myself when Alex Fergusson came up and said I had been elected. I have the rosette he used when he won his elections on my wall there. I’m proud of my son as he’s just passed his driving test, and my daughter for being selected for the Great Britain ladies team. I feel more pride for the achievements of my kids than for my achievements.
You’ve mentioned Alex Fergusson twice now – was he a big inspiration to you?
He was a dear friend, as well as the guy who kept me on the straight and narrow. My uncle was the returning officer for Twynholm community council and he told me to put my name in to ensure there was an election. I did that with no desire to be elected at all, but I ended up getting elected. I remember one day Alex came and said he needed someone to take over from Peter Duncan on [Dumfries and Galloway] council. He convinced me it would only be a day or a day and a half a month. I got elected and a few years later he suggested he was going to be retiring and wanted me to run to be his replacement. I’m almost an accidental politician. Alex was the guy who got me here. He was always ‘constituents first, party politics second’ and his example is one I would like to follow as closely as possible.
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