Getting to know you: Gail Ross

Written by Jenni Davidson on 12 June 2018 in Inside Politics

SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross Gail Ross has a blether with Jenni Davidson

Gail Ross MSP - Image credit: Holyrood

What’s your earliest memory?

I used to have a little washing machine and you could put soapy suds in the back and you turned a little handle and it made soap. I remember one day, for whatever reason, my mum wouldn’t let me put the soap in the washing machine and I was so angry at this because I couldn’t wash my clothes properly. That was one of my earliest memories, taking a tantrum.

What were you like at school?

I am a very impatient person. I could never learn to play a musical instrument because if I wasn’t good at something straight away, then I had no patience for practising. My best two subjects at school were English and art. I’ve always just loved the creative, artistic, fiction, that fairy tale of words. Maths and science was far too rigid for me because there were rules and you had to stick to rules.

Who would be your dream dinner date?

I’ve thought about a number of different people, but I eventually decided on Christopher Hitchens. He was extremely knowledgeable about a whole raft of things and he was not scared to put his opinions across, whether or not somebody agreed with him. And I just find people like that particularly fascinating, people that are so self-confident.

What’s your greatest fear?

I was always quite nervous going over bridges in case the car went in the water. I don’t have a fear of death, but I have a fear of knowing that I’m dying and I think that drowning in an enclosed space, the panic and all that goes with it – and I’ve never been great with water – is probably the one that comes to mind.

What’s the worst thing that anyone’s ever said to you?

I believe that things are better out in the open, so I think that the worst thing for a person to do is say something behind somebody’s back and then you find out about it. And that’s probably the worst part of this job is what people don’t know about you, they just make up.

What’s your most treasured possession?

My most treasured possession is a pen that my late father gave to me to do my Standard Grade exams. It’s a silver Parker pen and I’ve used it to do all my exams, my Standard Grades, my Highers, my Sixth Year Studies, my exams in college, my exams in university and I’ve still got it. I’d be devastated if I lost that.

What do you dislike about your appearance?

I could probably point to loads of things that I think are flaws, but I do believe that imperfections make that person what they are. But I just can’t stick to one hair colour, because I can’t find one that suits me.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure – apart from dyeing your hair many times?

I would probably say my guiltiest pleasure is actually looking up pictures of cats on Pinterest. I don’t eat chocolate and I watch pretty mainstream stuff when I get the chance to watch the TV, but once you start looking at things on Pinterest over and over, that’s all there is in your feed.

It’s probably healthier than looking at Twitter.

Well, exactly. It’s a good way to calm down. And who doesn’t love fluffy kittens?

Indeed. I’m surprised you haven’t brought one into the parliament. I know there’s been discussions about getting a parliament cat.

Oh gosh, don’t. If we had a cat in parliament, I would get absolutely no work done at all. I think it’s a terrible idea.

I kind of like that idea that they’d own the parliament. They’d be secretly in charge of the country.

That would be brilliant, wouldn’t it? And it could be like The Worst Witch, when we get elected, we all go into this massive room and have to choose our cats.

You’ve even got the stripy outfit on. Was it Miss Hardbroom that had the stripy outfit? Not that I’d like to suggest that you might be Miss Hardbroom.

I probably would be her, actually. No, I wouldn’t. But there’s always a kind of approachable, nice, little woman that’s lovely and the tall, thin, authoritarian one. I loved those stories when I was little.

If you could go back in time, where or when would you go?

I would probably go back to when they were building the pyramids, because I was quite fascinated with Egyptology. I went to Egypt in 2008. It was absolutely amazing. I’ve always been really fascinated by how they managed to build the pyramids, how they managed to align them with the stars. Plus they worshipped cats!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?

Think before you open your mouth. My dad always used to say that to me. I don’t know if I’ve ever taken it on board, to be honest with you, but I think it’s probably something that all of us should learn to do.

What skill should every person have?

Well, I think that the ability to love is a skill in itself. I’m just getting involved with the ACEs [adverse childhood experiences] movement and essentially what psychologists are now saying is that basically, love fixes everything. And children that are loved grow up to be confident adults, are less likely to become involved in the more negative aspects of life and then have the ability to love their own children and the cycle goes on.

I suspect Scotland’s particularly bad in that because we’re so poor at expressing emotion.

Yeah, absolutely. I don’t know if we’re going to get onto what was the last book you read, but I’m actually reading a book at the moment by Carol Craig called Hiding in Plain Sight and it’s essentially about Calvinism and our inability to express ourselves and why Scotland has so many ACEs, why it has such an issue with alcohol, and it’s absolutely fascinating.

What’s the worst pain you’ve ever experienced?

I’ve been really lucky, actually, throughout my life. I broke my wrist when I was in first year of high school and I’ve been through childbirth, but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced real, severe physical pain.

What’s your top film or TV programme of all time?

Oh, absolutely Father Ted, without a doubt. I have all the series downloaded. I watch it regularly if I want a laugh. There’s so many rich, rich quotes from it.

What was your best holiday ever?

My best holiday ever would have to be in 2012 when we went to Australia for my brother’s wedding. My brother’s been away in Australia now for eight years and it’s a long way and we miss him a lot. Australia is fantastic. I just loved it. I’d go back in an instant.

And we are onto what was the last book you read.

Well, the book that I’m reading just now is the one by Carol Craig. But the last book I read was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. I saw the film years ago. I always prefer to read a book rather than see a film. But I think there was enough time in between me seeing the film and reading the book. And I think the casting of Jack Nicholson was pretty spot on from what I’ve read so far.

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