Alex Cole-Hamilton: Open All Hours Award 2022
I have had the privilege of being an MSP for almost seven years and throughout that time I have reflected upon what the job truly means. At its core, it is based upon a contract between myself and the people of Edinburgh Western. They’ve elected me on the basis that I will listen to them, represent them and, most importantly, I will fight for them. This is something I will never take for granted but it is also definitely not something I can do on my own.
Every morning my team will spend hours meticulously checking the avenues of communication we have with the public including (but not limited to) our post, emails, voicemail, social media, and website.
We never know what means of communication someone will (or can) get in touch with us. If we were to take our eye of the ball, even momentarily, we would miss someone that needs our help. This is not a 9-5 job. Whenever and wherever, my team and I will do our best to provide help where it’s needed.
The pandemic changed everything. The level of correspondence was unprecedented to the point I thought smoke would appear from the keyboard as I typed as fast as I ever had to soothe the thousands of terrified people who were turning to us for comfort and information. The day would start in the middle of the night and would end only when I couldn’t keep my eyes open or the flames of whatever had frightened people that day had been dampened. As always, my team’s unwavering commitment acted as my rock.
Though we are through the pandemic, the level of hardship people are experiencing now is something I could not have predicted then. Multiple times a week, I will meet constituents with desperate cases that possess phenomenal strength but sadly all too often, it’s a strength that they should never have needed to use in the first place. Make no mistake, it takes a huge amount of bravery to come to (essentially) a relative stranger and ask for help and it is an honour that people trust us with the most important and intimate aspects of their lives. My team and I feel this very keenly, which is why we always try our very best.
My job can be draining at times. But it is also hugely rewarding. Nothing makes me happier than when my constituents’ express gratitude, and I am lucky that they do in so many ways. That is why this award means the world to me. I consider it the utmost privilege: I get to serve the community that myself and my family call home. Our door is open and the effort is collective. It takes a village, and I’m so grateful for mine.