Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
by Sofia Villegas
07 June 2024
Councillor Beth Whiteside: Getting to Know You

Angus council leader Beth Whiteside

Councillor Beth Whiteside: Getting to Know You

What is your earliest memory?

It would be my annual family caravan holiday. Every summer we used to take a caravan to Cullen and it was just nothing but great memories. In my mind, it was always sunny and we were always in the sea. 

I also have another bizarre early memory of my dad returning home one night after a football game with a very bruised and swollen toe. He played junior football and briefly juggled work and professional football. 

What were you like at school?

I liked school and hold great memories, particularly of my time at Muirhead of Liff Primary School. I would say I was quite confident and probably a bit of an annoying colleague, as I didn’t struggle academically and enjoyed sports. I also had some great teachers. My P7 teacher Miss Landels particularly stuck in my mind. She treated you like you were a little bit more grown up and was just really inspiring.

Who would be your dream dinner date?

At this stage of my life, it would have to be somebody who made me laugh. I’m quite a fan of Still Game. It’s quite ridiculous, but I always laugh out loud. So, someone from the cast would make me chuckle. 

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

A phone call from my sister to tell me my nephew Mark had died. He was only 23 years old and had been battling with non-Hodgkin lymphoma for several months. It was absolutely devastating for the whole family. 

What led you into politics?

My desire to see Scotland as an independent country. It’s just inconceivable that that’s not the most sensible way forward. Every small nation deserves to make decisions for themselves and not be dictated to by a neighbouring country. So, that was what got me involved and what keeps me involved.

Did you stand for elected office immediately?

No, not immediately. I joined the SNP in 2011, but for some time I wasn’t very active. However, as the day for the independence referendum got closer I got involved in activity, leafleting, etc. I then remained active for a few years until 2017, when my branch urged me to stand in the council elections and I was lucky enough to be elected on my first attempt. I was then elected the Angus Council leader in the 2022 council elections. 

And if you weren’t a politician right now, what would you have been?

Well, I didn’t come into politics until later in life. I was in my 50s when I did. Before getting elected, I worked for several years in social housing and as part of the finance team of a housing association. While working there, I began to be frustrated about being office-based nine-to-five from Monday to Friday and an opportunity came up for me to take voluntary redundancy, allowing me to consider the possibility of going into politics.

If that hadn’t happened or I hadn’t been elected, it would have been an opportunity to try something new. There was never any long-term ambition to go into politics, but I’m proud to have become the first-ever female leader of Angus Council.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

I like shutting off from the world sometimes and having time for myself, so I like taking a long, slow bath, going out to enjoy live music or, ideally, having a spa day and being completely self-indulgent.

What was your best holiday ever? 

It was a holiday in Corfu when my three daughters still lived at home. The two older ones were teenagers and the youngest one was probably about 10 at the time. 

We booked last-minute cheap flights and managed to stay at a villa, which normally would have been out of our price range – quiet beaches with crystal clear water, great food in small tavernas, wonderful weather and lots of laughs. A simple holiday, but absolutely great memories. 

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

I quite like historical fiction and there are snapshots in history which would be really intriguing to see. For example, the way that people lived in Scotland back in the 1700s and earlier. However, I think I would struggle to go back and live there.

I would also like to go back a few decades to a simpler time when social media and smartphones didn’t rule the world, although I am aware it might not have been as good as I remember it.

What skill should every person have?

Empathy. I think everyone should be able to treat people as you find them, take regard to their circumstances, and put yourself in their shoes.

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

It came from my late dad, who did not like having regrets. His philosophy was that if you made your choices at the time, then you have to live with them. There’s no point in looking backwards.

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

Despite giving birth three times and suffering from a snapped Achilles tendon twice, the worst pain was a horrible dental abscess, resulting ultimately in an extraction. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

What was the last book you read?

I’m a fan of Lesley Riddoch and I think the last one of hers I read was Thrive: The Freedom to Flourish. It was really interesting and a great read. I also recently read Landlines, the third book of a trilogy by Raynor Winn, which was really inspirational. 

What’s your top film of all time? 

It’s impossible to choose only one film, but a few come to mind. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was unexpected, but I enjoyed it. I also like Trainspotting, Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption, which is probably a really common answer, but it’s just so clever. I also saw a really good film in a small cinema called Searching for Sugar Man, which was again unexpectedly good. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’m well into my 50s now so, I don’t know whether I might be considering retirement in five years. Obviously, there will be another council election in three years’ time, so I’ll have to decide what to do by then, but I may retire and travel around the world a bit more.  

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by Sofia Villegas - Scottish centre key player in ‘milestone’ to unlock the potential of renewable energy.

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox


Popular reads
Back to top