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by Sofia Villegas
24 May 2024
Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn: 'As a female politician, we often suffer from imposter syndrome'

Falkirk council leader Cecil Meiklejohn

Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn: 'As a female politician, we often suffer from imposter syndrome'

What’s your earliest memory?

My family was dispersed all over the country so we used to all come together at New Year to catch up, and I was always ruled out to do a party piece and sing Flower of Scotland. That’s an ingrained memory.

What were you like at school?

I was very quiet, shy, and just very unassuming. I kind of faded into the background. I wasn’t the most outstanding academically, but I managed to do well. The one thing I really hated was sports, particularly cross-country – I detested it.

Who would be your dream dinner date? 

It wouldn’t be one dream dinner date, I would like to meet up with all my school friends. We’re all turning 60 this year and I would love to get together to see how people’s lives have progressed and know how they’ve done in their careers. 

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

When I have people questioning my integrity. It is just a very challenging situation, particularly with the current toxic atmosphere around Scottish politics. Some people feel that they can say anything and forget that there’s a human behind the screen. The language being used, particularly on social media, is absolutely horrible. I would never make decisions to intentionally hurt or upset anyone, I always do things with the best of intentions. However, it can be really difficult when people don’t understand that. 

What led you into politics?

I joined the SNP at age 16 and became an activist because I believed in Scotland having a right to its own determination.

I then progressed to be more involved in politics due to personal circumstances. My husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 21 and the support that was available to us was very limited, so we wanted to try and change that as a family. I wanted to get rid of some of the inequalities, particularly for younger disabled people and families.

Did you stand for elected office immediately?

No, I didn’t. I worked away in the background and looked to influence others who were in elected office. However, I quickly recognised that while the national government was the legislator, local government was the deliverer, and it was how you delivered things that had the biggest impact on people’s lives. So, that was when I decided I wanted to learn more about local government and went to work as an occupational therapy assistant for Clackmannanshire Council. During that time, I decided that I wanted to spend more time at the grassroots, making a difference, and stood for Falkirk Council in 2007.

Meiklejohn with her late husband

And if you weren’t a politician right now, what would you like to be? 

Well, as a young student, I aspired to study pharmacology, and I’d have liked to have gone into that field. However, I ended up studying chemistry and studied dyes and colourants, so I might have gone on to do something more on that area. 

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

My guilty pleasure is probably supporting Falkirk Football Club. I married into football 40-odd years ago and have continued to support our local team ever since, through the good and the bad. It is just great to go and see the football every Saturday. For that hour and a half, you’re in that zone and forget everything else. 

What was your best holiday ever? 

The best holiday I can remember is going to Lake Garda and staying in a little place called Limone, which is where they grow the lemons for limoncello. I then toured around Italy and it was just the most amazing holiday. The people were lovely and the food was fantastic. I would love to go back and do something similar.

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

I would like to go back to the ‘40s. Both my parents passed away at an early age, and I would just love to have an insight into their younger years. I would like to know what it was like for them during that time, be able to share some of their experiences and listen to their music.

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

To have confidence in yourself. As a female politician, we often suffer from imposter syndrome, so we think we can’t do this and we lack confidence. In reality, we have so much to give because of our experience as a woman, as a mother, and as a wife. We can bring such a different perspective. I often think that women have better negotiating skills just because we’ve had to learn to negotiate with children. 

What skill should every person have?

Empathy. I think people need to learn to put themselves in someone else’s position so that they have a greater understanding of different perspectives. 

What was the last book you read?

Well, I love Scottish crime writers so the last book I read was The Botanist by MW Craven. 

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

The worst pain I’ve experienced is bereavement and loss. With my husband passing away before he was 55, he missed an awful lot of his children growing up and succeeding and that’s been really difficult for me. It’s been hard coming to terms with that loss.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

To be honest, I’ll be 65, so I’ll be close to retiring and probably looking into the next phase of my life. I don’t know whether I’ll still be in frontline politics. I’ll still be involved, but maybe in some other capacity. I may be looking to move into working and supporting the third sector and doing something within the community. 

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