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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
24 November 2022
Jamie Greene MSP: Getting to Know You

Jamie Greene MSP at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Jamie Greene MSP: Getting to Know You

What is your earliest memory? 

There are three specific ones. I remember being a baby. I remember being bathed in the sink, so I must have been tiny. And apparently, that is a family tradition in our old house that all kids got bathed in the sink because it’s cheaper to fill with hot water. Something we may have to do again these days.  

The second is my uncle used to go hunting with his whippets and he used to bring home what I think were rabbits, maybe hares. It was not a particularly rural family, I should add. Then my granny would skin them in the kitchen, that was disgusting. So, I have vivid memories of seeing that.  

The third is sitting on my granny’s lap at Halloween and someone came in wearing a werewolf mask. I was petrfied, and to this day I’m still scared of werewolves.  

It is very odd, I can’t remember last week but I can remember 42 years ago.  

What were you like at school? 

I was very quiet, very academic, and I was quite clever – I don’t mean to sound big-headed, but I was always top of the class. I think it is because I spent a lot of time in the library. Partially, to escape the playground, because I got bullied a lot. So, my haven was the library.  

I was often found in the common room having a cup of tea with the teachers. I was a good, well-liked pupil, but that is not to say I didn’t get into trouble. But I got into trouble so little that I remember every incident.   

So, what bother did you get into? 

The first time was in primary school. When the bell rang, and you lined up to go back into class, the teacher would put girls in pairs and boys in pairs. Now I must have been six, and I asked why the girls always go first.  

It was probably because I was so intrigued by the notion of separation. I got into a lot of trouble for questioning authority.  

There was another time, again for questioning authority. I remember standing outside the class petrified and the teacher saying “I am disappointed in you Jamie Greene; you are much better than this”. I felt bad that they were disappointed in me, I wanted them to think highly of me. 

But maybe I developed a skill for questioning authority from a young age. For me, it was more about fairness. I was intrigued by challenging situations that no one had ever challenged before.  

Were you political from a young age? 

I’d been on the fringe of politics. I grew up in Greenock, which was a very Labour-orientated area, and there certainly weren’t any Conservatives. It was also the very early days of the SNP. 

I remember going to a count, it might have been the ‘92 election, so I would have been very young. Then I went again to the ‘97 election, which was the Tony Blair win. And it was really exciting, I didn’t understand parties and politics in the way that I think young people do nowadays, they understand policy, whereas I just understood the generality of politics. 

That felt like a real shift, it was a really exciting time to be involved in politics. I think my mum had the SNP stickers in one window and my dad had the Labour stickers in another. Interestingly, I have felt like a conservative from a very young age, that is probably from my gran, who was not a capital C conservative, but she certainly taught me those types of values. And a lot of that comes through in my politics today. 

What is your guiltiest pleasure? 

This is a weird one. I have a bath every morning before I come to work. And some people think that’s weird. It’s perfectly normal to me. People question how I have the time to do that and say “surely you just want to get up and get ready”. Even though it is 20 minutes, or however long I have in the morning, I am not a morning person, so I need a bit of time to wake up.  

But it is also when I get myself together. I get my phone, check my emails, work out what I am doing for the day, and respond to things that have happened overnight. I do it all with the pleasure of a cup of coffee and a bubble bath.  
We didn’t have a shower in the house I grew up in. It is just a legacy of every day having to have a bath in the morning before I went to school.  

Best advice you’ve ever had? 

It is maybe not advice, but certainly, something I have learned is, as time goes on, you are inherently quite selfish when you are young. I have learnt over the years to be a lot kinder to people. You learn that the hard way. Treat people with respect, decency, and kindness in any way you can, no matter who they are.  
We have quite an energetic office and we’ll make digs at each other. But you need to catch yourself and think “say something nice”, because you have no idea what a difference that will make to their day.  

It is no secret that my head of office passed away last year, and he was young, and it was so unexpected. For me, it was a massive wake-up call because up until that point everything was stressful, I was bogged down in work. And when we lost David, it reminded me that you have no idea how long you have got. For me, it was a life-changing event. It has made me think about the future and what I want to get out of life.  

What is the worst pain you have ever experienced? 

Physical pain, getting two ingrown toenails ripped out. I don’t think they quite understood the concept of anaesthesia properly.  

Emotional pain, my mum took unwell 10 years ago and got taken into intensive care. She was on life support, and they had given her a couple of hours to live, they had phoned the priest. I got called in to say goodbye. That was painful. You can’t imagine seeing someone hooked up to those machines, not conscious and knowing that they’ll never wake up. But she did and she is still alive.  

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