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Marie Boulton: It was protesting about a road that led me into politics

Marie Boulton: It was protesting about a road that led me into politics

Aberdeen City councillor Marie Boulton, an independent who represents the Lower Deeside ward, tells Holyrood about eating smackery and how a road led her into politics.

Describe the area you represent in one sentence 

It’s an area in the leafy suburbs that’s got a lot of wonderful residents and pockets of deprivation that get masked by the wealth.

How long have you lived there?

Most of my life. My family moved here when I was three and I ducked out of the area for a while when I first got married because we couldn’t afford to live here.

Tell us something we won’t know about your local area

Princess Diana’s maternal grandmother, Baroness Fermoy, who was also a lady-in-waiting for the Queen Mother, was born at Dalhebity House in Bieldside. It had the most beautiful Victorian garden, but sadly that house doesn’t exist any more because [housebuilder] Stewart Milne knocked it down and built something else in its place. I did try to save it, but I’d only been a councillor for two months when it came to the planning committee. I took it to a site visit and won the refusal but unfortunately the convener had the option to refer it back to the planning committee, which he did. We had a massive debate and a split vote, with the convener getting the casting vote. He said to me afterwards “why didn’t you refer it to the full council?” but I was so new I didn’t know I could do that. On the day demolition started I was at the dentist and as soon as I sat in the chair I started crying.

Who is the best-known person from your area?

I’m not sure if it is but it should be John James Rickard Macleod because of the massive impact he’s had across the world as the co-discoverer of insulin. He lived at 32 Cairn Road, Bieldside and taught medicine and physiology at Aberdeen University. He and Frederick Banting were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923 after they discovered insulin while working in Toronto. 

What challenges are unique to your particular part of the country?

As we transition away from fossil fuels into renewables, our biggest challenge is ensuring we have a supplementary industry to renewables because there’s not the same level of jobs as in oil and gas. Our challenge is getting the right support from government to improve the supply chain for renewables and making sure more of that is made in and around Aberdeen. Aberdeen has always been seen as self-sufficient and a provider for Scotland and the UK. When things have gone wrong here in terms of challenges I don’t think that the Scottish Government has stepped in quickly enough and the response has maybe been less than it should have been.   

What made you stand for election?

Seventeen years ago I was a happy stay-at-home mum – I had twins and a third little boy who wasn’t quite two – when the AWPR [city bypass the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route] was announced. I’d never really had any focus on that then someone said, “it’s coming quite close to where you live”. I went to a public meeting where people were asking various questions and the one that triggered me was “when does this road become unaffordable” and the answer from the Lib Dem MSP was “if we want it, it will never become unaffordable”. We formed the campaign group Road Sense, not necessarily because we were against the road but because we were against the way it had been handled. We tried to have meetings with various people at the Scottish Government to try to understand the logic and it just felt like it was a shambles. I decided that if I couldn’t get anywhere from the outside, I’d have to go on the inside. It was the first time ever that the city had had an independent councillor.    

What’s the one thing Holyrood politicians could do that would be of greatest benefit to the area you represent?

Apart from devolving everything and giving us all the power? I think respect local democracy. There’s still too much interference at the wrong time by the Scottish Government, then they don’t support you when you need them to. For our city funding has always been an issue, but money isn’t always the solution. 

What’s the best bit about living where you do?

I can be at the beachfront in 20 minutes and I can be in the hills in 20 minutes. From sea to mountain, the natural environment is spectacular.

Is there a particular word you love using that only people in your part of the country would recognise?

Smackery. As a kid, I’d go to the shops with 10p and buy those rubbishy, sugary sweets that stick to your teeth and my mum would say “are you eating that smackery again?”

If you could live anywhere else where would it be?

I’m very partial to the Scilly Isles. They’ve got the most amazing climate and beautiful semi-tropical flora and fauna. 

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