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by Margaret Taylor
24 April 2024
'My kids are both wheelchair users - it made me realise so many barriers are man-made'

Lois Speed

'My kids are both wheelchair users - it made me realise so many barriers are man-made'

Arbroath East and Lunan councillor Lois Speed talks to Holyrood about the personal challenges that led her into politics, why she’s an independent, and the cost that comes with Angus’s beauty.

Describe the area you represent in one sentence

Arbroath East and Lunan is on the beautiful east coast of Scotland, and it has stunning scenic views and great friendly people.

How long have you lived there?

All my life – I was born and bred here and have lived all my days in the Arbroath East and Lunan Ward, primarily Arbroath. I’ve never been tempted to move away. My life and my circumstances and my family have kept me here and I’ve grown to love and appreciate the area even more. 

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

Arbroath Football Club is famous because it once beat Bon Accord FC 36-nil. That’s world famous, and the football stadium is famous for being right up against the sea, but we also have hidden treasures like Arbroath Abbey and Hospitalfield House. The latter is an arts centre that was a residential art school attended by artists including Joan Eardley and Peter Howson.

Who is the best known person from your area?

The singer Andy Stewart has links to Arbroath and there’s also the darts player Alan Soutar, and Darren Burnett, the Commonwealth bowler [Burnett won gold in the men’s singles at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and in the men’s triples in the 2018 games]. There have been quite a few sporting achievements – Celtic footballer Kelly Clark is also from Arbroath.

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

Angus as a whole is rural and that can be challenging in terms of connectivity. Being rural is what makes it such a stunning place, but that has a cost. Online connectivity is an issue but there’s transport connectivity as well. Out of the whole of Angus, Arbroath is probably the most connected because of the train line and we also have a bus station hub, but the rest of the area is not well connected.

Arbroath Abbey | Alamy

What made you stand for election?

There are certain challenges and life experiences that I’ve had that made me want to get more involved in the kind of decisions that were being made locally. Until recently I was a full-time carer for my two children, who are twins and are both wheelchair users. They have a muscle condition that meant they initially went through the normal milestones then started having trouble walking to eventually not being able to walk at all. I went from having a double buggy to having two kids in wheelchairs. That impacted on transport, housing, health, education – everything – and bringing them up on my own as a single parent influenced my journey. It gave me a sense of wanting to fight on social justice issues like inclusion and equality to help make things better for others who are faced with challenges in life. Not being able to go outwith Angus made me much more interested in the local town and appreciate the beauty of the area, but also made me realise that a lot of the barriers are man-made.

Why did you stand as an independent rather than for a political party?

I’m not driven by being involved in politics or having an interest in a party. I’ve even struggled in the past at polling stations knowing who to vote for. My motives were based on what’s best for the community and what’s best for the town and being a voice that wasn’t caught up in those politics.

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

Fund Angus better. It always seems to trail behind in terms of the money that’s distributed.

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

The people, the scenery, the sea, the beaches, the walks. There’s nothing like hearing the sound of seagulls on a sunny day.

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

In Arbroath we have Pleasureland, an indoor funfair and amusement arcade. When I was growing up we called it the switchies. The football team also gets called the Red Lichties. That comes from the red light that used to be used to guide fishermen back to shore.

If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?

Somewhere hot. But I’ve not lived anywhere else so maybe I’d hanker back to that wind coming in off the sea.

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