MICHAEL RUSSELL, Education Secretary
I cast my first vote in a general election in February 1974 - an incredibly divisive election at a time of industrial unrest. My friend, David Graham, was the Labour candidate for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles and I drove him round and campaigned with him. I was in my final year at Edinburgh University and we had been in the Labour Club together - when Gordon Brown was its president.
It was on the bus back to Edinburgh that I decided to vote SNP. I started out supporting Labour, but I came to the view that we were not going to get the solutions to the problems we had in the UK context. After casting my vote for the SNP, I joined the party two months later and I've been a member ever since. It was another 13 years before I became a candidate myself.
ANN BALLINGER, general secretary, SSTA
Despite being quite apprehensive about my first vote in 1974, I was determined to make my own choice. Not voting for the same party as my parents was almost more important than the policies the parties advertised. Because my dad claimed his party was the best and I had to have a good reason for opposing him, I began to research the different parties and their policies. I think it's the only time in my life I've read pamphlets and gone to public meetings.
One of the parties was fielding a woman candidate. She was articulate and interesting, answered questions and appeared interested in what people had to say. Even my father agreed she was a good choice, despite her being the "wrong party".
She won the seat and proved to be an exceptional MP. I've continued to vote for the person I most like in my constituency, rather than the party. I've always been particularly proud of that first vote going to the SNP's Margaret Bain.