New skills minister sets out her stall

17th December 2010 at 00:00

It's a fair bet that most of the young people who met Angela Constance on her first engagement as Skills and Lifelong Learning Minister designate had never heard of her.

In fact, very few people outside her Livingston constituency had done so until her sudden elevation from the back-benches to replace Keith Brown, who became Transport Secretary after Stewart Stevenson fell victim to the political fall-out from the weather chaos.

But building on her background as a social worker, she quickly overcame her apprehension, showed her people skills and deftly involved the youngsters in conversation about their career aspirations and backgrounds.

Ms Constance only entered Parliament three years ago as the constituency MSP for Livingston. As she prepared to take on her first ministerial appointment - it requires parliamentary ratification - she said she felt well equipped to deal with the complex remit of the role.

"I am hoping that my background as both a social worker and a local government councillor will stand me in good stead for the post," she said.

The 40-year-old was a social worker for Clackmannanshire and Perth and Kinross councils and also worked as a mental health officer before entering national politics. In 1997, she was elected a councillor for West Lothian Council, where she was the SNP group's spokesperson for children's services and lifelong learning.

"I have seen first-hand as an MSP and a social worker the impact of unemployment and what happens when people don't get the right opportunities in education and training," she said.

One political commentator said: "Her interventions in the chamber are always pertinent and well-constructed. She simply does not come across as just another rabble-rouser and, as well as that, she is very pleasant and approachable."

Robert Brown, who sits on the standards, procedures and public appointments committee with Ms Constance, told The TESS: "I regard her as an able and competent colleague."

Born in Blackburn, in West Lothian, Ms Constance was raised in Addiewell and West Calder. She attended West Calder High and Bo'ness Academy, before studying at Glasgow University, West Lothian College and Stirling University. She still lives in the area with her husband and young son, to whom she gave birth shortly after entering Parliament.

julia.belgutay@tes.co.uk.

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