Alistair was born and brought up on Islay. His parents were hill farmers rearing sheep and cattle. Being an islander and a farmer’s son have shaped who I am and my politics more than anything.
He first joined the Liberal Party in 1980 as a fourteen year old. Alistair was attracted to the Liberal Party because of their emphasis on allowing communities to run their own affairs.
They were the only political party at that time talking about care for our natural environment and shared his passion about supporting human rights and individual freedom.
Alistair’s first jobs were in the hotel industry. He started as a waiter and worked through to being a hotel manager. He did just about everything over the years – waiter, bar man, chef, pot scrubber, receptionist.
Alistair met his wife Kate when they were both living in Glasgow - she was studying to be a vet. They were married in 1987 and made their first home in Orkney where Kate was offered her first job. Alistair worked in first the Albert Hotel and then The Ayre Hotel.
Alistair and Kate left Orkney in 1989 so Alistair could go to Aberdeen Univeristy to study law. After university he worked as a solicitor in the North East of Scotland, first as a Procurator Fiscal Depute and then in private practice.
When Jim Wallace announced that he was to stand down from Westminster in 2001, Alistair was approached by a number of Liberal Democrat friends asking if he would put my name forward. He decided that he would and he was chosen as Liberal Democrat candidate and then elected for the first time in 2001.
It was not an easy decision to make. When Alistair was elected his two boys were four years old and ten weeks old respectively.
Being in parliament takes you away from home a lot and you do miss out on some of their growing up.
Politics can be quite tribal but in the isles, Alistair has found it has often been possible to work with people of other parties and of no party at all.
One of the best community campaigns that he was a part of was the fight to prevent the deportation of Sakchai Makao, a Thai Shetlande.
That was a phenomenal community effort. Petitions were produced, funds were raised and rallies organised.
Alistair was on the phone to the Home Office virtually every day. He gave evidence at Sakchai’s appeal tribunal.
After the 2010 general election the decision to go into a coalition government was an enormous one.
Having spent my entire political life fighting Conservatives I suddenly found myself having to work with them.
It has not been easy but I still believe it was the right thing to do.
With an economy on the brink the country needed a stable government and five years later we can point to an economy that is growing again with unemployment back to the same levels as before the crash.
Of course in a coalition no one gets everything they want and we have had to make compromises but many of the things that my Liberal predecessors campaigned for are now a reality because we have been in government.
As a result of Liberal Democrats being in government many of our lowest paid workers do not pay income tax at all. The state pension has had the link to earnings and inflation that was broken by the Thatcher government in the 1980s restored.
Locally Alistair was able to use his influence in government for the good of local communities.
Winning a lower rate of fuel duty for island motorists was something that he campaigned for over many years and which has now happened.
He has also been able to argue on the inside to support local campaigns such as the successful ones to save the Shetland Coastguard Station and the emergency towing vessel.
And getting money out of the Treasury for the historic Shetland housing debt made a real difference to council tenants in Shetland who were facing substantial rent increases.
It is a privilege to be the Northern Isles representative in Westminster, but I never forget that the people who put me there are here in the isles. They are the boss.
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