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PROFILE Back to basics


Sarah Boyack


Kate Shannon Local Government Correspondent


A new brief puts the focus on spending priorities


The local government portfolio is not an easy one. The twists and turns of councils, their complicated processes, myriad issues and the sheer number of people they are responsible for can be daunting for your average layman. For politicians, coming to this brief without any prior knowledge of local authorities must be a challenge. However, this won’t be a problem for Sarah Boyack. A seasoned Labour MSP, Boyack recently


co-chaired the review of the Labour Party in Scotland with shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy MP, following the party’s disastrous Scottish Parliament election result last year. Also in 2011, Boyack lost the Edinburgh


Central constituency seat she had held since 1999 to the SNP’s Marco Biagi. Fortunately for Labour, Boyack was elected on Lothian’s regional list. Being part of the review has given her


elections coming up, they are the first local elections in decades which are standalone. “I think there is a huge issue about making


insight into what needs to change in the party and also how it needs to move forward. She said: “We suffered such a terrible defeat in May that we really needed to stand back and look at the causes of that. We needed to think about how we reconnect with people, how we shape our policies, how we campaign in local communities and how we work together as Team Labour. One of our earliest initiatives was getting our local council [election] campaigns started early last summer, getting people organised and setting up the new Labour Party leader in Scotland. “To be given the brief of local government


and planning is fantastic because it lets me continue the work I’ve been doing in terms of helping to rebuild the Labour Party, connecting us with local communities and making sure that we are actually talking to people and not just asking them how they are going to vote. With the local government


people aware the elections are happening, really motivating people to look at the parties and choose elected representatives who are going to help their communities and their families in a time of recession.” A town planner by profession, Boyack’s first


job was working in the London borough of Brent in the mid 1980s. The area had a mix of extreme poverty and affluence, which Boyack admitted was “really good experience of how you get the economy going and how planning has a key role in urban regeneration”. After moving back to Scotland and working for the then Central Regional Council as a strategic planner, she lectured on town planning at Edinburgh College of Art and Heriot-Watt University for seven years. In terms of politics, Boyack joined the Labour Party while at school and was a member of the Labour Party Young Socialists. During her time at university in Glasgow,


she was a part of the Labour Club. A strong supporter of the campaign for devolution,


March 2012 / Holyrood / 15


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