Generally speaking an MSP will employ at least two members of staff; one in the constituency office and one in the parliamentary office. I am the parliamentary assistant to Jeremy Purvis MSP and am based primarily in Holyrood. Occasionally I am required to attend events in the constituency but, overall, my job concentrates on Jeremy’s role within the Parliament. A good portion of my job is dealing with press: for example writing releases, putting out call notices for events Jeremy is attending or hosting, and liaising with reporters and broadcasters over specific events or issues that we would like to see covered.
However this is just one aspect of a very varied job. As a parliamentary assistant my role is really to assist in any and all aspects of Jeremy’s business in Holyrood. Whether that be researching particular issues, arranging events, meeting constituents who are interested in seeing the building, writing letters, handling Jeremy’s diary, writing reports, drafting parliamentary questions or working on the website. Needless to say my job is never dull! Yes there is a certain regularity and structure to my job but inevitably no day will be the same. As issues change and political events can alter so quickly, it is important that I keep in tune with everything that is going on. I usually start each morning checking out the papers to keep abreast of events which prepares me for what the rest of the day or week will bring.
A good proportion of parliamentary assistants are young, university graduates who use the experience to gain first hand insight into the political process. I myself came to this job two years ago very fresh-faced from University. It is unsurprising that so many politicians today started out as parliamentary assistants themselves, either at the Lords or in the Commons. This job however is more unique than that. It is an excellent way of experiencing the work of an MSP and of the whole of Scotland’s political culture direct at its source. Since devolution, Scotland’s political culture has evolved in leaps and bounds, and the atmosphere and community of Holyrood is very fresh and exciting. As such a new and developing institution it is a great time to be part of it.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own personal opinions and may not reflect those of Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP.