I was educated at Hyndland Secondary School in Glasgow. Upon leaving school in the mid 1970s I worked in various secretarial roles before starting a career within the housing associations sector. In the late 1980s I studied for a diploma in housing at Glasgow University and went on to become Development Manager at Bute Housing Association and then Director of East Kilbride Housing Association.
I was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in May 1999 where I was an MSP for Central Scotland until 2011 when I was elected as MSP for East Kilbride.
I am an Honorary Fellow the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. Also, in 2007 the Italian Government awarded me the Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella della Solidarieta’ Italia (Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity) for working to promote Scots/Italian links.
After the 2016 election, I was elected by my colleagues to the post of Deputy Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.