East Dunbartonshire’s new MP speaks of area’s ‘unshakeable community spirit’ at maiden speech

editorial image

East Dunbartonshire’s new MP spoke of the area’s “unshakeable community spirit” and how the NHS saved her life, during her maiden speech at Westminster on Thursday.

Amy Callaghan was elected as the local MP in December’s election after a shock victory over the sitting MP, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson.

The 27-year-old SNP MP praised the NHS for saving her life twice after a cancer diagnosis and also called for better understanding of mental health among young people.

Ms Callaghan said: “I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to all those who have put their faith in me.

“I am here to do a job for the people of East Dunbartonshire, and for people right across Scotland who rejected this Tory government.”

She added: “Not only is East Dunbartonshire one of the most prosperous places to live in the country, given its excellent state schools and unshakeable community spirit, it’s an area steeped in history.”

She spoke of the Antonine Wall, built by the Romans, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

She said: “It is thought this was built by the Romans to defend their mighty armies from the tenacity of the locals.

“Others say the case could be made that they became enamoured by the sheer beauty of the countryside and the Campsies they simply decided to stop and take in the view.”

She added: “I do find it very fitting given the political climate we find ourselves in, that such a vast and seemingly unstoppable empire was halted in my Scottish constituency after it had conquered Europe. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned about ignoring the will of the people of East Dunbartonshire.”

The new MP also paid tribute to her predecessor.

Ms Callaghan said: “Jo Swinson achieved a great deal in encouraging young women into politics, and indeed to reach their potential in all walks of life.

“What both Jo and I can bring to the table is to show young women that whilst there are still barriers in place, we can smash them.”

She spoke of how the NHS had had a profound impact on her life. She said: “I would not be standing here as the newly-elected MP for East Dunbartonshire, just shy of being six years cancer free, had it not been for our NHS here in Scotland.

“To the surgeon Mr John Scott who saved my life not once but twice, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. And to organisations like Teenage Cancer Trust who guided me through my cancer journey, and are an immeasurable support to young people facing cancer diagnosis.”

She added: “But the issue I would like to highlight most in respect to teenage and young adult cancer is the mental health impact it has, an area that I have done considerable work on.

“As a society, there is an ingrained assumption that once someone has the all-clear from a diagnosis like cancer, they should return to normal.

“I could not be clearer that normal does not exist after a cancer diagnosis, much less as a young person where your life has been turned upside down. You’ve had the harsh realisation you are not invincible and could also face fertility issues and the loss of a family you never yet knew you wanted.”

She added: “My clear message to the Government benches is to keep your hands off Scotland’s NHS.”