Nicola Biggerstaff – 14th April, 2022
Hi everyone! My name is Nicola, and I’m so excited to be joining Common Weal as the new Policy Co-ordinator.
I have lived in Lanarkshire my entire life, and grew up watching communities as they thrived, waned, and revived in front of my very eyes. As I became more politically aware in later years, I began to notice how these coincided with changes in local and national government, and therefore the funding available for local communities. I remember vividly the conscious effort of my primary school, including the pupil council of which I was a member, and the community trust campaigning to the council for many years for the makeover of my small village’s single playpark, and only making the connections to my later enthusiasm for local grassroots activism as I sit writing this very piece.
I didn’t care much for political issues as a teenager, preferring to stick to my music lessons and theatre rehearsals, letting the grown ups just get on with it so long as it didn’t affect me. This privileged view of the world was shattered when the voting rules in Scotland changed, and I became one of the lucky 16-17 year-olds who got to cast their very first vote at the 2014 Independence Referendum. As such, the attention paid to our demographic by political parties, activist groups and media outlets was abundant. I made several appearances on the BBC TV and radio in the run up to the big day, debating with fellow first-time voters on the big issues. This was probably the best political awakening anyone could ask for, so much so that I decided it was somewhere in this arena where my future career lay. I wanted to debate everyone about everything, an attitude which continued into my further studies, much to the chagrin of family and friends alike!
The following year I began my studies at the University of Strathclyde, graduating with my BA(Hons) in History with Politics and International Relations in 2019, and my MSc in Diplomacy and International Security a year later. During this time, I was heavily involved in the activities of many societies through our Student Union, culminating in myself and other students founding the new Feminist Society, with our activities and committee meetings presided over by myself. We campaigned heavily for an end to gender-based harassment on campus and in the wider community, and we were in regular communication with local activist groups and other student societies across the city. This opened my eyes to the power of grassroots activism, and how this can impact the everyday conversations we have, and the everyday actions of individuals.
Graduating into the middle of a pandemic was also a real wake-up call. As I continued in my part time retail job, I watched as our local communities banded together in an outpouring of love and support for one another unlike anything in living memory. I realised that perhaps my ambitions were not an accurate reflection of the reality in front of me. You don’t have to be First Minister to make real change! It’s the dedication of all the organisations on the ground, the individuals who witness and experience the real issues of the day, who live and breathe for the change which will affect their everyday lives. This is when I found out about Common Weal.
The Caring For All campaign from earlier this year struck a chord with me in particular. Watching my own gran on her journey through the care system as her degenerative condition began take hold; the rest of our family and I felt helpless as assistance and treatments were delayed, with excuse after excuse with every hospital admission, ultimately having a massive impact on her quality of life. Recognising this was a structural issue and not the fault of those in the thick of the sector, my admiration for them only grew following her passing in 2018, when three of her carers took the time out of their hectic work schedules to attend her funeral service. While these strains on the care system, which have been known about for some time, are only now taken seriously by those in power in the aftermath of the pandemic, I like to take comfort in knowing that at least the recommendations put forward by Common Weal may no longer fall on deaf ears.
While I write this during my first week in the job, I can already see all the dedication, support and sense of community which allows this organisation to thrive. The Common Weal team has welcomed me with open arms, and I look forward to meeting and getting to know you all in the coming weeks and months, and for all the opportunities this new role will bring.
If you’d like to get in touch, please feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org