Childcare Scotland: Meghan Gallacher, the Scottish Conservatives' deputy leader on a mission to make childcare work
Since becoming a mother to 15-month-old Charlotte last year, the Central Scotland MSP has been outspoken in the Scottish Parliament for her views on childcare provision and early years education.
The Scotsman spoke exclusively with Ms Gallacher to hear more about her politics, her hopes for her party’s future, and how she was inspired by her grandmother to join the Conservatives.
She credits her ‘granny’ Elizabeth, who passed away in 2016, for her first foray into the world of politics and the Conservative Party.
Ms Gallacher was researching the party for her university dissertation, when she went along to a party meeting in Airdrie Town Hall with her grandmother – and never looked back.
She said: “I thought my politics was not that far away from what I had been researching. My gran is definitely one of my ultimate role models.
“She was a typical granny who spoiled us rotten and looked out for us, but she also gave us a good grounding, which is what I admired about her. She was influential for me when it comes to politics.”
Ms Gallacher became a councillor, representing Motherwell at North Lanarkshire Council, before being elected to Holyrood in 2021.
She said: “I joined the party after going to association meetings and I’ve risen in the ranks from there, going from member to association executive member, to a councillor, to an MSP, and now to deputy leader of the party – and I’ve enjoyed every minute.
“Even though it is not a Conservative-voting area, we have done well for ourselves.”
A year into life as an MSP for the Central Scotland region, Ms Gallacher gave birth to her daughter Charlotte, which sparked her passion for childcare provision and her fight to make things better for parents of young children.
She has previously criticised the Scottish Government’s childcare policy for not going far enough. The Government offers 1,140 hours of free childcare a year to all three and four-year-olds in Scotland and some two-year-olds.
Ms Gallacher said: “I don’t know how many times I have raised this issue now. I want to see childcare work for parents, and see them able to get childcare so they can go out to work and provide for their families.
“But the Scottish Government seems hell bent on driving their own vision, which harms businesses and nursery owners. They can’t see the sun from the trees.”
This all boils down to her own struggles finding appropriate child care for her daughter. Ms Gallacher said she now relies heavily on her friends and family to look after Charlotte so she can get to work in Holyrood.
“I have a 15-month-old who doesn’t walk, she runs, so my hands are always full,” she said.
“Personally I can’t get childcare that opens before 8am to drop Charlotte off at, so I either come in later and then I’m not able to attend committee meetings, or I have to rely on friends and family, which is what I have been doing.
“Myself and other MSPs have championed the creche here in Parliament because if we can’t get childcare right in the democratic chamber, how do we get it right for other mums and dads? It is so important not just for MSPs, but for parents out in the real world who need it to get out to work.
“The Parliament creche is only open for four hours at the moment, which doesn’t work for people who want to get into politics. If the Scottish Parliament wants to make a stand to get young people, particularly young women, into politics, we need to make childcare work for them.”
Looking ahead to the future, Ms Gallacher is feeling “optimistic” about her party’s chances at the next general election. Polls widely predict Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will win the keys to Number 10 when the nation goes to the ballot boxes next year, but Ms Gallacher is not letting that dampen her hopes for the Conservatives.
She is not yet convinced the Labour Party have a general election win in the bag yet.
The Scottish Conservative deputy leader said: “Labour are making mistakes and flip-flopping on policies. One minute they are for oil and gas, the next minute they are not. One minute they are for gender recognition reform, the next minute they are not.
“The public will get fed up of that really quickly – Labour are all over the place.”
She conceded her party’s previous leader, former prime minister Boris Johnson, was a “marmite character”, but said she had faith in Rishi Sunak’s ability to lead the country and steady the Conservative ship.
Ms Gallacher said: “I think Rishi Sunak is clearly focused on driving down inflation and getting debt down. He is honest with people about tackling the cost-of-living crisis, so I think if he keeps chipping away, the polls might go in our favour.
“He is doing a really good job of steadying the ship for the party and I am pleased with the direction he is going in. I am feeling optimistic and there are different key areas we are targeting in the general election. Watch this space.”
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