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‘As a gay woman, I’m a Westminster outsider’ – The SNP’s Mhairi Black speaks to Owen Jones

By Ben Kelly

Mhairi Black, the youngest MP elected to the House of Commons for 300 years, has said she feels like an outsider there, because she’s young, female and gay.

Speaking to Guardian columnist Owen Jones, the 21-year-old MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South spoke of how she has found political life in the year since being elected, and how she hopes for an independent, socialist Scotland.

Asked about whether Westminster was everything she expected it to be, Black says: “All the things that I thought, and argued during the referendum, and during the general election have unfortunately turned out to be totally true,” adding that it is “a complete boys club.”

“If you want to cover barriers into politics, I cover a lot of bases,” she laughs. “I’m young, female, gay, I’m SNP. We’re hardly the most popular down in Westminster. But even when I’m there, I’m taken aback by – in the first instance, how patronising some folk were, and in the second instance how sexist people were.”

Her critique of parliament didn’t end there.

“It’s so excluded from reality,” she adds. “It’s unbelievable. It’s a totally defunct institution that has to drag itself into the 21st century if it wants any hope of surviving. it allows tradition to rule over reason, which is just ridiculous.”

Asked whether she would have believed five years ago that she would now be an MP, she laughed. “It would never have crossed my mind.”


Black described the rise of her party, the SNP, as “an awakening” in the aftermath of the referendum in 2014, in which Scotland voted to remain in the UK, but she remains as hopeful as ever that independence will come to the country.

“I would love to see an independent socialist Scotland,” she tells Jones, describing her belief in the NHS, free education, and the nationalisation of the railways.

“I don’t think it’s right that Scotland, as a country, should have to be dependent on whether England votes the right way,” she says, referencing the many elections in which a left voting Scotland has been left at the mercy of a Conservative UK government.

“The only way that we’re going to get the United Kingdom to function well, and to have countries that work together, is by making sure that we’re all on an equal level.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Black describes David Cameron as “disengaged” and Jeremy Corbyn as “good”. She says she prefers Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton, and that she’s “absolutely terrified” about Donald Trump.

“You would laugh and then you remember this guy’s in the lead,” she says. “The things this guy says are unbelievable. It’s Germany in the 1930s. It’s terrifying.”

Black also helps us out with the tricky pronunciation of her first name. “Say it as if you were going to ask me to marry you,” she tells Owen, before admitting that’s an unlikely scenario for both of them.

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