THE Advertiser's latest opinion piece comes from Pam Gosal MSP (Conservative, West Scotland).

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IT has been a whirlwind first few weeks since my election to the Scottish Parliament.

I would like to take this opportunity in my first Helensburgh Advertiser column to thank everyone who voted for the Scottish Conservatives on May 6.

The Parliament I have been elected to is the most diverse Parliament since devolution began and I am extremely proud to have made my own bit of history, by becoming Holyrood’s first Indian Sikh MSP and one of the first women of colour. It was a real honour to say the Sikh prayer before taking my oath in the chamber.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Pam GosalPam Gosal

I was extremely honoured to be asked by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross to take on the role of being the party’s shadow minister for higher and further education as well as youth employment and training.

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Supporting our education sector and helping young people into employment and boosting their skills is absolutely vital to our economic recovery and creating the jobs of the future.

However, it is not only the devastating effects of the Covid pandemic that have had an impact on our further and higher education sector. Over their 14 years in office, the SNP have simply not stood up for our colleges and have slashed vital course places and failed to give them the financial resources they require.

That is why I challenged the SNP’s new minister for higher and further education, Jamie Hepburn, in Parliament following a damning report by Audit Scotland which showed that the funding gap for colleges has grown to an astonishing £54 million.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Jamie Hepburn MSPJamie Hepburn MSP

This cannot only be blamed on the Covid crisis and has been building on the SNP’s watch for a number of years.

We have a fantastic resource here in Helensburgh as part of Argyll College, while right across Scotland our colleges offer a great array of courses that enhance people’s skills and help them towards new careers.

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While there were a lot of warm words from the SNP’s minister, we need to see him, and his colleagues urgently outline a plan that will protect our colleges and rescue them from this perilous financial position.

I know from my own experiences at Cardonald College how beneficial our colleges can be, and I promise to use this role to be a strong voice for them.

The next few years will be hugely challenging for individuals, businesses and communities in Helensburgh and across the West of Scotland as we recover from the pandemic. I am in the process of getting my office fully set up and alongside my team I am here to help you and I have already been taking up a wide-ranging number of issues on behalf of constituents.

If you have any issue you feel I can help you on, do not hesitate to contact me on Pam.Gosal.MSP@Parliament.scot.