Scotland’s youngest ever politician takes a career gap

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6th Feb 2012
Written by: Cormac Scanlan

Scotland's youngest ever politician takes a career gap

Aberdeen's John West has never shied away from following his heart. In 2007 he became Scotland's youngest ever politician at just 18. Five years on, West has found himself with itchy feet and has packed in the politics in favour of a gap year backpacking around the world.

It's fair to say that John West's childhood wasn't like that of most of his peers. While his classmates were obsessing over Pokémon cards, Buzz Lightyear and Super Mario 64, nine year old West was begging his parents to let him stay up to watch the 1997 general election; the election in which Tony Blair became Prime Minister.

When the election results came in for Aberdeen city council's Hazelhead ward a little over ten years later, West was celebrating his own success of having become Scotland's youngest ever politician, representing the SNP (Scottish National Party).

In the five year since his election, John West has become a prominent and valued figure in the SNP / Liberal Democrat coalition government, whilst also pursuing other interests. Away from the limelight, West has also had a sideline semi-professional career playing his bag-pipes at private functions and now his strong desire to see and do things outside of the politics world has become overwhelming.

Quoted in The Scotsman, West said "I simply want to do something else for a while, and I am going to do a bit of travelling, see the world and take in some new experiences.

"I am firmly of the view that you have to do these things when you are relatively young, or you will end up buying houses, getting married and having children and all of the other things that tend to preclude running away around the world for a time."

So far West has no concrete plans for where he wishes to go, but he did say that Australia would likely be on his gap year itinerary, which seems fitting being the home of the walkabout, once described by Merriam-Webster as "a short period of wandering bush life engaged in by an Australian aborigine as an occasional interruption of regular work."

Whether he desires to go on a walkabout of spiritual discovery through the Australian bush or to take his bag-pipes to see Uluru and the Devil's Marbles, we wish John West all the best and hope that his career gap inspires new perspectives on life. His story is one which shows that anyone can take a gap year.

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