Neil Gray described his election to Holyrood as "the honour of my life" after he was chosen as the new MSP for the Airdrie & Shotts constituency which he has represented for the past six years at the House of Commons.
The SNP politician succeeded in his bid to swap his seat at Westminster for the equivalent in the Scottish Parliament, retaining the seat made vacant by the retirement of party colleague Alex Neil after a decade as Airdrie's representative and 22 years as an MSP.
Mr Gray had joined in with the celebrations marking that opening of the Parliament in 1999, taking part in the procession along the Royal Mile as a 13-year-old schoolboy; and now says he is looking forward to "getting down to work" for his constituents on issues of local and national importance.
He told Lanarkshire Live: "I'm absolutely thrilled - it's the honour of my life to be endorsed by the people of Airdrie & Shotts to be their MSP in Scotland's national parliament.
"Regardless of which way people voted or if they voted at all, just as when I was MSP for the past six years, I will work for all of my constituents across Airdrie & Shotts and do my best to stand up for them on the issues that matter to them and to represent them to the best of my ability.
"I'm thrilled to be able to follow my friend and colleague Alex Neil, who leaves big shoes to fill - he's been an incredible MSP over 22 years and 10 in Airdrie & Shotts, and I'll look to carry on the work he's been doing, representing local people."
Mr Gray finished 5468 votes ahead of second-placed candidate Richard Leonard, the former Scottish Labour leader, to record his fourth election win in the constituency in six years.
He was the same constituency's MP from 2015 and contested general elections in his seat every other year during that period before standing down in March to contest the Holyrood seat, saying his decision to switch parliaments was for both political and personal reasons.
The new MSP said of Holyrood: "This is Scotland's national parliament and where so much of Scottish political life is decided; I walked down the Royal Mile at the opening of the Scottish Parliament as a 13-year-old.
"I've looked at our MSP colleagues and the fantastic work they do, and Holyrood is where I feel I can make the biggest difference and have the biggest impact for my constituents.
"Of course it was a privilege to be able to represent my constituents in Westminster, but being in Holyrood allows me more time with my constituents and also to be there for my family - I have four children under the age of six and this was a decision I made to be closer to home for them."
Mr Gray said of the work ahead for the new intake at the sixth session of the Scottish Parliament: "The first priority for all of us is going to be to continue the recovery from Covid.
"We need to get ourselves through the health impact of the pandemic, and then it's on to deciding about the economic recovery and how that's going to look; we have a decision to make as a nation about where the powers are going to lie and who's going to be taking the decisions over our future, so I hope an independence referendum will be coming very soon.
"One of the biggest achievement that Alex Neil and I had was to keep the new Monklands Hospital here in Airdrie; I'm looking forward to seeing that project through and I'll be fighting hard to make sure we see that as quickly as possible for my constituents."
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