UK Parliament Week, taking place this week, is a fantastic way for people to find out how they can get their voices heard on important issues that matter to them.

My own journey to Parliament started at Stevenston High, where I first learnt the shorthand that would eventually lead me to working in the offices of many MPs.

I wanted to get an office job and I was the first boy at the school ever to learn shorthand. I was inspired to do well after going to the Barrfields Pavilion in Largs to see Johnny Beattie on my birthday. One of the songs that night was “Do What You Do, Do Well”.

In 1969, I was awarded the Dux Prize in Commercial Subjects at Stevenston High, and the following year I was awarded the Mr Dawes’ Prize in Commerce at Ardrossan Academy. Shortly after coming to London to work at HM Treasury in 1985, I was introduced to the librarian at the Ministry of Defence and he told me about the Incorporated Phonographic Society. I went along to a few meetings of the IPS and subsequently applied to be a member.

Instead, I was accepted as a fellow because of my outstanding shorthand ability.

The demand for an excellent Pitman shorthand writer in Parliament today is as great as it was during the 1940s and 1950s. For example, Patrick Kinna was Winston Churchill’s secretary during the war and was a very good shorthand writer. Also, Jane Portal, Justin Welby’s mother, is a shorthand writer and was personal secretary to Churchill after Kinna.

In August, I was unanimously elected by the Council of the IPS as President. I have made many friends through the society and visited members in New Zealand, Wales and other parts of the world. The IPS is the oldest shorthand society in the world and we have amongst our members not only people who are shorthand writers but academics and others who are interested in shorthand and speed writing. I have now met and become friends with many members.

Community groups and schools across Scotland have already signed up to be part of the UK Parliament Week conversation this year. I encourage others to take part in UK Parliament Week 2020 too. It’s vital that our voters and citizens of tomorrow understand how vital their participation is in our democracy.