Born in 1971, Aileen grew up in East Kilbride. She now lives in Lanark with her husband. Aileen attended the University of Edinburgh, where she graduated in 1993 with a degree in German and European Community Studies.
On leaving University Aileen specialised in EU policy – first as a researcher in the EuroInfo Centre in Glasgow then, between 2001 and 2004, as Senior Research Specialist on Europe in the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre. Aileen joined the SNP and between 2004 and 2009 and was Head of Policy for Alyn Smith MEP, based in the European Parliament in Brussels.
In the 2009 European Parliamentary elections Aileen was selected to stand on the SNP list, and narrowly missed securing an historic third SNP seat. Aileen decided to return to Scotland and from 2009-2011 worked as a Parliamentary assistant for Michael Russell.
In 2011 Aileen stood in the elections to the Scottish Parliament and was returned as a regional list SNP MSP for South Scotland. In the Parliament she served on the European and External Relations Committee, as well as the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee, the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee, and the Health and Sport Committee. She was appointed EU Reporter on each of the three subject parliamentary committees, where she led on EU issues on behalf of those committees.
In November 2014, Aileen was privileged to be appointed by the First Minister to serve as Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform in the Scottish Government.
In that role she worked intensively in developing and implementing Government policy across a wide range of issues. Aileen also represented the Scottish Government, and Scotland’s European and international interests, on environmental and climate change issues at EU Environment Councils. In addition, Aileen represented the Scottish Government at the United Nations Climate Change Conferences in Lima (2014) and in Paris (2015).