She was a member of the left-wing 79 Group inside the SNP in the early 1980s and first came to prominence in 1995 when she won the Perth and Kinross by-election to replace the Tory MP, Nicholas Fairbairn who had died.
In 1999 she became the MSP for Perth and continues to represent the area in the Scottish Parliament to this day. In 2000 she was elected the SNP Senior Vice-Convenor (deputy leader). Also in that year she helped establish the Scottish Left Review publication.
She is known as Republican Rose for her well known support for the replacement of the monarchy with an elected head of state.