She went on to study at Glasgow University gaining an MA Hons. in Modern History and Politics and then a Diploma in Town and Country Planning at Heriot Watt University.
Then followed the post of Planning Assistant with London Borough of Brent (1986-88), returning to Scotland for the post of Senior Planning Officer with Central Regional Council (1988-92). From 1992 to 1999 Sarah was a Lecturer in Planning at Edinburgh College of Art and Heriot Watt University
In 1999 Sarah was elected to the Scottish Parliament and served until the May elections in 2016. She served in Donald Dewar’s first Cabinet as Minister for Planning, Transport and the Environment. She set the first renewable energy targets for Scotland, secured significant investment in railways, buses and cycling, delivered free bus travel for older people and established Scotland’s first national parks.
She chaired the Environment and Rural Committee from 2003-7 and was Minister for Environment in 2007.
From 2007 – 2016 Sarah served in Labour’s Scottish Shadow Cabinet as Environment and Rural Spokesperson, Local Government and Planning and finally Environmental Justice.
In her last five years in the Scottish Parliament she was Convenor of the Cross Party Group on International Development, and Co Convenor of the CPGs on Energy Efficiency and Renewables and the CPG on Cycling.