Neil was born at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley and attended local schools before becoming the first member of his family to go to university. He obtained an MA Degree in Social Sciences from the University of Glasgow.
Neil was first elected as a Councillor in 2007 for the Johnstone North, Kilbarchan and Lochwinnoch ward, stepping down in 2012 following his election to the Scottish Parliament. During his first term Neil was appointed Deputy Education Spokesperson and then Chief Whip for Labour in the Scottish Parliament.
He was re-elected as an MSP for the West Scotland Region at the 2016 Scottish Parliament election and is currently Scottish Labour's spokesperson for Transport and Town Centres. Neil is also a member of the Finance and Constitution Committee at Holyrood.
Both on a personal and professional level, Neil supports a number of local and national charitable causes. Neil lives in Renfrewshire with his wife and young son.