Monday 20th February
Chaotic 48 hours behind us, we started building the structure. Our infrastructure for the campaign was in place and overnight we’d migrated our planning to Google Workspaces which allowed us to collaborate on documents and such in real-time and for free.
The nonsense that formed the guidelines of the campaign had now arrived. £5,000 limit, no outside SNP donations, and all donations must be under £50. Usefully Ash stepped right up to the plate and agreed to fund the campaign herself to save any time on sourcing funding.
At 9:21 am we became aware that the Humza campaign would be launching today. This was somewhat surprising as it was rather rapid to book a hall and set up the basics. However, it definitely was a product of its haste with Humza proudly standing under an exit sign. It wasn’t very refined. Keep in mind though – Humza appeared to have a little more notice than Nicola had alighted to.
We stood down the Ashten.info branding and instead went for voteAshRegan.com
Ash at this point reached out to Kate to understand her positioning as by this time she hadn’t actually announced one way or another.
Angus Robertson then ruled himself out in quick succession. Somewhat of a surprise that his removal from the race had come so quickly.
It is 10:53 am and Kate Forbes announces her intention to stand, bizarre as she hadn’t mentioned she was standing just an hour before during discussions.
I probably should have slept til 11 am and had less of a heart attack-inducing day. Alas, it was an exhilarating few hours and it wasn’t even beyond breakfast.
Kate’s launch featured a rock and a lot of drone shots. Our campaign team wasn’t that impressed – zero press for Kate at launch.
We started talking about our launch – which we’d planned for nomination close on the Friday, not wanting to be too presumptuous and disrespectful to the process. After all, any single member of the SNP could technically stand for nomination. The press did not like this at all – we were hounded at a rate greater than the volume of mail traffic to the actual First Ministers office. Our mailboxes were rammed demanding the details.
Phantom Power had reached out and was keen to help do a video for the Ash Regan campaign. We started talking about what we wanted the video to include and the key themes to touch.
Amusingly the BBC decided to run a disclosure program on the Sturgeon reign and had been advertising it as having big ramifications. Upon later watching it was really just a self-aggrandisement of the BBC and their own coverage. Devoid of any real content.
We held a video call to plan the details of Fridays launch. We wanted the bridges in the background as a silent homage to ‘Building Bridges + Coming Together’. Our original plan was for Scott’s Restaurant and Bar in South Queensferry – however, it was very short notice for the venue and it was likely we’d be in the way of their operation. We started dreaming of new ideas.
Bailey-Lee had reached out to his NEC contacts and they weren’t going to release nomination numbers, which seemed bizarre as it was all anyone was talking about. The first of many ‘secrets’ that HQ wanted to keep for no apparent reason.
The news was now off the Humza launch for 6 pm and piling into Humza for missing the final vote on the Equal Marriage Bill. The first poll dropped, we were third and relatively unknown but we still felt competitive. The first noises around Kate’s religion had kicked in.
The Whips at Parliament started applying pressure to Ash in an effort to get her to commit to more parliamentary time and assure them that she wouldn’t be off focusing on the campaign. Again the SNP machinery at its finest, demanding that Ash not campaign, in a campaign that was made terribly short, and with no notice. Three-line whip votes were popping into the calendar for anything and everything.
We decided to initiate contact with Kate’s team in an effort to muscle some information on the progress of the nomination vote.
Ash decided she wanted to write to the leaders of the pro-Indy groups and parties – we’d launch the letter on Friday as our set piece announcement.
Ash felt a little media ‘untrained’ so we set up an eve-of-launch interview with Kevin McKenna of the Herald, while it would be an extended exclusive interview and one of Ash’s longest – it would provide some well-needed experience with someone who wasn’t immediately hostile to independence. Someone who was looking to get to the meat of the issue rather than just a shock gotcha.
By this point, it is 11:45 pm. The media and social media were in full swing for a religious hunt on Kate, and the story of Humza’s vote avoidance was making headlines. Tomorrow’s papers were going in on religion – it was about to get messy.
We had no speech, we had no venue, we needed media training, and the media had smelled blood in the water and were on their way. This wasn’t going to be easy, however, we agreed on a principle to stick to. We are not reactive, we are measured and speak with integrity.
The decision was made that we wouldn’t be negative, or help advance the religious grievance against our opponents, we would focus on the issues we wanted to talk about and not the media narrative.
By the time midnight rolled around, we had a set of media lines for all the key topics that may come up – we sensed religion and equal marriage would be the theme of the day. Before bed, we arranged an 8:30 am morning meeting to move forward.