Articles Ash Regan Campaign

Love Is Love

Day 4

Tuesday 21st February

While Kate and Humza continued to face a barrage of media questions on religion, and now on their voting record or voting intention on Equal Marriage, Tuesday for us was themed by ‘connections’.

It started in the wee hours and resumed with an early team call – a pre-10 am call with Graeme was unheard of so this was serious stuff for us!

We had all determined that it was better for Ash to avoid immediate media reaction pieces as there was a toxic atmosphere bubbling up and Ash had a daunting few weeks to navigate to get her positive, constructive messaging out, on a campaign shaping up to be riddled with obstacles to achieve that.

It was evident that Kate’s team had tried to get questions of religion upfront to address and then move quickly past it, but the media kept circling back, fueled in part at least, by Humza’s campaign comments which seemed to be centring on creating some kind of ‘Progressive It’s a Knockout’.

We intended to allow Ash space to work with us on her critical campaign messaging proactively, for a planned campaign launch on Friday with the media all in one place, of our choosing, once the SNP membership had confirmed their nominations for the ballot.

The media were all over Holyrood when Ash arrived so Bailey popped by her office at lunchtime to introduce himself and see if she needed anything. He brought up lunch and they had a quick chat on how to navigate the media as the controversy being whipped up over the views on the Equal Marriage of two long-serving MSPs was suddenly all anyone was talking about, after Kate’s media interviews. Ash wanted to calm the situation and remind everyone of what is important while settling those who were understandably upset.

When asked directly for comment on Equal Marriage, by Ciaran Jenkins from Channel 4 News, as she passed him in the Parliamentary lobby, she simply said, 

“love is love”

Ash Regan 21st Feb 2023, when asked by Ciaron Jenkins of Channel 4 News on her views on Equal Marriage.

We later released a press statement with Ash’s full response which tried to lighten the mood, in a Scotland that had led the way in the UK on Equal Marriage, and ended her statement with, 

“…just don’t marry the wrong person – been there, done that 😉 Thankfully we’re still friends!”

Ash Regan, press statement on Equal Marriage, 21st Feb, 2023

There was little time for making pancakes, this year – my kids got some bought-in from the local Co-op. ‘Team vote Ash Regan’ had an anything-but-flat day, as we added to our core team, met face to face, launched #voteAshRegan branding, site and media mailboxes, invited Ash Ambassadors to the wider team, met with subject experts, secured more nominations, planned our media launch and poured over the campaign rules just released by SNP NEC, to understand the constraints we had to operate within.

By the end of Tuesday we had secured Joanna Cherry KC MP for Ash’s planned media launch on Friday, the day nominations closed. Joanna had declared her support for Ash’s leadership bid as she knew of Ash’s background, both in independence campaigning and Common Weal, as well as her recent principled stance on self-id and the criticality of safeguarding the rights of women and children.

Fraser, from Joanna’s team, was liaising with us on the launch details and weekend arrangements, as both Joanna and Ash had been invited to a YES event in Stonehaven. We invited Fraser along to a call we had set up for Wednesday evening with Professor Richard Murphy. The team is indebted to Fraser’s ongoing support in advising us on media lines over lunchtime and joining early morning and weekend calls to add his experience.

There was so much we wanted to achieve with the campaign, primarily to connect with members, develop core policy with them and reach out to civic Scotland and the independence movement but the timescale was so short and the NEC rules so limiting, coupled with the emerging intense hustings and debate schedule, that it felt like it was shaping up to be ‘SNP Squid Games’ rather than a leadership contest!

We needed a way to get clarity of messaging and agreed Kevin McKenna was our ideal pick as a journalist who gets to the root of what makes folk tick and we needed that. Thankfully Kevin agreed to meet us on Thursday for what we hoped would be our pre-media launch interview – it all hung on Graeme and Kirk securing our venue.

‘Independence – nothing less’, underpinned Ash’s Campaign from day 1 and we set to work to address the big issues that were roadblocks to building confidence to deliver a YES majority in 2014. The Scottish Currency Group had impressed both SNP membership and the wider independence movement with the work they’d done since 2014 and we wanted to ensure they got a platform on our campaign. 

Similarly, Professor Richard Murphy had spoken and written eloquently on Scotland’s potential under independence and on the annual GERS charade. Richard was on top form the next evening as we met on Zoom, and he told us he had just written a long-form article for the National on Tuesday, covering his thoughts on much of what we discussed on Wednesday evening. I was surprised to discover that I was the only one on the call that knew everyone! We agreed on the importance of getting the right people in the room to make progress, a theme that ran through Ash’s campaign.

Robin McAlpine, Ash’s ex-colleague from her time at Common Weal was meeting her for a pre-arranged coffee on Wednesday, and the team were passionate about ensuring the incredible work Common Weal had done over almost 10 years had the appropriate platform to discuss the big ideas to help shape Scotland. So many people across Scotland had poured their energy and talent into delivering an ambitious, achievable vision for an independent Scotland and Ash wanted to ensure that these valued assets were connected, to our common purpose for Scotland.

While Bailey was helping Ash navigate the media teams at Holyrood while managing the mountain of media bids that were pouring into our new mailbox, Graeme was collecting Kirk from Inverkeithing Station to secure a venue for our campaign launch. We had all agreed on our strong visual message of ‘building bridges’ and ‘SNP/Scottish ambition and achievement’ was encapsulated by the spectacular Queensferry Crossing – now to secure the ideal venue to present that vista! Our first venue choice wasn’t available and the second, Transport Scotland’s outside space, we felt was too much of a weather risk so we moved North to the Doubletrees by Hilton and it was available and just perfect!

As I liaised with Alan from Phantom Power regarding the now-confirmed launch plan for Friday, Kirk confirmed with Colin, our campaign photographer, and Graeme secured the talented Mrs O, our press release Ninja extraordinaire! Graeme and Kirk then headed off to meet Ash at Costa in Fort Kinnaird, getting there just before closing!

There was much relief in the team that Friday’s launch was now locked in, as it allowed us to promote the announcement, just after midnight as, ‘ASH WEDNESDAY: CAMPAIGN LAUNCH’

Colin McKay from STV News, while seeking confirmation of Ash’s intention to stay in or drop out of the campaign, had said, “Maybe she’ll announce her campaign on Ash Wednesday.” This amused us so much that he was on ‘our wavelength’ that we decided to give Colin a wee exclusive at the Parliament the next day by Bailey telling him where to be as Ash was passing.

As we got the press release ready to go to launch ‘ASH WEDNESDAY’, the final connection piece was slotted into place just before midnight. Ash asked me to add her partner to the team, which I did and that was the start of something really special.

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