Friday 24th February
It’s ten past midnight and we’re sending out the reminder email for the morning’s launch. This is our set piece event, the unveiling of the full Ash Regan campaign. Up to this point – it’s been a mad scramble and pieces have been moving across the board at a lightning pace.
At 7:30am the team were awake and debating in the chat: SNP Trek 2: The Wrath of Ashten or SNP Wars – A New Hope. Between “May the force of Independence be with us all” and “Beam Ash Up, Scotland” – Kirk asked us to keep the “wonderful” Star Wars metaphors to ourselves. Sorry, Kirk, they’ve been published.
8:30am, Graeme, Kirk and Mrs O arrive on the scene, and the posters and placards are ready. The podium and AV kit are being set up. The sun is scorching in the background with the Queensferry Crossing brilliantly standing in the background.
Holyrood Magazine had kicked off by calling us the Unity Candidate, and LBC’s Gina Davidson called Ash the dark horse. It was looking good. Our campaign photographer Colin was setting up his kit and Phantom Power were setting up theirs to send out a video of the speech.
The team finally were all in the same room, which oddly hadn’t occurred until this moment. Ash Regan turned up in a £600 blazer from Oliami, which was absolutely stunning and First Ministerial. It had been hand-crafted in Scotland, in her childhood hometown of Cumbernauld. From the Press launch being held in the Caledonia Suite to the Blazer being from Scotland – the stars were aligning.
Unfortunately due to the very restrictive £5k budget from SNP HQ – we couldn’t put on a breakfast roll or any decent snacks for the launch press. Water and some cheap biscuits had to do! While the press and guests were filtering in – Phantom Power created some impressive drone shots from the bridge to the hall, which look epic on the launch video.
The room was set out in a press room style – big open windows to the bridge in the background, Ash with a clear podium to show openness and transparency, two dedicated media interview areas, a command area and finally some break-out areas for interview and media upload.
A letter to the independence movement was sent at this point. It would be the focal point of the upcoming speech and it was likely the top trending piece of social media of the whole campaign.
Colin took a ‘front page’ picture of Ash with her arm on the guardrail in front of the bridge, and journalists went live from the berm surrounding the hotel. Indeed we were featured on the live news and Colin indeed got his picturesque front pages. Things were working out.
Our team had a quick pow-wow with Ash who was ready to face her first large speech as potential FM and then enter a nearly 3-hour festival of media from podcasts to live broadcasts. Ash and Joanna had a quick chat before Joanna would go on to introduce Ash.
The speech landed well and was First Ministerial in its content. It had been the product of a few days of tough work. We released it to the media just 15 minutes before we went live with it. BBC News had wanted to carry us live but dipped out after 60 seconds to go to some random SNP student who spoke abysmally and critiqued a speech that he had never actually heard. Naughty step for them.
From a list of media bids – Ash took questions in turn, this was the bizarre part where most asked the same question in slightly different wording. Most journalists feel like they have ‘gotchas’ but in reality, ask the same as their competitors did a moment before. Most forgot this was a small campaign versus the larger staff of the actual First Minister.
The BBC get a special mention as the least organised of all – they’d have quite liked their own event. However, the amount of time you gave the BBC vs the coverage you got – ended up being a terrible sum for us.
As Allison and Bailey handed out microphones to the journalists, they asked their questions with vigour, asking for details on the SNP structure and its transparency, especially with Peter Murrell at the helm.
We found this quite amusing as Allison was handing microphones to the journalists who had been hounding her following her departure from the Finance and Audit committee and NEC two years ago, without realising she was standing right there in front of them in the room.
It’s probably worth noting in light of current events – Allison and her former colleagues are still not speaking to the press (nor even me when I try very hard!) regarding their time there, and ViveEcosse will obviously only make comment when legally clear to do so.
A moment of silence was held in solidarity with the Ukrainian people on the year anniversary of the war.
We attempted our first media scrum and huddle – it was a bit less organised than we’d liked. It had some great pictures but must have been intimidating for Ash. She rocked it and we moved on to the 1-2-1 interviews, breaking only for the toilet and water.
The 1-2-1 interviews were an interesting experience. Every journalist overran. Every journalist complained that they were late. At most, we were a few minutes late – but we learned they just didn’t like each other very much. We were about halfway through when we detected Ash had described some policies of her own – that we hadn’t spoken about as a team – it was then we realised we’d mucked up by not recording the interviews ourselves. We would now need to watch the media that dropped out and adopt it as campaign policy. Oops.
The final media interview was with the Founding Editor of the Edinburgh Reporter, Phyllis Stephen which was Ash’s local paper. We had promised them an exclusive which was the EFTA policy – however one of the journalists had already pulled it out during an interview. We, therefore, had to improvise and offer ‘Currency’ as an exclusive – the meeting to discuss – was to follow the interviews.
It’s worth us noting – the two journalists that get the job done but are also wonderful to deal with are Phyllis Stephen (Edinburgh Reporter) and Gina Davidson (LBC). Both are genuinely nice people and a pleasure to deal with.
Ash would then go on to meet with Dr Tim Rideout of the Scottish Currency Group, to be briefed on their policies for an independent Scottish Pound. When speaking with Tim beforehand, we were incredulous to discover that despite the years of work of the Scottish Currency Group and successful SNP Conference resolution, Tim had never met First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. We made sure Tim, founder of Scottish Currency Group met Ash and acknowledged that they are a valued asset to independence. This initial meeting with Tim lasted around 45 minutes and ended with Ash liking their proposal enough to back it. This would be added to the media grid for Wednesday.
The launch rounded off with some portrait pictures of Ash, her family and the team. We’d then sit and chill before tidying up the room. Phantom Power struggled to get the video online as the Scottish press core was taking up all the hotel’s bandwidth – which made it very difficult. The mobile signal was too poor to help.
As Ash, Kirk and her parents set off for home. Bailey, Mrs O, Allison and myself would set off for pasta and pizza at a nearby restaurant in Dunfermline – which absolutely hit the spot following a day of very little to eat.
We finished the day with a team roundup of applause for each of the members on the chat. Each applause focused on the skills and talents each person had brought to the team. We’d move from the start of Star Trek to becoming Olivia Pope’s Gladiators.
About five minutes after this, we received the list of official hustings and TV debates. Oh wow. The team would set about our plan to get this reduced to a saner schedule, at least, we believed. Ash and Kirk were in the car on their way for the North East trip, and the team were at home base. It suddenly felt more like the SNP Squid Games – who’d get knocked out first.
It occurred to us there were at least 13 debates, and 16 days remained until the ballot opened, that meant every day was now a campaign day, ouch. Likewise, this would now elevate the debate platform to greater than a normal Scottish Election and more than a US Presidential Election. This was about to get gruelling.