Articles Ash Regan Campaign

Independence Thermometers

Days 13, 14, 15

2-4th March 2023

The morning of the 2nd started with the news that John Swinney wouldn’t be in a future cabinet, his time was done and his shift was over. However, we’d been tipped by a few journalists that there was about to be scandalous news emerging on the SNP.

We had a rule early on in the campaign to stick to our media grid and not get dragged into whatever was leading the day’s press – as it wasn’t usually ever that useful. You can only do so much while reacting and having a unique angle. It’s always far better to be charting your own destiny and setting out something people can come behind. However in we all got sucked.

There was a great sense – the secret SNP emails were about to be made public – however, I don’t think to this day Stewart McDonald’s phished phone information has actually surfaced, probably on account of him being dreadfully boring.

After a few false pulses of timings of breaking news. Ash began to get ready in case we had to make a statement, the team sat ready to verify, respond and promulgate. Alas, nothing of any value came and the journalists leading the charge were moved to the naughty step. This a firm reminder to stick to your own message and grid and ignore the nonsense.

We referred to it as ‘the great ambulance chase’ – and agreed not to do it again. We started work on our next item on the list – the SNP Activist Academy – a program of getting members fighting fit to be leaders and organisers of the future.

We liked the idea of Duolingo, with TED talks, and Khan Academy-style lessons all smashed together. We envisioned seasoned activists and Parliamentarians leading the talks about how they’d made their way up and how others could follow. Talent planning is sorely missing in the SNP and this was our crack at that.

Currency was our next big media set piece, we’d taken photos at the launch with Tim Rideout on behalf of the Scottish Currency Group. In truth this is exactly the sort of work that needs to be adopted throughout the movement, it’s incredibly detailed and quite robust. This took over the team’s work for the day for the Sunday papers.

Credit: Colin D Fisher/CDFIMAGES.COM

Moments after launching it as our next big article – we were branded Indy Extremists – consider that for a moment, the idea you have your own currency is now extreme. There was a lot of media hatred towards Megan and Harry regarding the coronation lingering around this time – we suggested in our chat maybe having a King Harry and Queen Meghan – just to gauge the level of froth, but we decided to leave our trolling in the planning stages only.

The great coronation stone was up next – our first real disagreement in the core team chat. I felt we should have rolled our collective eyes and ignored the whole argument. I’m not convinced the stone resonates with modern Scots on matters of statehood and the pageantry should be ignored. However, we went in another direction and suggested a compromise position. The media had a field day.

Usefully Kate’s husband had been spotted in some prior Tory hustings and the media storm went away as quickly as it arrived. We were repeatedly asked for comment – however, we all agreed we would not negatively campaign. Likewise, it would be a bit mental to go negative after having called for less mudslinging.

Key theme: stay out of reactive and back into formative. Set the agenda, don’t become the agenda.

We’d been discussing and reviewing a lot of the analysis of the media output and hustings so far, a meeting was set up with Robin McAlpine ahead of the second hustings in Fife to provide a bit of media prep and some core messaging that he felt needed to be conveyed in particular around independence readiness planning.

Around 6 pm Mrs O and Bailey arrived at the venue to prepare. Again the same pattern had emerged – but this time Jenny Gilruth was outside setting up the Humza arrival gang and photo – and again many of the members then immediately left. This stunt appears to be right out of the playbook.

The sound and lighting were worse than the first event. The lighting was atrocious and looked very dark. The audience was not receptive to the message, it had a particularly large showing of the ‘gender above everything else’ crowd and was stuffed with councillors openly hostile to Kate and Ash while whooping for Humza. It did not help that we were not having a good night – Ash was very clearly exhausted due to the schedule the few days prior and the answers were not landing correctly.

However, it was not dark enough to cover what happened next. Independence Thermometer.

We’ll publish the thinking behind it soon 😉

Responding to a question on progress toward independence, Ash told a story of how she’d met with people that day and one of them suggested perhaps making a big public progress meter – an independence thermometer if you will, where people could easily see what progress and checkpoints on the way to independence had been delivered.

It’s worth noting – the idea of transparency in government on large projects should always be welcomed. The theory of working in the light and showing iterative steps is a good one. However, in time-limited hustings answers, it’s not a great time to introduce something new and complex so the imagery of a large bulbous protruding thermometer in George Square was the takeaway and that was a step too far – for even the indy converted.

Well, we didn’t need to do sentiment analysis to understand how this had gone down. It got laughed at in the room. Social media lit up like a Christmas tree. Memes appeared everywhere. Questions on if we were trolling were appearing. Journalists were having an absolute field day.

As a presenter, you don’t always know how you’re doing, although Ash had a clue it had really not gone well. The post-match was carried out in a nearby venue. Mrs O and Bailey had the short straw to deliver the bad news. They’d already spoken to the rest of us on the phone. It was our worst day in the campaign, it had been our worst day so far, but on reflection, it was our worst day for the whole campaign.

At around 1 am. I started a little ‘pick up and dust off’ chat in our core team. I’ll not copy the whole thing here but grab the start.

“Since the dawn of humanity, we’ve gathered round the fire, feeling the warmth on our skin, telling stories beside old friends and new. Stories are who people are, and what motivates us, they cause us great sadness, anxiety and fear. They have the power to make you dream and the power to make you cry. We don’t remember every word of the story we tell, but we remember the feelings and the thoughts we have during them. We ask ourselves questions and imagine ourselves the heroes. For every story we share, we add our own touch, our own sparkle and our own light and no story is ever told the same twice.

Stories move us from strangers to friends, they move us from firm ground to daring to dream. They are the powerhouse of every thought and every imagination. They’re unbreakable in your mind because they are the culmination of what you think and feel, they’re compelling and entertaining because they inspire others. Stories are what we are. Let’s go tell our story”

At around 8 am, a new plan was devised and moved into action. If you’ve seen the ‘Let Bartlett be Bartlett’ scene in the West Wing – this was plan ‘Let Ash be Ash’. We’d banned gimmicks, binned the prep sheets, we’d binned the folder of answers, and we locked down any debate prep or further inputs.

It was a long road up the A9 to Inverness, but Mrs O and I got into the car and shot up. Today there would be only one input – a can of Red Bull and raw Ash – unleashed.

We got to the venue and carried out check-in. I advised Ash was running a bit late due to traffic following a car fire on the way in. SNP HQ informed me they’d not be waiting for anyone and that it would start on time. Only after it was apparent Humza and Kate would also be late – was it suddenly not an issue. All three candidates arrived just minutes before showtime.

The Eden Court Theatre was possibly one of the nicest venues for the hustings, the lighting was much better, with massively improved audio. It felt good.

I don’t know if you will have watched the Inverness Hustings – however, it was night and day, from tragic the day before to First Ministerial the day after. A new Ash appeared and moved into a whole new groove. She commanded her opening, her questioning and close. She got rapturous applause and stole many of the key lines. Humza and Kate looked on in apparent surprise.

Our sentiment analysis was looking good and our media appraisals looked favourable! We’d gone from the worst performance to the best, in one night – with nothing more than a Red Bull to unleash the fire we knew Ash had within her.

Ash’s partner was so impressed – he promised us all a curry night on his return! (He kept that promise and we’ll cover it later).

Plenty of fire emojis were used in the chat 🔥, along with hearts ❤️, and saltires 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿. A newfound energy was formed and the team started hammering out the post-game messaging.

Following the hustings – we dropped into the fabulous InverYess Indy Hub, which was hosting events that day. They absolutely loved the hustings and had a lot of input on how it went. It was really nice to do this after a good day. While Ash had done a metric ton of media interviews – it was always nice to see she seemed much more comfortable and at home with fellow Yes campaigners. They shared soup and stories of campaigns.

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On the hustings

Days 10, 11, 12

27th, 28th February and 1st March.

We spent the morning of the 27th firming up visits to members, FloWave technology and upcoming media bids. It was a very administration heavy day. We needed to tighten our media to a grid and try and hold the line – with a drip, drip, drip of policy.

The ‘majority of votes’ plan was advancing – people were taking notice, so we spent some time doing the arithmetic. Usefully we were only 0.45% away in 2021. I still don’t think people realise – if you add the parties vote shares up by Yes/No – we are a whisker away. It’s the most credible plan we have.

A lot of heat was coming from journalists though – asking what if the UK say no to recognising an independent Scotland. Which in some ways shows how poorly they rate themselves – would they seriously let them away with it? The Washington Post runs the motto ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness’ – well in the UK the media would probably be the ones turning out the light.

Ash capped off the night on Scotland Tonight – one of our first live video interviews. We felt it went reasonably well, not perfect, but adequate for the media training so far.

Mrs O checked that Ash knew to swap jackets between interviews to maintain the ability of us to use them as different clips. Ash has a very dry humour – but this is one of those examples – she replied ‘I have jackets in every colour’.

Allison gave everyone a quick Greek lesson before bed – reminding us Demos was greek for people and Kratos for power. The power of the people.

The next morning – the SNP had put out a statement about the National Secretary picking an independent voting system for the leadership election. Allison had noticed it was Mi-Voice – the same one they always used, so in effect the press release said nothing new.

We reached out to Kate’s team about the lack of media allowed in the hustings. We had always assumed it would be streamed and available publicly.

An email was sent to the National Secretary and HQ complaining about the lack of media access, we followed it up with a press statement and our SNP action plan which showed our values.

With Ash and Kate demanding media access – it wasn’t long before Humza had to agree with them. At that point there was no way the SNP HQ could lock it down and then the doors were flung open.

We carried on with hustings / debate prep as the first debate was now upon us.


It was barely the 1st of March and an unsung hero of the Scottish Independence Movement had arrived. As we blogged earlier in the week – the movement is made up of many people who fill many roles, often unsung heroes.

I would like to pay tribute to one who gave us a good chuckle in admiration of her personal determination to be the very best, in all of her roles.

We got an email from the Convenor of the Association of Nationalist Councillors (the ANC for short) – Heather, who asked if Ash could commit to attending an online councillors only hustings.

The problem for us was a day earlier, SNP HQ had firmed up all the official hustings and the TV/Radio networks had also put their schedules forward.

All three campaigns teams had spoken and agreed that the schedule was brutal and that the campaign teams would have preferred much fewer events – but in much larger venues. We had further agreed to seek to reduce the number of events and not to agree to any more.

I called Heather and explained this and to her credit she was fully understanding – but felt an online meeting would be beneficial and could fit in nicely.

I’ll confess here – being a Fifer – we have a large swing between having the absolute best councillors such as David Barratt of Inverkeithing, and Bailey-Lee Robb of Cowdenbeath – who seem to tirelessly work for their communities in both partisan and non-partisan initiatives and then the SNP group leader David Alexander who refers to a leadership contender as a ‘silly lassie’.

So it wasn’t something I personally felt we should do. I presented it none the less during the team meeting to Ash and she was keen on sticking to the agreement of not increasing the schedule, but if the others confirmed, she was game.

I confirmed again with Heather that we felt the HQ timetable was final and that we expected local councillors would feature heavily in the local events.

Moments after I got a chuckle though. Heather had swapped hats, and was now the Dundee Branch Member Secretary and was requesting an in person hustings for Dundee.

I presented this to Kirk and Ash on a follow up call. They both found it as hilarious as I did. I said look – “I know we can’t put this event in, but I know one thing – when you win – Hustlin’ Heather with the multiple Hats – needs to be put in charge of getting stuff done. The lady is a force of nature and an absolute credit to the independence movement”.

Now I’ve spent half a blog on that anecdote – but I really wanted to highlight that round the country, in ever constituency – there are dedicated hard working people, who tirelessly try to do their very best. It’s easy to be distracted by the headlines and think the SNP as a whole is adrift but the truth is, some real talent and grafters are still in there. Hat tip to you Heather!

The mailbox at this point had started to fill into something crazy, from random magazines, international press, members, branches, third sector organisations – we were now gaining several hundred pieces of mail each day. We were actually very lucky to have decent software backing us up.

We did notice something odd though about some the groups affiliated with the SNP, some of them would not run with our replies, or suspiciously lose them. Anything Humza didn’t reply to – didn’t run. Anything we didn’t immediately respond to – was plastered on social media. Some of these questionnaires were over 10 pages but only cherry picked answers would appear.

At one point, a concentrated spam attack was launched to try and deluge our mailbox. Usefully we applied a quick filter and it took about 30 seconds to deflect.

Credit: Colin D Fisher/CDFIMAGES.COM

The first hustings were now upon us – Cumbernauld was up first. Ash spent a few hours with Colin and Kirk getting photos nearby ahead of the event.

There was a worry amongst the team of the photos as they streamed back into the campaign box. Who was this roman god? The joke amongst us was that we needed to do some research quick to make sure he wasn’t some god of sperm or something that would become the next days media gag.

Alas – it was a safe image!

SNP HQ was at the venue early and camped out in the cafe.

Bailey and Mrs O went in first to scout the location and work things out. Colin McKay was broadcasting short stints outside. Kirk and Ash arrived first and wandered on in.

We’d agreed Bailey would be the ‘bag holder’ for the entrance, so was suited and booted to do the entrance walk. I had a stall with posters, badges and corex but we didn’t deploy due to rain and the fact we figured no one would be lingering outside. On reflection – I wish we’d deployed it.

Credit: Colin D Fisher/CDFIMAGES.COM

The crowd got held outside (this didn’t happen for any other event) until all three candidates had arrived. Sadly Ash was already inside.

Kate was second in – she got a warm applause from the crowd and then heckled by a protestor from a fringe group.

Humza’s team arrived with poster boards and his press team. They assembled outside and then gave the call to roll in. He rocked out, waved and then joined a group of his own fans. They went wild – while the rest of the crowd stood bemused. His fans then got back in their cars and left, while the crowd got a walking handshake from Humza. Miraculously after shaking the last hand and entering himself – then the crowd were allowed in.

Mike Russell spontaneously popped up in the chair – rather than the local chairs we had been briefed to expect. We have no idea why, but suspect this was in relation to the change to allowing the media and streaming the event.

The lighting was not fair to anyone but Humza looked sinister. Kate seemed a bit lost. Ash did ok but struggled a bit on the legislative competence objection by the UK government. However we left to large applause. While no-one won, no-one lost.

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North East Welcome

Days 8 & 9

Saturday 25th-Sunday 26th

Nomination formalised and media launch done, the campaign kicked off properly today for Ash with a trip to YES Stonehaven & Mearns.

The morning kicked off early, likely due to the high of having launched the day prior in North Queensferry. By 7am the WhatsApp core team chat was alive with chatter. 

Kirk proposed a 9am call to have a debrief, tighten the work flow and build out a more concrete plan. The theme of the week was ‘Who is Ash Regan’ and ‘what the hell is a VEM’. 

Ash was still taking media heat over her stance on self id – which we had a motto on – ‘moving from they/them to VEM’ and back to the concrete issues of Independence. 

Attention turned to focussing on the policy announcements we’d made while in the North, specifically forming a policy for the dualling of the A9. 

At 7:30am, Ash wanted a full briefing of how the 65 countries that left the British Empire had done so, which probably gives you an idea of just how much work was needed to be done, and how far behind we actually were. I agreed to compile the list – and I was glad I did – because someone would later quote it back to us at a hustings! 

By 8am we were reviewing the media spreads on our launch the day before, we’d planned to capture the weekend media and somewhat had succeeded. 

Print media was excellent in its coverage and key points hit. The news bulletins in the evening and morning were all really good. The interviews we had done – were all cut with a terrible slant. 

The gravy bus riders were absolutely furious with the launch and were apologetic that Ash wouldn’t just defer to Nicola. 

Some journalists were quite openly snarky about the key points from the day before. Specifically upset about the idea that independence could be sought in a method other than a referendum and that it had happened before. 

What would later be the ‘independence delivery plan’ was started on that day in the chat. 

I’ll post an exact excerpt from the chat:

“Some themes:

The right to self determination is universally accepted. 

Britain has disagreed and said no to nearly every country that has left the UK/British empire, in every situation the British media has always agreed with the British.

Saying no, has never worked, in every situation Britain eventually get dragged to the table. 

Referendums are very rare, some declare independence, some pass a constitution and vote it through. 

The UN, France, US, Japan have all played their part in the past in bringing about change. 

Northern Ireland has the right to a poll every 7 years on it.

This is not our preferred option of the GOLD STANDARD REFERENDUM - this was denied and blocked.

- No other country in the world accepts the UK Supreme Court as the arbitrator of international law. 

Section 30 is a Scotland Act section, therefore no other country in the world has ever needed a section 30 order. Not one. 

KEY THEME: If saying no is the UK position - why has it never worked anywhere except Scotland.”

Although by the time we started the meeting, Kate Forbes had apparently wandered back out and decided that women shouldn’t be church minsters.  There was much bewilderment amongst us to what the Kate campaign were thinking. 

The SNP whips were warming up, sending in veiled threats that Parliamentary time was precious and sitting in on debates was required and that no time could be spared for campaigning and that action would be taken against candidates. 

‘Killjoy Kirk’ renamed the chat from ‘West Wing’ to ‘Core Team’. 

While Ash was off visiting the North with Kirk, there was a pressing matter for us to attend to. The National had started to release its findings of the online poll sabotage – and it turns out a user in Kirkcaldy/Cowdenbeath on Virgin Media had been part of the spoofing. I was an immediate suspect. 

There was a poll showing we had nearly double digit support, it was good enough for us to celebrate, and we considered it way too early to be worried. It was also clear Kate was doing an ‘economic launch’ on the Monday at a brewery, focusing on the deposit return scheme so we began our planning of lines around that. The over-riding thought for us was – we have recycling at kerbside – the punitive tax isn’t needed. 

We launched our first ‘Ambassadors for Ash’ mailer and asked them to share materials from our launch. On reflection, we did not use the Ambassador platform nearly enough. 

As we rolled into Sunday Fife MSP’s Gilruth and Somerville decided to abandon any pretence of fairness and instead had a mini launch in Dunfermline for Humza without inviting any of the other candidates. Dark patterns from the whips to the inner circle were becoming clearer.

Ash and her partner unveiled the oil communities plan during the northern tour. The detail was simple – we won’t import what we can domestically produce. We will export to allies rather than relying on insecure nations such as Russia. We will lead the world in renewables.

The media had by this point boiled the campaigns down to: Humza Useless, Wee free Forbes, and Mad Ash. We decided to shoulder into it, but increase the substantive detail available via our website. Radical but substantive was fine. 

The A9 slant changed to an apology and a delivery plan. We worked on that for a few hours and then got the most haunting photo sent back. It was the best they could do given how early it got dark and the amount of events packed in. 

As Ash and Kirk started to work their way back down to Edinburgh – the team started work on some of the upcoming plans, such as the SNP action plan and our DRS communications. 


Labour concede election

Question Time in Fort William presented a small glimpse of what may come to be the next chapter of the Scottish Independence partnering, but first we need to look back a bit.

The Scottish Greens found themselves with a lot of power without much real preparation for being saddled with it, sadly this manifested in some of the oddest and widely unpopular legislation the Scottish Parliament has enacted.

Nicola Sturgeon found herself evicted from office in the severely damaging defence and promotion of ideas that found no traction with the electorate. It’ll now come to pass that Sturgeon may also have led the most ineffective and support losing Parliament due in part to the stranglehold the Greens exerted. 

However it’s largely pointless to dwell on what has gone past us and instead focus on the future. 

Humza at some point will have to jettison the old guard – still battering on as though the whole saga was just a bad dream – or be jettisoned himself, there are only really two options available to the SNP just now. 

However what was striking was that Mairi McAllan, who in the past has been a very effective friend and repeater of Nicola Sturgeon has decided to refocus on being more conciliatory and focussing on echoing what people actually say to her. It was amusing to see the change. 

Likewise Alex Salmond, seemed to have risen above any real fight with the SNP, and instead went back to pronouncing the benefits Scotland already has. Watch closely – and if he hadn’t mentioned ALBA, you could be forgiven for thinking he was still in the SNP, the stats and arguments he was making were straight from his former playbook. Indeed they might even be. 

Alex has obviously concluded Humza will sooner or later be forced to exorcise bad omens from the SNP cog-works and has moved a little ahead into the phase where we have one movement, albeit with distinct voices. 

Diverse voices with varying tones and messages is what the movement needed last time round but lacked in the political arena – but enjoyed on the community level. This time round it does seem at least we will enjoy that improvement. 

The standout though – is exactly what will end with the Labour Party (in disbelief), presented in a neat little package by Jackie Baillie. 

You see Jackie went on the attack about how she campaigned in 2019 for remaining within the EU. However thats not Labours current position, it does not seek to solve the European problem, instead as Jackie said, much the same as currently dished up will be delivered by Labour, but with friendlier smiles. 

While the independence movement bolsters on, debating the merits or demerits of full membership, EFTA and single market access – the Labour Party won’t actually have anything with any substance to add. This isn’t going to delivery any fruit to the Labour Party, in part because they can’t help secure the future of fruit workers. 

The electorate will maybe vote Labour in some places as a kick to the Tories but theres no resounding message the Labour Party have found to share. Bereft of talent or substance – it’s the same old folks making the same old noise and Scotland has moved on from it. 

Outrage from Ian Murray followed the day after – he was upset the SNP’s condition of support will be for a referendum on Scottish Independence. 

Amusingly in being aggrieved – Ian Murray had already conceded Labour won’t win the next general election without the SNP’s help. How pathetic. They can’t even pretend they’ll succeed because it’s that unlikely. 

If the only choices of Conservative Party Policy are whether you want the red or blue set – is it any wonder why Labour can’t beat the SNP when it should be at its weakest? Furthermore not expecting to beat a terribly weak Tory performance?

In the next few weeks and months, the SNP will learn some lessons, as will ALBA, they’ll tune and hone.

The SNP have worked out behind the scenes that the Greens are an anchor rather than a propeller. Despite knowing folks like Mairi and Alex share no desire to work together – they’ll find an equitable platform to stand on to push the cause – while Labour languish in the polls. 

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And let’s roll

An election is a funny thing, be that a general, local or leadership election. They are all a lot of work, a lot of action and a lot of time.

It weighs heaviest on those who take part as volunteers. You see the volunteers are not paid. They have no real skin in the game other than the love for the activity they’re partaking in. These people sacrifice many many hours of personal and home life in the pursuit of a dream that is bigger than they are, in the pursuit of a country that is better, and more in line with the vision they have for the future.

However, it does not come without a cost. It does need to be said that the volunteers of any election do so with great personal sacrifice. The sacrifice of time, effort and missed opportunities from those special moments that you enjoy, just by being around people you love.

It is with that note, that we mention this blog has taken some personal time from some of the core contributors, following the SNP leadership election. 

It is also the case that Scottish politics has been such a rollercoaster in the last little while it has been difficult to stay up-to-date and up-to-the-minute, leaving us unable to provide a contribution that meets the high bar we set.

We do live in exciting times and politics does move at high speed. However, it is now time the story continues and our contributions once again increase, we begin looking at the next chapters of what will be – the delivery of Scottish independence. 

Thank you ever so much to all of our loyal support. Let’s roll.