Articles Ash Regan Campaign

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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