ALBA’s Parliamentary Breakthrough!

ALBA just celebrated its third anniversary, and that birthday has brought in some exciting news in the form of a poll showing ALBA achieving its parliamentary breakthrough and the emergence of its first elected member win on an Alba ticket.

Having run for SNP leadership on a campaign for “Independence – Nothing Less” in October of 2023, Ash Regan defected to the ALBA Party, taking on the role of Holyrood leader.

In the four months since that defection, Ash Regan has helped grow the party’s electoral chances in the Lothian Region. Today ViveEcosse has run the figures for the Lothian Region Constituencies and List through an electoral calculator and the result is a political bombshell.

Ash Regan would be returned as an ALBA member of The Scottish Parliament on the Lothian Regional List, displacing Green C0-Leader Lorna Slater, according to the figures obtained on True North’s Survation Poll.

*AFU represents all ‘other parties’ in this image.

The 2021 Lothian List according to Ballot Box Scotland.

Data Tables Extract from Survation (True North Poll)


Sacking Jason Leitch would be a mistake

Jason Leitch became a household name in the Covid pandemic after the resignation of Catherine Calderwood who served as the Chief Medical Officer, Calderwood had attended her second holiday home and got caught after creating a bunch of rules saying that basically – you should be staying at home. The Scottish Government decided to platform a host of other clinicians to try and reduce the risk of them all getting cancelled in succession.

Now I’m no covid or vaccine denier, I believe both are real and both had public health legacies that will last many years, rather the opposite is true in fact – I was a trialist for the Valneva vaccine. I strongly believed the solution was in vaccinating quickly and beating the virus that way. However I believed for a long time we had been captured in the country by excessive lockdowns and punitive measures that were never likely to succeed. 

In hindsight we know the virus was not as bad as initially feared, the restrictions imposed caused, on balance, more harm than expected, and the vaccines were never as good as dreamt. 

We have a motto around here “it’s never as bad as you feared and never as good as you hoped”. 

Now Catherine Calderwood committed the trivial crime of visiting a full other empty house, but she was eviscerated by the government opposition parties and the media. Did it matter she previously had rather (publicly) anonymously risen the ranks and become the CMO on the merit of her contributions? No. Out went Calderwood and all her experience for what now would be reflected on as “Oh really that was it?”. 

One thing that did go well from the unceremonious removal of Calderwood is that we got a whole host of new characters on our daily soap of covid. We’d tune in to the technically poor broadcast briefings of the First Minister and her panel of co-hosts.*

*A small fact we decided to over look, leaving your own home to visit a building to meet other people to brief on covid was perfectly fine, even though it could cripple the government as we seen in Westminster. Do remember Dear Reader – visiting your own empty house was a sackable offence. 

I didn’t take to the messaging of Catherine Calderwood, she was several levels of medical intelligence above the average person, spoke on that level, seemed convincing that the end was near and we’d best bunker down. Alas she did not believe the content she was proclaiming as with all her medical knowledge she knew it wasn’t terribly risky and act. 

One of the new characters was Jason Leitch, you will know him, but do you know why? Leitch was a pretty charismatic speaker and a very friendly upbeat sort of guy. He was the anthesis of Calderwood, he was warm, approachable, funny and informative. He spoke on the level of average Joe. 

Neither of these people sold fake versions of themselves as politicians are trained to do, instead I rather believe they are as they portrayed themselves. It was refreshing to be spoken to on the correct level and without the proclamations of doom and gloom. 

I didn’t agree with everything Jason Leitch would say, but I found him entertaining, and on the sort of programs and clips I was watching at the time. It’s hard to understate how hard it is to break into the general sphere of public awareness and he succeeded in that. 

Given that we have now concluded the covid pandemic we can understand this will have been recorded as a medical success. The NHS did not collapse, society has returned to cultural norms, most people have accepted the situation and moved on. Sadly, many people died but significantly less so than pandemics of the past in this country. 

We’ve now rolled into one of the topics I’m more passionate about – open and transparent government. Believe it or not, there is a lot better than just the Freedom Of Information Act and its outputs. There is even better than inquiries that steal juicy stuff. There are ways we can be even more open and transparent, where we can iterate and learn. 

Leitch was open, candid, honest and a true reflection of himself in his now public WhatsApp messages. I respect the man for that, highly. When the nation called, he answered and did it with the same process he clearly uses for everything else. His chat logs make him the sort of person that I’d enjoy feeling their energy, passion and banter. 

Calling some politicians thick is not a crime, nor should it be a sackable offence, offending the opposition and the media is basically impossible to avoid. Crybulling is now a national sport, while its still *checks notes* legal to offend, we cannot start cancelling people who are talented, committed, passionate and did a good job because they may have called us not nice names. 

Many people call me lots of names, I am not in the slightest bit offended. I enjoy my right to publish this sort of long form blog on topics that barely anyone reads – I enjoy further that people disagree with me and iterate to better. 

Would I advise Jason to play the ball and not the man, yes, however it’s hardly a cancellable offence. By all accounts (now public) he seemed to be the most approachable public health representative for the whole cabinet. He was fair in his disparagement of all parties including Nicola Sturgeon – daily winner of the podium ownership game. 

We already got it wrong cancelling Catherine Calderwood, why must we now attempt our level best to get it wrong with Jason Leitch? The pandemic has ended and we now need to look to the future – and he seems the sort of chap who’s enthusiastic about that. 

Let’s consider the lessons we did learn. We had no pandemic plan. I reckon we still have no pandemic plan or it would be published. If we published it – people would rightly poke holes in it, but that is good, that is the power of iterative thinking. That’s how we have a really good one next time. 

Likewise – what did we learn with the WhatsApp saga? Should people just be better at deleting messages or making sure snitches get bigger stitches? Or should we find a way to radically shift our governments data platforms so that a messaging platform that’s accessible for multi party responses is available and preferred? Should we not just have a bot recording the messages and holding them securely before publishing at date X in the future after the event? 

It’s commonly reported there is a shortage of people entering the teaching profession, in no small part to the meteoric rise in poor behaviour in schools, which you guessed it – was one of societal harms of locking people down and stunting social development. The other contributing factor is cry-bullying by agitators making those disrupters untouchable – go figure.

It turns out its not unique to kids though – as we’ve seen once you shift from having meetings in office buildings with clear codes of conduct and business hours – you get a shift of social working where people are more liberal with their discourse. I don’t particularly think in all instances it’s a bad thing. 

We need to have a chat about the need for a government data platform that gathers this information as a matter of course, and publishes it well in the future, after those individuals have left office. It teaches us much more than the condensed notes they send out pretending that was the discussion. 

Another startling thing is the amount of information thats kept as power and weaponry around government, the idea we can’t let people know or see things because they might just contribute and it may be better than your contribution is frankly mental. Is it genuinely beyond government to just host a Wikipedia internally and let people contribute and update live with all the changes tracking that it has built in by default? In 2024 are we really still sending attachments to each other by email on a “please ask” basis? Can we not just let people see the information they need to do their jobs? It’s all available later under freedom of information act requests anyway. 

So we wrap up, what we could learn; be prepared for the next time and publish it, commit to being more transparent and share more of this stuff, develop better tools to avoid a lot of the conversation being needed – and lastly and importantly stop cry-bullying and sacking people who are quite effective at their jobs. It would be a terrible outcome if the next move is to sack the guy who the public liked most because some cry-bullies are predictably and irrationally upset. 


Let me tell you a story…

That’s how I started a recent speech at the SNP Annual Conference. Not because I had thought long and hard about the subject and had written a carefully crafted speech but precisely the opposite. It was the sixth or seventh time I had spoken that weekend and I just hadn’t had time to prepare anything and I needed to say something that would engage my audience and try to get them thinking about the problem that we were there to address in context.

Storytelling has increasingly been something that I am conscious of as an important part of being human but over the last few years I have begun to realise just how critical a part it is, not just of communication, but as a fundamental feature of my own mind and how I relate to the world.

I am immensely blessed to be married to an incredible, smart, funny, insatiably curious woman. Whilst I have been studying Politics as a mature student at the Open University she has been busy studying English Literature and Linguistics at the same time. She has just started a Masters in English Literature because there are always new horizons to explore.

This has hugely benefited me because I have learned a tremendous amount about a subject I otherwise would never have deigned to even investigate through a sort of academic osmosis. The male gaze, the Scottish Uncanny, the timeless appeal of the Heart of Darkness, all subjects I would never have encountered, that have enriched my life and my understanding of human nature.

Story, like cooking, running, song, dance, and sex, is a fundamental part of the human experience so basic, so primeval, that most of us are not even aware of the gravity it exerts over our lives and our minds.

Cooking, for example, has existed and been a core part of human experience since before our minds were any more complex than those of Chimpanzees. It was the invention of cooking that allowed us to diversify our diet and acquire the excess calories and time we needed to evolve a mind capable of something as astonishing as language or free will. It is not an accident that we find the flavours of the fire so powerful. The smoky flavours, the caramels, the crispy bits around the edges of bacon, they are all evocative of the new flavours our minds were being exposed to as we began to evolve into what we are today. The powerful impact that cooking and eating ‘good’ food has on our subconscious is a result of that interdependency. The ‘good’ flavours are very often the ones virtually no other species has ever experienced, that are associated with using fire to transform stuff that was previously inedible into stuff that our species could survive and thrive on. Cooked food is something that is embedded in bits of our brain that have existed for longer than almost any other part of what sets us apart from other primates. And that is why it is such an important part of our lives and always will be. All that science fiction rot about sucking protein paste out of a toothpaste tube in some antiseptic deep space future is never going to happen unless we genetically alter our own minds out of all recognition. It’s who we are, who we always will be, an ape that cooks.

What cooking unlocked, a thinking, conscious mind capable of planning, innovating, communicating, and teaching is something that has storytelling written right through it, like a stick of rock.

Those first primitive minds, once they had begun to evolve language as a way to communicate, evolved storytelling as the essential medium of that communication. Like the communications protocols that shape our digital communications networks today.

Before we had writing we had oral traditions, songs, and tales as old as time that hung their essential message and the information and lessons they transmitted on a scaffolding of storytelling tropes that are as prevalent today as they were forty thousand years ago. Indeed they persist because they form a fundamental part of how our emerging intellect evolved to understand the world and to share that understanding with others. They are burned into the structure of our brains by the very DNA that creates our intellect.

I am at heart a physicist. As a kid I was fascinated by the theories of Einstein and by the mysterious realm of quantum mechanics. I’ve known since I was knee high to a grasshopper that, while there is a degree of measurable objective truth in the universe, there are limits to it, that there is a sort of essential level of fuzziness, rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty, to quote the great Douglas Adams.

But, even though the various multi-verse theories have a certain attraction to them, there is a comfort in knowing that at a macroscopic level all of those uncertainties collapse into one objective reality that we all share.

Unfortunately, as I have gotten older, I have been forced to conclude that, at the subjective level of conscious thought, the universe fractures again into an infinite hall of mirrors, a collage of billions of overlapping narratives that are all subtly incompatible interpretations of that objective reality.

Because every conscious human mind interprets the world through the lens of narrative storytelling and in particular generally casts itself as the hero of the story. Whoever you are, however humble, the stories you tell yourself in your own head to make sense of the world are stories where you are the protagonist and however hard you try you are spinning those narratives to present yourself in the best light, not just to everyone else, but crucially to yourself.

And this truth is the source of all conflict in the world. To the extent that my story is compatible with yours we can get on and work together and with each other towards the greater good, or at least towards our own triumphant ascension. But when our stories diverge, when the way I spin the world to keep my story in the spotlight is narratively incompatible with your similar narrative, then there is a problem. What I do then is rewrite your character as one of the Others. You become someone that is wrong or deluded to a greater or lesser extent depending on the degree of incompatibility between our two stories. That can vary all the way from disliking or avoiding someone who introduces minor, uncomfortable incongruences into our own narrative, to actively seeking to harm someone whose story is entirely incompatible with our very notion of ourselves as the hero of the tale.

Early in Dale Carnegie’s infamous ‘How to win friends and influence people’ he points out an important truth. There are no guilty men in Sing Sing he says. Every man that had committed a crime, however heinous, that resulted in his being detained in that infamous prison felt justified in his actions, felt like he had done the right thing and that it was unjust that the world had conspired to punish him in this way. Because in truth, almost by definition, nobody ever does anything they do not think they are justified in doing, indeed much of the time people only do things that they feel like they have no choice but to do. How could I possibly have done anything else but what I have?

Even when objective reality is incompatible with our own heroic narrative we can simply choose to reinterpret the ‘facts’ to rationalise and justify ourselves. Often in small ways but the further our story diverges from objective reality the more liable we are to choose to reinterpret the world in a manner that simply breaks with that reality. We like to tell ourselves that madness and delusion are the result of some sort of defect, a defect that we do not possess, but the truth is that much of it is the result of a perfectly healthy mind living a story that is in conflict with the truth and objective reality. When reality conflicts with our sense of self it is often reality that we are willing to abandon first.

We are all unreliable narrators telling a ‘choose your own ending’ story where we are the heroes and everyone else is at best a sidekick.

Evidence, logic, and objective facts are irrelevant if they are in conflict with that narrative.

But why have I chosen to tell this story and lead you down this rabbit hole?


Because as a social animal it is flat out impossible to achieve anything of significance without the cooperation and assistance of other human beings. The real secret to getting anyone to do anything that you want them to do is understanding that to them, you are not the hero, you are the sidekick.

Now I know you don’t want to be a sidekick. The truth is that you are the real hero not them but the fact is that nobody wants to be the sidekick and you are never going to convince anyone to choose to be yours. The most epic superpower known to man is the ability to voluntarily transform into a sidekick.

The best storyteller in the world is the one that doesn’t try to tell their own story but that helps others tell theirs. By facilitating the stories of like-minded others that have the same objectives as our own we can conduct a symphony without ever having to play a single note.

True leadership lies in coaching other leaders to fulfil their potential and in the process achieve your own by choosing to centre their stories rather than yours.



No meetings without Big Brother

The UK Government was stamping its feet with impatience due to the continuous disregard of the Scottish Government in following its Foreign Affairs “rulebook”.

The UK Government announced that if the Scottish Government doesn’t invite it to meetings it arranges itself, it will simply not turn up or help set the meetings it wasn’t invited to from being set up.

You may need to read that a few times. The UK Government has indeed threatened to pull support from meetings that it was never involved in.

Oh well.

The fact remains it’s a bluff, the UK Government does operate considerable diplomatic resource and is particularly effective, it would be a loss, but not an unmanageable one. However it won’t pull support – for a bigger reason.

Scotland to become independent will at some point require its own diplomatic apparatus, and it will need to diverge from UK Government foreign policy. This is not particularly novel, all countries around the world handle this challenge, in unique and bespoke ways.

However that is the nut of problem for the UK Government. It does not want Scotland to gain its own unique voice – because that voice is recognition. Recognition that would one day be provided to a newly independent Scottish state. Thats the real issue at stake here, that people abroad may recognise the unique, divergent, and different voice.

For as bold as ‘SUPREME COURTS’ are when considered with “ACTS OF UNION”, the truth remains if a number of countries around the world recognise that unique Scottish voice as an Independent Scottish voice – it becomes fact and as history has shown – there is not a lot the UK can then do about that.

From Humza Yousaf and his partners tours and speeches on world politics, its very clear this particular power couple have their eyes set on more international politics following what is likely to be a short stint at the top of Scottish politics. This leaves the inescapable conclusion that Humza is likely to continue to speak to whomever he likes.

The UK Government will complain and flail but likely won’t pull support or risk going blind to the scant details they currently get, and they need to maintain the plausibility they still have control behind the scenes. Just don’t look behind the curtain.

The whole point is rendered somewhat silly when you consider on the same day that David Cameron is writing letters to Angus Robertson asking him to rein in Humza Yousaf and ensure officials are in the room from the UK Government – the other Conservative Party Prime Minister Boris Johnston is telling a covid enquiry that they forgot to check with any health officials in the middle of the largest pandemic in modern lifetimes if sending everyone as a herd into restaurants would be dangerous.

Officials are clearly not that important to the UK Government while it breaks its own laws and rule books. They certainly aren’t required to be medalling in Scotland establishing its own voice.

Articles Vive Updates

ALBA NEC Election 2023

At ViveEcosse we always support our contributors in their electoral bids.

This time round it’s the ALBA NEC elections. If you’re struggling on who to vote for, consider supporting fellow ViveEcosse contributors.

Rob Thompson for Organisation Convener

Craig Berry for Ordinary Member

Daniel Jack for Member Support Convener

As always though, with any election, it’s your choice. Good luck to all candidates.