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. 

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View from the bridge

Day 7

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.

Credit:  Colin D Fisher/CDFIMAGES.COM

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.

 Credit: Colin D Fisher/CDFIMAGES.COM

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.

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In Plain Sight

Day 6

Thursday 23rd February

Another busy day started early with some good news for the team as we finally got a reply from National Secretary to our requests for confirmed nominations. Now that the deadline had passed to add new candidates to the online nomination page, Lorna Finn confirmed that we’d reached the 100 members from 20 branches threshold, although pointed out that members could also ‘ remove their nomination’ until Friday noon when nominations close – we thought it a strange thing for her to say at the time.

Later in the campaign this optional ‘edit function’ became more significant…

Our ‘How to Nominate’ video was having final edits, and would be released later that day, via our Ash Ambassador Network and on social media.

The 9 am, early team call started with some banter as we waited for some members to join. The team chat had contributions into the wee hours as there was so much to do. When AshVengers finally Assembled 😜 by 9.15 am, we ran through the day ahead, tomorrow’s media launch and the weekend plans for visiting the North East (that now included an invitation to Fraserburgh SNP on Sunday).

Our media grid was building but we were still flexing to reactive moments like the morning’s sudden announcement of Chief Inspector Livingston’s resignation. A quick online team discussion and response lines were prepared and approved to meet media asks. Bailey was bossing the media inbox like a pro by now and negotiating with journalists and production teams, like he’d been doing this for years, not less than a week!

An early morning interview with Holyrood Magazine was lined up as a great start to Ash’s day but the media pack were still trying to make a story of yesterday’s Diet Coke moment’ – when Ash walked in through Parliament lobby with Kirk Torrance and Robin McAlpine at each side. It made us all both giggle and eyeroll at what makes a story in Scottish politics these days!

We planned to raise the bar to address the issues that matter to the people of Scotland. That first required us to take control of the media narrative today by confirming that, our nominations threshold had been met, that Ash was a serious contender for leadership and FM and thanking the growing Ash Ambassador network for their support.

Then the Ciaran Jenkins ‘corridor dance’ happened…

Now, we must clarify that we do really like Ciaran and the Channel 4 News team but it’s never acceptable for the media to impede our elected members going about their Parliamentary business, even when there is a frenzy of activity in a leadership election. To be fair, the obstructing camera that added to the squeeze wasn’t Channel4 News, as they recorded the incident with their camera.

Ash was very uncomfortable at this sudden press pincer manoeuvre, which is daunting even to those who’ve experienced intrusive media. Added to that, to answer media questions on camera about a third party’s views on matters with potential legal ramifications, on the hoof is never wise, so Ash managed to escape the stramash and retreat to her office to prepare for FMQs.

This was a big media learning day for both Ash and the team.

While the media continued to scramble to get Ash on camera for comments, we continued to keep to plan, and keep Ash’s media appearances low key before our Friday media launch, once membership nominations had concluded the final ballot.

We planned an eve of launch exclusive with Kevin McKenna and chose the perfect spot to conduct this interview ‘in plain sight’.

We waited for Ash to arrive, watching the comings and goings of Holyrood from our sunny vantage point of the top steps of Dynamic Earth, with Kevin and Gordon from the Herald.

We decided to meet Kevin McKenna there for the interview as parking was easy, it was close to Parliament for Ash and critically, they had a decent canteen for our lunch. The wonderful Lynn from Ash’s constituency office was in Parliament and provided support to Ash as she navigated the media scrum after FMQs and joined us for lunch.

Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. 23 February 2023 PICTURED: Ash Regan MSP, candidate for the SNP Leadership and for Scotland’s next First Minister. Photo credit: Colin D Fisher/CDFIMAGES.COM

The weather was glorious and Kevin and his photographer Gordon, got some great outside shots, with Holyrood in the background. We met up with our campaign photographer Colin Fisher, there too as he’d been working at Parliament for FMQs. With outside photography complete, we all moved inside – fortuitously just as the canteen emptied of school kids and their packed lunches as they moved onto their next trip stop.

We selected a few quiet tables with a black curtain backdrop for Kevin’s interview with Ash and some photographs and ordered coffees for everyone.

Now Graeme and me have a political event nacho tradition, after he nearly choked on an inhaled nacho at one of our first event, just as we were about to get up to speak. Backslapping normally happens post-speech 😂 In line with tradition, we added a plate of nachos for the team to share, with our order of mac and cheese lunches!

Inside photographs done and the interview in full flow, we sat a couple of tables up and over lunch, had a good blether with Lynn from Ash’s constituency team on independence campaigning. Gordon, the photographer from the Herald, later entertained us over coffee, with his brilliant ‘pants’ story of his trip to see Sean Connery in his Bahamas home! Ask him if you see him 🤣

Ash and Kevin finished, what we all agreed was a great interview and we all looked forward to reading it later that night, as Kevin headed straight back to my home city of Glasgow, to ‘file the copy’ before tomorrow’s big Ash Regan campaign launch day.

Kevin McKenna interviews Ash on eve of campaign launch.

We walked Ash and Lynn back to Parliament then Graeme and me went to collect the ‘vote Ash Regan’ launch posters, from a local print shop, that the team had ordered. Graeme then headed off to meet Kirk and Ash to finalise the speech for tomorrow while I headed home for a school parents evening.

The team chat was busy that evening with last minute details for tomorrow’s campaign launch, and a final read through of the speech. Ash Ambassadors had been invited, photography and video footage plans agreed, with Colin and Al, and copies of speeches and media run lists had been printed and packed into the car. Tomorrow was an early morning start.

I finally got to bed around 1.30am – I think most of the team did too. We were all buzzing for the campaign launch proper, in the morning!