Campaign Diary

The Caledonian Mercury featured my campaign diary.  This is a longer version and includes some exclusive content.

WEEK FIVE

Thursday 05 May

I love getting messages wishing me luck.  Sadly getting three before 0730 doesn’t do much for my sleep but I know they are well meant.  After a slow start to the morning I head off to my local polling station.  Once there I send three kisses to democracy.  For once my vote was a reflection of my views.  At the constituency level I vote for someone who has served at Holyrood who I think has done a good job and deserves to return.  Obviously for the regional, that new fellie who’s standing.  Lastly, I vote YES to introducing the Alternative Vote for electing MPs.  Here’s hoping I can vote honestly at the next Westminster election.

After catching up with domestics I go to a lunchtime film and enjoy the chance for some escapism and to relax.  I’m not sure what other candidates are doing today but reckon that is about the best thing to do.  I mean to have a mid-afternoon nap but instead catch up on correspondence and this diary.  Less than five hours now until the polls close.  Here’s to the future!

I go to the Forest to attend its Action Team meeting, enjoying a burrito meal at the start of it.  Who says men can’t multi-task.  We discuss the Save the Forest campaign and various other issues, including this year’s Forest Fringe.  At the end I thank those present for all the support they’ve given my campaign.  There’s even fake man hug & man tears after my moving speech.  

On my way home I check the time of last airport bus, which means I should arrive at Ingliston just after midnight.  I’ve done all my campaigning so far on foot and by bus so see no reason why I should change tonight.  Then it’s time for a nap.

TBC.

Wednesday 04 May

At last the final day of the campaign and I issue my last press release on what the future holds before enjoying a glorious Spring morning on Princes Street.  The weather has been very kind to me during the campaign but the forecast of rain tomorrow is a slight worry. Wet weather sees a drop in turnout, which someone (I’m not sure who) has said could see a 5-7% fall.  Here’s hoping that the forecasters have got it wrong, at least across the Lothians.

Just before lunchtime I collect my count pass from Edinburgh Council’s offices on East Market Street.  From there it is to St Andrew Square and then along Rose Street to Charlotte Square for more leafleting.  I meet a woman on Castle Street who asks if I’m “the candidate who’ll give money to charity.”  She thinks it is a very good idea and says I’ve won another vote.  Another man says he’ll vote for me because I told him he doesn’t need his polling card to vote.  Sadly I miss out on another man’s cross because I’m not able to say how much carbon dioxide is in the air we breathe.  I start to say that I don’t know by heart when he walks off.  I was going to say less than 0.5% but I doubt that would have won him over.  For the record, Wikipedia says it is 0.039% so I was way off.  My old chemistry teacher Ted Klepacz would shake his head at me.

At some point during the day, the Scottish Independence Convention publishes a blog I’ve written for them on the concept of independence – both mine and Scotland’s.  Then I have an evening off at last and go to Unholyrood at the Voodoo Rooms, which is an evening of Scottish political cabaret.  I really enjoyed the night and laughed loud and heartily, especially at Gordon Alexander’s Megrahi sketch, David Kinloch’s poetry and the Sensational Alex Salmond Band.  Well done to Peter Geoghegan for organising it and I hope he does more events like it.

Tuesday 03 May

Almost at the finish line now.  I start the morning with another bout of leafleting on Princes Street.  Some folk are refusing the leaflet because they’ve received one at home.  That’s a good sign, recognition and my candidate mail shot has happened, despite a few last minute hitches beyond my control.  The Royal Mail came through trumps for me and I’m very grateful.  Then it is out to my old work for a coffee and a chat up with my ex-colleagues before going to Corstorphine for more campaigning.

In the evening it is off to the Forest Café for my public meeting.  There’s a friendly and relaxed atmosphere to the event and there were no questions I couldn’t answer.  A well-deserved curry is a great way to re-fuel afterwards.

Monday 02 May

The last week of campaigning, the final sprint is now in sight.  I’ve enjoyed the campaign and everything that comes along with it but I am looking forward to a rest on Thursday as well.  While in Broughton I meet the Spurtle‘s editor on the street.  He gives me a sneak preview of May’s issue, which features the Lothian Lolly on the front.  He also compliments my campaigning, describing it as very energetic – I can’t think of a better compliment.  I remind him of tomorrow’s public meeting and Q&A session, which I’m hosting at the Forest. A great opportunity to meet people and explain why I am standing.

WEEK FOUR

Sunday 01 May

A relatively quiet day, catching up on correspondence and a wonderful afternoon at the park.  They’re not the only ones who don’t want to leave at the end of the day.

Saturday 30 April

A day on the Meadows in the sunshine.  Lots of people enjoying the benefits of one of Edinburgh’s greenspaces.  Sadly, I am amazed to see folk damaging it by using disposable barbecues without something heat resistant underneath.  Thicker trays would stop the grass burning but better still would be buying a reusable one in the first place.  That would save the person money and damage the environment less.  People need to take more responsibility for their actions and think more about how they affect the world and others. I also wonder at the lack of recycling facilities on the Meadows during Summer, despite people using it regularly for picnics and fun.  In my manifesto Time for a Different Voice I suggest we introduce multi-option bins throughout the region, which would at least minimise the waste.

While I’m on the Meadows a lassie asks me to autograph one of my campaign leaflets for her.  This is a first and then one of her friends wants me to do the same.  I reckon it is down to my matinee idol good looks.

Friday 29 April

A quiet day on the streets but I had an interesting conversation with a man who wanted to know how any government can boost the economy.  I suggest using tax incentives to attract investment but only if we can ensure they go to those companies who are committed to a long-term future in Scotland.  The country needs businesses who are helping us build a better future.  We can make any tax credit or funding proportional, with the accompanying safeguards to ensure both sides keep their commitments.  For small businesses I suggest greater support at the start up, including Business Rates and National Insurance holidays.  We also need a more mixed economy that is not reliant on any one sector, especially in the Lothians.  With a more mixed economy we won’t suffer as much if one area of business is faring badly.  He goes away and says he’ll think over what we discussed – definitely a good use of my time.

Before bed I issue a general post about how there is no substitute for old-fashioned street campaigning and talking to people about their concerns and your campaign.  I’m sure it is the first time anyone has linked Billy Joel, Amanda Palmer, dinosaur sheets and electioneering!

Thursday 28 April

Start of the day is at the City Chambers for a demonstration over the plans to build luxury flats on Inverleith Park.  Initially it felt like everyone there is either a fellow candidate or a Councillor.  When we head in for the Council meeting and deposition, I’m amazed at the unnecessary pomp and ceremony.  This is Scotland in the 21st Century, aye?

After a banana and a quick coffee I head off for an afternoon of leafleting and canvassing around Bristo Square and Middle Meadow Walk.  I still find it hard to understand why students are so apathetic over the election, especially since Holyrood will decide whether Scotland has tuition fees and graduation tax.  However, it is gratifying to see people who take my leaflet read it as they walk away.

Wednesday 27 April

I spend the morning on Princes Street handing out my campaign leaflets.  One man told me Scotland shouldn’t spend money on public services.  He walked away rather than tell me what we shouldn’t fund – healthcare or schools?

During the day I publish two press releases and a campaign post.  The first is on PARC’s plans to build on Cairntows Park, a case of urban degeneration.  The second one calls for continued protection of the environment.  In it I highlight that the environment is worth £17.2 billion a year and supports 1 in 7 of all full-time jobs in Scotland.  Unless we protect it we will damage not just our lives but the economy as well. The post relates to this, saying we have talked long enough about improving it but now we have to act – less rhetoric, more reality.

Tuesday 26 April

After a morning campaigning in and around Leith, I go to my local barber’s for a haircut.  I end up explaining why I’m standing and chatting about the election and politics in general with the staff and other customers while in the chair.  A very odd bit of canvassing for votes, even by my standards.

The Poverty Alliance has added me as a last minute addition to their hustings on poverty and inequality.  I manage to write a speech that fits within the tight two minute limit and head to the event.  During the lively question and answer session, the panel discuss dealing with various issues, including the root causes of poverty versus tinkering around the edges.  Other areas covered include the impact of poverty on children’s health and education chances, plus local government financing.  After that I head home to prepare for the next day and draft two press releases.  Another long day, but they are all very exhilarating.

Monday 25 April

A day spent campaigning around Tollcross, Warrender and the Meadows.  I had an interesting conversation with a man who claimed that a third of Scottish jobs are in or funded by the public sector.  I explain that it is actually less than one in four but he won’t accept it.  He even argues that a sandwich shop round the corner from a public sector office is surviving due to a false economy.  I disagree, the shop provides a service and people who work nearby use it – it doesn’t matter what they do for a living.  We agree to disagree and part on friendly terms.

WEEK THREE

Sunday 24 April

At last, a day off from from being on my feet.

Time to set up an Easter Egg hunt and write clues for my bairns.  They love chasing round my flat and garden hunting for their goodies.

To finish off the day I publish a general post, in which I explain how I can’t live without music.  The post features some of my favourite artists.  Then bed and time to prepare for the last full week of campaigning.

Saturday 23 April

After campaigning in Broughton, Leith Walk and Easter Road in the morning, I head over to Holyrood to join the March to Enlightenment.  This celebrates the 300th anniversary of David Hume’s birth and part of Think or Yourself Day which, according to the author Christopher Brookmyre, should be everyday

To close the day, I publish what the Lothian Lolly could look like.  Luckily I have some talented and giving friends.  One of them was kind enough to offer drafting what the notes could look like.  I think she has done a wonderful job.  The idea really seems to have caught people’s imagination and I’ve even had a response from Colorado, which was very surprising.

Friday 22 April

My plan of a quick bout on the campaign trail dissolves when I end up spending five hours in my old stamping ground around Clerk Street and Nicolson Street.  I have a grand chat with a man on Clerk Street who recognises me from my flyer.  He says I had his support and he welcomed having an independent candidate to vote for.

In the evening I set out my proposal to introduce a local currency to the Lothians. The Lothian Lolly could energise the Lothian economy by encouraging more people to use their local, independent shops.  The community gains the benefit of the trade with less money leaving it, and also gives people the opportunity to show commitment to each other while it also helps to limit the damage to the environment through our shopping habits.

Once the campaign is over I am going to need at least one good massage session, if only to let my back recover from carrying a bag with hundreds of flyers in it everyday of the week. Thankfully a friend of mine, Alex Highet, is a qualified masseur and works in the Massage Corner at the Snip and Sip.

Thursday 21 April

After a morning leafleting near my home, I head back out to Craigmillar for my second hustings event.  A pleasing turn-out given the fine weather and the panel faced some interesting questions.  During the event I sit next to Kenny MacAskill and hold my own.  I hope to attend more events before polling day but I am encountering some reluctance from organisers to include me.  I’m not sure why, but I will carry on doing my best to get my message out to the Lothian voters.

Wednesday 20 April

A busy day on the campaign trail begins with my first visit to Midlothian, starting off in Rosewell before visting Bonnyrigg.  I know that there is so much more of the region to visit over the next two weeks.  Afterwards I head off to the city centre, enjoying a seat and rest on the bus.   I help the Yes to AV campaign handing out leaflets and talking to people why they should vote yes.

Did you know that the Jackson 5 support the Alternative Vote?  Why?  Because it’s as easy as 1 2 3, as simple as do re mi!

I’m pleased to see that the Guardian reports on the Craigmillar campaigners’ demand for talks over the park, which is at the heart of the community, quoting me in the article.

Tuesday 19 April

I gave the website a wee refresh and added a gallery.  I don’t particularly like the way I look in the photos but everybody else does.  Obviously the campaign hasn’t turned me into a megalomaniac.  Yet.

Before hitting the street I publish a new campaign post on energy from waste, suggesting the creation of a biowaste plant instead of the proposed biomass plant in Leith.  Anaerobic digestion is cleaner, more efficient and less harmful to the environment.

Afterwards I campaign in and around the South Side, discussing with people in the street what they think are the most important issues.  I’m still receiving positive feedback, which is good to hear.

In the evening I attend a meeting about saving Cairntows Park from destruction. The room is packed with around 100 people present.  I’m sure this is the first step to have this ridiculous planning application abandoned for good.  I recommend everyone to sign the petition and help preserve this important greenspace.

Monday 18 April

Week three starts in Ratho. After a 40-minute bus ride I’m in the beautiful Lothian countryside.  The path along the Union Canal is a great example of nature on our doorstep.

On my way home I get talking to two teenage girls, who think that Holyrood doesn’t affect them but then complain about buses, housing and crime.  These are all devolved policy areas and MSPs make decisions on them.  Hopefully they knew a little more about Scottish parliamentary affairs when they got on the bus than when they arrived at the stop.

Our chat shows how important it is to get Political Education on the curriculum.  The Campaign For Political Education certainly deserves our attention – empowering young people to get involved in politics.

In the evening I attend a meeting about the Royal Bank of Scotland’s involvement in the tar sands extraction in Northern Alberta.  Both the extraction and the accompanying pipeline will damage the land and be a threat to the people who live there.  I doubt that the public, who own the majority of the bank, would want to see UK tax money spent on destroying a living environment solely for profit.

WEEK TWO

Sunday 17 April

I’ve learnt about plans to turn Craigmillar’s Cairntows Park into a mix of private housing and commercial units.  This is one of the few greenspaces in the area, which makes the plans for an area where there are properties lying vacant even more dubious.  I believe we should protect and improve greenfield land throughout the Lothians.  We should also promote easily accessible sites where people can enjoy all the pleasures of the local environment.  Why then are the Council planning to destroy a site that is at the heart of the local community?  I’ve happily signed the petition criticising the planning application and will attend the public meeting on Tuesday evening at the Hays Business Centre.

Saturday 16 April

I had great fun in the morning meeting people outside the Galleries on the Mound.  The Science Festival has tents up around the plaza and people are coming to learn about how things work.  You can see children’s enthusiasm to find out about the science on show.  I believe that we should never label a child as ‘unteachable’, but rather find a way to develop and engage them.  They love to learn, we just need to harness this.  We need to cut class sizes to ensure each pupil gets sufficient attention, which will also encourage them to learn and feel appreciated.

Friday 15 April

In North Leith for more campaigning.  One comment that I hear quite a few times is that people have had no contact with other candidates yet.  With luck that means they’ll remember me kindly when it comes to Thursday 5th May.

One thing I’m really enjoying about campaigning is seeing how different people have decorated their stairs.  People put a lot of care and love into their homes and decoration. However, in every neighbourhood there are buildings lying vacant that could be used for housing.  This includes buildings that we can adapt as well as empty homes.  By creating affordable, sustainable social housing, Scotland builds for the future through reducing housing benefit payments and creating jobs.  The homes will then give people a greater sense of security, plus a chance to plan ahead and increase their confidence in their future.

Funniest moment of my campaign so far happened today.   I came home from campaigning in North Leith and looked through my mail.   I was surprised to find an SSPCA questionnaire on animal welfare addressed to Margo Macdonald care of me at my home address.  I let Margo know via Twitter and promise to send it on to her.  Now I need to contact SSPCA and ask for my copy of the questionnaire!

Thursday 14 April

I attend a demonstration outside the ATOS office in York Place as part of the third National Day of Protest Against Benefits Cuts Event.  ATOS is the company responsible for Work Capability Assessment – a new and controversial computerised test that says whether benefit claimants are genuinely sick or abusing the system.  The system has judged terminally ill cancer patients as fit for work, which is ridiculous.  While I’ve promised to campaign only on issues the Scottish Parliament has remit over, I want to see a Scotland where social justice is paramount.  That’s why I attended the protest.

Wednesday 13 April

To start the day I publish a post on the latest inflation figures and a press release calling for politicians to start using plain English when discussing financial affairs.  I think politicians should deliver clear and easily understood messages to the public, avoiding buzz words.  They should also admit that one set of figures does not show the whole truth and start talking honestly with their employers – the voters.

After that I head out to South Gyle Mains to meet people and hand deliver leaflets.  The green there is very clean, especially as there are no bins around.  Unfortunately, there’s no bench where I can sit to eat my lunch either.

While there I meet a man who’s angry that cable boxes are appearing on the pavement without any warning or consultation.  I agree with him that no thought was given to how their location and design would affect pedestrians.  Instead it feels like the position is based on what’s easiest for the company installing them.  I look into the issue for him later when I get home and pass on the relevant information.  I also pass on details about who his local councillors are as they are the best people to deal with his complaints.

Tuesday 12 April

Campaigned in Newhaven today, a brief shower but mostly sunshine.  My favourite moment was having a woman wave at me from her window and point to my flyer before giving me a thumbs up.  I think she liked what she’d read.

You face many hazards while campaigning. I’m pleased to say I survived an unusual one without any damage to my body or property.  Sadly I didn’t get round the whole area as there is only so much one man on foot can do.  However, I’ve promised residents that I will return.

Monday 11 April

Went out leafleting around Lauriston and the Pleasance.  The weather was kind and people were in a good mood.  I really enjoyed folk doing a double take when they saw I was on the flyer.  Just shows that people aren’t used to candidates getting out on the street and doing the donkey work themselves.

I had meant to keep going to the gym during the campaign but there’s no time for that. Climbing all the tenement stairs is more than a good substitute.

To mark the launch of Time for A Different Voice – A Manifesto for the Lothians, I published a campaign post about my beliefs – These Truths I Hold Dear.  I’m pleased to say that both documents are well read through the day.

WEEK ONE

Whoosh!  That was a busy, exciting and interesting week.  They do say a week is a long time in politics and this felt a long week.  Then again, it was twelve days so no longer it felt like a long time.  I still wish there was a nother seven hours in the day though.

Sunday 10 April

I watched the party leaders on the BBC’s Politics Show.  I wouldn’t call it a debate, though – they didn’t even get through their introductions before talking over each other.  You have to wonder why such an important opportunity to show Scotland what the parties stand for is on at lunchtime on a Sunday.  The media says that the public are not engaged or interested in politics.  Does putting the debate on at this time give people the opportunity to engage?  I doubt many people would choose to watch it over enjoying the sunshine.

After the hot air, I enjoy the warm weather at Ecofusion in Inverleith Park – a great atmosphere with glorious sunshine.  I really enjoyed looking round all the stalls and soaking up the atmosphere.  I watched the Mugen Taiko Dojo drummers’ stunning coordination in awe and enjoyed listening to Sambasene and Diwan.  The only downside was the Mosque Kitchen had run out of vegetable curry by the time I reached the top of the queue.

Towards the end, I passed out my campaign leaflet and talked to people.  I had some interesting chats with folk, discussing everything from education to transport, park playgrounds to housing rights.  One thing that did come up was confusion over who was eligible to vote and for what.  The deadline for registering to vote is Friday 14 April at 1700 and I tell everyone to make sure they don’t miss the opportunity to have their say.

In the evening I posted my manifesto on the website, making sure my supporters, Twitter followers and Facebook friends see it first.  I think it makes sense for them to read it before journalists.  After all, they’re the ones who will make the decision on whether I’m elected or not.

Saturday 9 April

A break from the campaign trail as I take the bairns to see Shaun’s Big Shoes at the Playhouse.  Wonderful fun and I now believe a sheep can dance.

I was disappointed to see that the ice cream on sale wasn’t from Scotland.  I’d like to see more local businesses source goods and services locally.  That will help us improve the economy and reduce our carbon footprint.  My manifesto includes the creation of the Lothian Lolly, which would act as a local currency for use at local shops.  Brixton has a similar idea and it has helped to increase local trade and revive the area.  I think it’s a simple way to improve the local economy and the country at the same time.

Thursday 7 April

My first hustings event was tonight, organised by Edinburgh’s Active Citizenship Group and chaired by Lesley Riddoch.  There were nine other speakers on the panel and I spoke last.  I kept my nerves under control and the audience clapped when I finished.  That qualifies as a successful appearance if you ask me.

After the event in Deacon Brodie’s, the organisers said I came across well.  That was reassuring, always good to know I’m getting my message across.  I hope they tell their friends about me and what I had to say.

Tuesday 5 April

D-Day – the campaign launch.  A few last-minute jitters, but they pass quickly and then I press the send button.  I’ve sent the press release announcing my candidacy to newspapers and various websites, hoping that will lead to positive mentions.

As an independent, I know that the big four parties and the Greens will receive at least 90 per cent of the coverage.  Hopefully someone will appreciate that Lothian needs another independent voice fighting its corner and will cover my campaign.

Sunday 03 April

The final calm before the storm.  I tried explaining to my son what I’m about to do but I’m not sure how much he took in.  Then again, explaining politics and parliamentary affairs is not a top topic for a seven-year old.  Instead we start to design a maze and all is well with the world.

Thursday 31 March

My last day has finally rolled around.  I’ve waited a long time since I was offered early severance for this.  As a good friend has often reminded me, the future is now.  Instead of leaving and heading for the pub I go to parents’ night for my children.  Celebrating my new life can wait, time to hear how the most important people in my life are getting on.

Wednesday 30 March

Penultimate day at work and I’m still tight-lipped about my future.  No definitie plans, I say.  Looking forward to enjoying the election, I tell people.  My leaving presentation as today is the only time when all my team are in.  My boss made a speech and presented me with my leaving gifts, including a very fine pair of headphones I would never have bought myself.  I’m still really touched by folks’ generosity.

Then I make my speech, which is greeted with much laughing at all the right bits.  I well up a few times while speaking – understandably as I’ve worked here over ten years and will miss the people and good friends I’ve made.  Afterwards some people suggest I should take up speech writing as a living.  How little do they know.

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