Campaign Diary – Week #16

  • Best bits: Three great hustings in the Borders and getting out in the sun winning votes from Kelso to Dumfries to Fenwick
  • Worst bit: Coming to terms with the fact that there’s only a week left!
  • Folk of note: Rob from Dumfries and Galloway College for being so welcoming; Debbie from Borders Carers Centre and Rutherfords’ micro pub and Susan Rae for raising a tonne of money for a great cause and managing to keep 100 sci-fi and fantasy fans happy at GeekFest!
  • Miles travelled: 1,358
  • Things I learned: There’s 25 million tonnes of coal in proposed and agreed sites for opencast mines in Scotland, yet last year just 1.3 million tonnes were dug out and the last 5 coal-fired power stations are due to close by 2025.
Outside Duns Parish Church with fellow candidates from the constituency and region
Outside Duns Parish Church with fellow candidates from the constituency and region

This monster week started in beautiful Gatehouse on the Solway coast at Danny and Lusi’s house. After breakfast (with singing), I headed homewards and got ready for a hustings in Duns. With 8 candidates, it was the biggest panel I’ve been part of and it was a really fun night. Set in the stunning parish church, we had questions on independence, wind power, tax policy and much more. You can see the Southern Reporter’s coverage of it here.

Speaking at the SCDI hustings in Edinburgh where we talked infrastructure investment, tax and GM crops amongst other things
Speaking at the SCDI hustings in Edinburgh where we talked infrastructure investment, tax and GM crops amongst other things

On Thursday morning I went through to Edinburgh for an early hustings with SCDI (8.30 start compensated with bacon rolls). I was the only woman on the panel – one assumes because it was about “serious man stuff” like economics and business (come ON other parties!). There was a beautiful moment where Magnus Linklater asked me from the chair whether my stance on GM crops wasn’t a bit anti-capitalist. I think he was rather taken aback when I said yes of course.

A *very* excited doge enjoying John Muir Country Park
A *very* excited doge enjoying John Muir Country Park

After the hustings I headed back to Dunbar for a photo call to celebrate John Muir Day. I met a group of local activists at John Muir Country Park to launch our policy on creating new national parks to protect our beautiful natural landscapes. While taking pics there was a *very* excited dog rampaging along the river underneath us. Ah doges.

After an afternoon of writing, the evening was spent at a hustings in Peebles in the Burgh Hall. I had a little time beforehand so decided to take the scenic route over the hills by Gorebridge and go for some really delicious dinner in Osso in Peebles where I was joined by local MP Callum Kerr. Callum’s dad was the head teacher at Peebles high when I was there – a nice reminder that Scotland really is a tiny wee village. The hustings covered energy, Trident and the controversy over the Great Tapestry of Scotland.

Backing NUS Scotland's campaign for better student support
Backing NUS Scotland’s campaign for better student support

Friday started with a hustings in Borders College in Gala where we talked about student support and transition between work, unemployment and study and how to best support people to learn and work. Like the rest of my party, I’m backing NUS Scotland’s campaign to improve student support, particularly at FE. From Gala I went up to Peebles for my lunch where I filmed an interview with Joe Pike for ITV Borders.

After filming I headed home for tea and then back out to Edinburgh to help host the amazing Geekfest – a fundraising pub quiz with a twist.

The enormous crowd at Geekfest
The enormous crowd at Geekfest

Organised by the brilliant Susan Rae, the comic book, sci-fi and fantasy themed quiz had about 100 folk at it and raised hundreds of pounds to paint the Leith Walk Tardis Green, complete with Stewart Bremner murals, as well as raising money for the Holyrood campaign.

On Saturday I headed over to Glasgow for a morning with the Scottish Opencast Communities Alliance for a conference

At the SOCA conference on opencast mine restoration
At the SOCA conference on opencast mine restoration

focusing on restoration of opencast mines. I was shocked to hear the finance director of Hargreaves – the biggest firm involved in mining and now “restoration” – brazenly celebrating his company’s failed attempt to wriggle out of paying carbon taxes.

With fab Green campaigners getting ready for canvassing in Fenwick
With fab Green campaigners getting ready for canvassing in Fenwick

After the conference, I picked up Brenna and headed to Fenwick in Ayrshire for an afternoon of canvassing with a great team of fellow Greens. Fenwick was home to a weavers cooperative – revolutionary for its day. We had a pretty positive reception on the doorstep but a really worrying number of people still don’t know they have two votes.

On Sunday, Brenna and I met up with fab Borders Green stalwart Tim Clancey and leafleted the whole of Cardrona near Peebles.

With Tim and Brenna in Cardrona
With Tim and Brenna in Cardrona

On the way there, Tim had warned of sleet and snow but we managed to bring the sunshine and had a great morning. Of course the best bit was meeting all the doges (apart from a very irate Alsatian) and friendly cats.

After a great breakfast in Nashy’s cafe, we took a gorgeous route over the hills to Preston near Duns where we found brilliant Beth’s house by the VOTE GREEN poster in the window and picked up a heap of newsletters to leaflet Kelso with.

Hitting the streets of Kelso with Brenna
Hitting the streets of Kelso with Brenna

An afternoon in sunny Kelso followed, with a wee visit to Rutherford’s – the micro pub that I wrote about in the newsletter we were delivering. They won a great award recently and are up for another. Definitely worth a visit! After delivering a few hundred newsletters, we went over the Border and back again to drop in at Brenna’s mum’s house. There we had cuddles with Alfie doge and a very welcome cuppa, before heading to Eyemouth for fish n chips at Mackays.

Chatting with students at D&G College
Chatting with students at D&G College

Monday brought a trip to Dumfries to meet students at D&G College. I had some great conversations with students, including some business students putting on a fundraising gig for D&G SANDS and a group of guys who were really interested in talking about jobs and transition from fossil fuels. After an all too brief chat, I headed up through the hills past Moffat to Gala to meet with Debbie from the Borders Carers Centre.

With Debbie from Borders Carers Centre (and Rutherford's!)
With Debbie from Borders Carers Centre (and Rutherford’s!)

In a beautiful karmic moment, it turns out she runs Rutherford’s in Kelso so was singing our praises for mentioning them in the newsletter! We had a great chat about what support carers need and particularly how her organisation helps them. Find out more about our policies on care here.

From Gala, Brenna and I went up to Innerleithen and bumped into an old school friend in the Traquair Arms and prepped for the hustings organised by the Tweeddale Action Group (TAG).

Innerleithen hustings organised by TAG
Innerleithen hustings organised by TAG

About 70-80 folk turned out on a gorgeous sunny evening for a really well organised hustings. You can see my answer to a question about TTIP here. My old English teacher Ian Jenkins was in the audience. He left teaching to become an MSP in the first Parliament so it meant a lot to me when he said I did really well in the hustings.

On Tuesday I was back down the road in Dumfries, this time with my pal Blu who I’ve known for half my life. We packed our bikes in the car (before a friendly cat tried to stow away with us) and headed down the road through snow and sleet.

Me and Blu on our wee cycling tour of Dumfries
Me and Blu on our wee cycling tour of Dumfries

In Dumfries the sun came out just in time for us to get some leafletting in with the wonderful D&G Greens before hopping on our bikes. We were meeting with Cycling Dumfries who are campaigning for better integrated cycle paths and routes to school and college across the town.

With Finlay Carson, Joan McAlpine and others for Cycling Dumfries
With Finlay Carson, Joan McAlpine and others for Cycling Dumfries

Sally from the group led the tour of the town with assorted politicians, pointing out all the places where things like developers pulling out of housing developments has an impact on the infrastructure and where the lack of ongoing funding for paths means they’re built and then not maintained. Check out our policies on active travel here.

That’s all for this week. And who knows if I’ll manage a diary next week! Over the final week of the campaign I’ve got a couple of hustings in Prestwick on Friday and Ayr on Monday; an action day in Kelso on Saturday, leafletting, door knocking and stall on Sunday and a giant tour of the South on Tuesday and Wednesday before the big day. Get in touch if you want to help out!

In the meantime, here’s all the doges and cats I’ve met this week 🙂

Alfie doge - he's basically the best dog in the universe
Alfie doge – he’s basically the best dog in the universe
Obligatory happy cat photo
Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 13.02.02

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.58.27

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.56.09

Beyond fishing and farming – what rural Scotland needs to flourish

Biggar in rural South Lanarkshire
Biggar in rural South Lanarkshire

Fishing and farming. If you believed the Tories, you might think that’s all that rural Scotland is. The publication last week of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party’s plans for rural Scotland admittedly contains some positive aspects – universal broadband for all, for example – but its focus and its omissions show just how out of touch the party is with the every day lives of most folk in the South and across rural Scotland. Continue reading

Our Parliament is at its best when it is bold

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 18.33.36I had the privilege of delivering two speeches at the Scottish Green Party Spring Conference last weekend. Here’s the first…

Like many of you here today, I’m pretty new to party politics. And like many of you, it was the referendum that helped me see my place in politics.

It was a time when we were part of something bigger. A time of big ideas. The referendum made us realise that the status quo was not inevitable and that those big ideas on how Scotland can change were not just possible but necessary. Honestly, I miss it.

Today, 18 months on, it feels like many in Scottish politics have retreated from those ideas. They’ve retreated to the same old party politics, the same bland, middle of the road, lowest common denominator stories about what life in Scotland could be.

But that is simply not good enough.

This morning we’ve heard from Isla O’Reilly that 1 in every 7 school leavers in our most deprived areas never make it out of poverty and into positive destinations. Scotland CAN and MUST guarantee a future for our young people – our Scotland Guarantee ensures that every school leaver who wants it will be given a place in work, education or training.

We’ve heard from Ross Greer that tens of thousands of us spend our lives caring for others – for our partners, parents, sisters and brothers – for pittance. Scotland CAN and MUST afford our carers the dignity and respect they deserve. That’s why we’re pledging a 50% increase in carers allowance.

And we’ve heard from Andy Wightman that our austerity ridden councils have ever less power to provide vital public services and our communities are shut out of decision making. Scotland CAN and MUST unlock the power in our communities and end the austerity status quo.

And let me be clear. The the SNP’s council tax has got to go!

Like you, I joined this party because I refuse to accept the status quo. I refuse to accept that we can afford to write off generations of young people; I refuse to accept that care work isn’t work that’s worth supporting; and I refuse to accept that our broken system of local democracy can crawl on unchanged.

Together, we CAN and we MUST do better.

In the face of middle of the road politics, it can be hard to imagine that this better Scotland really is possible. But think back to what our parliament has achieved since our first Green MSP walked through the doors nearly 17 years ago.

The Scottish Parliament is the parliament that abolished tuition fees; that stopped prescription charges; that made marriage equal for everyone. Our parliament is at its best when it is bold.

So let us, the Scottish Green Party make it bold again and create a better Scotland!

Campaign Diary – Week #7

  • Best bit: Going back to my old High School (via some stunning bits of the Borders) for a tear-jerking LGBT History Month performance from Loud and Proud Choir
  • Worst bit: Meeting a ridiculously cute collie puppy and not being able to take him home
  • Folk of note: Jamie Szymkowiak from the One in Five campaign + Ollie and Tabitha from Peebles High School LGBT+ group
  • Miles travelled: 621
  • Things I learned: There’s 78 hectares of vacant and derelict land in the Borders. That’s the equivalent of 175 football fields which, if laid end to end would stretch from Kelso to Jedburgh.

Continue reading

Building on the green belt

Broomfield Playing Fields and Running Track
Broomfield Playing Fields and Running Track

In East Ayrshire a debate is raging. The Council is proposing to build a new 2500 pupil “super school” on a site which is currently playing fields and a running track and which is susceptible to flooding. Much of the community is opposed on a variety of different grounds. For Greens, this debate feels unsettlingly familiar. For me, parallels can be drawn with North Kelvin Meadows in Glasgow and with the controversy about Portobello High School in Edinburgh. Continue reading

North Berwick adventures

NB picnicYesterday I got to go to the ever gorgeous North Berwick for a fantastic family picnic with the East Lothian Greens and loads of lovely local folk. Organised by the rather brilliant Isla Aitken, the picnic had an excellent magician, live music, the most amazing face painter and a treasure hunt. Plus of course there was an array of irresistible home baking.

I was invited by the East Lothian Greens as I’m the lead candidate for the South of Scotland regional list for next year’s Holyrood election. But rather than pushing a big political message, I was much more interested in hearing about what issues were affecting local people. So I got chatting to lots of folk, sometimes via a very fluffy dog (there are SO many cute dogs in North Berwick!) and listened. Here’s what they had to say…

Continue reading

Learning from the past to fight austerity today

Speaking at RIC's anti austerity event
Speaking at RIC’s anti austerity event

On Thursday 18th June, I spoke at a great event organised by the Radical Independence Campaign as a precursor to the massive anti-austerity demonstration in Glasgow and London on June 20th.

The brilliant Independence Live live-streamed the event and it’s available for you to watch again. I’d really recommend it – the other speakers, from Castlemilk Against Austerity, the Glasgow Homeless Caseworkers who are out on strike and RIC’s very own Cat Boyd were all fantastic.

Here’s the speech I gave on learning from history and from each other and uniting against austerity.

Continue reading

Sowing the seeds of a new food culture

Common Good Food“Food is inherently political – it’s the one thing that unites us all.” Those were the words of the fabulous Mags Hall, one of the founders of Common Good Food and a stalwart of the Fife Diet on Wednesday night. I chaired a discussion event that we put on in Common Weal Edinburgh North and Leith to talk about food and its connections to politics and the ideas of the Common Weal. It was a fascinating evening, with much food for thought.

Continue reading