The Morning After…

Given my post yesterday, confessing to taking a backseat in this election, I am not going to feel too guilty about my lack of insightful comment into the results. Especially given that the numbers seem to be shocking everyone, even the most experienced of pundits. But with that major proviso, and knowing that some results aren’t in yet, here are some of my initial thoughts.

Despite the stunning victory by the SNP, my instinct – and it really is just instinct – is that if a referendum were held tomorrow, it would still be a No Vote to Independence. The SNP have not yet made the case for independence. All they have done, along with the Greens, is treat voters like grownups and repeatedly make the point that the country should decide its own future. It was painful watching Iain Gray on the televised debates, fumbling around for an answer when he was asked by an audience member whether Scots were in the unique position of being  ‘too stupid’ to decide their own future. Gray’s (and, to be fair, Annabel Goldie’s and Tavish Scott’s claims too) claims that a referendum would be a distraction from bigger issues are, to be frank, complete bollocks. The only reason a referendum will be a distraction is if the Unionist parties keep denying us the right to have one.

Incoming MSPs should take note of Malcolm Chisholm holding onto his seat in Edinburgh North and Leith. Malcolm is well known not just for being an excellent and responsive constituency MSP, but also for voting with his conscience rather than the party line on some of the big issues. He has, very deservedly, been rewarded for his courage in this respect.

Jeff over at Better Nation is suggesting that the solution to the Greens’ disappointing performance is for them to join forces with the Lib Dems. I disagree with this for so many reasons that it warrants a post to itself, but I do agree that the Greens need to re-think their Holyrood strategy pretty seriously. They cannot continue allowing their fate to be determined by so many external factors beyond their control. They have just run their best campaign ever, with a strong, clear and appealing message, but unfortunately have not seen the results to reflect that. After Caroline Lucas’s election in Brighton last year serving as proof that Greens can be elected even under FPTP, I believe that it’s time for Greens in Scotland to start standing in constituencies as well as on the list. It will mean a few years in the political wilderness as they do the groundwork for success, but in the longer term I believe it is the only strategy that will see their numbers increase to the levels they deserve.

Reflections of a resting activist

This day four years ago, I’d been up since 6am. I’d spent an hour driving round Edinburgh to put A Boards up outside polling stations, before standing outside Barclay Church with my rosette on, chatting to a young Tory and smiling at voters in the hope that it might persuade them to vote Green. When the polls closed I grabbed some dinner with DorkyDad, and we headed out to Ingliston for a long and depressing night at the Lothian count.

Today, I’ve been up since 6am. I spent an hour making breakfast, playing with trucks and reading books to DorkySon, before toddling up the road to go and vote.  When the polls close I will probably be tucked up in bed, although if DorkySon wakes up at 2am and shouts for me to tuck Peter Rabbit’s toes back in, like he did last night, I may well have a sneaky peek on my iPad to see what results are in.

It feels very odd. Last time round, I was a candidate, this time round I haven’t even stuck a poster in my window. (Although I am still happy for my voting choices to be known – Labour for the constituency vote, Green for the list vote, Yes To AV). Last time round I got a mention on the Scottish Blog Roundup for being one of the few candidates to use Facebook as a campaign tool. This time round I haven’t even added a Twibbon to my profile picture.

There are many, many people who manage to do a great job of combining political activism and parenting – some of them at the very highest levels of politics – but I’m afraid I am not one of them. There are only so many hours in the day, and if it comes down to a choice between pounding up and down tenement stairs delivering eve of poll cards or giving my son a bath and reading his bedtime story, then my son is always going to win.

I am aware that this is a pretty selfish stance. Ironically it is only when you become a parent that you start to truly appreciate some of the gains that have been hard-won by those activists that came before you. Every time I take DorkySon to the doctor, or to the local library, or walk past the school he’ll be attending in a few years, I am grateful to live in a place where those services are available… and then I start to worry that the ongoing cuts are going to make them less and less available. As DorkySon grows older I hope to re-engage more actively with party politics, and start doing some of the grunt work again.

But in the meantime, all I really want to say today is thank you. Thank you to everyone who has been out doing the dirty work for the last month – the canvassing, the street stalls, the leaflet drops. No matter how much you believe in what you’re doing, that kind of work is not much fun, and very often comes with scant reward.

For the rest of us, the very least we can do is take five minutes out of the day to go and vote. And make sure we smile at the folk wearing rosettes outside the Polling Station, because they’ve probably been there a while.