Given that I have spent most of the last two decades getting my feet firmly under the table in my home town of North Berwick and three of those years absorbed by running the local council as Leader, it’s gratifying—and even flattering—to see how many nationalists (and more than a few unionists) across Scotland know who I am. I hope that’s because I have taken the several senior posts to which I have been elected in the party not just seriously but that I have discharged them to a high standard. Those who worked with and around me in the cause will know if that’s true.
For those who don’t know me, I had considered publishing a CV, listing mainly those political posts but the Participation tab above already does that and the Published tab lists my take on key issues above and beyond the 220 posts made here. I had thought of garnering a series of quotes from supporters but that would look too much like a sales job. I am that unfashionable type of politician who does not think the game is worth the candle if it involves bullshit. By ‘bullshit’ I mean taking a stance with which your heartfelt principles are incompatible.
So, why would any of the above make me—as opposed to anyone else—not just suitable, but ideal for this post of Local Government Convener?
First, though I am ambitious for my town and my country, I am pretty unambitious for myself. My dad was a time-served coachpainter who taught me to be happy with little and, if life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. The LGC is a key but back-room role for which there is no pay, no profile and no glory.
Second, working with nationalists, especially those with some prestige and power, can be a thrawn business. Councillors particularly are self-starters who achieved what they did with little help from elsewhere. But I do talk that talk, having spent my life starting with little, including putting the SNP firmly on the map in East Lothian. Many also still carry Labour-induced scars from years in the opposition wilderness; I’ve been there and know the drill how to ease their pain.
Third, none of us time-served activists are strangers to setbacks and, high in the polls though we may be, ahead there will be times that are tough when the tough need to get going. I have had my share of defeats crammed down my throat, which I spat out and kept going; this May was perhaps the most scunnering (but look at the BBC video at the count and see who looks more rattled: Gray or me). Anyone wanting this job cannot be have just seasonal enthusiasm.
Fourthly, the reason that I might NOT get the job is that I am seldom flavour-of-the-month with wur party leaders. Though I admire and respect them, I am no acolyte or disciple but my own man. I ask awkward questions, especially when things are going well, though I have discretion enough to do it in private. Senior figures are used to and deserve deference but that should not, in my opinion, be automatic. As a Silicon Valley manager, this approach was career-limiting. That it still is bothers me not one whit.
But the fifth and conclusive reason is my experience: apart from a decade as a manager and two decades running my own business, I have run a council, tholed being a sole opposition, resurrected ANC from oblivion to make it helpful and relevant again and been visible enough at events, by-elections, vetting, meetings, etc for the party to elect me onto their NEC for six straight years.
It’s a record I stand by firmly—as firmly as I will support whoever wins the post and any other move that brings us closer to making Scotland proud and free.
That’s no bullshit.