I didn’t really want to do a personal blog about Stuart McMillan, the candidate for my area. I figure his record speaks for itself, the polls are good, response on the doorstep has been greatly welcomed. In any case, a personal endorsement seems somewhat redundant, since I’ve included his name and picture on every blog post I’ve done for the past month.
Yet sometimes I remember things. Things from the referendum campaign; the General Election campaign; this campaign. One of these stories occurred to me tonight, as the campaign team met for polling day preparations.
It was two weeks before the referendum. A group of campaigners were out canvassing in Inverkip: me, Mam, my aunt, and Stuart. Very few people were in, but we kept going. At the end of the night, Stuart told us about the 2011 election campaign. It was tightly-contested. Many thought there was a good chance the first SNP MSP would be elected to Greenock & Inverclyde. And, indeed, there was. The final result for Stuart was 11,876 of 28,203 – 42.1% of the vote. That was a greater percentage than the winners of 16 constituencies, and the best result the SNP had in Inverclyde until 2015. Unfortunately, Duncan McNeil got only 511 more votes – 1.8%, the sixth smallest majority of the 73 constituencies. So although Stuart once again was elected to the West Scotland region, not least due to achieving a 13.4 point swing compared to 2007, he just – just – fell short of winning the constituency.
There wasn’t a day that went by Stuart didn’t think “if only I worked just a bit harder.” After campaigning with him from near the start of the referendum campaign, it’s difficult to imagine a more hard-working man than Stuart. Yet because this was his campaign, he took all the responsibility, and thus, all the blame, for not quite winning. Two weeks later, the official result of the referendum for Inverclyde was 86 votes short for Yes. This was bitter, as I knew then that hundreds of registration forms from the Yes Inverclyde shop were rejected – and they, of all places in Scotland, could have changed the outcome. But that didn’t change those who did vote, and those 86 votes preyed on my mind. All I could think for weeks after that was “if only I worked just a bit harder…”
Today, I think of all the years Stuart has been campaigning in Inverclyde, and what I was doing at the time. I think of 2005, when Stuart was campaigning for Inverclyde at Westminster: I was studying art at what was then the Glasgow College of Building & Printing, spending most of my week outside my home constituency. I think of 2007, when he first contested Greenock & Inverclyde: I had just graduated from University, this time in what was then Paisley – again, outside Inverclyde most of my week. And I think of 2011, when Stuart campaigned for Greenock & Inverclyde again: I was getting deeply involved in Robert E. Howard scholarship, and was getting prepared for my second trip to Cross Plains, Texas. I certainly can’t say that Stuart would or could have been elected if I took the time and effort to involve myself in those campaigns – but I can say that I would have done my part for the cause of independence. So I’m making up for lost time.
This campaign has been incredible for me: exhausting and exhilarating, infuriating and inspiring. It’s completely different from the previous campaigns I participated in – at least it keeps things interesting – and I don’t doubt the next campaign will be different again. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it (thanks Derek!)
Tomorrow will be the last day of campaigning. After that, the future of Scotland is in the people’s hands once again.