As the polls close at the end of this election campaign, things will be very different from normal. There is to be no overnight count and we will all have to wait a couple of days for all the results, not just the outlying areas that are historically later to declare due to the distances involved in getting boxes to the Count. In a campaign like no other, where we have not been able to enjoy the social side in the same way as we normally do and where we have an unprecedented array of list parties to choose from, it will not be forgotten although hopefully never to be repeated.
There has been discussion after discussion on the merits of a both votes SNP strategy and it is obvious that you will never get anybody to agree. It appears to be accepted however that in the Highlands and Islands and the South Scotland regions, there is a chance of a list snp msp being elected but much less so in the other regions. There, people are more inclined to give their second vote to another pro-independence party but number crunching has suggested that there is still a possibility of list MSPs being possible. In the Highlands we may lose some votes to the Alba party but I think the Greens will be the losers as Andy Wightman is standing as an independent. Already well known and respected in this part of the world, he will undoubtedly attract some SNP voters but will appeal greatly to to many natural Green voters particularly as incumbent highland Green MSP John Finnie is retiring.
The emergence of the Alba party has no doubt thrown things into disarray and it is really difficult to gauge just how they will do. There doesn’t seem to be much movement of them up here although I have spotted a solitary lamppost sign and I believe there is a pop up shop in the next town. I would suspect that they will have a decent following but people remain coy about it which is very much the case up here for members of all political parties. We have many branch members who happily lend financial support but will not visibly be seen to support the party as they still believe their vote to be private; a response we frequently encountered when doing canvassing in previous campaigns. This year we did not do canvassing but the response on the doorsteps when out delivering leaflets has been very promising with many converted voters announcing that they will be voting SNP for the first time ever due to the handling of the pandemic by Nicola Sturgeon.
This seat has been designated one of the LibDems target seats and as such is getting an influx of activists even as far north as us. It actually made for a fun leafleting activity as we kept bumping into each other and was the closest that we would get to social encounters. The LibDems candidate here is appearing to follow in the footsteps of her Westminster colleague by jumping on board the local protest groups and proclaiming she will hold meetings that are already being held and even sometimes attended by her party MP apparently unbeknown to her. The latest press release denies all knowledge of the progress already being made on issues and commits to spending her first 100 days after election knocking the heads together of all the people who have spent many months trying to solve the problems; a strange voter engagement strategy in the final few days!
Once this campaign ends we will head straight into local election planning and, potentially, the redrawing of ward boundaries that were removed only a few years ago. The last few years seem to have been a never ending cycle of election after election and lethargy is beginning to set in amongst some activists as unfortunately is age and infirmity. We were extremely lucky to have some new members come on board who are enthusiastic about getting the word out but we seem to find it difficult to attract younger members. My eldest is himself a first time voter at 16 and his sister will be eligible in the next couple of years but, like many of their peer group, the way politics is done at the moment is of no interest to them. The way they live and act is different from my generation and they see little sense in delivering leaflets or even physically turning out to vote or posting one. If they are able to do everything electronically, voting in a format with no effort involved, then that is the way for us to get them involved. Once off at university with like minded people, their outlook changes but at the moment, in more rural areas far from the seat of power, they don’t see how their vote impacts upon their lives and dismiss meetings as talking shops with no relevance to them. It’s not a viewpoint that is good to hear and I would argue differently but it has to be listened to to encourage them to get involved in things that very definitely do impact upon them.