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My Year as ALBA Organisation Convener - Part 1 - Campaigning with Alex

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

"The rose of all the world is not for me.

I want for my part

Only the little white rose of Scotland

That smells sharp and sweet—and breaks the heart."

For the past year, I have been Organisation Convener of the ALBA Party. It has been a great honour and an enormous privilege. I will write about my year in three parts, this first part concerns organising campaign events and wee ALBA book events for Alex Salmond, in part two I will write of the by-elections, in part three I will write about the conferences and councils.

I am not a politician and nor do I want to be but I have total belief and confidence in the politicians and aspiring politicians of the ALBA Party and I am willing to dedicate the next few years to ensuring we get them elected and finally regain Scotland's independence.

The first thing to say about Alex Salmond is that he is an absolute delight to work for. He has the nicest nature and through all the events I organised and all the arrangements I made we have never had a cross word.

My impression of Alex is that he is incredibly kind and thoughtful towards others. I have witnessed many acts of kindness. I think he is very empathetic, he understands people and their motivations and is very forgiving of them.

He is kind to me giving me advice which I try to follow. He also let me second his independence motion at the Stirling Conference, which was a very proud moment for me.

And for an Organiser Alex has the most important quality; he is conscientious. When he commits to doing something, he does it. He really is the most reliable person which makes my job easy as I rarely have to adjust any plans.

My year as Organisation Convener started in October with Wee ALBA book events in Aberdeen and my home city of Dundee.

The day before the Aberdeen wee ALBA book event Alex had sadly lost a very dear friend Stuart Pratt but although it must have been very difficult for him, he gave a lovely tribute to Stuart at the start of the event and the event continued with the determination that we will fulfil Stuart’s dream.

At all the wee ALBA book events one of my 'important' jobs is to make sure Alex has enough soft drinks. This is so he can keep talking and answering questions.

Alex is always last to leave the wee ALBA books, he stays to the very end chatting to everyone who wants to chat; no one is ever missed out.

I have learned so much from listening to Alex speak and hearing him develop his arguments. He is such an intelligent person and I have no doubt if we can get ALBA into a position of influence and power, Alex Salmond will have the strategy to regain our independence and to set up a successful Scottish state.

The first by-election, since the May 2022 local authority elections was in Linn Glasgow with Kirsty Fraser, who was a fantastic candidate. We ran the campaign out of the MacDonald’s in Castlemilk. The by-election was difficult; most people didn’t know ALBA, they all knew Alex Salmond but far fewer knew of the ALBA Party. And we started late with only a few weeks of campaigning left.

On his campaign visits, Alex came into MacDonald's our adopted campaign hub, and created a stir all the staff and customers were delighted to see him and he chatted away with everyone, making their day.

It was winter and the weather was bad. Poor Alex had a cold, so we visited the local shops in the Castlemilk Centre. Alex would buy something in every shop and dish presents out to the team.

The Linn result was creditable 1.75% which was up by a third on our vote in May 2022.

The next by-election was Broxburn also in the depths of winter December 1st and once more we had a first class candidate Debbie Ewen and the local LACU ran a great campaign.

We held a wee ALBA book event in Broxburn complete with buffet and a raffle.

Alex has so much patience and no matter how long a day he has had he makes time to talk to everyone and is genuinely interested, believing that we all have something to contribute to Scotland's cause.

The Broxborn result was 1.8% also up a third on the May 2022 result so again we were making progress.

In November, the Supreme Court handed down a verdict that the Scottish Parliament did not have the right to hold an independence referendum, and a series of protests were called. Alex was invited to attend the Inverurie Supreme Court Protest by Garioch Women for Change. It was a very miserable night but Alex gave a fantastic speech and it was just a wonderful atmosphere.

Alex talked of our independence strategy - a Constitutional Convention, popular agitation, and Scotland United.

Alex finished up his speech by asserting our right to self determination watch here:

After the Inverurie event, I took Alex to the STV studios in Aberdeen to be interviewed on the Jeremy Kyle show. Surprisingly, I was allowed into the studio with him while he went live on air, very trusting of them. Alex said to me "Sit there, don’t talk, and don’t dance around" which I thought was funny, as if I was going to dance around.

The Dyce by-election was called for mid-February and Charlie Abel was the candidate. Charlie was another brilliant candidate. We started early and between Christmas and New Year, with the help of Mark Mair we recorded videos for Charlie’s campaign.

We had a lovely time driving around the ward recording clips and you can watch all the clips on the Aberdeen ALBA YouTube Channel: Alba Aberdeen - YouTube

At the Dyce wee ALBA book, Alex talked about our EFTA policy and why we should not tie Independence so closely to EU membership. You can watch part of Alex's speech here:

Alex made a clever point "We are in independence negotiations with Keir Stammer. Stammer asks what our trading position is and we reply EFTA and single market access and then we ask Stammer - So what’s your trading position?"

Alex campaigned in Dyce whenever he could and as a result, we achieved our best so far by-election performance with 3.8% and we beat the Greens.

But it wasn't all work in February Dundee LACU held a Burns Supper. I can't take credit for this as Heather McLean is an expert at organising Burns Suppers (she is also an expert on raffles).

It was an all-star cast including Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, Eva Comrie, Hamish Vernal, and Neale Hanvey.

It was at this event that Alex was recorded giving his opinion that gender recognition reform has set back the cause of independence, the clip got a lot of publicity and led to a Daily Telegraph front page.

In March there was a very special wee ALBA book in Arbroath with Jim Sillars. Alex Salmond and Jim Sillars together again in the cause of Scottish Independence and both advocated the Scotland United Strategy.

And Alex explained why we need to capitalise on renewables and get the benefits for Scotland. Watch here:

In March I had the great privilege of accompanying Alex to Scotonomics in Dundee. I was very impressed that Alex can give an Economics lecture and hold his own with economists. I know he was an economist at the Royal Bank and has a degree in Economics but he could actually be an economics professor if he wanted.

Alex explains why he ended up doing an unusual degree - Medieval History including Scottish History and Economics at St Andrews watch here:

It was at Scotonomics that Alex developed his idea of selling renewable energy on the international markets at the wholesale rate and to Scots at the marginal rate. We would never have to worry about heating or eating again.

Then on to further wee ALBA books in Coatbridge and Kirkcaldy.

At the Coatbridge wee ALBA book event, Alex reflects on his feelings on standing down as SNP leader:

A lot of people help me with the wee ALBA books including the hosting LACU executive and members but if I need extra help I call on Jackie Anderson who is a key member of the wee ALBA book roadshow team. Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh Chairs many of the events and brings extra star quality to the proceedings.

Most of the wee ALBA books are livestreamed and I have to ensure that there is a working sound system to feed into the livestream .

Allan Petrie has a system I use when necessary and Allan and/or Euan McGlynn help with the sound engineering.

We have livestreamed as many wee ALBA book events as possible. This is due to the hard work of Garry and Stuart from Argyle Productions who have been fantastic. They do not get paid, we only need to provide expenses. They have been with us since the St Andrews wee ALBA book back in June 2022.

All Under One Banner Glasgow in May was a fantastic day, when we joined the AUOB march everyone was cheering for Alex. I was crying it was so overwhelming after all Alex had been through to be welcomed so warmly by the independence crowd.

This is my favourite picture of Alex and me. I am waiting with Alex just before he goes on stage. The heavens have opened, and I am reminded of the line from the Leonard Cohen song Anthem.

“They have summoned up a thunder cloud, they’re going to hear from me.”

No one should underestimate how hard Alex works for ALBA and Scotland. I do not know how he does it. He is a volunteer like the rest of us, he doesn't get paid yet he works for ALBA non-stop. If he isn't campaigning or canvassing or starring in wee ALBA books, he's on TV advocating the cause or writing articles or socialising ideas and he also has to carry out the day to day tasks and meetings that comes with leading a political party. I once asked him 'Do you sleep for about 18 hours when you get home?' He just smiled wryly and shook his head.

The Bellshill by-election was June 15th and John Marshall, a great independence campaigner, was our candidate the first by-election candidate to win a selection contest. We made videos with Alex at the Sir Matt Busby Centre which is now slated for closure by North Lanarkshire council.

The result of the Bellshill by-election was 3.9% our best result and we beat the Greens and the LibDems.

There was a wee ALBA book in Bellshill followed by wee ALBA books in Kinross, Troon, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

It isn't all work occasionally I get a treat. In the summer Alex put on a show 'The Ayes Have It'. This was a great show with guests debating different points of view in an atmosphere of fun and respect.

I went to the first night and was invited to the after party where we met the cast including John Bercow, Joanna Cherry, David Davis, et al.

In the picture left to right; my son Michael, me, Michael's wife Charity, Trisha MacPherson, and John Bercow.

Then back to work. At the wee ALBA book Fraserburgh Alex was asked many questions and this one is quite topical. Alex was asked about the fact that Sturgeon gave a date - 19th October 2023 - Here is what Alex said:

The Girvan by-election is the last of this period. It was an unpromising ward but once again we had a wonderful candidate Denise Sommerville and a great campaign team and we managed to more than double our percentage vote.

I have had such a good time over the past year, it has been such a privilege to be Organisation Convener of ALBA. We are a fantastic team who work well together and support each other. It is hard work but also such a lot of fun.

And I couldn’t be more grateful for this chance to help Alex Salmond regain his place as head of the Yes movement.

And I hope to remain as Organisation Convener to help Alex and ALBA lead Scotland to Independence.

Watch the Events and the Wee ALBA books

Alex's Inverurie Full Speech

AUOB Alex's Speech

Dundee Wee ALBA Book

Aberdeen Wee ALBA Book

Angus Wee ALBA Book

Coatbridge Wee ALBA Book

Kirkcaldy wee ALBA book

Kinross wee ALBA book

Troon wee ALBA book

Glasgow Wee ALBA book

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