Me, a microphone and whoever turns up


I’m writing this from probably the smallest plane I ever have travelled on. Having just taken off from Glasgow airport on the way to Barra on the way to the second of my 100 meetings in 100 days campaign as part of my Better Together’s ‘No Thanks’ tour. In about an hour I’ll be landing on one of the few beach airports in the world – and who said politics was dull?


Much of the referendum campaign so far has been on the telly, radio and papers. Alistair Darling has led us to a really strong lead in the polls. But a lot of undecided voters I have met have said they want more information. That’s where the idea of this 100 meetings tour comes from. It’s a type of campaigning I’ve done in my constituency for more than a decade. During the tour I’m going to go out and try to meet as many ‘yet to make my mind up’ voters as possible. I’ll listen to their concerns and try to persuade them of our cause.

Its just a type of good old fashioned politics. Me, a microphone and whoever turns up. I’ll also have with me two Irn-Bru crates to stand on as a stage when needed – one for each of my size thirteen feet. My first meeting this morning was in my own constituency in the working class estate of Auchenback in Barrhead – the place that helped make us surprise victors in 1997. Nearly a hundred people turned up and it was anything but scripted. People asked totally authentic questions which I hope they felt I answered, and maybe even convinced one or two. We discussed pensions, the armed forces, jobs & unemployment, currency, passports, poverty and the weather.

So only 99 more to go. Of course I won’t be doing this every day. Today I’m doing three of the hundred; I’m off on the ferry to do a meeting in Eriskay after I arrive in Barra. But before you ask I will balance this with my work in the constituency and House of Commons as well.

But this is the most important decision in Scotland’s history and I wanted to campaign in a different way. I will criss-cross Scotland meeting people on their doorsteps and street corners and campaigning in a good old fashioned way. I’ll meet, listen and talk to people who want to know more about the referendum in cities, towns, villages, mainland and islands throughout Scotland. You can’t do that by sitting in a campaign HQ or by refreshing Twitter every few minutes. Only by listening and speaking with people in Scotland will we get our message across that the brightest future for our country is to remain in the UK. I know that organising so many open air meetings isn’t without its dangers – not from hecklers or Nationalists but mostly from Scotland’s weather. It rained pretty heavily at my first campaign stop this morning and there was one pretty loud Nationalist heckler – it all added to the event.

Now sitting on this flight I can look out of every window (yup the plane is that small) and in the break between the clouds I can see the Calmac ferries shuttling between the islands below. As part of the tour I want to make sure that people are able to ask questions about things they are worried about, like the impact leaving the UK would have on pensions and public services. These won’t just be traditional public meetings. Most of them I won’t be having in halls or booked venues but instead in the open air meeting people in the streets where they live, the supermarkets where they shop and the places where they work. Taking our message directly to the people of Scotland as they go about their daily lives will help us win this campaign.

Part of my argument is that we are stronger in a union. I’ve always thought that workers are better off in a union at work and Scotland is better off in a union of the UK. I know it’s an old fashioned idea for some but this sense of unity being strength is as true today as it’s ever been.

Whether it’s in Barrhead or in Barra, it’s clear that as part of the UK we can have the best of worlds for Scotland. We can have a strong Scottish Parliament, with the guarantee of more powers, backed up by the strength, security and stability of being part of the larger UK. I’m really looking forward to getting out and about the country and discussing Scotland’s future with Scotland’s people.

As I write I’m just about to land on this beach. As soon as I get a wifi signal I’ll send the blog. Next stop Eriskay. Just reading this back it reads as much like a promo for Scottish tourism as a political argument. But there are few better places to be than Scotland’s west coast.

I’m determined that by the autumn it’s not a foreign country to the rest of the UK.

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