Campaign Diary – Week #7

  • Best bit: Going back to my old High School (via some stunning bits of the Borders) for a tear-jerking LGBT History Month performance from Loud and Proud Choir
  • Worst bit: Meeting a ridiculously cute collie puppy and not being able to take him home
  • Folk of note: Jamie Szymkowiak from the One in Five campaign + Ollie and Tabitha from Peebles High School LGBT+ group
  • Miles travelled: 621
  • Things I learned: There’s 78 hectares of vacant and derelict land in the Borders. That’s the equivalent of 175 football fields which, if laid end to end would stretch from Kelso to Jedburgh.

Land reform, disabled people’s access to politics, LGBT youth in the Borders and Scotland’s first micropub. It’s been a diverse few days! The tail end of last week was pretty quiet as I worked from home for the most part, preparing for a talk on land reform at the Radical Independence Campaign conference on Saturday and a session with Scottish Young Greens.

Land reform at RICSaturday was a day of many parts, starting with a session I ran at RIC on land reform. It’s increasingly clear to me that lots of folk get that land reform is important but really don’t know much about the detail or, importantly, why and how it affects their own lives.

The main point I made to the folks at RIC was that a concentration of land ownership amongst a tiny number of people, coupled with a misuse and underuse of land including vacant and derelict land means that we’re faced with a shortage of available land for housing and therefore with extortionate rents and mortgages.

From the Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Survey 2014
From the Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Survey 2014

Stats like the fact that more than half of Scotland most deprived communities are within 500m of derelict land really seemed to strike a chord with folk.

I’m battling with a lack of technical skill on my part to try and turn my slides into a wee film that I can share online. Watch this space!

From RIC, I went up to Edinburgh University to an event with Scottish Young Greens. Sadly there wasn’t time to do the presentation I’d planned but it was great to meet some of the younger faces of the party from across the country.

Me with Maggie Chapman, Alistair and Lorna from Disabled Greens network, Caroline and Laura Cameron-Lewis at the launch of One in Five's participation fund
Me with Maggie Chapman, Alistair and Lorna from Disabled Greens network, Caroline and Laura Cameron-Lewis at the launch of One in Five’s participation fund

I rushed off after lunch to join a huge crowd of folk outside the Parliament for the launch of the One in Five campaign’s participation fund.  The campaign which launched just a year ago is driven by my old Yes Edinburgh North and Leith pal Jamie Szymkowiak. I’ve never met anyone with such boundless energy who manages to get things done at the drop of a hat. True to form, Jamie and the team at the cross party campaign for disabled people’s participation in politics have managed to secure a few hundred grand in just a year to support disabled people to run for elected office and be a much bigger part of the political landscape.

With Veronica Tudhope and Ross Greer, lead candidates for the West of Scotland region at the Ayrshire Greens fundraiser
With Veronica Tudhope and Ross Greer, lead candidates for the West of Scotland region at the Ayrshire Greens fundraiser

From the Parliament I got on a train and headed west, down to the west coast to Ayrshire for a fantastic Green fundraiser and comedy night. Jen and Yvonne, our regional campaign support officers are just fantastic and managed to pull together some great comedy, food and raffle prizes.

After a chilled day on Sunday (and a trip to see Deadpool – it’s amazing) I had a pretty busy Monday, pulling together images and content for some newsletters focused on our key council wards for next year.

Rutherford's in Kelso, Scotland's first micro micropub
Rutherford’s in Kelso, Scotland’s first micro micropub

A trip to Kelso for some pics and stories meant I got a chance to visit Scotland’s first micropub. It’s a great wee place called Rutherford’s and has only been open since August but just came runner up for best pub in the Borders. Rules for being a micropub include no lager or vodka, no tv or music and no gaming machines, but plenty of cosy conversation and some exciting looking drink!

It was a stunner of a day so I took loads of photos, nipping up to Smailholm Tower for a wee bit of sunset gazing.

The Eildon Hills with Smailholm Tower
The Eildon Hills with Smailholm Tower

From there I headed to Peebles and to my old High School for a choral performance. But this wasn’t any performance. In the 14 years since I left, a lot has changed at PHS. Most recently, the establishment of an LGBT+ group of students, supporting one another and talking to the whole school about LGBT+ issues. The fantastic librarian Ruth Fry got wind of the group and on the spur of the moment decided to invite the Edinburgh-based LGBT choir Loud and Proud to come and perform at the school.

Tabitha and Ollie at Peebles High with Loud & Proud choir
Tabitha and Ollie at Peebles High with Loud & Proud choir

Led by Dunbar Sings’ maestra Karen Dietz, the phenomenal singing was interspersed with readings by the choir of letters to their younger selves. Needless to say, I was glad the lights were down as I was having a bit of a sob. Growing up as a bisexual young woman in a rural area, there was nothing like the LGBT+ group when I was at Peebles. Either you were silent about your sexuality or you were bullied. Listening to the letters to the choir members’ younger selves, it was clear to me that this new group will make a huge difference to the young people of Peebles. As I said to Ollie and Tabitha, the really impressive 6th years who spoke at the performance, the group will save lives.

Here’s a wee vine of the choir.

That’s about it for the last week. This coming week I’m heading to Ayr to listen to dairy farmers sharing their experiences, to Dumfries for some fantastic artistic happenings and to chat to local voters, and to Peebles another two times for our Borders Action Day and a meeting on flooding. Phew! Until next time…

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