Campaign Diary – Week #8

  • Best bit: Two inspiring days in Dumfries with artists, Greens and family
  • Worst bit: Not realising *just* how far Ayr is from Dunbar and being really late (twice)
  • Folk of note: Beth, Tim, Cat, Charles, Pauline and Jody from Borders branch who organised the brilliant action day on Saturday + local members and my wonderful pals Claire and Blu who were fantastic first time canvassers
  • Miles travelled: 913 (!)
  • Things I learned: Some dairy farmers in Scotland are getting just 13p or 14p per litre for their milk whilst the cost of production is around 26p per litre.

What a week! It’s been a great few days of campaigning and I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, the Borders and South Lanarkshire and meet some really inspirational people.

Libberton Primary School in South Lanarkshire
Libberton Primary School in South Lanarkshire

Wednesdays was a bit hectic with a race to Edinburgh to pick up newsletters and merchandise for various branches and then to Ayr for a meeting of the South Ayrshire Common Weal group. With road closures on the way to Ayr, I ended up taking a fairly massive detour, but joyously got to pass by my old Primary School on the way.

The meeting was a fascinating and frustrating one. We heard from a group of local dairy farmers about the horrendous situation they’re facing.

Many dairy farmers in Ayrshire are getting paid around half what it costs them to produce milk in the first place
Many dairy farmers in Ayrshire are getting paid around half what it costs them to produce milk in the first place

They’re being paid around half of what it costs them to produce milk – a situation that’s come about because of the immense power of the supermarkets, combined with the fact that there are only four milk processors in Scotland, three of which are foreign owned and all of which can undercut smaller dairy producers in the shops. The packed meeting got particularly frustrated when we asked the farmers what their union, the National Farmers Union in Scotland was doing to help. It seems their focus is on many of the larger producers who are getting around 30p a litre with their aligned contracts. So much for solidarity in the union.

Me at the Beef Tub. It's pretty impressive
Me at the Beef Tub. It’s pretty impressive

Thursday was a great adventure to Dumfries. I love the journey down through Broughton, where I lived from the age of seven, past the source of the Tweed and over the Beef Tub just before you hit Moffat. I was heading to a really excellent day of discussion at The Stove, focusing on art in rural areas, art and activism and the political structures needed to support the arts. You can read more about it here.

A red squirrel nibbling at the bird feeder at my Aunt and Uncle's house near Dalbeattie
A red squirrel nibbling at the bird feeder at my Aunt and Uncle’s house near Dalbeattie

That evening I stayed with my Aunt and Uncle who run the Barnbarroch Pottery on the Solway Coast near Dalbeattie. In the morning we had a wee visit from a red squirrel – a joyously common sight in those parts.

On Friday I headed back into Dumfries to join a fab team of local green activists for a stall, leafletting and chats with local folk. Our reception was really positive, though a surprising number of folk hadn’t realised they get two votes.

Me with some brilliant D&G Greens (l-r Danny, Paul, Sandy, Penny and Claire)
Me with some brilliant D&G Greens (l-r Danny, Paul, Sandy, Penny and Claire)

I dashed off from the stall to be in the audience for BBC Radio Scotland’s Big Debate which was broadcast from the Robert Burns Theatre. I didn’t get to ask my question about reopening railways but did pull UKIP’s David Coburn up on his party’s newfound support for the Scottish Parliament, given they have previously campaigned to abolish it!

An afternoon of lunch at the appropriately named Mrs Green’s and conversations at the Yellow Door Gallery gave way to a journey back up the road to Edinburgh for an evening event with Bernie Sanders’ brother Larry. Larry Sanders is the Green Party of England and Wales Health Spokesperson and gave a moving account of the injustices of the American healthcare system that his brother is campaigning to change.

Me with Green campaigner and all round good egg Susan Rae, Larry Sanders and SGP co convener Maggie Chapman
Me with Green campaigner and all round good egg Susan Rae, Larry Sanders and SGP co convener Maggie Chapman

Nat and I sat with some really interesting Democrats from Massachusetts (best accent ever) who are campaigning for Bernie from over here.

Saturday was a brilliant action day in Peebles. Organised by the wonderful Borders branch, we had a big team out knocking doors and another team out on a stall on the high street before resident pub quiz maestro Jody Jamieson hosted our evening fundraiser. The reception on the doors was really positive. At the end, we had a woman run after us down the street shouting “excuse me, excuse me!”

We’d just spoken to her partner who told us they would be casting both votes for the SNP but the woman called out to say “we’ve just read your newsletter and we’ll definitely be voting for you on the list!”. It was a great end to the canvassing and made even better by looking up to see one of our posters already up in a window as we left the estate.

A wee montage from Peebles. Clockwise from top left; Beth, Irvine + Pauline; Me at the street stall; Me with a very cute cat who followed us round all day; said cat; the team out knocking doors
A wee montage from Peebles. Clockwise from top left; Beth, Irvine + Pauline; Me at the street stall; Me with a very cute cat who followed us round all day; said cat; the team out knocking doors

On Sunday I helped my Mum move back into her cottage after she was flooded out at New Year when the Tweed burst its banks and filled her ground floor, flooding the electricity and water pump. The before and after pics here give you an idea of just how bad it was.

The Tweed flooding at Mum's house in December
The Tweed flooding at Mum’s house in December
The same view towards the Tweed, just *slightly* less wet
The same view towards the Tweed, just *slightly* less wet

After a quiet Monday of emails, Tuesday was another journey to Ayr, this time for my first hustings of the campaign at Belmont Academy. The audience of local school pupils asked some great questions about austerity, the local economy and the attainment gap.

Me in Ayr town centre where loads of shops are lying empty
Me in Ayr town centre where loads of shops are lying empty

I spent the afternoon with the fabulous Yvonne, checking out the huge number of empty shops in Ayr town centre.

In the evening I headed through the rain to Cumnock in East Ayrshire for the first official meeting of the Save Broomfield campaign group. They’re a great bunch, fighting to save local playing fields and green space from having a super school built on it and they’re trying to get the council to look seriously at alternatives. Over 80% of the community who responded to the consultation were against the proposals yet the council seem to be steamrollering ahead. Sound familiar?

That’s it for this week. Coming up, a meeting on flooding in Peebles tonight, Spring Conference at the weekend and adventures in Dumfries and Galloway and Kelso. Until next time…

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