May 4th 2017. Local Election Day! Most people are at work, some have the day off getting their shopping in for the week ahead. Others will be getting ready to go to their local polling stations to vote. A vote that will determine who will be in charge of your council. A vote that ensures your voice is heard and that you can hold the people to account should they not fulfill their role they previously bigged themselves up for.
I was nervous. Not because I thought the party that I love would do bad or lose. I was nervous because this was my first time helping out at such an integral part of history that can shape our future.
It was warm, the heat battering off my face intertwined with the little bit of wind that was continuous throughout the day. That didn’t matter. As I stood proudly outside the polling station in Kilwinning wearing my SNP lapel on the left side of my chest and 3 or 4 SNP badges on the right. I had a smile on my face. It wasn’t because it was sunny. It was because I knew in my heart that I was doing the right thing. I never thought I would be here, doing this. It never crossed my mind even two years ago.
There was one person the full day that had a negative word to me. Everyone was brilliant, friendly, chatty and even after they had voted came back out to have a little debate. Which I love doing anyway but it was never in a cynical way. People would toot their horns and wave, shouting “cmon SNP. ” I loved this. It showed me a different side to the world. To politics. It showed me the value of going out to vote. I saw young and old going in and out to cast their votes and it really made me feel proud. These people, like me want change. Whether it be for better or worse it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they follow their heads, and most importantly their hearts when they number the ballot papers. Every now and again I would text my Girlfriend Jodie, my Mum and my Sister and her husband Stephen and ask them if they had voted yet. I knew my Dad had sent away his postal vote weeks prior while in hospital from suffering two heart attacks. Of course it was still really early and they hadn’t but I made sure to remind them throughout the day. Scott Davidson the newly elected Councillor for Kilwinning and a good friend of mine was at another polling station in Kilwinning so we kept messaging each other the turn out percentages throughout the day.
If I’m being honest I never knew what to expect. I never knew how the day would go but as it drawn to a close my feet and head were both needing vital rest. I would check Twitter now and again to see smiling faces across North Ayrshire. All my friends and Cunninghame South members taking selfies and really enjoying the day, coupled up with a few nerves. It’s great to have such an amazing team around you. Robin Sturgeon and his wife Joan who had been provost for North Ayrshire for a number of years. Lovely welcoming people that are always there if you need them. Susan Johnson, Christina Larsen, Shaun McAuley, Val, Jim Tudhope, Maria limonci, Scott Davidson, Lorna Davidson, Marie Burns, Ruth McGuire, Hugh Wilson, Robert Buntin, Jacqueline Ferguson and John Ferguson. All really lovely amazing people that have been through it all and seen it all and to be there on a day like this with all of them truly is for me, amazing. It’s these people more than anything that deserve to have their chance to project their views on the council boardroom because I know they will fight tooth and nail for the people of North Ayrshire and make it a fairer society for all. I’m new to all of this but these people have been fighting continually for years, but it is coming, small steps at a time. The momentum is there and we’re getting stronger.
After standing at the polling station for a few hours a nice lady called Anne came over to relieve me of my duties as she was going to take over for a few hours. I would then head over to meet Scott, Lorna and John Ferguson to go for a well deserved lunch. We arrived at a Cafe in Kilwinning. One I had never been to before. As we arrived it was instantaneous to everyone there that we were SNP people and today was a big day for us. We sat down and could feel people staring at us. Then people started chatting to Scott and their views on the town were clear. All SNP supporters. Shaking Scott’s hand and wishing him all the best. It was like dining with a celebrity. Truly a remarkable experience. It’s no surprise to me about the welcoming nature of the people of Kilwinning but that was a different level.
With confidence and a touch of nerves we got on to the task in hand. We traveled around Kilwinning polling stations checking the turnout percentages and putting our own anecdotes on what the results were looking like. Just sheer speculation but a way of finding comfort. “It’s looking good”. We would say now and again but knowing that complacency is a distant cousin. We knew we couldn’t assume. But we did anyway.
A colder breeze started to infiltrate my cheeks and the sun started fading away. It was now 8pm and I still hadn’t voted myself. With only two hours left, Scott told me he would cover until 10pm. A testament to how he thinks. He never gives up and works till the very last second. I drove to my nearest polling station in Elderbank, Irvine. Noticing a gentleman standing outside with an SNP lapel on. A very frequent sight throughout the day. I chatted to him for a couple of minutes and then entered the polling station. The agent there explained the numbering process and then handed me my ballot paper. As I walked into the booth I looked and studied each and every candidate to make sure I didn’t get it wrong. I knew who and what I was voting for so it took me less than thirty seconds. I picked the two SNP candidates that I knew would be perfect in my ward and then slipped the ballot paper into the ballot box.
As I got home and sat on my couch, I realised the full impact of my day. My legs buckled and my head was red and sunburnt all over. I looked in the mirror and said “worth it!” As long as we helped get our candidates over the line they could have me standing in a sunbed for 24 hours and I wouldn’t care.
The next morning was a different feel of emotion. I knew that no stone was left unturned, no letterbox was left without a leaflet. I knew all the candidates running were strong minded but I thought about them all morning. I thought about the nerves they would be enduring. I was working at 1pm so I had to be at the Portal in Irvine sharp. When I got there I never really knew what to expect. I walked through the door, I got my wristband which allowed me to go into the room where you could help yourself to coffee, tea, sandwiches etc. There were two televisions in the room. Both with the news on. I glanced over at the seating area and I saw each party candidates and activists in different parts. Not wanting to make eye contact with each other. The Tories over at the back of the room, labour on the right. A few handshakes here and there. I saw ‘The SNP’ table so I walked over and sat down. I spoke with John Ferguson for a while listening to his amazing views on Kilwinning and stories of the past. His vast wealth of knowledge is invaluable. The rest of the candidates started to trickle in. It was show time.
Emotions were sporadic, up and down, all over the place. My Mum and Dad would text me to see if any results were in yet. It was too early. Then a gentleman came through the door and gave us word that the first preference votes were being displayed on the screens in the counting hall. We all got up and walked through. There were televisions placed at all corners of the hall and tables strategically designed for counting agents to do there work uninterrupted. As I walked around to the other side of the hall I spotted Jim Tudhope. Someone I’ve became really close too through our passion to be active members of The SNP. He is very funny and very smart and can spot someone talking rubbish a mile away so he debunks many labour and Tory views at the drop of a hat. He was standing next to a screen that was being analysed for void ballots. Each one would be manually scrutinised to see if the vote preferences could be made out. There were another two men sitting in front of the screen. One from labour and one with an Snp lapel on who I’d never saw before. The labour gentleman was appealing and pointed at every opportunity. Jim and I decided to get involved as the snp gentleman never said a word. No one was there to appeal or question anything before Jim and I got there. Just the labour fellow. We soon picked up the hang of it and got involved. There were a very faded ballot with numbers on it but to the naked eye would look like scribbles. It had our Kilwinning candidates at a 1 and 2 vote preference and the rest 3,4,5 etc. The Labour supporter wanted it to go through as void but myself and Jim appealed strongly against that decision. Upon further investigation we won the appeal and got our candidates the vote. A small victory for us both but one I’ll remember for a long time.
The votes had been counted and verified and the results were in. Announcements had been made on stage and it was a hung council. The SNP had 11 councillors, Labour also had 11, Conservatives 7, Greens 0 and Independent 5. It was not in any shape or form the result we had hoped for and we lost some great candidates but it was a result we can build on. It wasn’t the worst and I know our new councillors will do a great job. You could see how much it meant to them. Even the candidates that won from our party had their colleagues in their minds at a time when they had won. This shows you the way we are. We always put others first. This is a strong, vibrant group of people. A group of people I hope will have me around for many years to come. As I went to my work I checked the internet at my desk. I couldn’t take my mind off the count. News came in that as a whole The SNP won outright +6 seats more than they had in 2012. A victory that saw Glasgow council hold an SNP majority in over 40 years. I felt pride. I felt jubilation. When I looked at various headlines from right wing tabloids it didn’t matter when I saw ‘Tory surge’ or ‘Tories are back’ because I was there. I was on the ground. I saw what happened. The Tories did surge but they surged on the back of the Labour voters switching dramatically from middle to right. It’s says a lot about them. The Tories finished second. There were no ‘victory’, there were no need to celebrate because I know that the people of Scotland will never have Tories as first. Not then. Not now. Not ever. You will always be second to The SNP! This was my first time being involved in an election and it won’t be my last.
featured image Polling station