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Auchindrain museum

Iona Abbey cloisters <em>Picture: David P Howard</em>

Iona Abbey cloisters Picture: David P Howard

The Caledonian Mercury has invited some of those in the election firing-line to send regular bulletins about the personal side of campaigning. Alison Hay is the Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Argyll and Bute.

    This week sees me continuing my “overseas” travel, interspersed with some council business but with ramifications on the campaign.

    Monday 18 April
    What a beautiful Monday morning – where better to be than on a CalMac ferry heading to the Island of Bute, the shortest crossing in Scotland from Colintraive to Rhubodach, time roughly ten minutes.

    I have a date with Bute FM at 10am. They‘re asking all candidates the same question: why should the people of Bute vote for them? Easy question, how long have your listeners got?

    In the evening it was the Bute hustings, and with Argyll and Bute council proposing to put North Bute primary school out to formal consultation the evening looked set to be a bit of a bumpy ride for yours truly – as it turned out to be. The SNP education minister denying he had interfered with the process and me saying he had, entertainment for all.

    Tuesday 19 April
    Education meeting at the council, where the council decides to put 11 schools out to formal consultation – a 12-hour meeting which ended at 10:55pm. Not a good day and all councillors very unhappy to be in this situation, but the education department needs to take its share of the pain of the cuts.

    Wednesday 20 April
    Today I’m stuck at my computer writing answers to questions from the Oban Times, the Argyllshire Advertiser and the Campbeltown Courier. Don’t these journalists realise I’ve got an election to win?

    I just make the deadline with two minutes to spare, raised blood pressure all round. In the evening off to Oban for a visit to Atlantis Leisure, Oban’s swimming and sports facility. I’m there for the opening of the new children’s soft-play area, a great success.

    Thursday 21 April
    Back on the high seas again, this time to Mull and Iona. This evening in Craignure, where Lesley Riddoch will host the Mull hustings, and before that Alan Reid MP, Tony my campaign manager and I have a great day. I meet an old friend on Iona who takes me round and I spend time speaking to the Mull and Iona Community Trust and seeing round their new community and charity shop and centre.

    The hustings evening went better than I feared: the issues discussed were sustaining rural communities and infrastructure, eg roads, health care, fairer ferry fares and inevitably schools.

    Friday 22 April
    Weather continues to be bright and sunny, Argyll and Bute at its best, no midges yet! I caught the 8:45am boat back to Oban and drove home. I have to be at Auchindrain museum today for the opening of the refurbished tearoom and visitor centre.

    The museum is taking down a tattered old saltire flag and replacing it with a new one. The old one is being respectfully folded and cremated. The new tearoom looks fantastic and the museum is now set for a good summer.

    Saturday 23 April
    Went with my husband to Bridge of Orchy to knock on some doors. Bridge of Orchy is tiny and is at the extreme edge of the constituency, and is often forgotten about. I think it important to try and visit every town and village at least once, and the towns more than once, during the election. It’s amazing the number of times people have said to me “You’re the first candidate we’ve seen”. As it’s Easter weekend, I’m having this evening off to visit relatives in Taynuilt.

    Only ten days to go and the pace is hotting up. Next week Oban, Mid-Argyll, hustings in Dunoon on Tuesday evening, across the seas to Islay and Jura with a hustings on Islay on Thursday evening, back to Tarbert, finishing the week back in Dunoon on the Saturday. I’ll write again on Sunday next.

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    Alison Hay

    Alison Hay

    The Caledonian Mercury has invited some of those in the election firing-line to send regular bulletins about the personal side of campaigning. Alison Hay is the Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Argyll and Bute.

      Let me introduce myself – I’m Alison Hay and I’m standing for election in the Scottish parliament on 5 May, as a Scottish Liberal Democrat.

      The campaign for the election is split into two chronological sections. The Long Campaign extended from January 2011 until the parliament was dissolved on 22 March. The Short Campaign runs from 23 March to polling day. An insight into my campaign story in Argyll and Bute follows in the coming weeks.

      Argyll and Bute, is the most beautiful constituency in Scotland. Don’t just take my word for it, ask anyone, ask my opponents!

      It has 25 inhabited islands within its borders, and covers over two million acres of land. The constituency is what is termed a four-way marginal. I think this means that the four main parties all think they have a chance at winning the seat. This is of course nonsense, there is only going to be one party winner. Seriously, though, this will be a very closely contested seat and the winner is anyone’s guess – although I hope it will be me.

      Campaigning in earnest all began with the run-up to the long campaign before Christmas. However, in Argyll and Bute, this largely meant not doing much, because the weather was terrible, people were busy with Christmas present-buying and I would have been, in good Glaswegian terms, hunted! (Told to go away politely!)

      I spent my time organising and planning how I would travel around this vast county, not a simple task and I may as well not have bothered, since everything appears to take on a mind of its own. Take last week, for example.

      My campaign manager and I were meant to be leafleting in and around the Mid-Argyll area, places like Tayvallich, Crinan, Achnamara. Did this happen? No! I ended up in Dunoon on the Tuesday, Campbeltown on Wednesday – at an opening of some new allotments – and on Friday I was at Auchindrain museum near Inveraray.

      Anyone looking at a map would see these places are not exactly close together. Buses were not handy, so I’m afraid the mileage on my Renault Modus rose considerably. This has not been an isolated incident and as you will see next week my journeys will combine the feelings of a cruise ship to paradise with a full work day.

      Today (Sunday 10 April), my husband and I drove to the Cuan Ferry and, as foot passengers, sailed over to the island of Luing. Luing has a total of 93 houses on it, nestles in the Firth of Lorn about 30 miles south-west of Oban, and little has changed here for 200 years.

      The island is about six miles long and one-and-a-half miles wide. The main centre of population is Cullipool with its whitewashed cottages. These were originally the homes of the slate quarriers, and at its height there were 170 men employed at this.

      For our day on Luing we walked to the primary school which has opened as a café during the holidays. We had lunch, walked some more, had afternoon tea then walked back to the ferry and home. We had nothing but sun glorious sun, Argyll at its perfect best.

      I’m signing off now, tired but content with how the week has gone. I’ll write again next week.

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