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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.

    Monday 25 April
    Disaster! My campaign manager has strained a tendon doing DIY at the weekend and will have to rest his foot for a few days, My husband John has gallantly stepped into the breach and will help me with leaflet delivery over the next couple of days, so I’m back on the campaign trail after having a rest on Sunday afternoon.

    We’re on Lismore this afternoon with my husband driving. Mixed reactions, with ferries and roads the main issues.

    Tuesday 26 April
    Today it has been agreed that we meet at Cairndow Oyster Bar which is about 30 minutes from where I live. Argyll and Bute’s MP Alan Reid is joining John and me to deliver leaflets in Cairndow, Strachur, St Catherines, Tighnabruaich and Kames on the Cowal peninsula. Again, the weather is wonderful and I’m beginning to develop a tan. Campaigning is great in weather like this.

    This evening is the Dunoon hustings and I’m not looking forward to it. Mike Russell and the SNP are in difficult water! They promised the Dunoon residents two new boats in exchange for votes, in 2007. They have failed to deliver and the Dunoon/Gourock ferry service will become passenger-only from the end of June. Dunoon residents are not best pleased.

    Wednesday 27 April
    The time is 9am and I’m in Connel near Oban. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott is paying a visit to Connel post office to promote our support for rural post offices. The owner is Rosie Stevenson. She has diversified her post office into a grocer’s shop.

    She opens early to provide filled rolls, papers, etc to the workmen on their way to work. She is very happy with the progress she is making and is happy with the help she has had from Alan Reid.

    Also with us this morning is George Lyon MEP, the Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign manager. A happy time was spent talking to the press and drinking tea supplied by Rosie. We leave about 10am and head down towards Kennacraig to catch the 1pm ferry to the island of Islay. My campaign manager Tony is back, hobbling, assuring me he is better but I’m sceptical.

    We spend the afternoon on the island of Jura and drive 18 miles to Ardlussa over the worst roads I’ve been on yet. At Ardlussa a surprise awaited: visitors can use a small walkie-talkie to send their order to a house about 400 yards away and the lady will bring out your order of tea and you can sit on the beach to drink it. In this weather I can think of nothing nicer.

    Thursday 28 April
    Leafleting in Islay, particularly Port Ellen which we had not done during our previous visit. Then drove to Portnahaven and spoke to another postmaster who has a problem with planning. Back to Port Charlotte and visited the Museum of Islay Life and the local café.

    Then back to Bowmore for the evening’s hustings at the High School. Mr Russell does his usual and tries to blame the school closures on me; he doesn’t get away with it this time. His infamous email was quoted from and his interference as education minister with council business was commented on. He is behaving outrageously and keeps denying he said eight or nine schools “could be taken through with little difficulty”.

    Why the people of Argyll and Bute believe the SNP wouldn’t close schools if it didn’t happen to be election time is a mystery.

    Friday 29 April
    On the ferry back to Kennacraig, then leafleting in Tarbert. Tomorrow is a walkabout in Dunoon. Only four more working days to go to “E-Day”.

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    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.

        The week saw me travel to some of the remoter parts of the constituency and at times it seemed as if I were on holiday. (Only joking.)

        Tuesday 12 April
        Down to Dunoon for a meeting arranged by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union on the possible ramifications for Caledonian MacBrayne following the Scottish Ferries Review.

        This meeting was a little disorganised. Frankly, if these are the people representing hard-working union members then I would want my registration fee back. A grand total of 19 people attended, most were political candidates and agents or union reps. The evening achieved nothing.

        Wednesday 13 April
        This is the start of my island-hopping. Up at 5:30am to be at the ferry terminal for 7am, leaving at 7:45am for the island of Colonsay. The good thing, among many others, about CalMac is the wonderful breakfasts they do – maybe not very healthy, but if you have a hard day ahead then just the job.

        Today is a long trip of about three-and-a-half hours. I could have flown, but firstly I don’t like flying and secondly the time on the island is not long enough. My visit consisted of my husband (recently retired) driving round the island with me running up and down the long accesses into the houses. By the time the evening and the boat arrived to take us home I was exhausted.

        The issues on Colonsay were a mixture of the coalition, fairer ferry fares and fuel costs. On the island, the price of a litre of petrol is £1.63, which is 22p more per litre than I have to pay in Lochgilphead. This reflects on the cost of everything that comes on to and goes off Colonsay. Home at 11:45pm.

        Thursday 14 April
        Up at 5:30am and drove to Oban to catch the 8:15 ferry to the island of Coll this time. Another good breakfast and arrived in Coll about 11am. Same procedure as yesterday, with my husband driving and telling me not to spend so much time talking to people if we want to get round the island today! I ignore him, like all good wives.

        The island is a series of three dead-end roads with wonderful views at the end of each. Again, the issues on the island are fuel costs, the coalition and the fact that hauliers to the island are not passing on the fare reductions to their customers they are getting under Road Equivalent Tariff. Home by midnight.

        Friday 15 April
        Today sees me on Bute, but first I have to go to Wemyss Bay to meet George Lyon MEP, complete with a press entourage. We go to see the local newspaper, The Buteman, for an interview and then go around the local shops. George disappears back to Wemyss Bay and I visit local post offices on the island.

        Saturday 16 April
        I’m in Dunoon for a march in aid of the hospice, which is closed and the people of the town want it back. I keep fairly hidden as this is not a political march and that is appreciated. In the afternoon I talk on Dunoon FM alongside the organiser of the march. Quite a successful day. Head to Oban in the evening for a cheese-and-wine fundraiser

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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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