John McNally has been selected by the membership to fight Falkirk for the SNP. I was able to congratulate him yesterday and offer any assistance I can give in the campaign. I spent a total of ten hours locked in various small rooms with John as we waited to take our turn at each of the four hustings meetings in the constituency, and he is a genuinely decent man who will make an excellent MP. He was not just courteous, but markedly kind and helpful to me as a newcomer to the constituency. It was evident he was not only a Councillor, but a man deeply rooted in his community. There was nobody we met during the process of whom John could not tell me not just who they were, but about their family for several generations.
I will not pretend that I am not still stunned by the strength of hostility of the SNP highheidyins towards me, and my removal from the ballot. But to put that in context, here is the email I sent to the leader of the SNP group on Falkirk Council on 12 November:
[Name deleted] …gave me your email address. I believe she mentioned to you that I am looking to stand as an SNP candidate at the forthcoming Westminster election, and very interested indeed in the prospect of campaigning in Falkirk, which I strongly believe we can win.
But I would like to make absolutely clear that if there is a hardworking and qualified local person who wishes to be the candidate and who would have a good chance to win, I would not want to come in from outside and spoil somebody else’s hopes. Does that make sense?
As you may know, I am a former British Ambassador and former Rector of the University of Dundee, and campaigned very hard during the referendum campaign both speaking at meetings and online. I have been an SNP member since 2011. Before that I was a Lib Dem but resigned in disgust! My application to be approved as a candidate is lodged with SNP HQ. I realise they are swamped at the moment and hope we will be able to find a way to get that dealt with in good time. I contacted [name deleted – a MSP] who suggested that if I could get definite interest from a constituency, that may help prioritise processing the application. That seems a bit chicken and egg as to which comes first (not a Jim Murphy reference)
The reply of the same date was:
Thanks for your e mail, it is good to know that there is interest in Falkirk, as it will in deed be a key seat.
We are in a very different position this time round for the Westminster Elections, and would not discourage giving members a choice of potential candidates…
I therefore went forward despite my strong reservation, on the express understanding that the members wanted to have a wide choice. But from the first time I met John McNally, I was having qualms of conscience about standing against someone who is the kind of local citizen, not a career politician, who ought to be an MP. That is why I can say, that irrespective of my continuing concerns about the values of some of the central SNP establishment, the local outcome is the right one for the people of Falkirk. I shall certainly be back there occasionally to campaign for John McNally.
PS By coincidence today is the anniversary of the victory of the great Lord George Murray against the Hanoverians in the Battle of Falkirk, 1746. I don’t think the family had been back since, until this campaign. 🙂 There is an old stained glass window installed in the shopping mall in the centre of Falkirk, one level down. It includes a large portrait of George Murray. The interesting thing is that this portrait, from the 1830’s – which is a fantastic piece of glasswork – shows in great detail his kilt, which is identical in absolutely every respect to the Murray of Atholl tartan in my own kilt. One of the anti-national myths perpetuated in Scotland is that kilts are a recent romantic invention. They are not, they date back at least seven hundred years and the modern “small kilt” at least 240 years. Part of the myth is that the clan tartans were invented by weaving mills in the 1890’s. This window is incontrovertible proof that is not true either.