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Advice to the new MSPs

A contribution made to Portland PR 's weekly briefing on Holyrood A new job is a time to look in the mirror and undertake a self-assessment about what one can contribute in a new role. And what weaknesses one may have that could inhibit success. Being elected an MSP is no different in that respect. But very different in many others. One has become public property and every action, or action thought to be by you, will be open to public comment, often unfairly. Silence is often your best response. When one comments on criticism one lengthens the “war” and widens the knowledge of it. Set your own agenda rather than respond to that of others. Who can you trust among your fellow Parliamentarians? Make contact with as many as you can as quickly as you can. And make it a priority to interact with political opponents. The first substantive decision in the new Parliament is the election of a new Presiding Officer and it will be a secret ballot. Understanding the dynamic of other partie
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End of an Era 2016-2021

Written for  Holyrood magazine's "The End of an era 2016-2021"  published 07 April 2021.    Neil Findlay is the man who loves you to hate him. As he rises from his habitual place in a distant corner of the Parliamentary Chamber, a snarl as firmly attached to his face as he is disconnected to any symbol of middle-class values such as a tie, tension flows as he selects his target for the day. Is it dapper John Scott? The record-holder for the shortest time between his being sworn in and making his first speech in Parliament; a mere twenty hours. Does Willie Rennie attract his ire? Confession; we went to the same school. Almost anything liberal is bound to attract this Labour very-back-bencher’s contumely. Greens rarely attract his attention but he should remember that John Finnie, another member of this year’s escape committee, can efficiently direct a canine arrest. Now of course, I have sought to avoid any engagement with the fellow. I never, just never, even acknow

National Secretary - first thoughts

We have just had a very successful SNP National Conference. Technology fought us from time to time, in an entirely non-discriminatory way as far as I could see, but we largely fought back pretty effectively. The big success, and the greatest enjoyment that comes from our conferences has always been gossip. Bumping into people you haven't seen for a year. Questions about matters which one has given no previous consideration to. The Hopin technology platform that has replaced a physical conference centre this year has, it seems to be me, attracted its greatest plaudits for its Blether function. Randomly pairing people for 5 minutes chat; people you have probably never listened to before. And I certainly heard some comments on matters where I have limited knowledge. Good stuff. The debates were further away from our traditional structures and decision-making processes. But we did debate, We did vote, We did decide. But for future conferences we need to make sure that our Members, B