Gina Davidson: Personality the sweetest thing for tired voters

THREE years. Three important votes. If there's a certain sense of deja vu around today then it's hardly surprising. And we've still got the European Union referendum to look forward to and let's not forget the council elections next year. So don't take the election bunting down just yet.

Thursday, 5th May 2016, 11:11 am
Updated Thursday, 5th May 2016, 12:12 pm
Ruth Davidson on the campaign trail in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Ruth Davidson on the campaign trail in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Lucky then that we’re all still so galvanised from the outpouring of new-found democratic evangelism during the independence referendum that we’re not finding this constant electioneering remotely exhausting or boring, or just so endless you’d rather stick pins in your eyes than read another leaflet . . .

Perhaps it’s because the general population may well be feeling some election-fatigue that the campaign for the Scottish Parliament has been rather lacklustre. Or perhaps it’s because of the foregone conclusion.

Whatever the reason, possibly the latter, this campaign has all been about personality rather than policy.

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The SNP has, unsurprisingly, focused on the election of Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister. And why not? She’s a brilliant asset, with people in the street and on camera, and let’s face it any real focus on what her party has achieved in the last nine years would be most unwelcome: the Police Scotland debacle, the authoritarian Named Person legislation, the lack of willingness to raise tax to tackle growing inequalities, the fact that the regressive council tax is still with us and still frozen and crippling council services, falling standards in schools, a further education sector nearing crisis, NHS waiting list targets being missed, be it in A&E or mental health . . . without doubt the focus on constitutional matters has stifled any progress on radical policy-making within the SNP.

Not that voters seem to care. The opposition parties have attempted to throw barbs but the electorate has its wings around the SNP like a shield of steel. People don’t want to listen: neither to the Tories who have been routinely ignored since the 1980s or to Labour still reeling from the vicious, vociferous backlash to its campaigning with the Conservatives to keep the union together. Hear no evil.

It’s also hard for opposition parties to tackle the Nicola factor, so brightly does she shine in her immaculately-cut cerise jackets and dresses and startlingly high heels.

So difficult is it for anyone to think badly of her that when she posed with a copy of The Sun newspaper last week – which has come out in support of the SNP once again – so many Sturgeonistas couldn’t bring themselves to believe it was true. Our Nicola, with a Rupert Murdoch paper in hand – in the week of the Hillsborough verdict? Impossible! See no evil.

Such a reaction, and the conspiracy theories which emanated, is laughable. But it’s what the other party leaders are up against.

In Edinburgh, two of them are standing for election today – Labour’s Kezia Dugdale in the Eastern seat, Conservative Ruth Davidson in Central.

Like Sturgeon, Davidson has attempted to make the election about her rather than her party. A shrewd move perhaps in a country where Tory voters have been not just shy, but so reclusive as to make hermits question their commitment to living alone. Without a doubt her general bonhomie has made people warm to her, as has her decision to criticise her party at Westminster when she thinks it has got it wrong.

The cult of personality rather than focus on policy is still the overriding message: I’m not a real Tory, I’m Ruth. So powerful has this been that the Tories are being talked about as the party which will come second.

Kezia Dugdale then, seems to be on a hiding to nothing. She’s the least experienced leader and is still uncomfortable in the limelight, though has grown in confidence in this election. She’s finding her criticisms of the SNP falling on deaf ears despite many Labour policies – particularly on taxation – being more left wing (and Scotland is left wing, right?) than they have been in decades. As with Davidson, people seem to like her on a personal level, but as I’ve heard often in the last month “she’s no Nicola”. Speak no evil.

So here’s my prediction: tomorrow Nicola Sturgeon will be back in Bute House, Kezia Dugdale will still be leading the main opposition and the Tories will talk up the result as proof of a resurgence in support. We’ll have more Greens and perhaps even Ukip MSPs to enliven things a little.

And we, the monkeys who vote, will have another five years to find out just how wise we were when we marked our ballot papers.

Wisp flytippers have to be stopped

THE Wisp is such an ethereal name for the road which links Craigmillar to Danderhall.

As a child I always loved keeping an eye out for the rather more indelicate “tyre man” who used to stand next to Arcari’s ice-cream factory. But it’s a shame that the woodlands on the opposite side of the road are now being used as a dumping ground by builders.

Flytipping is a blight on the landscape – and on the other-worldly name of this green space.

Please dig deep for farm appeal

IT’S hard to believe that Gorgie City Farm has only been tucked off Gorgie Road for 38 years, such is its place in the hearts of generations of people.

The city’s institutions come in many forms, but the farm in the heart of one of Edinburgh’s most built-up residential areas is one of them. For many kids in the 70s and 80s, there was little chance they’d ever visit a rural farm. A city farm, easy to get to by bus, was a stroke of genius.

But it’s always been free to visit – and perhaps the lack of in-your-face demands for donations from visitors is what’s at the root of its current financial difficulties.

People’s fondness for the farm though has seen it raise £40,000 in four days – just another £60,000 to go. You can donate £5 via text to “FARM44” or give more via or send a cheque to Gorgie City Farm, 51 Gorgie Road, EH11 2LA.

Lyceum plans brew up nicely

DAVID Greig’s plans for the Royal Lyceum sound invigorating – especially his idea to make the theatre more relevant to everyone in Edinburgh, be that through the work chosen or where it’s performed, not necessarily in Grindlay Street.

He’s certainly right that the city’s culture wakes up for a month once a year then seems to hibernate again. His plans sound like a shot of very strong espresso to the cultural nervous system.