by Colin Campbell
A CANVASSER from the Liberal Democrats knocked on my door on Saturday morning to promote his party candidate for the upcoming Inverness West council by-election.
I opened it, assumed a comfortable position leaning against the framework, began holding forth, and by the time I let him go, ignoring his rather plaintive, “Well, I’d better get on and knock on a few more doors” interruptions, believe had convinced him of the singular importance of the outcome in Inverness West.
That of course is not how such encounters are supposed to go. He’s supposed to be convincing me. I’ve no doubt he’d expected to say a few words to someone half listening with little or no interest, hand over a leaflet and quickly depart.
Well that’s not how it works around here. If any volunteer politico knocks on my door he should bring a chair to sit on, or, in the current weather, a deckchair. There are things to be said.
The first is that what happens in the Inverness West election is indeed important. It’s taking place because Graham Ross, who I know and was at school with many years ago, has stood down. Graham was a fine, hard working councillor who did his very best for the people and the area he represented over a number of years. He’ll be a hard act to follow.
Graham was an Independent. It’s impossible to predict who’ll be elected in his place.
But one thing’s for certain. No party will pour more effort into getting their candidate in there than the SNP.
In their poll leaflet the Lib Dems state: “It’s Colin or the SNP!”
Their candidate is a young chap called Colin Aitken and by pinpointing the target and the threat of the SNP he’s on the same wavelength as me and I believe many others.
Council elections didn’t used to be like this, far from it. Candidates stood on local issues and if they were popular and their faces fitted they won, usually as Independents. That’s almost always the way it was when I first started reporting on them when the first Highland Council was formed back in 1975.
But over the years they’ve steadily become more politicised, for better or many believe, for worse.
And never more so than now. And the malign influence of the SNP is to blame for that.
Make no mistake, if they win in Inverness West the triumphalism will snake all the way up to Nicola Sturgeon. She may not comment on it, but her senior underlings will. Nothing to do with local transport, schools or mending potholes in the Inverness West roads, it’ll be hailed as more evidence of Scotland’s insatiable lust for independence.
Inverness MP Drew Hendry has weighed in with support for the SNP candidate, as has his sidekick MSP Fergus Ewing.
It’s open to question whether this pair of freeloaders raking in huge salaries and expenses on the Westminster and Holyrood SNP gravy trains even want another referendum, far less independence, but when duty calls, as it does now, they have to step up to the mark and at least make the right supportive noises.
The SNP would try and politicise someone winning a raffle as a rallying cry for independence if they could.
The outcome in Inverness West will probably have less to do with politics than a range of other factors, not least among them the personality and likeability of the candidates.
But that won’t prevent the nationalists seizing on a win there and twisting it to their own ends.
They are struggling these days with rampant internal feuding and discontent over Sturgeon’s lack of action or preparedness for inyref2. A police investigation is reportedly under way over party funding.
They failed in the May elections to get the “supermajority” they were predicting, and in fact they failed to get any majority at all. The polls are showing that support for independence in Sturgeon’s “Covid hotspot of Europe” is on the slide to below 50 per cent. SNP members are defecting in disgust to Alex Salmond’s extremist Alba outfit.
So the SNP would be delighted to feast on any success they can get, even if it’s one involving a few thousand votes cast by people in a council ward in Inverness.
In the last council election in Inverness West the SNP sneaked to victory with a 29 per cent vote share, just ahead of the Lib Dems on 27 per cent.
The visit on Saturday by that committed campaigner achieved its purpose, even if I did bend his ear a bit.
I might, like many other people, not have bothered to vote in the Inverness West election. But this time I most definitely well. I’m not normally a Lib Dem supporter. But I hope Colin Aitken, if he’s elected, will prove as dedicated a councillor as Graham Ross was. He’s no doubt knocking on many doors trying to convince people of his credentials. I hope people back him for a number of reasons, primarily the absolute necessity to keep the SNP out.