CONSERVATIVE MEP FOR SCOTLAND

Arbroath Smokies and Canvassing - In Angus with Kirstene Hair

Every Saturday morning when I was growing up, the fish van from Arbroath would arrive in Alyth. A queue would quickly form, and if were not near the front your chances of finding Arbroath smokies was slight; smokies always went like hot cakes. My last encounter with the delicacy was during the general election campaign. Out and about in Arbroath I discovered a smoke house down a close. I spent the rest of the morning delivering leaflets with a bag of fish dangling off my elbow.

26.04.2016.

Every Saturday morning when I was growing up, the fish van from Arbroath would arrive in Alyth. A queue would quickly form, and if were not near the front your chances of finding Arbroath smokies was slight; smokies always went like hot cakes.  My last encounter with the delicacy was during the general election campaign. Out and about in Arbroath I discovered a smoke house down a close. I spent the rest of the morning delivering leaflets with a bag of fish dangling off my elbow.

Arbroath smokies are recognised in EU law: only fish prepared within ‘a coastal corridor extending 8km inland from Arbroath Town House and including West Mains to the north and and East Haven to the south,’ can claim to be Arbroath smokies.  Such is the fame of the Arboath delicacy that I am trying to ensure that those negotiating the US-EU free trade agreement recognise its unique status.

Sadly this campaign trip I had no time for a fish hunt. The southernmost tip of Angus was the destination, within sight of Dundee’s city limits, and door-to-door canvasing was the plan. Kirstene Hair, the Conservative candidate for Angus South, had marshalled the troops, including her mum, auntie and sister, and #TeamRuth was ready for action.

Kirstene is of farming stock, hailing from Mains of Ardovie. Her sister was Scotland’s Young Farmer of the Year back in 2010, and the pair of them had taken their farming expertise as far as Malawi when they joined a delegation of Scottish agriculture professionals.

Door knocking in a political campaign is something of an art. No matter which party you represent, not everyone will be pleased to see you.  Back in 2003 when I campaigned in Aberdeen, the response could be quite chilly, and I’m not talking about the weather. This time though things were different. Most folks were happy to chat, and many wanted to talk about how the Holyrood voting system actually works. It was surprising how many folks thought they had to cast their two votes for the same party.

The results of the canvas were instructive. First off: everyone likes Ruth, even those who have no intention of voting Conservative. They see her as ‘feisty,’ ‘combative’ and the only Scottish political leader willing to ‘defend the Union.’ After explaining how the voting system works, a surprising number of voters were indeed to cast their second vote for Ruth. Folks do want a serious opposition, even some Nats!

It was surprising to learn how many folks had already voted by post. The Labour Party may yet rue their decision to publish their manifesto just before election day.

The last issue raised by many: no one like the centralising agenda of the SNP, and folks were frustrated about ’things are always going to Edinburgh.’ Folks want local services and local decision making.

Before I left, Kirstene and I chatted about the challenge facing farmers. As she explained, the SNP had let down farmers, but the pain didn’t stop there, everyone in the supply chain is suffering. The fact that the Scottish Government may be fined for their mishandling of the situation just adds insult to injury.

Kirstene will be campaigning across Angus every day til polling day. Look out for her. Imoprtantly, she has agreed that the next time she is in Arbroath, she will pick me up some smokies. Just the kind of election promise I like!