....as I have found on more than one occasion over the past 3 days. This post is the sequel to Heartbreak which I wrote on Friday as it became clear that Thursday's election had been much worse for us than even our wildest fears had imagined.
Friday didn't get much better for us. Having lost all the Edinburgh seats, our North East Scotland seats bar Alison McInnes on the list and our Glasgow and Central Scotland list seats overnight, the pain continued with the loss of Euan Robson and Jeremy Purvis in the Borders. For a grim moment, at lunchtime, I thought we weren't even going to pick up a seat on the South of Scotland list. That was based on a scene captured on television of an ashen faced Jim Hume comforting Fee, his member of staff. Thankfully, she was crying with relief.
I felt the loss of the Highland seats acutely. It was at my first ever election in 1983 that Charles Kennedy took Ross and Cromarty from the Tories. At that time, I was campaigning in Caithness and Sutherland for Robert Maclennan, fighting the election for the first time for the SDP Liberal Alliance, having left the Labour party two years earlier. I can't quite get my head round the fact that these places are now represented in Parliament by the SNP. I want to make sure we win them back in 4 years' time.
Losing Jim Tolson in Dunfermline was a blow, but not, sadly, a shock. What was surprising is that the seat went to the SNP. Jim did so much hard work locally and has served the area for the best part of 20 years as councillor and MSP and it's sad to see him go.
I had reconciled myself some time ago to the fact Robert Brown wasn't going to be around, but I always expected Ross Finnie would get back in & was so sorry that he didn't. He was a fantastic rural affairs minister for 8 years despite, as he told me once, not knowing one end of a cow from the other when he was appointed. He stormed his way up that learning curve, though, and was the man who kept foot and mouth pretty much out of Scotland. He is so good at articulating what it means to be a Liberal Democrat and getting an audience on his side. I was on his leadership campaign team 3 years ago and he was fabulous to work for. I should add that as a stickler for proper punctuation and grammar, he had my full and almost unquestioning admiration.
The most seismic shock for me, though, was losing Iain Smith in North East Fife. Iain, an MSP since 1999 and a Councillor since he was about 12, I think, is such a wise, straight talking liberal guy. He has literally not put a foot wrong in all his years in Parliament and to see him defeated just shows that even the most thoroughly awesome people don't always win elections. I think the world of Iain and literally can't get my head round that he's not going to be there in Holyrood. In both the 2001 and 2005 Westminster elections, he was the Campaign Manager and I was an unpaid minion. He was great to work with and I don't think I ever disagreed with him on anything. Even 3 days on writing this makes me want to cry.
I had been asked several weeks before if I'd go on Radio Scotland's Newsdrive on the Friday afternoon. So, off I duly went on the new service between Livingston North & Queen Street for my first trip to the plush BBC HQ at Pacific Quay. I was worried that we wouldn't have enough of a vote in Mid Scotland and Fife to elect Willie Rennie. As I sat in the studio, they crossed to the count at Glenrothes, where the RO was starting to read what they thought was the result, but it was only the votes in one constituency.
By the time I'd finished my blink and you'd miss it bit with former candidate Ian Robertson, who left the Party over tuition fees, sadly, the result hadn't come through. I have a lot of time for Ian and I hope he feels able to rejoin us in the future.
Ian kindly gave me a lift to the underground station and even by the time I'd got back to Buchanan Street, there was no news. It was the most excruciating wait I can remember in a long time. I found it strangely calming to sit on one of the benches in the sunshine and just look at the gorgeous view. It was oddly restorative. After a while I decided to go into Forbidden Planet. A dangerous move, as I was armed with credit card in the mood for some retail therapy. However, I was able to resist - although I was strangely tempted by an Adipose Stress Toy. It was while I was in there looking at vampire books of all things, that I discovered via the magic of Twitter that Willie had in fact been elected. That was a huge relief. I needed to go and sit on my sunny bench again to restore my equilibrium. It was then that I realised I was sitting outside a much better and more dangerous provider of retail therapy. My poor husband. I put on Facebook, knowing he'd see it, that I had realised I was outside the Apple Store and it seemed open. By the time I'd emerged, I had several missed calls and a message in response on Facebook saying the place must be shielded because he couldn't get through. Sadly, it was just closing. We'll never know what would have happened if I'd got in there 20 minutes earlier. Would I really have bought myself a new, shiny iPad 2?
So that was it. A Holyrood Parliamentary party of 5. Things are going to be very different in this session and over the next few days I want to look at how the SNP managed more of a triumph than possibly they wanted, and the challenges for each party in the five years ahead.