Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nicol Stephen to stand down as MSP for Aberdeen South

The 1987 General Election was my second campaign as an activist and the first one I'd been involved in from the start. I split my time between Bob Maclennan's campaign in Caithness and in the target seat of Kincardine and Deeside where the candidate was one Nicol Stephen.  It was a great campaign, presided over by the legendary Sheila Ritchie. Although we made some progress, losing was heartbreaking. It was my first experience of defeat and I don't know if my expectations were too high but I took it quite hard.

I was delighted 4 years later when in midst of a frozen Aberdeenshire Winter, Nicol won the by-election in the same seat. Unfortunately his period in office was only to last 154 days until the 1992 General Election, 

As I watched the 1999 Scottish Parliament results come in from Nottinghamshire, the one that made me happiest was seeing Nicol win Aberdeen South.

When he became leader of the Scottish Party in 2005 after Jim Wallace stood down, I had the chance to work with him closely as I was Vice Convener Campaigns and Candidates at the time. The best time was during the Livingston by-election campaign when Brian Taylor said that the story of the night was how well we had held on to our vote after a vigorous campaign led by candidate Charles Dundas and in the run up to Willie Rennie's spectacular Dunfermline victory. Nicol's biggest strengths are his thirst for the campaign trail and his fantastic manner with people. He was genuinely interested in every single person he spoke to. He would go up  to groups of young people and chat away to them really easily. He totally believed in those campaigns and motivated and inspired others to take part. He was such a help to have around and the advice that he offered was unfailingly good. 

The leadership and commitment he showed played a huge part in the Liberal Democrat success of those years. I certainly could have asked no more of him as leader.

He's now decided not to stand again as MSP for Aberdeen South and will leave Holyrood at the end of this session. He's had a successful career there, being part of the Coalition Governments which introduced fair votes for local government elections, free personal care, ended upfront tuition fees and introduced the smoking ban which I think is one of the best pieces of legislation in my lifetime. 

Nicol's passionate about young people and their demonisation by the tabloids makes him furious. As enterprise minister he was so supportive of the renewable energy industry and set out bold targets for use of renewable energy. 

His successor as leader, Tavish Scott had this to say about Nicol:
“Nicol has made an enormous contribution to both the North East and to Scotland. 
“I've known and worked with Nicol since his seminal Kincardine & Deeside by-election win in 1991and we've shared many exciting political times since. 
“The first Scottish coalition in 1999 was put together by Nicol, after he won the Aberdeen South constituency in the Scottish Parliament. He played a huge role in Ministerial life, ultimately as Scotland's Deputy First Minister. 
“I will miss his presence, strategic approach and sense of humour as a colleague and above all a friend in Holyrood. I wish Caris and the entire Stephen tribe all my best wishes and happiness for their future.”
We'll miss him in Holyrood and I echo Tavish's good wishes for the whole family. We should never forget the sacrifices that partners and children of all politicians make and I'm really grateful to Caris and the kids for all they've done and given up over the years, too. 

It's hard to believe that Nicol has served the party well for nearly 30 years in public office -and he's still only 50. Good luck to him in whatever he does next.


Jim Finnie said ... said...

Great post on Nicol Stephen - but what about Robert Brown ? He is done for in Glasgow after coming second on list votes behind Katy Gordon. Its certainly the case that Katy will do well to hold onto that list seat in Glasgow and so Robert will be bumped. Its a real shame for a low key guy who has served so incredibly well and worked like a trojan for Glasgow. Katy is great but she is the one who has had tens of thousands chucked at her campaigns to deliver no discernable benefit.Its a tough consequence of the system. Robert has delivered and will now be finished in national politics. Katy has been earmarked for a role for some time and she will get it now in Glasgow- she works incredibly hard but is largely a product of her own self publicity. It saddens me that this has proved more important to the Glasgow members than Roberts record.

Unknown said...

Jim, a lot has changed in Glasgow since the last Holyrood election. I think there's a good chance of getting both Robert and Katy elected.

Membership in Glasgow North has increased by a massive 145% making it one of, if not the biggest, local party in Scotland.

Both Robert and Katy have done massive amounts of work to increase Liberal Democrat support and Katy only narrowly lost out in May from winning Glasgow North.

Robert Brown is my favourite MSP of our current group and I'll certainly be doing all I can to ensure his re-election. I really don't want to lose him as I trust his judgement absolutely and I've worked closely with him for a number of years.


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