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Sketch: Ash Regan unveils a thermometer

Credit: Iain Green

Sketch: Ash Regan unveils a thermometer

You can tell Ash Regan describes herself as a “list person”. Each morning, she probably sits at the breakfast bar in her Edinburgh home, bowl of Weetabix in front of her, and stares up at her ‘Live. Laugh. Love.’ poster for inspiration. Then, she starts to make a to-do list for the day. She has never, not even once, failed to tick everything off that list by the time she goes to bed.

This is the energy she is channeling for her leadership bid. The role of first minister, she thinks, requires someone able to pay attention to the small details. Someone who will set KPIs and deliver on them. Someone who will provide regular performance reviews to everyone who works under her, in excruciating detail. Someone, in short, like her. Scotland needs a First Micromanager.

Early evidence of her organised and efficient approach to leadership surfaced in her pledge to dual the A9. She committed to creating the role of “project director” who would give her regular updates. Upping the stakes, she also proposed an “imposing and visible” project tracker to be installed in the foyer of St Andrews House. A reminder, she says, to everyone working in the building that they were failing to deliver for northern communities.

It’s unclear whether she knows what a thermometer is... Don’t ask her where to stick it, either

“The feelings of anger and betrayal are real and heartfelt,” she said, and that’s why all staff – even those that have nothing to do with transport infrastructure – should be reminded of that every day on arrival at their office. A reminder of failure is an excellent way for anyone to start their day. As is a reminder that the boss is always watching.

If that weren’t enough of a reason for SNP members to back Regan, she has also proposed the idea of a Readiness Thermometer for independence. Forget oven-ready, this idea is fully cooked.

The Thermometer, she says, will be “an actual installation” in either Glasgow or Edinburgh. It will have dials and lights and other fancy thingmabobs on it to celebrate whenever the Yes campaign actually manages to answer one of the many questions about Scottish independence. “When we have made all the plans for the currency, for instance, or we’ve set up how we’re going to do something to do with defence or whatever it is, that dial will move, and it will inch forward.”

The Thermometer will be there for everyone – especially pesky journalists – to look at and know Scotland is ready for independence. “When we get up to the 100 per cent, everybody in Scotland knows we’ve solved all these problems,” Regan asserts. It’s unclear whether she knows what a thermometer is or how it measures stuff. Don’t ask her where to stick it, either.

Anyway, once support for indy has heated up – as measured by The Thermometer – Regan will pursue a Voter Empowerment Mechanism (that’s a vote, to you and me). She says the VEM doesn’t need to be a referendum – all it will require is half of Scotland’s population voting for the SNP at the next election. Sound familiar? Well, it’s absolutely not a de facto referendum, Regan is clear on that. It might look and sound and feel like the de facto referendum plan, but it couldn’t be more different, she insists. Because this plan includes The Thermometer.

In his heart he had donned a tartan doublet and was brandishing a sword

Humza Yousaf, a much sleeker candidate, has steered clear of any such bold statements of intent. It is still the SNP leadership race though, and he knows he has to throw some red meat to potential supporters. And that’s why we found the candidate, freshly coifed and powdered, up in Arbroath, making a declaration.

He may have been wearing a suit and clutching some smoked fish in reality, but in his heart he had donned a tartan doublet and was brandishing a sword. Yousaf said: “As I stand here in Arbroath today, here’s my declaration of independence: if you trust me as our leader and your first minister, I will, with urgency, restart, re-energise and grow our Yes movement, I will work day and night to ensure we gain our independence. We owe nothing less to ourselves, to our children, and to those generations yet unborn.” A truly stirring speech.

Kate Forbes, meanwhile, seems to think she can intimidate the UK Government into a referendum. “The UK Government know that when it comes to dealing with me, I ain’t backin’ down and I’ve got a steely resolve,” she said, menacingly. She does, after all, have God on her side. And Rishi Sunak doesn’t want to risk the wrath of the Almighty and a swift smite, if he doesn’t agree.

And on that issue of faith, the BBC’s Martin Geissler wondered if she could really lead a centre-left, socially liberal party, given her views on things like same-sex marriage and children out of wedlock.

Well, those things are a problem “mostly because journalists keep wanting to go back to those issues,” replied Forbes. And she would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling journalists. Alas, under the mask of a 32-year-old rising political star, Forbes has turned out to be the bad guy in this contest.

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