I have been very fortunate, throughout my career, to meet many great people and to experience a whole host of wonderful and amazing things.
However, I never imagined that I might one day provide the warm up act for someone who commands the same audience numbers as Kylie Minogue, Beyonce and Lady Gaga.
Nicola Sturgeon’s arena tour continued on Saturday at Glasgow’s Hydro Arena – in front of a 12,000 strong crowd. The gathering of political activists was one of the largest of its kind and a historic moment for the SNP. I was delighted to be able to introduce Nicola after what has been an incredible week for Scotland’s new First Minister. Acts such as singer Eddi Reader, Lou Hickey and the Red Hot Chilli Pipers also took to the stage and I was very interested to hear Stanley Odd’s performance – a band that are very popular with my nieces. Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia was a very fitting end to the momentous afternoon. The reception from the crowd was phenomenal and one which other political parties can only dream of. People of all ages and backgrounds made up the audience on Saturday which truly reflects the forward looking and outward thinking of the SNP. This huge level of support puts the party in an excellent position head of the General Election in May next year.
Nicola will continue her tour when she comes to the Music Hall in Aberdeen on December 7th. The event sold out weeks ago and is sure to be every bit as exciting as her Glasgow date. Nicola is already well prepared for her commitment to becoming Scotland’s most accessible First Minister and knows the north-east of Scotland well. Most recently, during the referendum campaign, activists in Stonehaven ran out of umbrellas to shelter all the people who came out to speak to Nicola and there was standing room only at a question and answer session she held in Inverurie. In Aberdeen, Nicola ran out of time on Union Street – not because of the shops but because so many people wanted to talk to her. Our party has grown exponentially from around 25,000 members on referendum day to more than 92,000. The people of Scotland brought a huge amount of energy and dynamism to politics during the referendum campaign and I am glad to see this continuing through the SNP. It is important that this activism is not allowed to dissipate but is actively used to hold Westminster politicians to account for the “Vow” they made to the Scottish people in the last days of the referendum campaign.
My last time in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament as First Minister was a great moment which I was able to share with my closest friends and family. The send-off that Moira and I received from MSPs and parliamentary staff was very touching and one which I will remember for years to come. I also greatly enjoyed First Minister’s Questions last Thursday from my new position towards the back of the chamber – not least because I no longer have to worry about the necessary preparations on a Wednesday night. The new cabinet – with its mix of both men and women, fresh faces as well as more experienced ones – has a wealth of talent and I wish them all the very best.
Earlier this week, I was campaigning for the SNP’s Troup by-election candidate Ross Cassie in MacDuff and was delighted to be able to talk to people about what their vote on Thursday means for their local area. If elected, Ross will work very hard for the people of Troup. Ross is a driving test examiner and has previously served as a police officer. He is an active member of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and has a great amount of experience at representing individuals that are facing any particular problems. It was a great opportunity to get out and about in my former constituency and to catch up with some familiar faces.