As the day drew to a close I wasn’t even sure if I was going to go to the count. I was a counting agent, but, having not seen or heard from anyone throughout the day, and having been left to go to the count on my own, I was thinking of giving it a miss. Under the circumstances I wasn’t entirely keen on arriving on my own, plus the idea of going home and relaxing with a cup of tea and my feet up was getting more and more appealing! I had mentioned this to Shona earlier in the evening, who was also spitting flames that I’d been left to go on my own as she could understand my reluctance! (said even she wouldn’t like turning up on her own!) Anyway, my phone had died on me about 8ish, so I got my dad to cover, and popped down to see her. Turned out she had somehow “acquired” *ahem* two counting agent passes for Catriona and Ross!! So that was settled, as they’d never been to a count before, they needed someone who knew what they were doing, and I needed someone to go with…. so off we set!
In the end, to be honest, I was worrying about nothing! I have been an active member of the party long enough to know a lot of ppl outwith Camelon branch and had no problems finding ppl to chat to! – but it was good to have company! The verification part of the count started fairly quickly and after showing Catriona & Ross what to do, I found the ballot box for Camelon High and began watching! This time there were 3 sets of ballot box papers to be verified before the count proper as they had to verify the AV referendum votes as well. When you are at the count, you watch the ballot papers being verified – the idea is that you try to see who the vote is for and how the ratio is going in each bundle – far for an exact science – but it generally gives you a good indication of what way it’s swinging. Normally it takes a wee while before you start to get an idea of how things are going, but this time the buzz started early on!!!! I stood there at one particular ballot box with another SNP colleague in total disbelief as vote after vote appeared to be going our way! The pair of us went over to report the sample to Stephen (who was collating the samples to try and get an overall picture) in a state of shock!!!! It became apparent vey early on that things were definitely heading our way!
A very happy looking Michael at the count!
Around 1am Chris, Ross, Catriona and I headed off to get some of the free sandwiches etc provided and see what was happening elsewhere in the country. (the verification process takes a while – esp when you have the AV votes, the Constituency votes and the List votes to do!). We had just sat down with a sandwich and a drink when the first result came in - Labour had held Rutherglen – but there was a 7.4% swing from Labour to the SNP! A promising start!! 15 minutes later the SNP's Linda Fabiani wins East Kilbride from Labour’s Andy Kerr . It's the SNP's first gain of the night. There was a whole bunch of us crowded round the TV screen and a giant roar went up! Fantastic start! At 1.35am the SNP take Hamilton from Labour. The swing from Labour to the SNP was 11%. Winnie Ewing, who won the Hamilton by-election for the SNP in 1967, says she is "moved beyond words" by Christina McKelvie's victory.This was followed by another SNP gain, then another…. Everyone was on a high – although at this point I suspect still a slightly nervous high – could the polls REALLY be right?
We headed back through to the counting hall where the constituency count proper was just starting. Those that had stayed in the hall were now walking about with big silly grins on their faces! It was apparent by then that that question wasn’t would we win – but by how much! I went back to the Camelon High table and watched. At this stage of the process the votes are put into trays for each candidate, once this is done each tray is counted and the vote total is placed on top. Now Camelon is (was) one of Labour’s strongholds, even within Falkirk, and the Labour candidate was a Councillor representing Camelon for many many years! On the verification sample it looked like Labour was slightly ahead in Camelon – which is what you’d expect. Watching the votes pile up in the trays it looked pretty evenly split between Labour and SNP (the other 2 parties were complete non runners). Now normally had we even come close in Camelon this would be counted as good. Just as the final numbers were being tallied and labelled Michael (our candidate) came up and we both looked on in disbelief –
SNP – 641
Labour – 518
Conservative – 100
Lib Dem – 32 (tries not to giggle at the Lib Dem vote)
We had even won in Camelon! This was a first. Michael was quite visibly shocked (and delighted!). I was over the moon! This is MY area. I do help with the campaign all over, but this part of Camelon is always pretty much just left up to me to do on my own. It’s the area I’ve covered myself for the past 19 years. The area where, when I first went out campaigning back in ’92, people shouted abuse at me and ripped up the leaflets – and here we are – 19 years later and the SNP WIN in CAMELON!!!! I can’t begin to explain exactly how HUGE this is for me! All those years finally coming to fruition! The 1000’s of leaflets pushed through doors in all weathers finally paying off! WE WON IN CAMELON!!!!!!
The individual ballot boxes all counted, we waited on the final figures. We knew Michael had won - and we knew he had won well – we were just waiting on the declaration and the final figures to be announced. By this time the word had also come through from the hall next door where the Falkirk East count was taking place, that Angus had also won in Falkirk East! Everyone was smiling – you’d’ve had to surgically remove the grins on everyones faces! Most of the Labour people had skulked away. I thought that was really poor form as they should have stayed to support Dennis no matter what. All those years we’d had to stand there putting on a brave face as the Labour ppl rubbed our noses in it – but at least we stayed and supported our candidates ! But it has to be said, payback was so sweet!!!!!!!!
The final result for Falkirk West was:
SNP – 15,607 55.3% +13.5
Labour – 9,862 35% -4.3
Conservative – 2,086 7.4% -2.7
Lib Dem – 644 2.3% -6.5
That meant Michael had increased his majority to 5,745 a swing of 8.9%!!!!! There was a massive roar and applause. Everyone was hugging and clapping each other’s backs. Georgie turned round and gave me a big hug LOL!!!!! Totally amazing result. To be fair to Dennis, he gave a very dignified speech with no digs or stings in the tail – and he was duly applauded by us (half the Labour ppl had already left at this point!). A few minutes after the Falkirk West declaration was announced, it was the turn of Falkirk East. Angus had won the (previously Labour) seat by a majority of over 3,000!!!!!!!
SNP – 14,302 50.77%
Labour – 10,767 38.22%
Conservatives – 2,372 8.42%
Lib Dem – 727 2.585
Michael & Angus - Falkirk West & Falkirk East's newly elected MSPS
Queue another round of cheering and hugging. I went over to congratulate Angus and was met with a big bear hug! This was a big result for Angus. Michael had been No 2 on the list, so even if he hadn’t made it on the constituency vote he would still have been elected via the regional list, but Angus was 7th on the regional list so he really HAD to win! However, unlike Dennis, the now ousted Labour MSP Cathy Peattie made a complete fool of herself – going into a big rant about the SNP! We had been prepared to be respectful to her in defeat as we were with Dennis, but as a result of her rant she was instead met with a roar of boos. Sad woman – could have at least walked away with her dignity – but she ruined it for herself by letting her own bitterness take over.
Glum faces on the few remaining Labour supporters
The two Falkirk results now declared, Catriona, Ross and I decided to head back to the TV lounge to catch up with what was happening across the country. It was now about I think 3.30amish (have now checked – the Falkirk result came in at precisely 3.36am!) The counts for the regional votes were still going on in halls. A lot of ppl joined us - every one of us looking somewhat shell shocked and all wearing a huge idiotic grin on our faces that just could not be shifted!!! Back in the TV lounge the night (morning) was becoming more and more surreal as seat after seat fell to the SNP. The biggest shock of all was when Glasgow seats started to fall. I don’t think any of us could really take in what was happening! Never in our wildest dreams did we expect it to be THIS good! We sat for about an hour and then I thought I better ask Catriona & Ross if they wanted to head off as I didn’t think it was fair on them – but my GOD what an experience to have for your first ever count!