Letter from Edinburgh 07.11.08

THE year I was elected to Shetland Islands Council, South Africans queued around the clock, for hours and hours, to vote for Nelson Mandela.

In 1994 I was taken aback by their hunger to make a difference. After the years of apartheid, black Africans and people of all ethnic background had the vote and they used it.

Scroll forward to this Tuesday. People on another continent, this time the USA, voted for change. People waited patiently but with an utter determination to vote.

For hours. All over the USA.

The numbers were huge. 240,000 people in Grant Park, Chicago, to hear President-elect Obama’s victory speech. What a speech!

But the picture for me? It was Jesse Jackson, the black civil rights leader – a man who was standing on the Memphis motel balcony in 1968 when Martin Luther King was assassinated – with tears streaming down his face as Obama went “over the top” to win the White House. It’s hard not to be moved by a person who has campaigned to take the race out of the USA who sees his first black American President.

There’s not much Churchill style oratory in politics today. Speeches that make people get out of their chairs with excitement. But Obama’s speeches do. Much of his appeal is that the world needs to hope that we can share a President who does care about all our futures.

That can inspire. That can tackle differences and help to resolve conflicts. Maybe I am being hopelessly naive. No one man or woman can do it all. However I just get the feeling that Obama may be what the Americans call the real deal. Someone who arrives on the global scene and strides across the issues of the day with skill, determination, charm and vigour.

You campaign in poetry and govern in prose, said former New York Governor Giuliani. He’s right. I hope President Obama can be a force for good across the globe. I can’t wait for his inauguration in January. And then we will see what will really change.

The Glenrothes by-election took place this week as well. It was somewhat overshadowed by events across the pond. But my abiding memory will be the quality of the buns and coffee in the Kingdom shopping centre’s cafe.

This week I had coffee there with Vince Cable, Ming Campbell and the Lib Dem candidate Harry Wills. In between bothering law abiding citizens having a break from their shopping, and talking to journalists in town to watch the fun, I have drunk a lot of coffee. So a few caffeine free days would be excellent! That’s my motto for the weekend. Mind you the NFU Dinner dance on Saturday night has never been an evening for coffee!

Tavish Scott


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