Many things can be planned in General Elections – the launch, the manifesto, the daily photo for the television, but not a volcano erupting in Iceland.
Alistair Carmichael and I should have been in Scalloway today launching the Scottish edition of the Liberal Democrat UK manifesto. The Scottish Parliament is back this week after the Easter school holidays, so I was and am in Edinburgh. Alistair was in Orkney.
The cunning plan had us meeting up on Thursday night in Lerwick, to watch the leaders’ debate on TV and then polish up the words of wisdom for the next day. And then Iceland exploded! Or more precisely a particular volcano did.
All planes grounded and I can’t both vote to cut business rates and reach a fair deal on petrol prices at 5pm and still make the boat from Aberdeen. So for the next campaign there will need to be an additional campaign expert – an expert on the rumblings and outpourings of Iceland’s volcanoes.
I have good news for Andy Steven and our tourist businesses. I’m just back from Waterstones bookshop in Edinburgh’s George Street. Simon King’s Shetland Diaries are on sale and he was signing copies today.
The queue was out the door. I mean it. People were outside waiting for his signature and a chat about Shetland. It looks like being a great tourism season for the isles based in part on the tremendous television coverage Shetland got from the BBC2 series.
I was slightly pressed for time – not least by the editor of The Shetland Times who was wondering where this column was and did I know what a deadline is? So I asked the Waterstones manager if I could grab a copy, pay and leave.
He was very helpful – can I recommend Waterstones to all Shetlanders when visiting Edinburgh. It’s also got a good coffee shop, so you can read and drink at the same time.
Being a Shetland occasion I bumped into a couple who left Shetland 24 years ago. She was from Walls and her husband’s father had worked as a lighthouse keeper for his professional life so he knew the Flugga and many other lighthouses including Bressay.
On the way back an old mate, Colin Fox, leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, was addressing the shoppers in Princes Street. Literally. He was speaking about the war in Iraq and how it was wrong, morally and legally. On that we entirely agree, but I noticed that a politician speaking through a microphone in central Princes Street wasn’t a huge draw.
Ah how times change. There is a great picture of Basil Wishart introducing Jo Grimond to a crowd at the Market Cross in Lerwick from the back of a Land Rover. That’s what we need. Must suggest it to the candidate . . .
Tavish Scott MSP