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Last Updated: Monday, 2 May 2005, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
'No worries' in Chaplin country
By Iain MacDonald
BBC Scotland

Back in 2003, Good Morning Scotland sent reporter Iain MacDonald off round the highways and byways of the country to document the Scottish parliamentary election campaign.

Now he is doing it again for the general election. Older - but not wiser - this is his weblog of the 2005 Tour of Scotland.


Not far to go now - and maybe it's just as well.

Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin was a regular visitor to Nairn

My job of the day is a trundle along half empty bank holiday roads to Nairn, the Charlie Chaplin capital of Scotland.

The town has one of the lowest rainfall figures in Scotland, despite sitting looking out over the North Sea.

The aforementioned wee man liked it so much he kept coming back - with various wives and families - year after year. So much so that half the hotel he patronised still bears his name in various permutations.

Today it is doing its best to live up to its reputation as we repair to the Links, next to the beach bandstand, currently undergoing - very expensive - rehabilitation.

Just along the way is the cricket pitch, while it also boasts two golf courses despite having a population of just a few thousand.

It has a world-ranked jazz festival - though the organiser doesn't reckon he's qualified to join us to talk politics this morning - and, all in all, it's a strange combination of different things, is Nairn, with one of the best beaches on the east coast to boot.

Strict disciplinarian

It also has a Highland League football team, Nairn County.

They have not, it's fair to say, featured at the European end of the footballing cosmos, currently 10th in the 15-team league.

Once though, in the seventies under the guidance of a local teacher and strict disciplinarian called Innes McDonald, they somehow wound up as champions of the league, and a pretty good team they were too.

Iain MacDonald
The message all round is that nobody's worried about anything and all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds

Through the campaign, it slowly dawned on their faithful fans, not used to this kind of thing, that they were actually going to win something and, in that case, they'd better have a Nairn chant (To be fair, it was another, and more innocent age).

They thought hard and practised, and eventually came out with it. This is how it went (if you're old enough, think Dave Dee Dozey Beaky Mick and Titch and "Hold Tight". If you're not, you'll work it out): Clap-clap. Clap-clap-clap. Clap-clap-clap-clap... Nairnnairn.

It's fair to say it didn't catch on.

Today, though, we're discussing the election: whether people are apathetic or actually disillusioned; whether politicians are actually addressing individual issues that matter to local areas.

Campaigner John Duberley, who has been around a block or two, says nobody talks about farming any more although it's still very important along this strip of the coastline.

And what about transport? he asks. It is hugely important in places like the Highlands, he suggests, and points out the dilemma of somebody living in Achilitibuie on the far west coast who gets a hospital appointment at the Highlands' finest, Raigmore in Inverness.

Tactical votes

That's a four-hour trip either way, he says - equivalent to patients in Edinburgh or Glasgow being sent to Inverness... yet nobody mentions it.

Nairn's Provost Sandy Park, a man versed in local politics, concedes that not enough local issues are being addressed by the candidates, and this particular constituency could see strange things happen with the tactical vote.

Even the Publican Party, set up to fight the Scottish Executive's proposed smoking ban, could swing enough votes to have a serious effect on the outcome.

Earlier, I met the man defending the just-over-1,000 Labour majority here, out on the streets of Inverness.

Raigmore Hospital
Patients can face a four-hour trip to hospital in Inverness

David Stewart appears remarkably unfazed by all the people forecasting his doom.

It'll be close, he acknowledges, but he was born in the Merkinch, which is part of Inverness that's just been moved back into the constituency. And in Scorguie, his team reckons, their man's conspicuous support for Caley Thistle will get them a Premier League return.

The Scottish Socialists' man here has already predicted that the inevitable anti-war vote will splinter to a number of parties.

When I mention the possibility of a recount on the night, David Stewart reminds me he was on the wrong end of one of those a couple of elections back, when he just failed to unhorse the sitting (Liberal) member Russell Johnston by a mere 400 votes. He's not worried, he insists.

The message all round is that nobody's worried about anything and all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.

Substantial majority

Except a few fingernails will be chewed between now and declaration - which will be some time in the early hours of Friday morning.

Just up the road, of course, is the massive Ross, Cromarty and (now) Lochaber constituency, now the biggest in the land and a returning officer's nightmare.

Charles Kennedy will be defending a substantial majority and there will be hacks from all over the land taking it in on the night.

Smoking ban sign
Proposals to ban smoking in public places could have an impact

But they will definitely have a long wait, even if a recount there doesn't seem to be on the cards.

The constituency takes in the remote Knoydart peninsula and the islands of Raasay and Eigg, among others.

The boxes from these communities will be run by special ferry crossings back to the mainland and onward to Dingwall.

They won't reach the counting centre until about two o'clock in the morning and by the time they are actually opened, we may already know who the new government will be.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat Jim Wallace has been in the north hitting the first of the Famous Five constituencies in Scotland where they have real hopes of winning.

Last heave

He is interviewed for television by my colleague, Craig Anderson, next to a Highland cow which has to be restrained to prevent it bolting.

It's clearly had enough of the campaign as well.

During the interview Mr Wallace enjoins his party members to give "one last heave" - then remembers that this is the wrong election. THAT was a campaign slogan in the 1970s.

It might be Monday but, for some of us, there's still a long way to go.

SEE ALSO
On the road and picking up pace
27 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Taking the high road back north
26 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Glorious days and VAT on shoes
25 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Discovering the river in Dundee
21 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Old MacDonald and the SNP stalker
20 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Nuclear fallout with the enforcer
19 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Militant motorist is parking mad
15 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Broad church of Scottish politics
12 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Start of long road to polling day
11 Apr 05 |  Scotland

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