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The New Statesman’s Scottish referendum coverage

We’ll be here all night!

Here at the NS, it feels like we’ve been talking and writing about the Scottish referendum for a very long time now – so much so, in fact, that it’s hard to believe that the day itself has now arrived, and we are less than 24 hours from knowing the result.

In October 2011, a week before the Scottish general election, we published a leader warning Westminster (particularly Labour) that a strategy for independence was well underway, and they would do well to pay attention to it. Since then, the magazine has had major interviews with Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling (Alex Salmond also interviewed Judy Murray for us), done a special Scotland issue, and run a steady stream of essays and commentaries by the UK’s foremost thinkers and writers on the subject, including Tom Holland, Helena Kennedy, Gerry Hassan, Angus Roxburgh, Adam Tomkins, Andrew Marr, Alan Taylor, Cal Flyn and many others.

 

Online, we’ve had a regular blogger on the subject, James Maxwell, since 2011, and my colleague George Eaton has been reporting every nuance of the debate for a number of years. George and NS editor Jason Cowley are in Scotland at the moment, filing observations and analysis from the ground. (Indeed, Jason has been encouraging us to pay attention to this issue for so long now that it has earned him the office nickname “Mr Scotland”.) Since we launched our election site May2015.com earlier this month, Harry Lambert has been weighing in with polling and demographic analysis – if graphs are your thing, you must have a look at what he’s been up to in the last few weeks.

Now, for the night itself. We might not have the resources of a large newspaper or broadcaster, but we’ll be on duty all night and into tomorrow, bringing you the latest results and analysis (as well as the odd hilarious video). This is the schedule for who will be at the helm, complete with our Twitter handles should you have any tips or observations, or just want to chat in the wee small hours. (Our guide to when the results are expected, and therefore how late/early you need to be awake, can be found here.)

7pm – 11pm – Helen Lewis (@helenlewis)

11pm – 3am – Anoosh Chakelian (@anooshchakelian)

3am – 6am – Harry Lambert (@harrylambert1)

4am – 12pm – Caroline Crampton (@c_crampton)

12pm – 6pm – Anoosh Chakelian (@anooshchakelian)

In addition, our political editor George Eaton (@georgeeaton) and our contributing writer Tim Wigmore (@timwig) will be weighing in with posts and results.

We’ll be live-tweeting every update on @The Staggers, and The Staggers blog is also where you’ll find the majority of our coverage. And of course, the main @NewStatesman Twitter feed and Facebook page will have updates too. Here we go. . .

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

Photo: Martin Whitfield
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Labour MP for East Lothian Martin Whitfield: "I started an argument and ended up winning an election"

The former primary school teacher still misses home. 

Two months ago, Martin Whitfield was a primary school teacher in Prestonpans, a small town along the coast from Edinburgh. Then he got into an argument. It was a Saturday morning shortly after the snap election had been called, and he and other members of the local Labour party began discussing a rumour that the candidate would be an outsider.

“I started an argument that this was ridiculous, we couldn’t have a candidate helicoptered in,” he recalls. He pointed out that one of the main issues with the Scottish National Party incumbent, the economist and journalist George Kerevan, was that he was seen as an outsider.

“I kept arguing for an hour and a half and people started gently moving away,” he jokes. “About two days later I was still going on, and I thought enough’s enough.” 

He called Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour veteran, who interrupted him. “He said, 'Right Martin, are you going to put up or shut up?’ So I filled in the forms.

"Then I had to have a very interesting conversation with my wife.”

One successful election campaign later, he is sitting in the airy, glass-roofed atrium of Westminster’s Portcullis House. Whitfield has silver hair, glasses, and wears a Labour-red tie with his shirt. He looks every bit the approachable primary school teacher, and sometimes he forgets he isn’t anymore. 

I ask how the school reacted to his election bid, and he begins “I have”, and then corrects himself: “There is a primary four class I had the pleasure to teach.” The children wanted to know everything from where parliament was, to his views on education and independence. He took unpaid leave to campaign. 

“Actually not teaching the children was the hardest thing,” he recalls. “During the campaign I kept bumping into them when I was door-knocking.”

Whitfield was born in Newcastle, in 1965, to Labour-supporting parents. “My entire youth was spent with people who were socialists.”

His father was involved in the Theatre Workshop, founded by the left-wing director Joan Littlewood. “We were part of a community which supported each other and found value in that support in art and in theatre,” he says. “That is hugely important to me.” 

He trained as a lawyer, but grew disillusioned with the profession and retrained as a teacher instead. He and his wife eventually settled in Prestonpans, where they started a family and he “fought like mad” to work at the local school. She works as the marketing manager for the local theatre.

He believes he won his seat – one of the first to be touted as a possible Labour win – thanks to a combination of his local profile, the party’s position on independence and its manifesto, which “played brilliantly everywhere we discussed it”. 

It offered hope, he says: “As far as my doorstep discussion in East Lothian went, some people were for and against Jeremy Corbyn, some people were for and against Kezia Dugdale, but I didn’t find anyone who was against the manifesto.”

Whitfield’s new job will mean long commutes on the East Coast line, but he considers representing the constituency a “massive, massive honour”. When I ask him about East Lothian, he can’t stop talking.

“MPs do tend to say ‘my constituency’s a microcosm’, but it really is Scotland in miniature. We have a fishing industry, crabs and lobsters, the agricultural areas – the agricultural soil is second to none.” The area was also historically home to heavy industry. 

After his first week in Westminster, Whitfield caught the train back to Scotland. “That bit when I got back into East Lothian was lovely moment,” he says. “I was home.”

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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