Ross, The writer of Holyrood Patter, an SNP leaning blog on, well, pretty much everything, is an 18 year old student who lives in Greenock, Scotland, but was born in Leytonstone, East London, at the same hospital as David Beckham. He supplements his meagre student loan by working for an SNP MSP, and occasionally moonlighting in a pub. He keeps his identity a secret, because he has seen the pitfalls of bloggers who name themselves, and because it gives him an inflated sense of importance. His main resolutions in 2009 are to add more to the stone of weight he has recently lost, and to try and get his friends as excited as he is about the picture of him and Alex Salmond.
What made you decide to start blogging?
Unlike most people, I didn't start reading blogs for a while, leaving the odd comment, and then commit to my own. I started my blog as soon as I became aware of the scottish blogosphere. I had a glance over some political blogs when the total politics countdown of blogs was announced and thought, I want to be a part of this. Like many moaners, I was astounded at the level of bias against the SNP in the Mainstream Media, so I wanted an objective look at scottish politics. Its hard to do that completely, but I think since I started I have kept it reasonably free of really bad bias.
What is your best blogging experience?
Early in the blog's life, I showed my opposition to the SNP's alcohol proposals. I wasn't disrespectful, I just thought it was a vote loser. It wasn't that the story was particularly good, but when people know you work in some capacity for the party, there is always a danger you get accused of just being a mouthpiece, angling for a seat, and that all you do is re-print press releases. By stating my opposition, I felt good that I had more credibility as an independent voice in the party. More recently, I posted on an illegal paypal link on the website of a Labour MSP, David Whitton, which has since been removed. It shows someone who matters is reading the blog, and that MSPs on the fiddle have as much to fear from bloggers as they do from the likes of the Mail on Sunday.
And your worst?
Again, early in the life of the blog, I posted on an argument between parliament researchers through e-mail. On reflection, I broke some unwritten laws (and in fact probably some actual laws!) and regret it still.
What do you regard as your best blog entry?
It is personal touches like these that can make a blog. It also shows, right after many were getting very excited about it, that the VAT cut was a complete waste of time an money. This was, of course, when we thought that 12bn was a lot of money, it seems practically buttons now.
In Scotland, there simply isn't any beating SNP Tactical Voting. A political commentator free of parliamentary pressures, or editorial pressures, just someone with really insightful opinions, and the right amount of random chat. Subrosa, J Arthur Macnumpty, and Malc in the burgh are also goo for differing views. From the dark side, Yapping Yousuf is always worth a read, and is in fact a nice guy to talk to, and having a healthy debate with. Too nice actually, I am not supposed to get on well with Labour hacks!
What inspired you to go into politics?
Probably my mum. Ive always considered myself of the left, but my mum is a real left winger, and a former SSP candidate. I was always going to be averse to Labour, given the fact i had been faced with a Labour MP, MSP and council for my entire politcally aware life, none of whom inspired me, and I seen first hand how Labour took Scotland for granted, something I was glad to see the SNP smash in 2007, and something I wanted to be a part of.
Whats the best thing about working in the Scottish Parliament?
The childlike glee of being in a lift with people you have seen on television. The social side of it, surprisingly cross party, is also a very positive aspect. It feels like one big workplace, rather than lots of individual party workplaces.
The SNP are about halfway through their term in government. Is it more tough than you imagined?
Yes and No. From November to March, we had it really tough. Every headline was negative, and with Gray and Jim Murphy getting a fawning press, and Salmond seeming to get portrayed as a political incompetent, when he is probably Scotlands best politician, not because of his politics, but his skills as an orator, something still unrivalled in the parliament. In all honesty the first 19 months were probably easier than anyone could have imagined, Wendy was an absolute disaster and is still giving us ammo right up to the end of this term. Labour seem to have finally got over the fact they lost, something that they made harder than it should have been. They are still obsessed with the SNP, something which is both flattering and depressing on their behalf, sometimes I think they should have a cull in their press office. Every press release mentions the SNP at least twice, and although they are the official opposition, they have no real alternatives to the SNPs policy.
Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?
South Africa is somewhere I am still hoping to visit in 2010, if Scotland get their footballing act together. in Greenock, they often advertise Nordic cruises, something I hope to do in the future.
Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?
I love visiting London. When my family moved back to Scotland from East London in the 90s, they promised to go back every year to visit. I havent made every trip, but its always good to get back to the roots. Barcelona is one of those places that seems modern and historical all at once.
Who, excluding the present SNP leader and First Minister, do you regard as the best First Minister, and who do you regard as the best SNP leader?
I would have to say John Swinney, not only because hes the only other leader in my lifetime, but because he got such a hard time as leader, and still does, which is unfair. Having said that, I do think he has found his ideal role at finance, perhaps the most difficult department. For First Minister, I would say Jack McConnell circa 2005. There were a lot of disasters in his leadership, but I dont know who can argue with the smoking ban. For all his faults, and his current laziness, he can assure himself he has made a nation healthier.
Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?
Anyone who left the Labour party in the wake of it changing to new. There are a few left wingers who believed they could change what was a thatcherite agenda, but those who recognised this wasn't the party they joined. If ever the SNP changes, I hope I never put selfishness ahead of principle the way many in "New Labour" have.
Favourite Bond movie?
Casino Royale. But Quantum of Solace was the worst. Interesting.
Favourite Doctor Who?
David Tennant. And I am not convinced about this new guy. It had to be Patterson Joseph or Russell Tovey I though. I still think Alan Davies fits the bill also.
Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?
I am going to cheat and say mint Chocolate.
Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?
Motion City Soundtrack. I am going to see Bruce Springsteen in July, thats a "thigns to do before you die" moment.
In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?
Better the devil you know. I have only ever been to Oxford and it was good, if permanently wet.
Favourite national newspaper?
The Times still, to my shock, seems to be avoiding the questionable political leanings of its proprietor, but I still religously buy the Scotsman, and will do till the day it dies(probably quite soon!)
What would you say your hobbies were?
Football, supporting (without great success) Greenock Morton and perennial lower league strugglers Leyton Orient. Socialising with friends who aren't interested in politics(that is, all my friends) is always a chuckle, but most of them work at wekends, so the best night out always seems to be the pub quiz we do every wednesday, with our team name always a variation on the name of a legendary scottish footballer, Andy Ritchie.
And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books
(Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?
Songs: LG Fuad - Motion City Soundtrack
Festival - Sigur Ros
Hysteria - Muse
Books: Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkein
The Acid House - Irvine Welsh
Angels in America - Tony Kushner