As some of you know, although I've consistently voted SNP since I turned eighteen, I didn't actually become a party member until last autumn. So I've just had my very first chance to vote for the rankings of the SNP Central Scotland list candidates in a Scottish Parliament election. I must say I found it a much more stressful process that voting in the deputy leadership contest, because I know little or nothing about many of the candidates, and getting it right is quite a responsibility - in many ways these internal party votes have a bigger influence on the parliament's composition than the election proper (which is why we should switch to an open list system and hand the power back to the electorate at large). And we should never forget the long-term repercussions of Margo MacDonald's lowly ranking in 2003.
I erred on the side of placing sitting MSPs towards the top of the list, because at least those people are known quantities. I was haunted by the thought that Bill Walker might have had a fabulous personal statement five years ago, and people like me might have voted for him in good faith on the basis of that alone. Having said that, there were four people I ranked higher than at least one sitting MSP -
James McGuigan : I liked the clarity of the call in his personal statement for an SNP win next year to be regarded as a straightforward mandate for a second referendum. That goes beyond even my own position, but I think it'll be useful to have people in the parliamentary party pushing that view and providing balance - there certainly won't be any shortage of caution from others.
Julie Hepburn : I've never met Julie, but living in Cumbernauld, I've heard quite a bit about her over the last decade, and it's all been good.
Sophia Coyle : A reasonably well-known name in North Lanarkshire, and I liked her personal statement.
Anum Qaisar : A fast-rising star who was very unlucky to miss out on constituency selection in Edinburgh Eastern.
I ranked Alex Neil highest of the sitting MSPs, partly because of his commitment to independence, but mainly because I think it's important to give a vote of confidence to a Cabinet minister who is doing an excellent job.
I won't give you an exhaustive list of my rankings, because some of the lower preferences and my reasons for them might be a tad controversial, and I don't want to start an argument!