Kirsty Wark and Martin Geissler gear up for election TV marathon as 'Scotland always a big story'

After three decades reporting on the biggest news stories from around the world, broadcasters Martin Geissler and Kirsty Wark have seen it all.

But the former ITN foreign correspondent and the BBC political supremo admitted this year’s General Election is set to be one of the
most exciting events they’ve covered.

The pair are heading up BBC Scotland’s coverage on the night of July 4, broadcasting for 12 hours and delivering the news of the next prime minister to the nation.

While Martin will be leading on the latest news and results, it’ll be Kirsty’s job to interview politicians and commentators on what those results mean for voters.

She admitted she still gets a buzz from election night and added: ‘‘Scotland always throws up something exciting. There’s been great political engagement since the referendum.”

Dad-of-two Martin claims he’s always over-prepared and that won’t be any different come election night – despite not having any idea of what the results will be or when they will come in.

The 53-year-old said: “My wife always teases me because when we go on holiday my bag is twice the size of hers because I take stuff ‘just in case’.

“I suppose there’s an analogy to be drawn there. I’ve got lots of information in the back of my head ‘just in case’ and I’ll probably never use it – like the holiday clothes I bring and never wear.”

Usually Martin is grilling politicians every weekend as the face of BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show but this time he’ll be steering the broadcast.

He said: “I’m the guy who comes on the telly at 9.55pm, introduces everything, does the exit poll and sits down with the analysts.

“I don’t necessarily have to be the biggest brain in the room – mercifully because I don’t have one – but I do have to select whose best to go to for the relevant moments in the story and who’s going to inform the audience best on any given issue.”

With just a few prompts on the autocue, Martin and Kirsty, along with political correspondent David Wallace Lockhart and Reporting Scotland presenter Laura Miller, will have to make sure they’re not missing a thing for almost 12 hours.

Martin said: “Once the first 10 minutes are out of the way there is nothing on the autocue.

“It’s like jumping out of an aeroplane. It’s pretty hellish for the first two or three minutes but then you’re off and moments come throughout the night.”

By the end of the show he’ll likely have been awake for more than 24 hours and plans to sustain himself with coffee and Haribo, while Kirsty has said homemade traybakes are her secret to keeping awake during the TV marathon.

The presenter added: “We’ve got a Sunday Show special on Sunday and my son graduates on the Monday so I’ll need to make sure I’m bright eyed and bushy tailed by then.”

Meanwhile, Kirsty is planning a more relaxed approach for when she finishes the lengthy stint on air, having covered countless elections and grilled more politicians than most people can remember in her 48-year career.

“I’ll have a breakfast and talk to Newsnight to work out if we’re doing a co-presentation from Scotland.

“If that’s the case I would go to my bed and make sure I get a good bit of sleep if I’m up again.

“If not then Friday night is my own. I’ll be watching from home but I’ll have a glass of wine in my hand”, the 69-year-old said.

Kirsty has seen it all. She recounted the 1992 election when her newborn son James was at home with her TV producer husband Alan Clements as she was covering the results – a fourth consecutive victory for the Tories with John Major becoming prime minister.

One of the most memorable for Kirsty was Tony Blair’s 1997 Labour landslide, as it signalled a huge change for Scotland. She said: “I was so excited about that parliamentary process because people believed in devolution.

“That was a really special time as whatever you thought of politics, it delivered a Scottish parliament.”

For Kirsty, broadcasting from Scotland on election night brings a different challenge as the results could be less predictable than those in the UK.

She explained: “That’s why I’m so glad Scotland’s a big story, it’s always a big story. What happens in Scotland can very well impact hugely what happens elsewhere.”

Kirsty added she’s looking forward to interrogating a new batch of politicians and hopes to see a few more female faces going in to the House of Commons after polling day.

She said: “There’s always something in the new crop of politicians where people are incredibly committed, and you really have to be if you want to be a politician now as they go through a very hard time.

“Just look at social media. I want to see lots of women in parliament, and I don’t want them put off by social media.”

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