{"JP":[ {"NewsSection":{"name":"scottishindependence","detaillevel":"full", "Articles": {"count":25,"detaillevel":"full","articlesList":[ {"article": { "url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/third-of-scots-voters-will-vote-tory-in-general-election-1-4427026","id":"1.4427026","articleHeadline": "Third of Scots voters ‘will vote Tory in General Election’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492938170000 ,"articleLead": "

A third of Scottish voters are backing the Tories, according to fresh polling conducted after Theresa May called a snap election.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427025.1492938168!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ruth Davidson with a group of her supporters as a new poll reveals a third of Scots voters back the Tories. Picture: Ian Rutherford"} ,"articleBody": "

The Panelbase survey, commissioned by The Sunday Times Scotland, shows 33 per cent backing Ruth Davidson’s party in general election voting intentions, suggesting it could be on course to win a clutch of new seats in Scotland in June.

The Tories, who are campaigning on a message of opposing the SNP’s bid for a second independence referendum, currently have one Scottish MP - David Mundell.

Support for the party is up on the 2015 general election result, where they took almost 15 per cent of the vote, and up from 28 per cent in a previous Panelbase poll conducted in March.

The new poll also shows the SNP on 44 per cent, down from 47 per cent in last month’s poll and from almost 50 per cent in the 2015 election.

READ MORE - Scrapping controversial rape clause could cost Scotland £200m

The party won 56 out of 59 Scottish seats in 2015 and is still on course to take home a majority on June 8.

Support for Labour has dropped to 13 per cent from 14 per cent last month and just over 24 per cent in 2015. With only one MP, Ian Murray, the party faces a battle to maintain a Scottish presence at Westminster.

Among the other parties, the Lib Dems are backed by 5 per cent of voters, up one percentage point from March, while Ukip and the Greens are supported by 2 per cent of voters each, both down from 3 per cent.

Panelbase polled 1,029 voters between April 18 and 21.

Scottish politics: News, comment and expert analysis

A second poll by Survation, commissioned by the Sunday Post, found support for the SNP at 43 per cent, with the Tories on 28 per cent.

Scottish Labour lag behind with just under 18 per cent while the Lib Dems recorded almost 9 per cent.

The pollster also asked respondents about independence, with 53 per cent saying they would vote No in a referendum and 47 per cent backing Yes, when those who are undecided are excluded.

READ MORE - Tactical voting will only have ‘limited effect’ in Scotland

Survation asked whether, in the event of another Conservative majority government, voters would be more or less likely to support independence.

A total of 37.9 per cent said such a result would make them more likely, 15.5 per cent less likely, 39.8 per cent no more or less and 6.7 per cent were not sure.

The survey of 1,018 people was also conducted between April 18 and 21.

SNP business convener Derek Mackay said: “The SNP will give Scotland a strong voice against austerity, blind pursuit of a rock-hard Brexit and a complete disregard for Scotland’s interests.

“The more Tory MPs there are in Scotland, the heavier the price we will all pay, with pensioners now in the Tories’ sights.

“The Tories think they can do what they want to Scotland and get away with it. We won’t let them.”

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" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4427025.1492938168!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427025.1492938168!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ruth Davidson with a group of her supporters as a new poll reveals a third of Scots voters back the Tories. Picture: Ian Rutherford","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ruth Davidson with a group of her supporters as a new poll reveals a third of Scots voters back the Tories. Picture: Ian Rutherford","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4427025.1492938168!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/tactical-voting-will-only-have-limited-effect-in-scotland-1-4426939","id":"1.4426939","articleHeadline": "Tactical voting will only have ‘limited effect’ in Scotland","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492923600000 ,"articleLead": "

Tactical voting will have a “limited effect” in Scotland with only a handful of constituencies expected to change hands, experts have said.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426938.1492889668!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ruth Davidson is appealing for support from pro-union voters to block indyref2. Picture: Ian Rutherford"} ,"articleBody": "

Analysts poured cold water on calls for voters to abandon their principles and vote for the strongest Unionist, non-Tory or anti-Brexit candidate, warning that only a handful of seats were close enough for tactical voting to have an impact.

In the first week of the election campaign, most parties issued calls for voters to lend them their votes in order to keep out another candidate.

Ruth Davidson said her party was the “best bet” to stop a second independence referendum, with her party’s only MP in Scotland, David Mundell, launching his campaign in marginal Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale with the slogan “No to indyref2”.

Scotland’s only Labour MP, Ian Murray, was reported to have appealed for the support of Liberal Democrat and Tory voters to hold off the SNP in his Edinburgh South seat, although he later clarified that he wanted people to vote Labour across Scotland.

Mark Diffley, director of polling firm Ipsos Mori Scotland, said that while more polling data was needed, tactical voting may only be a factor in half a dozen SNP seats.

In 38 of the 56 constituencies won by the SNP in 2015, the nationalist vote is larger than that of the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats combined.

Diffley said it would take “an extraordinary feat of organisation” to convince sufficient numbers of people to vote tactically in June.

“It genuinely would be a surprise if they got 56 seats again, but at the moment there isn’t anything to suggest it will be less than 50,” he said.

Ailsa Henderson, the head of politics at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Tactical voting only works if people really do have a sense of who the strongest challenger might be.

“All parties are contending that’s them. In the absence of constituency level polling, it’s hard to tell who’s right.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "PARIS GOURTSOYANNIS"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426938.1492889668!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426938.1492889668!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ruth Davidson is appealing for support from pro-union voters to block indyref2. Picture: Ian Rutherford","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ruth Davidson is appealing for support from pro-union voters to block indyref2. Picture: Ian Rutherford","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426938.1492889668!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/election-2017-could-moray-be-the-snp-s-portillo-moment-1-4426212","id":"1.4426212","articleHeadline": "Election 2017: Could Moray be the SNP’s ‘Portillo moment’?","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492881405000 ,"articleLead": "

The Portillo moment. Every election journalists and activists leave a special place in their diary for potential re-runs of the night when then Defence Secretary Michael Portillo lost his formerly safe Tory seat in 1997.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426210.1492881403!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Moray MP Angus Robertson with Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

That New Labour landslide claimed a number of scalps, but it was the shocking and dramatic nature of Portillo’s defenestration that made it all the more memorable.

There have been no shortage of similar moments in subsequent elections, and the most recent vote in 2015 was no exception.

Labour’s Ed Balls and Douglas Alexander, and the Lib Dem finance gurus Danny Alexander and Vince Cable, all lost their seats despite decent majorities and a huge national profile.

With the Tories and the Lib Dems targeting SNP seats up and down the country, we look at why one constituency in the North East could provide that popcorn moment just like Michael Portillo did 20 years ago.

The SNP big hitter

It is interesting, considering that he only stood for elected high office last year, that Angus Robertson has been thought of as being at the top of the party for well over a decade.

As a seasoned election planner, he was reckoned one of the main brains behind the SNP’s groundbreaking victory in the 2007 Holyrood elections.

Mr Robertson, who speaks several languages and was born in south London, has been reckoned by many commentators ‘the real leader of the opposition’.

READ MORE: Seats to watch for a Lib Dem revival

His thoughtful, pointed, and well researched questions have had Theresa May on the ropes at Prime Minister’s Questions far more often than Jeremy Corbyn has managed.

Perhaps it is that, as much as the favourable constituency demographics, that has led to Mr Robertson being so high up the Scottish Conservatives target list.

Popular at Westminster and in his party (winning well over 50 per cent in the recent depute leader election), the former journalist has been an MP now for over 16 years.

He will hope he is also popular enough locally to hold on to his seat, which he won in 2015 with an increased majority of just over 9,000.

The constituency

That majority in traditional elections should be insurmountable, and this area has been solidly SNP for the best part of 30 years.

But the area was also a solidly no voting constituency in the referendum of 2014, and that has the Conservatives thinking their anti-independence message could cut through.

Ruth Davidson’s party significantly cut into the majority of former Government minister Richard Lochhead at the equivalent Holyrood Seat last year, with a swing of nearly 15 per cent away from the SNP.

While every council area in Scotland voted Remain in the Brexit referendum of 2016, Moray came closest to backing the exit from the European Union.

49.9 per cent of voters in Angus Robertson’s constituency voted to leave the EU, over 10 per cent higher then the figure for the whole of Scotland.

The challenger

Douglas Ross, like 50.1 per cent of those he hopes are his future constituents, backed a remain vote in that referendum.

The Tory MSP is planning a third stab at dethroning Angus Robertson, after failing to come close in either 2010 or 2015.

Mr Ross also stood in the equivalent Scottish Parliament seat last year, and came closer than many expected to winning, before being elected on the party list.

READ MORE: New voices needed in politics

He is bullish about his chances, penning in his local paper “Angus, we are coming for you”, putting Mr Robertson on notice that he would challenge him again.

But despite that bullishness, there is no denying that Mr Ross faces an uphill struggle to defeat one of Scotland’s most recognisable MPs.

Had he been a Leave voter, he could have perhaps galvanised Brexiteers in all parties (including some SNP Brexit backers) to send him to Westminster.

There’s also possibility that while he came close to defeating Richard Lochhead, he didn’t actually win the seat, so he has arguably reached his peak.

The MSP and former Councillor hasn’t had his problems to seek as an SFA referee and linesman.

That might make for good puns and colour in profiles, but when that duty interferes with his parliamentary duties, as has happened in the past, it can cause controversy.

“How many jobs does he want?” was the SNP response.

If they can make that line stick, then the Tories could be deprived their Portillo moment.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Ross McCafferty"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426210.1492881403!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426210.1492881403!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Moray MP Angus Robertson with Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Moray MP Angus Robertson with Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426210.1492881403!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4425282.1492881405!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4425282.1492881405!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Tory MSP Douglas Ross","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Tory MSP Douglas Ross","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4425282.1492881405!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/ruth-davidson-puts-indyref2-opposition-at-heart-of-campaign-1-4426695","id":"1.4426695","articleHeadline": "Ruth Davidson puts indyref2 opposition at heart of campaign","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492868654000 ,"articleLead": "

Scottish party leaders hit the campaign trail for the local government and general elections on Saturday.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426693.1492868651!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson poses for pictures with a group of her supporters. Picture : Ian Georgson"} ,"articleBody": "

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon pushed for votes in Edinburgh’s Stenhousemuir, while her rival, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, launched a campaign poster in the city.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale campaigned in South Queensferry, with Willie Rennie, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, hitting the streets of Dundee.

Meanwhile the SNP and Scottish Labour have confirmed they will have general election candidates in place next week.

READ MORE: Michelle Thomson to step down as MP after SNP ruling

The SNP has announced its 54 MPs will stand again, while candidates for the remaining five Scottish seats will be chosen by the end of the week.

Scottish Labour’s national executive committee has agreed to set up a selection panel led by Ms Dugdale and six other members to choose its candidates. Around 150 people have applied to stand for the party.

MSP James Kelly has also been appointed to lead Scottish Labour’s general election campaign.

READ MORE: Tories appeal to Scottish tactical voters to block indyref2

Ms Dugdale said: “These are extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in, and Labour is moving at break-neck speed to select candidates who will stand in every seat across Scotland.

“Applications have flooded in from across the country to stand in this election, such is the determination of Labour members to work tirelessly to kick Theresa May out of office and elect Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister.

“Labour will run a positive campaign that rejects the divisiveness of the Tories and their plans for a hard Brexit, and the divisiveness of the SNP’s plans for a second independence referendum.”

The parties have reacted to the call for a snap general election on June 8, while continuing to campaign for votes in the council elections on May 4.

Ms Sturgeon visited a new development of fully-accessible flats in Stenhousemuir with local candidates Gary Bouse and Laura Murtagh to highlight the SNP’s housing pledges.

It has promised that SNP councils will build “their share of at least 50,000 new affordable houses across Scotland by March 2021, and work with housing associations to ensure at least 35,000 of these are homes for social rent”.

They have also promised to ensure that by March 2021 all temporary accommodation is of the same standard as permanent accommodation, and to consider the proximity of temporary accommodation to health and education services.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We believe that everyone in Scotland deserves a warm, affordable home. That is why SNP councils will commit to three key pledges to ensure everyone has access to a safe home.”

Ms Davidson unveiled a dual campaign poster in Edinburgh focussed on the Tories’ message of opposition to a second independence referendum, with the slogan, ‘We said no, we meant it’.

The Lib Dems have reported an 8,000 member surge since the snap election was announced on Tuesday, and £500,000 of fundraising in 48 hours.

On the local campaign front, Mr Rennie said: “In Dundee we have fantastic candidates taking the fight straight towards the SNP in their heartlands and come May we are ready to claim a few scalps.

“The announcement of the general election last week has only added to that and activists in Dundee and around Scotland are relishing the upcoming elections.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANGUS HOWARTH"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426693.1492868651!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426693.1492868651!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson poses for pictures with a group of her supporters. Picture : Ian Georgson","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson poses for pictures with a group of her supporters. Picture : Ian Georgson","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426693.1492868651!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1492512262652"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/christine-jardine-favourite-to-fight-for-edinburgh-west-seat-1-4426628","id":"1.4426628","articleHeadline": "Christine Jardine favourite to fight for Edinburgh West seat","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492857975000 ,"articleLead": "

A FORMER broadcast journalist who stood against Alex Salmond at the last general election has emerged as favourite to become the Liberal Democrats’ candidate in their top target seat in the Capital.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426627.1492862753!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Christine Jardine is likely to be selected to run for the Lib Dems in Edinburgh West."} ,"articleBody": "

Christine Jardine is expected to be chosen by local party members next week to fight Edinburgh West, which was a Lib Dem stronghold before it was won by the SNP’s Michelle Thomson two years ago.

Ms Thomson resigned the party whip within months of her election after a scandal broke over her property deals and has sat as an independent MP ever since.

The Lib Dems’ Alex Cole-Hamilton won the equivalent Scottish Parliament seat at last year’s Holyrood election, and the party believes it now has a good chance of retaking the Westminster seat too.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “We have a well-oiled machine and an enthusiastic activist base. There is a real attrition in the SNP vote on the doorstep and a massive tactical vote from Tory and Labour supporters who know the fight is between us and the SNP.”

Scottish Lib Dems agreed last year to have all-female shortlists in their top five target Westminster seats, which include Edinburgh West.

A shortlist of three has been drawn up and the final choice will be made by members next Friday. But sources say Ms Jardine is the clear favourite.

After working as a BBC journalist in the 1990s, she became a journalism lecturer and has also worked for the Press Association and a media training company.

In the run-up to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum she was appointed a media adviser to the UK coalition government. She now describes herself as a media consultant and political commentator for the Lib Dems.

In 2015, Ms Jardine was the Lib Dem candidate seeking to block Mr Salmond’s return to Westminster in Gordon constituency after he stepped down as first minister. Party strategists claimed tactical voting could see her defeat Mr Salmond, but he won with an 8000-plus majority.

Ms Jardine also stood for the Lib Dems in Aberdeenshire East at last year’s Holyrood elections, but finished third.

She moved to Edinburgh about a year ago.

Ms Thomson’s position is not yet clear. Last September SNP MPs unanimously backed a call for her to be readmitted to the party, but the SNP’s national executive delayed a decision. The executive is due to discuss her case again today.

It could decide to reinstate her or select someone else as the SNP’s candidate for the seat. But if she is not brought back into the party, Ms Thomson could stand as an independent.

MPs who seek re-election and are defeated qualify for thousands of pounds in severance pay, but those who stand down receive no payment.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "IAN SWANSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426627.1492862753!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426627.1492862753!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Christine Jardine is likely to be selected to run for the Lib Dems in Edinburgh West.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Christine Jardine is likely to be selected to run for the Lib Dems in Edinburgh West.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426627.1492862753!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/sturgeon-refuses-to-rule-out-working-with-tories-on-councils-1-4425502","id":"1.4425502","articleHeadline": "Sturgeon refuses to rule out working with Tories on councils","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492814134000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly declined to rule out SNP councillors working with the Conservatives at a local level when she launched her party’s manifesto for next month’s local elections.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4425501.1492781794!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon joined candidates in Edinburgh to launch the SNP's manifesto for the 2017 local government election."} ,"articleBody": "

Despite claiming that voting SNP was the best way to keep Tories away from power in councils, the First Minister declined to say that she would ban her councillors from forming coalitions with Ruth Davidson’s party.

At her manifesto launch in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said there was a “danger” of Tories being propped up by Labour in local authorities, but stopped short of ruling out SNP/Tory deals.

In the past Ms Sturgeon’s party has worked with the Tories in local government with a Conservative/SNP coalition running East Ayrshire.

Ms Sturgeon said: “There is a danger either through people voting Tory or Labour potentially looking at coalitions with the Tories to keep themselves in power in the council chambers that we do in this election see local services slipping into Tory hands and I think that would be disastrous for the services that local councils are responsible for. My message is a very clear, straight message, if you want to vote to protect local services then vote SNP.”

• READ MORE: Read more: Katie Hopkins launches attack on Nicola Sturgeon

But when asked if she was going to ban East Ayrshire SNP from going into coalition with the Tories again, Ms Sturgeon said: “I want to see SNP councils and with the greatest of respect, I am going to campaign for the remainder of the campaign to get as many votes for the SNP and as many SNP councils.”

When pressed further on whether the SNP would countenance coalition with the Tories, the First Minister again declined to answer the question directly.

“I don’t want to see the Tories in council chambers,” she said. “I don’t want to see the Tories with their hands on local services. My message is crystal clear - vote SNP. We have got an election in under two weeks time and the way to keep Tories out of local councils is to vote SNP.

“Anybody that looks at the relationships between the SNP and the Tories right would think that is hugely unlikely.

“My main message is to vote SNP to make sure that you get SNP councillors running councils.”

With Labour lagging far behind the Conservatives in UK-wide polling, Ms Sturgeon conceded it was likely Theresa May would return to Downing Street after the 8 June snap election.

“I don’t want to see a Tory government but I can read the opinion polls as well as anybody else can,” she said.

• READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: An SNP win would turn May’s blocking strategy to dust

“If Scotland doesn’t want a Tory government that has a massive majority, that has the ability to do whatever it wants, to silence Scotland’s voice, to impose cuts, further austerity, and to try to almost silence the Scottish Parliament, there needs to be really strong opposition from Scotland to that Tory government.

“That can only come from the SNP. That’s the clear message that we’ll be taking to every part of Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon has said she already has a mandate for a second ballot on independence after winning the Scottish elections in 2016, success in the general election would “reinforce” it.

“The general election is about making sure that the Tories don’t get to crush dissent and silence opposition, and steamroller over Scotland, how Scotland has voted and how the Scottish Parliament has voted,” she said.

“It is about making sure Scotland’s voice is heard and independence is certainly an aspect of that, but it’s bigger than that as well.

“It is about making sure we don’t allow the Tories to do the social and economic damage to Scotland that they have done in recent years.”

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “A vote for the Scottish Conservatives at this election will deliver a strong message to the SNP: We don’t want your unwanted independence referendum, we want you to get on with the day job.”

Labour’s Alex Rowley said the SNP had cut local services and had a “brass neck” to claim it would stand up against the Tories”.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4425501.1492781794!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4425501.1492781794!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon joined candidates in Edinburgh to launch the SNP's manifesto for the 2017 local government election.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon joined candidates in Edinburgh to launch the SNP's manifesto for the 2017 local government election.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4425501.1492781794!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/election-2017-will-the-snp-sweep-glasgow-again-1-4426243","id":"1.4426243","articleHeadline": "Election 2017: Will the SNP sweep Glasgow again?","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492796688000 ,"articleLead": "

Glasgow has given the Scottish National Party some of its most historic moments.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426242.1492796685!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "SNP MP Alison Thewliss (Photo: John Devlin)"} ,"articleBody": "

From the Govan by-election wins of 1973 and 1988, to the election of Nicola Sturgeon in the 1999 elections, to John Mason’s win in 2008, right up to the Yes campaign’s victory in 2014, the city has a special place in Nationalist hearts.

Perhaps their most historic win in Scotland’s biggest city was in 2015, when they swept the board to win all of Glasgow’s seven seats en route to winning 56 seats across Scotland.

The Party will be hopeful of retaining all of the seats in the ‘Yes City’, where some of their MPs have had an impact that is likely to boost their personal vote in specifics.

We look at some of the seats and politicians in detail, and try and establish whether some of the seemingly insurmountable majorities can be overcome.

READ MORE: Lib Dem targets to watch on election night

The truly unbeatable

Some of the seats are unlikely to be in play in Glasgow for a very long time, requiring the type of swings to Labour or even the Conservatives that would be unheard of.

Glasgow North-East, for example, was won so handily by Anne McLaughlin that her victory actually broke the BBC swing-o-meter.

Her majority of over 9,000 is unlikely to be overturned any time soon, especially with Scottish Labour in such a sorry state.

A similar majority is enjoyed by adjacent MP Patrick Grady, who represents Glasgow North and will likely continue to do so.

Carol Monaghan too, has a majority of over 9,000, and despite not setting the heather alight in parliament, is unlikely to be visiting the Job Centre anytime soon.

The impressive MPs

SNP MPs aren’t used to the type of long-lasting reigns and thumping majorities enjoyed by their Labour predecessors, some of whom represented seats for decades.

Some of those newly-elected politicians wasted no time in getting right to work making their name on a grander scale than their constituency.

Alison Thewliss is one such example, the former Councillor has won plaudits across the political spectrum for her fight against the so-called ‘rape clause’.

Ms Thewliss’ majority isn’t quite as large as some of her colleagues, although she did win more than 50 per cent of the vote against Labour’s Anas Sarwar in 2015.

Her work has considerably raised her profile, and that should be enough for her to see off even a strong challenge from Kezia Dugdale’s party.

The MP’s colleague in Glasgow South, Stewart McDonald, has a larger majority, and he too has had an impact with some strong parliamentary performances.

Glasgow South-West’s Chris Stephens, an experienced councillor and trade unionist, will also have little fear of losing his seat.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon enjoys FMQs as Ruth Davidson stumbles

The wild card

One seat that is already no longer represented by the SNP is Glasgow East, which was won by Natalie McGarry in 2015.

Ms McGarry now sits as an independent, having resigned her party membership in the midst of an ongoing police investigation into discrepancies in the financial accounts of campaigning organisation Women for Independence.

It is expected to be announced this weekend whether Ms McGarry, and fellow Independent Nationalist Michelle Thomson, can stand for the SNP at the upcoming election.

It is likely that until Ms McGarry’s legal troubles have been resolved, she will not be allowed to represent the SNP.

However, she can stand as an independent, and would have to in order to be eligible for her redundancy payment from the House of Commons.

That risks splitting the vote between Ms McGarry and any other Nationalist challenger, although the SNP would still be confident of winning the seat, provided they pick a strong candidate.

Thus far, only SNP aide David Linden, and former Councillor Rosa Zambonini have put their names forward for selection.

No matter who is selected, and no matter what happens between now and election day on June 8th, another SNP clean sweep in Glasgow seems almost inevitable.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Ross McCafferty"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426242.1492796685!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426242.1492796685!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "SNP MP Alison Thewliss (Photo: John Devlin)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "SNP MP Alison Thewliss (Photo: John Devlin)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426242.1492796685!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4423337.1492865076!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423337.1492865076!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Natalie McGarry, Glasgow East MP has been told she is not eligible for reselection. Picture: Robert Perry","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Natalie McGarry, Glasgow East MP has been told she is not eligible for reselection. Picture: Robert Perry","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4423337.1492865076!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/general-election-3-scots-seats-to-watch-for-lib-dem-revival-1-4424812","id":"1.4424812","articleHeadline": "General Election: 3 Scots seats to watch for Lib Dem revival","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492777922000 ,"articleLead": "

“Lib Dems winning here” are what the famous election signs of the Liberal Democrats have said for years.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4418698.1492777918!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Tim Farron is hopeful of a Lib Dem revival Picture; PA"} ,"articleBody": "

But in Scotland’s recent political history, the placards have become more comically ironic than any indication of performance.

Elections in 2011, 2015, and 2016 have seen the Lib Dems slip from the second force in Scottish politics to arguably the fourth, with less Holyrood seats than the Green Party.

However, with Brexit seemingly the defining issue in this snap election, Tim Farron is dreaming of escaping the indignity of having the number of Lib Dem MPs in single digits.

With the coalition (they hope) in the rear view, Farron wants to ride a wave of anti-Brexit sentiment to double his number of representatives in the House of Commons.

That becomes easier to be achieved in his party can win back some of the 10 seats that they lost to the SNP just under two years ago.

Voters had no respect for status or experience as everyone from Cabinet members like Danny Alexander to long-serving politicians like the late Charles Kennedy were punished at the ballot box.

Here are three seats to keep an eye on in Scotland for signs that the Liberal Democrats are ready to start ‘winning here’ again.

READ MORE: Labour MP criticised for welcoming tactical voting

Orkney and Shetland (Lib Dem Majority – 817)

In theory, this seat shouldn’t be an issue for the Lib Dems to win, especially if they are having a good night across the rest of the UK.

It has been held by a member of the Lib Dems (or their predecessor party, the Liberals) at every election since 1950, when future leader Jo Grimond won the seat.

If the Lib Dems can hold this seat on a bad night, as they did in 2015 even as they lost 10 of 11 seats to the SNP, it should follow they will do so again on June 8.

However, their MP, Alistair Carmichael, who was the Scottish Secretary under the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition, might be up for a tougher fight than we assume.

Mr Carmichael was caught up in scandal when it emerged he had lied about his role in the so-called ‘NikiLeaks’ memo, which alleged that the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had expressed a preference for David Cameron in conversations with the French Ambassador.

Mr Carmichael decided to forego his ministerial severance payment for his dishonesty, but that didn’t stop his constituents mounting a legal challenge to have his win over the SNP by 817 at the election overturned.

They were ultimately unsuccessful, but Mr Carmichael’s reluctance to simply resign and stand in a by-election makes one wonder whether he fears losing his seat to the SNP.

Their candidate in 2015, and at the equivalent Holyrood contest last year, Danus Skene, has sadly since died, and so they will need to find someone knew to take on Mr Carmichael.

Expect that seemingly innocuous memo about Nicola Sturgeon to play a big part in the local campaign.

Edinburgh West (SNP/Independent Majority – 3,210)

Alistair Carmichael wasn’t the only Scottish MP to have a whiff of scandal about them after being elected to the parliament.

Michelle Thomson, MP for Edinburgh Western, withdrew from the SNP party whip after being accused of amassing a property portfolio by purchasing from indebted families.

Inquiries into property deals that involve the MP for Edinburgh Western are still ongoing, and as of today she remains an Independent.

Her majority, when she was a member of the SNP, was a modest if manageable 3,000 or so, but her resignation puts the seat up for grabs again.

One newspaper today reports that to be eligible for a redundancy payment from Westminster, Mrs Thomson would need to stand as an independent in the election.

That risks splitting the pro-independence vote, and giving the Lib Dems a path to victory.

They also won the equivalent seat at the 2016 Holyrood election, when the sitting SNP MSP was ousted for their candidacy by his own former parliamentary aide.

It is not yet known who will stand for either party.

READ MORE: Analysis of today’s clashes at Holyrood

East Dunbartonshire (SNP Majority – 2,167)

One former Lib Dem MP who is definitely attempting a parliamentary return is former coalition minister Jo Swinson.

Once the youngest MP in the House of Commons, she made her name in her initial MP as an outspoken opponent of tuition fees for university.

After subsequently joining her Lib Dem ministerial colleagues in voting to triple, rather than abolish them, she came in for substantial criticism.

Ms Swinson, did, however, put up a surprisingly strong fight in East Dunbartonshire in 2015, even as Lib Dem seats fell like dominoes across the West of Scotland.

She was defeated by the SNP’s John Nicolson in that election, losing out by just 2,000 votes to the former broadcaster.

He has enjoyed a high profile as an SNP front bench spokesman in Westminster, though he was accused of attempting to silence free speech by criticising an STV journalist to his bosses.

Ms Swinson, who has moved into consultancy since losing her seat, has already cranked her election machine in to gear.

A formidable local campaigner, if anyone can snatch this constituency back from the SNP it is Jo Swinson, making this one seat to watch on the night of June 8th.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Ross McCafferty"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4418698.1492777918!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4418698.1492777918!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Tim Farron is hopeful of a Lib Dem revival Picture; PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Tim Farron is hopeful of a Lib Dem revival Picture; PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4418698.1492777918!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4423539.1492777922!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423539.1492777922!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Former MP Jo Swinson will contest her old East Dunbartonshire seat. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former MP Jo Swinson will contest her old East Dunbartonshire seat. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4423539.1492777922!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/indy-supporters-more-likely-to-use-scots-words-in-tweets-1-4425315","id":"1.4425315","articleHeadline": "Indy supporters ‘more likely to use Scots words’ in tweets","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492777064000 ,"articleLead": "

Twitter users who back Scottish independence are more likely to use Scots words in their posts - except when tweeting about the referendum issue itself, analysis shows.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4425314.1492777063!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Independence supporting Twitter users are more likely to use Scots words in their posts, research shows. Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

A computer-based study of thousands of tweets written during the 2014 referendum campaign looked at how people’s use of language was related to their identity, views and discussion on the debate.

Scottish words - such as oor, yersel or bairns - were used more frequently by users who favoured pro-independence hashtags, but not necessarily in the same posts.

Overall, tweeters decreased their use of Scots words when discussing the referendum.

Read more: How likely is a second Scottish independence referendum?

In the first large-scale study of its kind in the UK, experts found that people whose tweets suggested they identify as Scottish nationalists were more likely to use language that reflected this.

They also found that tweets with hashtags relating to the referendum, from either side of the debate, featured fewer identifiably Scottish words than other posts.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh used computing techniques to identify thousands of tweets relating to the Scottish referendum.

They then carried out a statistical analysis of users and their posts to explore how people’s use of language related to their position in the debate.

The study, presented at the European Association for Computational Linguistics conference, was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Dr Sharon Goldwater of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, who led the study, explained the findings.

She said: “People might be expected to use Scottish words more when discussing the referendum, but the opposite is true: this is because tweets with hashtags are intended to be seen by a broad audience.”

Theresa May: ‘Vote is a chance to reject independence referendum’

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "MARK CONNOR"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4425314.1492777063!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4425314.1492777063!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Independence supporting Twitter users are more likely to use Scots words in their posts, research shows. Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Independence supporting Twitter users are more likely to use Scots words in their posts, research shows. Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4425314.1492777063!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/independence-reckless-amid-new-uk-dependent-jobs-figures-1-4424885","id":"1.4424885","articleHeadline": "Independence ‘reckless’ amid new UK-dependent jobs figures","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492768513000 ,"articleLead": "

The prospect of a second independence referendum has been branded “reckless” after new figures revealed that more than half a million Scottish jobs rely on the country’s economic links with the UK.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4424884.1492768511!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions. Picture: PA"} ,"articleBody": "

The move came as Nicola Sturgeon again confirmed she wants an independent Scotland to join the EU – which is far less important to the country’s economic well-being, a report by the Fraser of Allander Institute indicated yesterday.

The figures were seized on as evidence of the benefits of the Union as campaigning swung into top gear ahead of the 8 June election.

The First Minister insisted that a strong SNP victory is needed to protect Scots from the impact of a Conservative government poised to seize a bigger majority at Westminster, as she dismissed Labour hopes of ­victory as “pie in the sky”.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the economic data showed the importance of safeguarding Scotland’s place in the UK.

It revealed that about one in four (24 per cent) of Scottish jobs rely on the country’s trade with the rest of the UK, while the comparable figure for the EU is 5.7 per cent.

Mr Mundell said: “These figures demonstrate clearly the value of the UK market to Scottish businesses – which is worth four times that of the EU market.

“As we leave the EU, it is vital we maintain the integrity of the UK market and prevent any new barriers to doing business across the UK.

“We have seen recent worrying figures showing the Scottish economy contracting, compared to the UK economy growing overall.

“So, at this time, it is more important than ever that Scotland’s two governments work together for the benefit of people in Scotland. That is what people in Scotland expect, and to what I am committed.”

The most recent economic figures showed that Scotland’s economy shrank in the final quarter of last year, while the rest of the UK is enjoying healthy growth. A similar contraction in the next quarter will mean that the country is formally in recession.

Employment levels are also significantly lower in Scotland than elsewhere and although unemployment is down, it has been accompanied by a spike in the number of Scots who are “economically inactive” and appear to have withdrawn from seeking work.

The latest information is based on the Scottish Government’s export figures, released earlier this year, which show that Scotland sells goods and services worth £49.8 billion to the rest of the UK, and £12.3bn to the EU.

The new analysis by the Strathclyde University-based institute shows that about 530,000 jobs in Scotland are supported by demand for Scottish goods and services from the rest of the UK.

Around two-thirds of Scottish jobs – more than 328,000 in total – are supported by exports to the rest of the UK are in the services sector. Just under one-third (more than 150,000) are in manufacturing and construction.

More than 175,000 jobs in Scotland are supported by export demand from the rest of the world and around 125,000 jobs in Scotland by export demand from the rest of the EU.

Scottish Government Economy Secretary Keith Brown said: “These findings ignore the fact that trade is two-way.

“Our own analysis shows exports to Scotland from the rest of the UK support over half a million jobs in the UK.

“Analysis also shows Scotland is the rest of the UK’s second largest export market, behind only the US, with exports worth over £50bn.

“It is quite simply nonsense to suggest that the rest of the UK would cease trading with Scottish firms if we were inside the 
single market but outside the UK.

“As we have consistently made clear, Scotland does not face a choice between exporting to the EU or the UK – we can, and should, do both.

“This is why we will continue to pursue a way forward which retains our place in Europe’s single market which is vital to protect economic stability, jobs and inward investment.”

Ms Sturgeon said the importance of the EU single market to Scotland’s economy was at the heart of her case for protecting Scotland’s relations with the EU after Brexit and even seeking a second referendum.

Scotland could lose between 30,000 and 80,000 jobs as a result of Brexit, according to a separate analysis published by the Fraser of Allander Institute last year.

Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said: “Hundreds of thousands of jobs rely on the fact there are no trade barriers between Scotland and the rest of Britain.

“Yet the SNP wants to destroy this arrangement with its reckless gamble, making life harder for businesses and workers.

“The Scottish Government cannot afford to ignore stark evidence 
like this however inconvenient it is for its separation drive.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "SCOTT MACNAB"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4424884.1492768511!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4424884.1492768511!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions. Picture: PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions. Picture: PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4424884.1492768511!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1487268344374"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/joyce-mcmillan-new-voices-needed-in-uk-politics-1-4424986","id":"1.4424986","articleHeadline": "Joyce McMillan: New voices needed in UK politics","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492768248000 ,"articleLead": "

Millions of words must have been written and broadcast this week about exactly why Theresa May decided to reverse her decision of a few months ago, and call a snap general election for 8 June; but in truth, it only takes a glance at the opinion polls to understand why the general election option must have seemed irresistible to a leader who is constantly taunted with the phrase “unelected Prime Minister”.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4424985.1492768248!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Picture: Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

The latest numbers from YouGov suggest that the Tories can expect to win 48 per cent of the vote, and are running 24 points ahead of Labour – a lead as large as the one Tony Blair enjoyed before his landslide New Labour victory in 1997. And although it’s difficult today to detect any kind of wild positive enthusiasm for the Conservatives, it’s clear that the party is not only benefiting hugely from the evident disarray in the main opposition party, but has also now – since its adoption of a “hard Brexit” stance – hoovered up large numbers of right-wing votes which, only a year ago, might have gone to Ukip.

If the outcome of the election seems all but inevitable, though, the apparent willingness of such large proportion of voters to support the Tories remains something of a mystery, given their record in government.

Since 2010, the Tories’ ill-advised commitment to severe public spending austerity, in the depths of a recession, has inflicted huge damage on individuals and communities across the country, while depressing tax revenue and inflating the national debt. Investment and productivity have remained low, while household incomes declined by a shocking 9 per cent in the first years of the recession, and have not fully recovered.

And now, in the latest round of austerity, the Tories have begun to kick away the props – the in-work benefits and family credits – that made our insecure, low-wage economy tolerable for many families, yet still, the people do not protest. Nor do they turn against a government of millionaires who have systematically punished the working poor of this country, while ensuring that the seriously wealthy can walk away with their earning power, and their bonuses, absolutely intact.

So what, under these surreal circumstances, can the UK’s Labour Opposition possibly do, to transform the terms of debate? Back in 1997, of course, New Labour had an answer: they simply presented themselves as Conservatives-lite, less nasty than the Tories, more socially progressive, but just as aspirational, and just as friendly to the rich.

Since the economic crash of 2008, though, Labour’s lack of readiness to unite behind a real centre-left alternative to the present model of poorly-regulated and increasingly exploitative capitalism has proved fatal to its electoral prospects. With hindsight, it now seems obvious that during the Blair years, as trade union links weakened, the party simply lost its century-old culture of proud and purposeful working-class organisation for social justice, for systems that seriously resist exploitation, reduce poverty, and enhance social equality.

The result is that the language and experience of that shared struggle no longer has any place in the life of most British people and has been replaced by a language of strict individualism – of self-enrichment for the fortunate, and self-blame for the rest – that makes complaining about the privileges of the wealthy seem both impolite and pointless, and falsely frames the attempt to redistribute wealth through society as a recipe for economic failure.

In order to change this mind-set, in other words, the Labour Party would have not only to challenge the individualistic assumptions which most British people now bring to political debate, but also conjure up a credible alternative vision of exactly how a different society might look.

It was the presence of that kind of just-possible alternative vision – the “Nordic dream”, if you like – that unleashed so much energy around the Yes campaign in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. There is nothing more powerful in politics than the idea that different worlds are possible, and may lie just within our reach.

For now, though, the dominant mood in British politics has nothing to do with hope, and everything to do with the kind of depressive cynicism which looks at today’s Conservative Party, recognises that they are – by any measure – a morally unattractive bunch, but believes, because we have so often been told it’s true, they are the ones who understand the rotten system we live in, and who know how to work it.

Of course, this kind of cynicism eats the soul and corrodes well-being – we should live in societies that at least attempt to be decent and just, and are perhaps wise enough to tackle problems like climate change, so that we can believe in a real future for ourselves and our children.

At the moment, though, this murky and myopic vision of human nature – and all the ugly forms of hate and bigotry it tends to encourage – is the best the UK’s political system can manage; and it is absolutely clear that Jeremy Corbyn will not achieve the huge paradigm shift that is now needed simply by standing on the sidelines pointing out the indisputable truth that anyone who earns £70,000 a year or more is among the wealthiest 5 per cent in our society, and should probably be paying more tax.

To work, that shift would need a whole new generation of voices who sound like the centre-left leaders of the future; young people who simply refuse to live in the right-wing Brexit world conjured up by the Tories, and who demand something more intelligent, more just, more compassionate, and more forward-looking. The chance of those voices emerging at UK level any time in the next six weeks are of course close to zero.

But one day that shift will come, and history will not only dismiss Jeremy Corbyn as the wrong man in the wrong job at the worst possible time, but will write down the Tory governments of 2010-27 as among the most heartless, shallow and incompetent we have ever endured – the ones whose flawed ideology and narrowness of vision struck a body-blow against the hard-won peace of western Europe, and eventually brought the UK itself to the brink of disintegration.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Joyce McMillan"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4424985.1492768248!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4424985.1492768248!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Picture: Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Picture: Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4424985.1492768248!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1492690225050"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/labour-mp-criticised-for-welcoming-tactical-voting-1-4424455","id":"1.4424455","articleHeadline": "Labour MP criticised for welcoming tactical voting","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492710771000 ,"articleLead": "

Labour’s only MP in Scotland, Ian Murray, has been criticised for appearing to welcome votes from traditional Tory and Lib Dem supporters in his Edinburgh South constituency.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4424454.1492700879!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ian Murray, Scotland's only Labour MP. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor"} ,"articleBody": "

Mr Murray, who resigned as the Shadow Scottish Secretary after criticising Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, won the seat by around 2,600 votes in 2015.

His shock win, even as the SNP swept the board almost everywhere in Scotland, was thought to be down to a high personal vote and the scandal that affected the SNP candidate, who was revealed to be a ‘cybernat’ who had used a Twitter account to insult pensioners.

READ MORE: Jeremy Corbyn will end ‘rigged system’

Mr Murray, according to the Guardian, said he supported tactical voting if voters’ key concern was defeating the SNP.

He told the paper that Tory and Lib Dem supporters keen to oppose the SNP needed to back him, adding: “If people are saying they want to protect the union, the candidate in the best position is me.”

Mr Murray was sharply criticised, with many pro-SNP commenters online feeling he had implicitly endorsed voting Conservative in areas where Labour could not defeat the SNP.

Scott Rogers, a Labour activist and council candidate, wrote: “It’s dreadful that our sole remaining MP will use his platform to sell out on people suffering under the Tories to protect a seat.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: SNP is only protection against increasingly hardline Tory government

The MP hit back at that suggestion on Twitter, saying he had suggested that people vote Labour in his constituency and the country.

Labour are confident of holding the seat, as they also won the Edinburgh Southern seat at the Holyrood elections last year.

The SNP haven’t selected a candidate as of yet, but Doug Thomson, a prominent local activist and the husband of political journalist Mandy Rhodes, has put his name forward.

The Party’s Westminster chief Angus Robertson MP said: “This is an extraordinary plea for a Tory election pact from Labour’s last remaining MP in Scotland, whose priority in this election is saving his own job at the expense of the whole country.

“Ian Murray is utterly apathetic to the prospect of keeping the Tories out of Downing Street – having made it clear that he doesn’t see Jeremy Corbyn as a legitimate candidate for Prime Minister while appealing for people to elect more Tory MPs in an effort to keep the SNP out.

A Labour spokesman defended Murray, saying: “In constituencies across Scotland, it is only Labour that can stop the SNP.

“If voters want to stop the SNP and its plans for a divisive second independence referendum, their only option is to vote for Labour.

“Up and down the country, even those who may have not voted Labour before will know that we are the only party that can stop the SNP.

“In Edinburgh South, it is a straight choice between Ian Murray, who will fight tirelessly against independence, or an SNP candidate who will only be interested in breaking-up Britain.

“A vote for the Tories would be wasted, and would risk letting the SNP in. Edinburgh South doesn’t need another backbench Tory MP cheerleading the campaign for a hard Brexit or another SNP MP cheerleading the campaign for Scottish independence.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Ross McCafferty"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4424454.1492700879!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4424454.1492700879!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ian Murray, Scotland's only Labour MP. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ian Murray, Scotland's only Labour MP. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4424454.1492700879!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/katie-hopkins-launches-attack-on-nicola-sturgeon-1-4424453","id":"1.4424453","articleHeadline": "Katie Hopkins launches attack on Nicola Sturgeon","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492696067000 ,"articleLead": "

Controversial columnist Katie Hopkins has launched an attack on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – calling her ‘the ginger dwarf from the North’ in a tirade marking the announcement of the general election.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4424452.1492696049!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "editorial image"} ,"articleBody": "

The former Apprentice contestant wrote on her MailOnline column that the June 8 poll was a chance to send a message that the country still backs Brexit.

Twice given Scotland’s First Minister the ‘ginger dwarf from the North’ moniker, she urged Scots to instead back Ruth Davidson’s Conservatives.

READ MORE: Theresa May urges Scots to reject independence

Hopkins, who recently lost a libel case and was ordered to pay damages to food blogger Jack Monroe, also took aim at Mhairi Black.

Hopkins wrote: “If you can get rid of Mhairi Black whilst you are at it so much the better. She can spend her newly found free time learning some useful life skills. Like how to talk. Or write. Or use shampoo.”

READ MORE: SNP to abstain on Commons vote

Ms Black, who recently ended speculation about standing again for Westminster, is not thought to be particularly vulnerable, having won her Paisley and Renfrewshire South seat with a majority of over 5,000.

Hopkins is famed for her controversial views, and was ridiculed in the wake of the recent attack in London after declaring the city was ‘cowed’.

Condemnation online was swift, with one Twitter user noting: “She’s probably a third of your age and already done a lot more good in the world.”

Another added: “Imagine not being able to engage somebody in a political debate and just hurling pathetic personal digs. Not surprising really.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Ross McCafferty"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4424452.1492696049!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4424452.1492696049!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "editorial image","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "editorial image","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4424452.1492696049!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/fmqs-sturgeon-taunts-davidson-over-rape-clause-shame-1-4424271","id":"1.4424271","articleHeadline": "FMQs: Sturgeon taunts Davidson over rape clause ‘shame’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492691854000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon today goaded her Tory rival Ruth Davidson with taunts of \"shame\" during angry clashes at Holyrood as election fever intensified.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4424305.1492691832!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament"} ,"articleBody": "

The First Minister turned on the Tory leader over her support for the so called rape clause which means women now seeking benefits support for a third child are forced to prove conception happened by rape.

The SNP leader insisted that the issue illustrates the choice facing Scots in June and invited Ms Davidson to denounce the policy during First Ministers Questions.

But the Scottish Tory leader insisted that the Scottish Government could use Holyrood powers to mitigate the changes.

It prompted an angry response from the First Minister who hit out: \"Shame - shame on Ruth Davidson!\"

Ms Sturgeon said it revealed the \"true colours\" of Ms Davidson and the Conservatives.

The First Minister added: \"It brings into sharp focus the key issue at the heart of this general election and I ask people to think about this.

\"The rape clause has been introduced by a Tory Government at Westminster with a tiny majority. If that's what a Tory Government can do with a tiny majority, let's just think of the damage a Tory Government - an unfettered out of control Tory Government - can do with a bigger majority.

\"So if people in Scotland want protection against Tory government, if people in Scotland want an effective strong opposition to a Tory Government, they won't get it from unelectable Labour , they won't get it from the Lib Dems who still say they would support a Tory Government. They'll only get it from the SNP and Scotland needs protection from the Tories.\"

Dani Garavelli: Rape clause shames the benefits system

Ms Davidson vowed to fight the election on the constitution.

\"We will stand up for Scotland's decision to stay in the United Kingdom and we will say `no' to a second referendum so that Scotland can get on with building better schools and better public services,\" she added.

She also hit out at Ms Sturgeon's claim yesterday that she would be ready to back a \"progressive\" left-wing alliance to keep the Tories out of office.

\"The First Minister's very first intervention in this election has been to say that she would put Jeremy Corbyn in No10. Is this because uniquely, the First Minister sees in Mr Corbyn the wisdom and the foresight and the leadership skills that are needed in a Prime Minister?

\"Or could it be because in his own words Jeremy Corbyn is `absolutely fine' with another referendum on independence? Is that the alliance she's really seeking when she was down in London?\"

But Ms Sturgeon today dismissed the prospect of Mr Corbyn winning the election in June as \"pie in the sky\".

Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said \"forcing\" a second referendum was the most important issue for the SNP.

“The priority for the SNP on June 8 is finding an excuse for another divisive referendum, not kicking the Tories out of office,\" she said.

“The last time we were asked to vote in a General Election, Nicola Sturgeon said it wasn’t a vote for another referendum.

“Time and again we were told that a vote for the SNP is not a vote for another referendum. But we know that just isn’t true.

“Nicola Sturgeon should have the decency to tell the voters before they vote that she will use this election as an excuse for another divisive referendum. Or once again, will she wait until the day after?”

Read more: Hundreds call for scrapping of ‘despicable’ rape clause

" ,"byline": {"email": "scott.macnab@scotsman.com" ,"author": "SCOTT MACNAB"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4424305.1492691832!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4424305.1492691832!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4424305.1492691832!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4418541.1492691836!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4418541.1492691836!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4418541.1492691836!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/east-renfrewshire-council-accused-of-bias-ahead-of-election-1-4424167","id":"1.4424167","articleHeadline": "East Renfrewshire council accused of ‘bias’ ahead of election","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492683119000 ,"articleLead": "

A local authority has been accused of favouring established parties at the expense of independents after posting a picture of three candidates on its website ahead of next month’s council elections.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4424166.1492683101!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The picture was posted on the East Renfrewshire council website"} ,"articleBody": "

Officials at East Renfrewshire Council have been accused of breaching purdah rules governing the neutrality of staff, with independent candidates demanding the resignation of returning officer and council chief executive Lorraine McMillan after a press release was sent out in her name urging locals to participate in the vote.

McMillan was pictured in the press release alongside Labour group leader Jim Fletcher, SNP group leader Tony Buchanan, and Tory group leader Stewart Miller.

The trio were holding up numbers 1, 2, and 3 to signify to voters the STV system used in council elections.

The image was briefly posted on the East Renfrewshire Council website before being deleted.

Purdah is covered by Section 2 of the Local Govt Act and states local authorities should not, in the build up to the election, “publish any material which, in whole or in part, appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party.”

“I knew as soon as I saw the picture it was a breach of ‘purdah’ guidelines, designed to protect council officials from suspicions of bias,” Paul Drury, an independent candidate for the Giffnock and Thornliebank ward, told the Glasgow South and Eastwood Extra.
“The council leader, who I’m competing with on May 4, was pictured next to her smiling face, holding a Number 1.

READ MORE: Scots urged to forget independence in local council vote

“Yet in two weeks’ time, she’s expected to be impartially counting his votes…..and mine. “I’m afraid the returning officer no longer commands the confidence of other candidates and has no choice but to step down.”

A spokesperson for East Renfrewshire Council said: “We have a clear duty to encourage voters to participate in all elections.

“A national campaign is underway across Scotland to encourage participation in the forthcoming local elections and as always East Renfrewshire Council has been very proactive in supporting the drive to ensure voters take part. 
“Voter turnout in East Renfrewshire is typically very high however participation in local elections has tended to be low in the past and we have therefore been doing all we can to promote the forthcoming election to our residents.

“Indeed, the press release issued makes very clear the rationale for its release - simply to encourage participation on May 4.

“The group leaders of the current parties represented within the Council took part in a photo to accompany the news release. An independent councillor was invited to take part but was unavailable however did give support for the photo given its wholly non-political nature.

“At no time were we promoting any one party or candidate over another.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "JOHN MACINNES AND CHRIS McCALL"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4424166.1492683101!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4424166.1492683101!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The picture was posted on the East Renfrewshire council website","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The picture was posted on the East Renfrewshire council website","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4424166.1492683101!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/half-a-million-scots-jobs-supported-by-uk-market-1-4424097","id":"1.4424097","articleHeadline": "Half a million Scots jobs supported by UK market","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492680673210 ,"articleLead": "

More than half a million jobs in Scotland depend on trade with the rest of the UK, according to new figures released by the UK Government.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4424096.1492680780!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "David Mundell says the figures show the importance of the UK market"} ,"articleBody": "

This is about four times as high as the 125,000 jobs supported by exports to the rest of the EU, a report by the Fraser of Allander economic think tank has found.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said today it shows the importance of safeguarding Scotland's place in the UK as Nicola Sturgeon steps up demands a second referendum on independence following the Brexit vote.

It means that about one on four Scottish jobs rely on the country's trade with the rest of the UK.

Mr Mundell said: \"These figures demonstrate clearly the value of the UK market to Scottish businesses – which is worth four times that of the EU market. As we leave the EU, it is vital we maintain the integrity of the UK market and prevent any new barriers to doing business across the UK.

“We have seen recent worrying figures showing the Scottish economy contracting, compared to the UK economy growing overall. So, at this time, it is more important than ever that Scotland’s two governments work together for the benefit of people in Scotland. That is what people in Scotland expect, and to what I am committed.\"

The information is based on the Scottish Government's own export figures, released earlier this year, which show that Scotland sells goods and services worth £49.8 billion to the rest of the UK, and £12.3 billion to the EU.

The latest figures from the Fraser of Allander Institute show that about around 530,000 jobs in Scotland are supported by demand for Scottish goods and services from the rest of the UK. More than 175,000 jobs in Scotland are supported by export demand from the rest of the world and around 125,000 jobs in Scotland supported by export demand from the rest of the EU.

" ,"byline": {"email": "scott.macnab@scotsman.com" ,"author": "Scott Macnab"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4424096.1492680780!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4424096.1492680780!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "David Mundell says the figures show the importance of the UK market","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "David Mundell says the figures show the importance of the UK market","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4424096.1492680780!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/kenny-macaskill-in-the-war-on-drugs-the-enemy-isn-t-some-foreign-foe-but-our-own-people-1-4423692","id":"1.4423692","articleHeadline": "Kenny MacAskill: In the war on drugs the enemy isn’t some foreign foe but our own people","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492671600000 ,"articleLead": "

Hard Brexit and independence will dominate the election. Other issues will be debated by all parties from the fundamental to the flippant. However, an important issue that’ll be largely ignored is drugs policy.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423691.1492620241!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A homeless person rolls up Spice, a synthetic cannabis substitute, into a cigarette"} ,"articleBody": "

This despite Trainspotting 2 packing crowds in cinemas and a Spice epidemic afflicting Manchester, never mind causing havoc in prisons across England. Scotland isn’t immune to those problems. After all, what starts there invariably drifts north, and anyway it is already here. “Legal highs” as they are euphemistically known have become the major drug concern in Scottish penal institutions, though without the current level of violence affecting south of the Border. Police Scotland will also testify to the huge problems they face when these substances are mixed with alcohol; and as night follows day, mayhem descends.

It’s as if there’s a political vow of silence taken by the mainstream parties, other than stock responses and glib slogans. After all, it’s reserved to Westminster yet it’s one of the few policies the SNP have never really demanded be devolved. Creditably they supported the legalisation of medicinal cannabis at their annual conference last year. However, since then little has been done by the Scottish Government, to either have it delivered by London or devolved to Scotland. Yet many countries, including such far from swinging lands as Canada and Germany, have already sanctioned it. Even the Republic of Ireland is moving in that direction.

The Conservatives have taken the law and order line and ramped up the war on drugs. It’s a phrase that’s a misnomer, as the enemy isn’t some foreign foe but our own people. Moreover, many foot soldiers for the enemy side are in fact victims themselves. Labour has largely taken that view though less of a gung-ho attitude. The Lib Dems supported decriminalisation of cannabis but failed to act when having access to power.

It’s a hugely complex issue that challenges our society as well as every other, and it has through the centuries, as past crises evidence. Yet it devastates not just individuals but entire communities. It strains our health service, challenges our law enforcement agencies and has even seen areas of our economy infiltered and subverted.

However, I say as a former Justice Secretary that our drug strategy is failing. In that I don’t blame the police, front-line health workers or anyone else working in the often squalid and tragic zones that drug taking can habituate. They do their best to implement the law and mitigate harm, seeking to counsel the vulnerable and target the villains, but it’s a thankless and never-ending task. Moreover, as a senior police officer said to me: what’s the percentage of drugs intercepted, as opposed to what gets through? He ventured a random guess of a small fraction. If it’s a war, we’re losing.

I’m also minded of a very successful businessman friend who once commented that if the policy was a business strategy it would have been changed long ago. But, it isn’t and it hasn’t. Instead we persist with the same tactics that have failed before.

And this is the position despite the drug issue changing. I recall when I first took office, heroin was the major problem affecting inmates at HMP Cornton Vale. By the time I demitted office, it was alcohol mixed with other narcotic substances. Yet the policy remains the same, despite the challenges changing.

Furthermore, when I entered into office the enforcement of a drug debt was by a stab to the buttocks. Now it’s more likely to be the production and sometimes use of a firearm. Drug warrants that I signed off invariably had the two detailed together like salt and pepper. Targeted killings and random shootings are now happening in our cities. It’ll only get worse.

The “let’s get tough” and “laws can solve it” argument saw the Tories bring in the Psychedelic Substances Act to address legal highs. I am again reminded of a sage comment this time from a former prisons chief. He stated that if prohibition hadn’t worked with alcohol which was a low-value, high-visibility substance, how could it possibly cope with white powder and other substances that are invariably high value and low visibility?

He was right as the “zombie nation” that’s marauding Manchester means that even the police are saying that the new laws have made the situation worse. The laws have pushed the drug underground, put up the price and ensured that there’s no check or regulation on what’s being sold.

It’s not just that the law is failing but that it is held in contempt. Some of it is generational but there are huge swathes of our society who now see some drug or drug use as legitimate and laws against them as unfair. Once the law lacks credibility then enforcement becomes hugely difficult as other laws have discovered.

I don’t think there’s an absolute solution and any politician who promises one is either a liar or a fool. Drug abuse like alcohol abuse is symptomatic of a wider malaise and most often tied in with personal issues whether mental health, suffering and deprivation.

The solution should be cross-party agreement for a Royal Commission to Review Policy. The status quo is no longer tenable. Other options do exist and should be explored. Medicinal cannabis has been shown to have benefits and should be capable of being prescribed. Changes are happening all over the world. Even when Trump was winning in America, states were voting to legalise or decrimalise cannabis. Canada has followed suit.

There’s also the Portuguese model where drug-taking is viewed primarily as a health problem. It’s not the promised land but drug deaths are down, as is consumption, but the money and consequently the violence and corruption have been significantly reduced. The apocalypse predicted, of every drug addict in Europe moving to the Algarve, hasn’t happened.

Drugs should be discussed in this election but sadly I fear this issue will remain on the screens and in the streets only.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "KENNY MACASKILL"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4423691.1492620241!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423691.1492620241!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "A homeless person rolls up Spice, a synthetic cannabis substitute, into a cigarette","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A homeless person rolls up Spice, a synthetic cannabis substitute, into a cigarette","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4423691.1492620241!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/david-walsh-may-knows-debate-gaffe-could-see-lead-unravel-1-4423809","id":"1.4423809","articleHeadline": "David Walsh: May knows debate gaffe could see lead unravel","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492671600000 ,"articleLead": "

A crisis of self-doubt means the Prime Minister has everything to lose in this high stakes election, writes David Walsh

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423808.1492632121!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Theresa May doesn't seem to happy in the impromptu and potentially damaging world of live TV debates. Picture: PA"} ,"articleBody": "

‘Not another one!” The exasperation of Brenda from Bristol on hearing of Theresa May’s announcement on Tuesday was no doubt the reception the news received in living rooms and offices up and down the country.

On social media, the refrain “we are all Brenda” was everywhere as the footage of her despair over another general election went viral. Fair to say, she – and I daresay millions like her – was far from impressed.

Voter fatigue is a very real affliction just now. After all, since 2014, Scotland has been summoned to the ballot box to settle no less than two constitutional issues and give its say on the composition of two governments in the last three years. Let’s not forget to add to the pot a second independence referendum on a date yet to be decided and a snap general election on 8 June. As one commentator remarked on Twitter, the UK is perilously close to becoming Italy.

And despite the Prime Minister’s flat denials for months now, it can hardly be a shock to the system that she would take a gamble on what seems to be a safe bet. After all, the Tories are maintaining a seemingly unassailable 20-point-plus lead in the polls in spite of their stuttering handling of one of the most divisive decisions made by the British electorate, not to mention a budget climbdown over further taxing the self-employed and the ebbing away of support over grammar school proposals in England.

The move may not have been a great surprise to many political pundits or some voters but Mrs May’s decision may indeed have surprised her. It is highly likely that she wasn’t of the mind to call a general election until 2020, as she had previously said in numerous interviews since becoming Conservative leader last summer.

Perhaps the scent of blood from the Opposition was becoming too alluring and it was time to lash out at Jeremy Corbyn’s exposed, pulsating jugular. Or maybe Mrs May had a “Moses and the burning bush” moment when she was in Snowdonia with her husband last weekend. Either way, the clock is now ticking down to June’s election.

And yet the habitually cautious, oft unsure-footed Prime Minister has shown her true hand by refusing to do televised debates in the seven weeks leading up to polling day, telling Radio 4 listeners that she instead preferred to “to get out and about and meet voters”.

Why might that be?

Since her assumption of the duties of Prime Minister, we have seen Mrs May through the prism of meticulously choreographed set pieces. Carefully prepared generic answers or catchphrases delivered from the despatch box. One-to-one interviews with the broadcast media. Key policy announcements at high-profile engagements from the pages of finely-tuned speeches. None of these regular, stage-managed occasions has provided much substance to the bones of her government’s Brexit strategy. Rarely has she gone off piste.

Her predecessor did not much like the media interaction either. Margaret Thatcher had self-doubt about her communicative skills and nerves before television appearances according to insiders; the higher the risks, the more she fretted in private.

Indeed, May’s positioning as the contemporary Iron Lady – cemented by her reputation for stringent, competent leadership in the face of difficult Brexit negotiations, particularly amongst those who voted to leave the European Union – has more parallels than first imagined.

But this particular lady is for turning, especially when this more confident persona can be used to her and her party’s advantage.

Standing on the steps of Downing Street on Tuesday, Mrs May, with a grave countenance, cooed that the only way forward was to give her and her colleagues unfettered power to broker a Brexit deal in the face of opponents who threatened to derail a successful exit strategy, forgetting that scrutiny is part and parcel of our democracy.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon both quite rightly called for Mrs May to be “empty chaired”. In reference to when they faced each other contesting the North West Durham constituency, Farron tweeted the Prime Minister asking: “You debated me in 1992, so debate me now. What changed?”

A once alien but now established component of UK electioneering, the televised debate has had the power to make or break political careers since its inaugural outing during the 2010 general election (Who could forget Cleggmania?).

One sour note can cause irreparable damage to a campaign, and Theresa May and her Downing Street cohort know it. Even David Cameron – once a media darling – saw television debates as enough of a mixed blessing to agree to participate in at least one in 2015.

In the past, a snap election two years into a government’s tenure would have been considered weak. A position that could be further weakened once the general public see her sweat under the lights of a televised interrogation.

Such was the fate of DUP leader Arlene Foster in March when a single issue dominated the TV debates ahead of the snap Northern Ireland Assembly elections.

Grilled by both her Stormont opponents and members of a studio audience, the implacable former First Minister hastily constructed a gallows for her political career on air through belligerent answers to questions from voters about her role in the “cash for ash” scandal.

Not only would Theresa May be cornered by every other party leader (with the exception of perhaps Jeremy Corbyn) over the government’s push for a hard Brexit, she would also be forced into a Mexican stand-off with Nicola Sturgeon over her “now is not the time” stance on indyref2.

Against the ultimate symbol of power in the UK, Mrs May delivered a stark choice: “Strong and stable leadership in the national interest, with me as your Prime Minister, or weak and unstable coalition government.” It does beg the question that if the polls are very much in her favour, with a majority backing Brexit, what does Mrs May fear from appearing in debates?

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "DAVID WALSH"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4423808.1492632121!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423808.1492632121!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Theresa May doesn't seem to happy in the impromptu and potentially damaging world of live TV debates. Picture: PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Theresa May doesn't seem to happy in the impromptu and potentially damaging world of live TV debates. Picture: PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4423808.1492632121!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/tories-appeal-to-scottish-tactical-voters-to-block-indyref2-1-4423106","id":"1.4423106","articleHeadline": "Tories appeal to Scottish tactical voters to block indyref2","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492637869000 ,"articleLead": "

Tory leader Ruth Davidson has appealed to tactical voters in Scotland to back her party as the “best bet” to halt the SNP’s independence push as the UK government was ­yesterday given the green light for an election on 8 June.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423828.1492636830!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon and SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson with MPs outside Westminster as the Commons voted in favour of a snap election. Picture: Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

MPs voted 522-13 in favour of a snap poll, centred on the issue of Brexit, with SNP MPs abstaining in a crunch Commons vote.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was in London yesterday to meet her MPs and said she would be open to forming a “progressive alliance” with Labour and Liberal Democrats to keep the Tories out of office. But the move was last night ruled out by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and polls suggest such a scenario is unlikely.

Theresa May put the issue of leadership at the heart of her pitch for the election, as she promised that a Conservative ­victory would give 
Britain stability during and after Brexit.

Writing in today’s Scotsman, Ms Sturgeon said the Prime Minister’s attempt to block “our mandate to hold another referendum when the time is right will crumble to dust”.

The question of a second independence referendum is poised to dominate the campaign and Ms Davidson was accused of “desperation” after calling on anti-independence Scots to back her party, even appealing to tactical voters.

• READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: An SNP win would turn May’s blocking strategy to dust

Ms Davidson insisted that the Tories will win more than the one seat north of the Border they secured in the 2015 general election, while the SNP will fall short of the 56 seats they won two years ago.

“We’re the strongest party to take on the SNP,” Ms Davidson said yesterday.

“If you do believe in tactical voting and if you have a principled belief in keeping the United Kingdom together and respecting the decision that we made in 2014, then actually your vote is for the Scottish Conservatives.

“You’ve got a Labour leader in Jeremy Corbyn who said he’d be quite happy to let another referendum happen, the Lib Dems just aren’t strong enough. It is very much a case, if you’re not supporting the SNP and you want somebody to stop their drive to break up Scotland then the Scottish Conservatives are your best bet.”

Ms Davidson pointed to last year’s Holyrood election when the Tories won a number of constituency seats in the south and west of Scotland, Ayrshire and the Borders, while the party also doubled its vote share in many northern areas where it finished second to the SNP.

“If you’re talking about Angus Robertson [Moray], if the line from the SNP in this general election is going to be talking about Brexit as much as they can, well 49.6 per cent of his seat voted to Leave, so you know, my strong prediction is there’s no way the SNP is getting 56 this time.”

• READ MORE: Theresa May accuses opposition leaders of seeking to divide UK

She also indicated that party will have a “right good go” at securing the Perth and North Perthshire seat held by the SNP’s Pete Wishart.

But a spokesman for the SNP insisted that the Ms Davidson’s appeal showed that the Tories have a “pre-occupation” with independence. He added: “This latest call for tactical voting to try and keep the SNP out is a sign of desperation and shows just how obsessed with this single issue they are.

“These elections are a straight contest between the SNP and the Tories. And for all they try to wriggle out of it, Ruth Davidson’s party cannot just shrug off those ties that bind the Tories in Scotland to their colleagues at Westminster – their relentless austerity agenda, reckless pursuit of a hard Brexit and complete disregard for Scotland’s interests.”

Elections expert Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University warned yesterday that the only hope for the Tories to make significant gains from tactical voting is if the SNP vote falls away.

He said: “Of the 56 seats which the SNP won in the last election there were 34 where they had more than 50 per cent of the vote, so pro-Union tactical voting isn’t going to win them those seats.”

A spokesman for Scottish Labour said: “If voters want to stop the SNP and its plans for a divisive second independence referendum, their only option is to vote for Labour.”

The Liberal Democrats also believe they can capitalise on the pro-Union tactical vote and add to the one seat they have, with Willie Rennie’s party just a few thousand votes behind the SNP in areas including East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh West and ­Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

" ,"byline": {"email": "scott.macnab@scotsman.com" ,"author": "Scott Macnab"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4423828.1492636830!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423828.1492636830!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon and SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson with MPs outside Westminster as the Commons voted in favour of a snap election. Picture: Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon and SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson with MPs outside Westminster as the Commons voted in favour of a snap election. Picture: Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4423828.1492636830!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4423105.1492598790!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423105.1492598790!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ruth Davidson said tactical voters should back the Tories","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ruth Davidson said tactical voters should back the Tories","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4423105.1492598790!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1492512262652"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/theresa-may-accuses-opposition-leaders-of-seeking-to-divide-uk-1-4423834","id":"1.4423834","articleHeadline": "Theresa May accuses opposition leaders of seeking to divide UK","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492636831000 ,"articleLead": "

The Prime Minister has accused opposition parties, including the SNP, of seeking to “divide the country” as MPs cleared the way for a snap general election on 8 June.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423832.1492636812!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Theresa May said that Jeremy Corbyn was not fit to lead, but faced criticism over her refusal to take part in TV debates. Picture: AFP/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

Asking voters to put their trust in her to deliver a good Brexit deal, the Prime Minister warned voters that backing Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP would wreck the UK’s exit from the European Union.

She told the House of Commons: “[Jeremy] Corbyn, [Tim] Farron and [Nicola] Sturgeon want to unite together to divide our country, and we will not let them do it.”

At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Mrs May ­signalled a brutal election campaign that will target the Labour leader, telling MPs he was “simply not fit to lead” and claiming a Labour victory “would bankrupt our economy and weaken our defences”.
However, she faced accusations that she was dodging scrutiny after confirming that she would not take part in any televised election debates.

Jeremy Corbyn accused the ­Conservatives of presiding over falling incomes, a struggling health service, cuts to school funding and rising child poverty, and asked: “If the Prime Minister is so proud of her record, why will she not debate it?”

Mr Corbyn has ruled out a coalition with the SNP after the general election.

Following a meeting of the Labour National Executive, attended by Scottish party leader Kezia Dugdale, Mr Corbyn said the Nationalists had wrecked their progressive credentials by refusing to implement a 50p tax rate.

He said voting Labour was “the only way to remove Theresa May from office”.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson called on the Prime Minister to condemn newspaper headlines suggesting the election was an opportunity to “crush the saboteurs” of Brexit.

At an appearance with her party’s MPs outside Westminster, Ms Sturgeon said the Prime Minister was guilty of political opportunism for using the election to “crush the parliamentary opposition” to a hard Brexit.

The First Minister said the SNP was fighting to win the election in Scotland, but did not need to secure a majority of the vote to keep up the pressure for a second independence referendum.

Asked what would happen if the SNP failed to win a majority of votes, Ms Sturgeon replied: “I already have a mandate.”

She added: “Make no mistake, if the SNP wins this election in Scotland – and the Tories don’t – then Theresa May’s attempt to block our mandate to hold another referendum when the time is right, will crumble to dust.”

Michelle Thomson and Natalie McGarry, the two Nationalist MPs who resigned the SNP whip following separate police investigations, were among the MPs to vote against an election.

Criticising her former party, Ms Thomson posted on Twitter: “This is a time for leadership from the opposition not abstention.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4423832.1492636812!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423832.1492636812!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Theresa May said that Jeremy Corbyn was not fit to lead, but faced criticism over her refusal to take part in TV debates. Picture: AFP/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Theresa May said that Jeremy Corbyn was not fit to lead, but faced criticism over her refusal to take part in TV debates. Picture: AFP/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4423832.1492636812!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1492512262652"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/nicola-sturgeon-an-snp-win-would-turn-may-s-blocking-strategy-to-dust-1-4423805","id":"1.4423805","articleHeadline": "Nicola Sturgeon: An SNP win would turn May’s blocking strategy to dust","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492635600000 ,"articleLead": "

This week it has become clear beyond doubt that, for Theresa May, party comes before country.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423804.1492632062!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Since being sworn in, Mhairi Black has campaigned tirelessly on the injustice of womens pensions being slashed, while others in the 2015 intake of SNP MPs have also made a significant mark, says First Minister Nicola Sturgeon."} ,"articleBody": "

This week it has become clear beyond doubt that, for Theresa May, party comes before country.

For months the Prime Minister has said that a snap, early election was, in her view, the last thing the country needed.

Now was not the time, she said, to be distracted from the job at hand.

But she has suddenly changed her mind - not for the good of the country - but for simple party advantage.

Her motive is clear. She knows that as the terms of her hard Brexit become clearer, the deep misgivings that so many people already have will increase and grow.

So she wants to act now to crush the parliamentary opposition that she faces. Labour’s self-inflicted weakness has presented the excuse.

Theresa May herself has said that politics is not a game, but by calling this election to suit her own party interests she is playing with fire.

No Prime Minister, not even Mrs Thatcher, has complained that there should not be robust debate in Parliament. That is a healthy and indeed necessary in any parliamentary democracy, but Theresa May does not seem willing to acknowledge any views other than hers.

That simply isn’t acceptable in a democracy. A virtual one-party Tory state is a horrifying prospect - but given how weak Labour is, and the Lib Dems’ past record of propping up a Tory government, it is clear that only the SNP can offer strong and credible opposition in the House of Commons.

The SNP in this election will, as we always do, stand up for Scotland.

The 2015 election turned UK politics on its head, and over the last two years, SNP MPs have provided the only effective opposition to the Tories at Westminster.

On issues from austerity to wasting billions of pounds on new nuclear weapons, the SNP has been the only clear and consistent voice speaking up for Scotland’s interests.

It was the consistent campaigning of SNP MPs which saw the Scotland Bill, which is seeing new powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament strengthened - though they are still not strong enough.

Mhairi Black, the youngest MP in over 300 years, has campaigned tirelessly on the injustice of women’s pensions being slashed.

Eilidh Whiteford secured a significant victory as her Private Member’s Bill – which will require the UK Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women – received the backing of MPs.

Alison Thewliss has led the campaign on the two-child tax credit limit and the disgusting rape clause, which will require women who have been raped to prove this to a professional in order to access financial support for their child.

Rather than stand up for women and families on low incomes, the Scottish Tories have thrown their full weight behind the family cap and the rape clause – a decision which will haunt them throughout this campaign.

And Angus Robertson has regularly been the only leader in the Commons willing and able to hold the Prime Minister to account.

So as we head into this election campaign, the choice facing the people of Scotland is clear.

A vote for the SNP is a vote to protect Scotland’s interests. If the thought of an unfettered Tory government worries you - as it should - a vote for the SNP can help secure a strong opposition that can hold them to account.

A vote for the SNP is also a vote to end austerity and for investment in our public services.

And it is a vote to ensure that the future of Scotland - the kind of country we are - will be decided, not at Westminster but in Scotland, by the Scottish people.

Make no mistake - if the SNP wins this election in Scotland, and the Tories don’t, then Theresa May’s attempt to block our mandate to hold another referendum when the time is right will crumble to dust.

The fact is, there is already a cast-iron mandate for holding an independence referendum.

The SNP was elected, with the largest vote share in the history of the Scottish Parliament, on an explicit commitment that the Scottish Parliament should be able to hold a referendum in exactly the circumstances in which we now find ourselves – so there is an electoral mandate, endorsed by the Scottish Parliament just last month.

This general election won’t decide the question of whether or not Scotland becomes independent - but it can ensure that the choice in future is one for the people of Scotland to make, not Westminster.

The desperate attempts by the Prime Minister to run from this mandate shows that she knows the damage she is doing in Scotland.

And she is running scared of TV debates in this election because she knows how badly her hypocrisy, contradictions and U-turns will be exposed.

Over the next few weeks we will ensure that the people of Scotland are clear about the choices open to them.

The simple fact is that there is no cost-free Tory vote in this election.

We have already seen the damage the Tories have done since 2010, first with no majority of their own, and then with just a small majority.

Every Tory vote risks a strengthened Tory government and we should be in no doubt what that would mean. It would mean not just the hardest possible Brexit, but also further austerity and deeper cuts.

It would mean damage to our public services and more pain for the vulnerable. And it would mean a rightwards shift in the governance of the UK that just a few years ago, Ukip could scarcely have dreamed of.

In short, the Tories would think they could do anything they want to Scotland, and get away with it.

That is why it is so important that Scotland continues to have a strong voice against this Tory Government.

The SNP intend to make sure that in this election, the interests of Scotland come first.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "NICOLA STURGEON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4423804.1492632062!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423804.1492632062!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Since being sworn in, Mhairi Black has campaigned tirelessly on the injustice of womens pensions being slashed, while others in the 2015 intake of SNP MPs have also made a significant mark, says First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Since being sworn in, Mhairi Black has campaigned tirelessly on the injustice of womens pensions being slashed, while others in the 2015 intake of SNP MPs have also made a significant mark, says First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4423804.1492632062!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/pmqs-sketch-may-sets-election-tone-with-corbyn-attack-1-4423793","id":"1.4423793","articleHeadline": "PMQs sketch: May sets election tone with Corbyn attack","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492630579000 ,"articleLead": "

On the day that MPs started the clock ticking on a snap election in just seven weeks, SNP MPs were eager to pass the time of day with the Prime Minister.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423792.1492630561!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Theresa May attacks Jeremy Corbyn during PMQs. Picture: AFP/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

So eager, in fact, that at one point several of them were urgently waving their arms in the air, wristwatches bared.

Theresa May had made the mistake of telling them that “now is the time” for a general election, when just a few weeks ago she said that “now is not the time” for a second independence referendum. MPs were due to vote on a motion to call a snap election after PMQs, but the campaign started early.

Setting the tone for the next seven weeks, the Prime Minister picked out every one of Jeremy Corbyn’s unhappy backbenchers and reminded them – and the country – of Labour’s divisions.

“If the honorable gentleman was not willing to support him as leader of his party,” the Prime Minister told the unlucky Jeff Smith, MP for Manchester Withington, “why should his voters support him as leader of the country?”

Mr Corbyn tried to hit the Prime Minister with a record of falling incomes, rising hospital waiting times and growing child poverty, but the blows didn’t land.

It fell to Yvette Cooper to put Mrs May on the spot. “The Prime Minister yesterday said that she was calling a general election because parliament was blocking Brexit, but three quarters of MPs and two thirds of the Lords voted for Article 50, so that’s not true, is it?”

As Tory MPs whistled, the Prime Minister mouthed: “It is true.”

Ms Cooper continued: “A month ago, she told her official spokesman to rule 
out an early general election, and that wasn’t true either, was it?

“She wants us to believe that she is a woman of her word. Isn’t the truth that we cannot believe a single word she says?”

Sitting next to the Prime Minister, David Mundell said it was a “leadership pitch”, a thought some Labour MPs must have shared.

In the debate, Conservative Desmond Swayne noted that turkeys don’t usually vote for Christmas.

But with Labour MPs voting in favour of a snap election, “today those turkeys will indeed vote for that.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4423792.1492630561!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423792.1492630561!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Theresa May attacks Jeremy Corbyn during PMQs. Picture: AFP/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Theresa May attacks Jeremy Corbyn during PMQs. Picture: AFP/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4423792.1492630561!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/snp-abstain-as-mps-vote-in-favour-of-snap-general-election-1-4423079","id":"1.4423079","articleHeadline": "SNP abstain as MPs vote in favour of snap General Election","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492615153000 ,"articleLead": "

SNP MPs abstained in the House of Commons as MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of a snap General Election.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423076.1492596469!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Angus Robertson has confirmed that SNP MPs will abstain in a House of Commons vote on a snap general election."} ,"articleBody": "

The position was confirmed by the party’s leader at Westminster, Angus Robertson.

Mr Robertson said his party believed in fixed-term parliaments but would not stand in the way of an early election.

Theresa May’s motion to call an early General Election on 8 June was backed by 522 votes, a majority of 509 MPs.

• READ MORE: Theresa May: ‘Vote is a chance to reject independence referendum’

Only 13 MPs voted against the motion, including former SNP MPs Natalie McGarry and Michelle Thomson.

The next general election had been due to be held in 2020, but the Fixed Term Parliaments Act allows for one to be held earlier if two-thirds of MPs are in favour.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats had already said they supported the move after Mrs May’s announcement on Tuesday.

Nine Labour MPs voted against an election, including Clive Lewis, widely tipped to be a future leadership challenger.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANGUS HOWARTH"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4423076.1492596469!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423076.1492596469!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Angus Robertson has confirmed that SNP MPs will abstain in a House of Commons vote on a snap general election.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Angus Robertson has confirmed that SNP MPs will abstain in a House of Commons vote on a snap general election.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4423076.1492596469!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1492512262652"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/tv-leaders-debates-set-for-go-ahead-in-scotland-1-4422959","id":"1.4422959","articleHeadline": "TV leaders’ debates set for go-ahead in Scotland","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492605723000 ,"articleLead": "

Televised leaders debates are likely to be staged in Scotland during the election after the heads of Scotland’s main parties gave them their backing today.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4420131.1492605485!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alistair Darling and First Minister Alex Salmond at the second television debate over Scottish independence at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow in 2014."} ,"articleBody": "

Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out taking part in UK-wide leaders debates, despite her predecessors Gordon Brown and David Cameron taking part at the last two elections.

But the main political leaders in Scotland all gave their support to the televised head-to-head events being staged in the build-up to the June 8 vote.

Tory leader Ruth Davidson said “bring it on” when asked about taking part in a TV debate with the other Scottish leaders.

“I think the difference is in Scotland we’ve kind of always done them,” she said.

“Down south it has been a slightly newer invention, I think David Cameron is the only Conservative leader UK-wide who has ever done them.

“It was Gordon Brown really that helped introduced them.”

She added: “I think we’ve got a really strong message into this general election campaign and I am happy to go on telly ... and to speak to the nation about it.”

Theresa May: ‘Vote is a chance to reject independence referendum’

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also criticised Theresa May declining to take part in a TV debate.

She tweeted: “If PM doesn’t have the confidence to debate her plans on TV with other leaders, broadcasters should empty chair her and go ahead anyway.”

Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “In Scotland, we have a longstanding tradition of TV debates and I relish the opportunity to challenge Nicola Sturgeon face-to-face about her reckless plans for a second independence referendum, and to challenge Ruth Davidson about her support for Theresa May’s reckless plans for a hard Brexit.”

Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats hit out at the Prime Minister’s decision not to take part in the debates.

He said: “I find it indefensible that that the Prime Minister has already ruled out a TV debate even though it was her that has called this election.

“This upcoming election is one of the most important that this country has ever had and for politicians to hide away from public scrutiny would be a disservice to the electorate.

“Over the next seven weeks, parties across the spectrum will be campaigning on several issues and the Scottish people have the right to hear from their political leaders.

“Within Scotland we have a range of issues that must be debated.

“From the impact of a hard Tory Brexit in Scotland to the SNP’s attempt to break up the UK; all areas must be under public scrutiny and a leaders’ debate would be the right thing to do.

Mrs May told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We won’t be doing television debates.”

Read more: UK heads for Brexit

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "SCOTT MACNAB"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4420131.1492605485!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4420131.1492605485!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Alistair Darling and First Minister Alex Salmond at the second television debate over Scottish independence at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow in 2014.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alistair Darling and First Minister Alex Salmond at the second television debate over Scottish independence at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow in 2014.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4420131.1492605485!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4422958.1492605393!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4422958.1492605393!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Prime Minister Theresa May announces a snap general election outside 10 Downing Street. Picture: AFP/Daniel Leal/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Prime Minister Theresa May announces a snap general election outside 10 Downing Street. Picture: AFP/Daniel Leal/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4422958.1492605393!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/sturgeon-only-the-snp-can-protect-scotland-from-tories-1-4423128","id":"1.4423128","articleHeadline": "Sturgeon: ‘only the SNP can protect Scotland from Tories’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492599953000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the “damage” an increased Conservative majority at Westminster would cause, stating that in the coming UK election “only the SNP stands between Scotland and an increasingly hard-line Tory government”.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423126.1492599935!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon speaks to media in Victoria Tower Gardens, London. Picture: Jack Taylor/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

Speaking at Westminster today, where she joined her party’s MPs, the First Minister said Theresa May had called the election “not for the good of the country but for simple party advantage”.

She was speaking after the Prime Minister on Tuesday announced plans for a snap poll to be held on 8 June.

The First Minister said a vote for the SNP would be a vote to protect Scotland’s interests at Westminster and lead to increased investment in public services.

She said: “Now, more than ever, Scotland needs strong voices.

“Yesterday, it became clear beyond doubt that, for Theresa May, party comes before country. For months the Prime Minister has said that a snap, early election was, in her view, the last thing the country needed. Now was not the time, she said, to be distracted from the job at hand.

“But yesterday, she changed her mind - not for the good of the country - but for simple party advantage. Her motive is clear. She knows that as the terms of her hard Brexit become clearer, the deep misgivings that so many people already have will increase and grow. So she wants to act now to crush parliamentary the parliamentary opposition that she faces. Labour’s self-inflicted weakness has presented the excuse.”

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon promises to make election about indyref2

Insisting that she would ensure Scotland’s voice is not silenced, she added: “We have seen the damage the Tories have done with no majority of their own and then with a small majority. We should be in no doubt what a strengthened Tory government would mean.

“It would mean not just the hardest possible Brexit, but also further austerity and deeper cuts. It would mean damage to our public services and more pain for the vulnerable. And it would mean a rightwards shift in the governance of the UK that just a few years ago, UKIP could scarcely have dreamed of.

“So the SNP in this election will - as we always do - stand up for Scotland.

“A vote for the SNP is a vote to protect Scotland’s interests. Only the SNP stands between Scotland and an increasingly hard-line Tory government.

“It is a vote to end austerity and for investment in our public services.”

And she said that victory for her party in Scotland would lead to the Prime Minister’s resistance to a second independence referendum “crumbling to dust”.

“It is a vote to ensure that the future of Scotland - the kind of country we are - will be decided, not here at Westminster but in Scotland, by the Scottish people,” Ms Sturgeon added.

“This is an election that has been called in the narrow party interests of the Tories. That’s why, though we won’t stand in its way, we will not endorse the Prime Minister’s opportunism.

“But we intend to make sure that in this election, the interests of Scotland come first.”

Read more: How Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson’s approval ratings have changed

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "RUSSELL JACKSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4423126.1492599935!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423126.1492599935!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon speaks to media in Victoria Tower Gardens, London. Picture: Jack Taylor/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon speaks to media in Victoria Tower Gardens, London. Picture: Jack Taylor/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4423126.1492599935!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} ]}}} ]}