LABOUR and the SNP will today embark on a final frantic 24 hours of campaigning ahead of the Dunfermline by-election, with voters preparing to elect a new MSP tomorrow.
Amid a war of words over campaigning tactics, the SNP hit out at Labour for publishing a leaflet pledging support for a host of Scottish “freebies”, despite previous warnings by Labour leader Johann Lamont that cutbacks could force a rethink on their affordability.
But Labour figures last night dismissed the attack, saying they remained quietly confident that they will emerge as victors.
The by-election follows the resignation of former SNP MSP Bill Walker, who quit the seat last month after being found guilty of domestic abuse charges.
Labour chiefs campaigning in the seat said there were also suggestions that tactical voting may boost the party’s chances, with Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters likely to lend them their vote.
However, landed with the favourite’s tag, Labour is now under pressure to turn around the SNP’s 590 majority, and is preparing to mount a major get-out-the-vote campaign tomorrow.
The SNP, however, remains bullish about its own chances in what is a clear two-horse race.
Yesterday it claimed Labour’s campaign had tipped into “disarray” over its use of a leaflet which said Labour wanted to maintain the council tax freeze, and backed free prescription charges and free bus passes for pensioners.
The SNP pointed to a separate review of the country’s public finances, commissioned by Ms Lamont, which is examining the cost of all public services in Scotland, led by Professor Arthur Midwinter.
SNP’s Dunfermline campaign director Bruce Crawford MSP said yesterday that Ms Lamont should deliver the leaflet herself.
“Either Ms Lamont can endorse and deliver this bizarre leaflet, in which case she has ditched her own ‘cuts commission’. Or she can refuse to be seen in public with it, in which case she has disowned Labour’s by-election campaign,” he said.
The SNP candidate Shirley-Anne Somerville added: “The truth is that the council tax freeze, no bridge tolls, free personal care, no tuition fees, free prescriptions and free bus travel for the over-60s are all threatened by Labour – and can only be protected by voting SNP on Thursday.”
Labour figures last night said Ms Lamont supported the leaflet’s contents. “What we’re trying to do is to examine the public finances so we can save some of these things,” a spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Lib Dem leader, attacked the SNP’s plans for independence, saying they would put the future of the Rosyth dockyard in danger.
He said: “Rosyth dockyard is proud to be constructing and commissioning the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy, as I have seen for myself at first hand. But we want those ships to return for refit with the continuing economic advantages it would bring to Fife.
“Rosyth is well placed to get those orders with the deepwater basin and docking facility. But the SNP’s independence plans put the future of Rosyth at risk.”
The result is expected after midnight tomorrow night.