David Maddox: Scotland’s role in deciding who gets No 10

THE TNS poll published yesterday will have shocked many in Scotland, even members of the SNP, as more than half of those who know how they will vote say they will vote for the Nationalists. However, there was an even more significant statistic – the 29 per cent who have yet to make up their mind.

This week could prove to be crucial in deciding whether Miliband or Cameron gets into No 10. Picture: Greg Macvean
This week could prove to be crucial in deciding whether Miliband or Cameron gets into No 10. Picture: Greg Macvean

The number of undecideds in Scotland is reflected across the UK, where the polls suggest that Labour and the Tories are neck and neck and there is still everything to play for.

So this week could prove to be the crucial one in deciding whether it is Ed Miliband or David Cameron who gets into No 10 and which minor parties will hold the keys to power for them.

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The Easter eggs are eaten, the children are returning to school and now many people’s minds are turning to who they will vote for on 7 May. This means the series of manifesto launches this week could prove crucial, as the parties have one final set of big, set-piece events to help get their message into the minds of voters.

But each of the parties has different things to do to persuade its target voters.

Yesterday, Labour decided, perhaps surprisingly, to turn a perceived weakness into a strength and pin its hopes on economic responsibility and a promise to balance the books. However, in doing this, the party has potentially caused problems in the one place it needs to win back – Scotland.

As voters north of the Border apparently warm to Nicola Sturgeon’s message of more borrowing and spending, shadow chancellor Ed Balls promised Scotland more austerity, undermining the message given by Scottish leader Jim Murphy.

The Tories, meanwhile, have written off Scotland and have effectively granted Ruth Davidson her own form of independence. So expect little for Scotland today in the Conservative manifesto but lots more anti-SNP rhetoric.

The Lib Dems just need to try to hold on to as many of their seats as they can and do to that, they need to persuade voters there they did not make a mistake.

Ukip has decided to go for the dog-whistle politics of immigration and bashing hand-outs for foreigners.

However, the key part of this election could be whether the SNP can fend off any fears about the £7.6 billion cost of its plan for full fiscal autonomy and keep persuading Scottish voters that all that is needed is to borrow more.

With the independence referendum, 2014 was the year of hashtag “Scotland Decides”. If Labour can somehow hold on to most of its 41 Scottish seats, and with the party neck and neck in England with the Tories, then 2015 may also be the year of “Scotland Decides”.