Five days in and voters will be more confused than ever - leader comment

Reminder – we are only days into the 2021 Holyrood election campaign, this thing has still got five weeks to go.

Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond is seen out and about at the weekend in Strichen

Whether the drama of the last few days will be matched as the candidates hit the virtual campaign trail, who can say, but anyone who thought the pandemic election might be less interesting, lacking fireworks and fury, or turn into the foregone conclusion it has been looking like for months has already been proved mistaken.

There is all to play for, the stakes could not be higher, and all the party leaders – including the newest to enter the fold – know that as they battle for your votes.

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Alex Salmond’s dramatic arrival into the race lobbed a grenade into his former party’s election plans. Going after the list vote, he insists is helping the SNP in the bid for a pro-independence super-majority. It is fair to assume Nicola Sturgeon will not see it that way.

If that is an example of ‘gaming’ the Holyrood system to boost the independence cause, then on the other side Douglas Ross has suggested a fightback.

Ross warned the other parties were being “naive in the extreme” if they did not accept the “very real” possibility that Salmond’s plan could work, and even suggested the Tories could withdraw their own candidates in seats they are unlikely to win to give other unionist parties a boost.

Previous suggestions the parties could work together have been dismissed by Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, and the chances of a change of heart seems about as likely as Boris Johnson granting indyref2.

But it does suggest that, far from being the predictable SNP landslide, we have one of the most fascinating electoral contests in years.

Where it will end up by the end of the week, let along election day, is anyone’s guess. Will tactical voting play any part or are these just the opening exchanges and manoeuvres of the fierce fight which is to follow.

What we would hope is that all party leaders concentrate on policies, on winning the argument, and allowing us all to make the best informed choice possible come May. Five days in, many may be more confused than ever.

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