Race for Holyrood: Your Scottish election briefing for Friday, April 2

A lighter look at the Scottish election campaign trail.


@PaulJSweeney: “These reforms are needed in the Scottish Parliament. The Salmond inquiry exposed a lack of parliamentary privilege protection for MSPs, and several scandals with SNP ministers showed there is no accountability for misconduct, so it needs a recall system.”

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Scottish Labour pledged to launch a 'Clean Up Holyrood' Commission on Friday to explore the establishment of an independent ethics commission to oversee the Scottish Government.

The commission would also seek to increase transparency in government and introduce parliamentary privilege at Holyrood to give MSPs the same protection as MPs.

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Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie visits Glasgow ahead of the COP26 global climate summit in November.

On Friday, Nicola Sturgeon unveiled a £1 billion package of business support spending that she pledged the SNP would implement if re-elected in May. The measures, which Ms Sturgeon described as “significant”, include £719 million of rates relief for the retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation sectors in 2021, as well as £275m to support town centre revitalisation over the next five years.

But Scottish Labour were quick to accuse Ms Sturgeon of recycling old announcements to make her election manifesto seem more generous. In fact, MSPs had already agreed to the £719m of rates relief as part of February’s Budget update, and the £275m was pledged in last year's Programme for Government.

The only new money in Ms Sturgeon’s announcement appears to be a £10m "Scotland Loves Local" fund – just 1 per cent of the overall package.

Campaign Trail

•There was satisfaction among SNP officials on Thursday evening after a new poll predicted a sixth-placed finish for Alex Salmond’s Alba. An SNP insider told The Scotsman they were “not especially surprised” to see the new party struggle. “Let’s face it,” the source added, “he’s recruited a motley crew.”

•Meanwhile, Mr Salmond announced on Friday that Alba membership has overtaken that of the Liberal Democrats – no mean feat for a party formed a week ago. At the last count, Willie Rennie’s party had in the region of 4,000 members.

•Viewing figures from the BBC show more than 600,000 people tuned in to watch Tuesday’s leaders’ debate. Some 419,000 people saw the parties battle it out on BBC One Scotland, easily out-performing shows in the same time slot on rival channels. A further 58,000 watched on the BBC News channel in Scotland, and a total of 160,000 on BBC News UK-wide.


This column rates how each of the main party leaders in Scotland have fared over the past week.

Nicola Sturgeon - 7/10

•While some commentators said Nicola Sturgeon was lacklustre during Tuesday night’s BBC leaders’ debate, the First Minister did a steady enough job of defending her record in Bute House. Polling published on Thursday showed the SNP still steaming towards a narrow majority Holyrood in May, and – perhaps more importantly – showed the Alba Party in sixth place after failing to make a big splash in the race.

Anas Sarwar - 8/10

•Widely considered to have won Tuesday night’s debate, Anas Sarwar has had the wind in his sails this week. He grabbed headlines with the launch of a raft of policies designed to support the NHS, but his efforts have not yet translated into a rising tide for Labour in the polls.

Douglas Ross - 6/10

•The Scottish Conservatives have had a choppy start to the campaign season, with many criticising Douglas Ross’s debate style as uptight and overly focused on constitutional issues. Mr Ross will be hoping that nailing his colours to the mast with election pledges to reinvigorate the economy will see waves of voters turn blue.

Lorna Slater - 8/10

•Tuesday’s debate was something of a maiden voyage for Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater, who took on the position in 2019. The event was plain sailing for Ms Slater, whose strong performance appears to have impressed voters. The most recent poll showed the Greens on course to secure 11 per cent of list votes – nearly double their tally in 2016.

Willie Rennie - 7/10

•The Lib Dem leader may have been feeling drowned out at the leaders’ debate, but has made up for it by getting on with posing for a series of creative photos with over-sized objects, including a giant deckchair, a mega chessboard and a six-foot-tall Connect Four grid. His party’s policies on expanded early years education and mental health have also stood out.

Alex Salmond - 4/10

•After a widely-publicised launch, it is safe to say Mr Salmond’s campaign is not off to a good start. Thursday’s poll left any hopes of Alba securing a “super-majority for independence” in serious doubt – and while the party’s battleship is far from sunk, it is certainly taking on early water.


Edinburgh Western

•Winning party (2016): Liberal Democrats

•Second place (2016): SNP

•Swing to lose: 3.72%

Edinburgh Western has been a target for both the SNP and the Liberal Democrats since it was created in 2011 following the boundary review. Its predecessor, Edinburgh West, returned a Lib Dem at every election since Holyrood reopened, while SNP candidates in the constituency gradually climbed from fourth in 1999, to third in 2003 and second in 2007.

The party actually managed to snap up the new seat of Edinburgh Western in 2011, before the Lib Dem’s Alex Cole-Hamilton won it back in 2016. Now sitting on a majority just shy of 3,000, the 43-year-old might fancy his chances of being returned this year too.

But with the SNP intent on securing a Holyrood majority to press the case for a second independence referendum, the party will throw everything but the kitchen sink at seats like Edinburgh Western.

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