Race for Holyrood: Your Scottish election briefing for Friday, April 23

A light-hearted look at the Scottish election campaign trail.


@amcarmichaelMP: “Wanting a border between Scotland and England is literally the foundational policy of the SNP. Nicola Sturgeon must think Scots are total mugs when she claims to be against a border with England – just one day after one of her MSPs was claiming it would be good for the economy.”

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Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael weighed in after Nicola Sturgeon insisted the SNP didn’t want to see a hard border between Scotland and England after comments from one of her candidates suggesting a new trade barrier could “create jobs”. Ms Sturgeon claimed she had not seen the comments from SNP MSP Emma Harper “directly”.

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Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie (right) takes part in a karate lesson with Robert Steggles at The Meadows in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

A dossier published by the Scottish Liberal Democrats on Friday highlighted so-called “broken promises” made by the SNP over 14 years and claimed a failure to end the education attainment gap was “among the longest broken promises in the world”. While the latter part of that claim could be readily contested, the Lib Dems are right on the SNP still coming up short on the attainment gap. A report published by the Auditor General for Scotland and the Accounts Commission just last month found the poverty-related attainment gap remained wide and existing inequalities had been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Even pre-pandemic, the Scottish Government’s own figures show the gap was not necessarily closing in all areas. The gap between the literacy achievements of pupils from the most and least deprived areas actually increased between 2017/18 and 2018/19.

Campaign Trail

•Nicola Sturgeon has tried to distinctly separate the issues around coronavirus and the election trail in still heading up weekly briefings over the official campaign period. However, Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie was quick to seize on plans around a coronavirus vaccine certification system when quizzed during an election campaign appearance on Friday. Mr Rennie should the certificates should be put on hold until Parliament has had a chance to debate the proposal.

•The Scottish Greens have captured some attention with their polling results in recent months and now they are turning heads in more ways than one on the election trail. Party co-convener Patrick Harvie was out on the campaign trail on Friday, meeting climate striker Dylan Hamilton who has spent the past week protesting on Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Mr Harvie was about to be interviewed by The Scotsman when he was approached by a man claiming his 87-year-old mother had switched from the Tories to the Greens. The bystander then thanked Mr Harvie for all the work he'd done. The party's PR contact quickly assured our reporter the incident was not staged.


East Lothian

•Winner (2016): Labour

•Second Place (2016): SNP

•Swing to lose: 1.49%

Former Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray is standing down after 14 years as the constituency’s MSP and the SNP has made it a target seat.

Labour has held the seat since the first Scottish Parliament election in 1999, but Mr Gray's majority fell to just 151 in 2011 and was 1,127 last time.

Taking over the Labour mantle is primary teacher Martin Whitfield, who represented East Lothian at Westminster from 2017 until 2019.

The SNP candidate is Paul McLennan, a councillor for 14 years and a former council leader. says he is "cautiously optimistic" he can win, while Tory Craig Hoy, who fought the Westminster seat at the last general election, and finished third, has also thrown his hat in the ring.

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