Race for Holyrood: Your Scottish election briefing for Monday, March 29

A lighter look at the Scottish election campaign trail.

Soapbox

In this section, we look at a prominent tweet, Facebook or Instagram post from today

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Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon): “The Scottish Child Payment – introduced by ⁦@theSNP – has been described as a ‘gamechanger’ in the fight against child poverty. Today, I’ll set out plans – if re-elected – to double it from £10 per week for each eligible child to £20 per week.”

The First Minister’s election pledge to double the Scottish Child Payment was hailed by some as a “radical” step to reducing inequality in Scotland, but a study published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation last week found the Scottish Government would have “no credible” way to meet its own child poverty targets without enacting the measure.

Caption This

Do you have a good caption for this photo of Willie Rennie frolicking at Dunfermline Abbey, where he announced his party's plans to raise the starting age for formal schooling? Let us know in the comments. The best suggestions will be featured in tomorrow’s Race for Holyrood briefing.

#FakeNews?

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie frolics at Dunfermline Abbey, where he announced his party's plans to raise the starting age for formal schooling
Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie frolics at Dunfermline Abbey, where he announced his party's plans to raise the starting age for formal schooling

Is it fake news or not? We expose a political comment or claim to proper scrutiny

Alex Salmond has claimed his new Alba Party can help deliver a “super-majority for independence” at the coming election.

The SNP’s dominance across constituency contests means that, despite winning around a million votes for its list candidates, the party usually returns fairly few regional MSPs.

In theory, Alba could actually take seats away from opposition parties by co-opting votes that would otherwise have been “wasted” SNP list candidates.

The strategy is not without risks, however. If Alba stands in regions like the South of Scotland, or the Highlands and Islands, where the SNP do not dominate constituency contests, the new party might actually scupper the chances of a “super-majority for independence” at Holyrood.

Campaign Trail

We summarise key developments on the campaign trail from today

• Anas Sarwar and Labour’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie launched the party’s national recovery plan for the NHS at the Vale of Leven Hospital on Monday morning.

The hospital, in the town of Alexandria, sits squarely inside Ms Baillie’s Dumbarton constituency, which faces a serious challenge from the SNP at the coming election.

Labour might hope that a prominent visit to the region from its new leader could shore up support for Holyrood veteran Ms Baillie, who has seen off five different SNP challengers since 1999, but who is now left defending a majority of just 109 votes.

•The SNP may have called Alex Salmond’s new Alba Party “the most predictable development in Scottish politics for quite some time”, but a source inside the party said there was shock to see Neale Hanvey jump ship so soon. They told The Scotsman the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP, who was suspended over allegations of anti-Semitism in 2019, had worked hard to regain the trust of the leadership in recent months.

Meanwhile, there is increasing chatter among the SNP’s Westminster group that Mr Hanvey may not be the last of their parish to defect to Alba.

Margaret Ferrier, who was also suspended from the party last year after breaking Covid-19 laws, is also rumoured to be considering joining Mr Salmond’s new outfit.

•But there was rosier news for the SNP this weekend too, as the party revealed 15,000 Scots had joined the SNP since the start of March.

Party officials will no doubt see the influx as a welcome change, after a series of high-profile figures resigned their membership in February, accusing SNP chiefs of failing to address transphobic abuse in its ranks.

Battleground

We look at a minority seat or constituency battleground each day. Today it is:

Edinburgh Central

•Winning party (2016): Scottish Conservatives

•Second place (2016): SNP

•Swing to lose: 0.89%

Scotland’s political parties have been playing a protracted game of musical chairs in Edinburgh Central – a seat that has changed hands three times since 2007.

Initially held for more than a decade by Labour’s Sarah Boyack, the SNP flipped it in 2011, before it was promptly re-flipped by the then-Tory leader Ruth Davidson in 2016.

With Ms Davidson soon to swap her Holyrood seat for a House of Lords bench, SNP heavyweight Angus Robertson will make a remarkable return to frontline politics if he can prize Edinburgh Central from the Tories in May.

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