Race for Holyrood: Your Scottish election briefing for Thursday, April 29

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

Soapbox

@murdo_fraser: “Latest independence poll: Yes 46%, No 54%. Trend is clear now across all pollsters – as is the #SettledWill of the Scottish people.”

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Senior Scottish Conservative candidate Murdo Fraser was among those to post in the aftermath of the publication of a new poll by Savanta ComRes for The Scotsman. The survey showed support for independence at its lowest level since the 2019 general election – a result seized on by pro-union politicians, including former Scottish Tories leader Ruth Davidson.

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Do you have a good caption for this photo of Douglas Ross in Coldstream, close to the border between Scotland and England.

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Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross during a visit to Henderson Park in Coldstream, at the border between Scotland and England. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Willie Rennie said his party has made progress in boosting the number of female candidates, after he was left feeling “utterly embarrassed” in 2016 when the five Lib Dem MSPs elected were all white men.

In fact, there are only two more women running for the party this time, with 28 female candidates compared to 26 in 2016, with both years featuring 35 men.

However, there is a huge difference in where those women are placed, with female candidates in seats the party considers winnable such as Beatrice Wishart in Shetland and Molly Nolan in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross.

Female candidates are also top of regions including the North East, South, Glasgow, and West, meaning even if the result isn’t brilliant the party still has a better chance of 50/50 representation.

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Independent Scotland would have 'substantial' fiscal deficit, new report warns

Campaign Trail

•There will be an unofficial race to become the first constituency called in terms of results on Friday next week once official counting starts from 9am. The Scotsman has learned that Orkney and East Dunbartonshire will be among the locations vying for the title to be first declared. Both of those counts are taking place in large sports centres where it will be easier for electoral staff to maintain physical distancing, and the number of votes to be counted are significantly lower than other seats across Scotland. The Scotsman is expecting the first result to be called anywhere between noon and 2pm.

•The dire warnings over Scotland’s financial position if it were to become independent have been flying thick and fast this week and the Institute for Fiscal Studies dampened the move further with a warning linked to the Covid recovery. The think-tank warned Scotland’s fiscal deficit could be as high as 25 per cent of GDP as a result of the pandemic. Higher levels of public spending in Scotland are, according to the IFS, paid for from fiscal transfers from the south of England. The analysis didn’t come at an ideal time for the SNP, with the election now just a week away.

Battleground

Dunfermline

•Winning Party (2016): SNP

•Second place (2016): Labour

•Swing to lose: 6.93%

Dunfermline – once Scotland's capital city – was formerly split into two seats, East and West, incorporating other parts of Fife, including Cowdenbeath, but was unified in boundary changes in 2011.

Disgraced SNP politician Bill Walker had claimed the seat from the Liberal Democrats at the 2011 election before being expelled from the party the following year and later resigning as an MSP in 2013.

Social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville stood in the subsequent by-election, coming second to Labour’s Cara Hilton. But the seat flipped at the 2016 election, with Ms Somerville winning from the same opponent by a majority of 4,558 votes.

The challenge this time round will come from Labour’s Julie MacDougall and Scottish Tories candidate Roz McCall.

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