Race for Holyrood: Your Scottish election briefing for Wednesday, April 21

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

Soapbox

@Ianblackford_MP “Here is the offending Maisie who seem to want to call out the behaviour of @BorisJohnson.”

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While this exchange wasn’t technically on the Scottish election trail, it did suitably raise plenty of eyebrows in political circles. Boris Johnson claimed the dog belonging to the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford made a “more sensible” contribution after barking during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. Mr Blackford later tweeted a picture of his beloved pet ‘Maisie’ and thanked his canine companion, saying: “She knows that BJ and his Gov are up to their eyeballs in sleaze.”

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Do you have a good caption for this photo of Alba Party leader Alex Salmond at the Falkirk Wheel?

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#FakeNews?

Alba Party leader Alex Salmond gestures as he launches his manifesto at The Falkirk Wheel in Stirlingshire. Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images

In a speech on Gretna’s romantic green, close to the English border, All for Unity leader George Galloway used his trademark polemic to criticise the First Minister for her hesitancy to roll back restrictions as quickly as the rest of the UK.He said there were just four cases of coronavirus in the past week ‘in the Scottish Borders’.This isn’t true. In fact, it’s even less – there were just two cases in the Scottish Borders in the seven days leading up to April 16.

However, in Dumfries and Galloway, where Gretna is located, there were just four cases in the same period, and it’s most likely he misspoke.

The picture on the other side of the border paints a different picture, and maybe not the one Mr Galloway was trying to draw.

In Cumbria and Northumberland, the two English counties which straddle the border, there were 75 and 64 cases in the same period respectively.

Campaign Trail

•Those who have felt the leaders’ debates shown on BBC and STV so far during this Scottish election campaign period have been tame would have received a pleasant surprise if they logged on to the National Union of Students livecast on Tuesday night. Nicola Sturgeon became particularly animated when questioned by Scottish Tories leader Douglas Ross over the rollout of the vaccination programme in Scotland, describing the opposition of using “disgraceful” tactics. She followed it up by accusing Anas Sarwar of “sitting on the fence”, prompting the Labour leader to have a dig back. Finally, the campaign is heating up.

•Jackie Baillie did not hold back when it came to questions surrounding Alex Salmond in her role as a committee member on the inquiry into the handling of harassment complaints against the former first minister. And Scottish Labour’s deputy leader showed she is not about to stop, saying on Wednesday the potential return of Mr Salmond to Holyrood “fills me with dread”. She stressed it would be “desperately sad for the Parliament” if the former SNP leader was re-elected, claiming it would distract from efforts to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. So will we see Mr Salmond back in Holyrood after May 6?

Battleground

Edinburgh Eastern

•Winner (2016): SNP

•Second Place (2016): Labour

•Swing to lose: 7.19%

Ash Denham succeeded Kenny MacAskill as the SNP MSP here at the last election in 2016 with a comfortable majority of 5,087 and is seeking re-election on May 6.

The constituency was originally Edinburgh East and Musselburgh, but the boundaries changed in 2011 when Musselburgh was instead linked with Midlothian.

It is still centred on Portobello and Craigmillar, taking in Abbeyhill, Lochend, Restalrig, Craigentinny, Willowbrae and Duddingston, but it now extends south to include Mordeun, most of Liberton, Gilmerton, Gracemount, Alnwhickhill and Burdiehouse.

The SNP have a relative stranglehold on the seat, having won the constituency at the past three elections. Ms Denham will be challenged this time round by Labour candidate Bill Cook, who was councillor for Liberton/Gilmerton and deputy finance convener for five years up to 2017, as well as Tory Graham Hutchison and Lib Dem Jill Reilly – a project manager with insurance giant Phoenix.

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