Race for Holyrood: Your Scottish election briefing for Wednesday, April 28

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

Soapbox

@scotlibdems: “Every minute of the next Parliament must focus on the climate emergency, creating jobs, mental health and education.”

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Under the Scottish Liberal Democrat plan, a Recovery First Secretary would replace the Deputy First Minister in the government hierarchy and have responsibility for cross-government work on recovery.

The party says the move, which would see civil service staff and resources moved from planning an independence referendum, would free the First Minister to continue to lead weekly briefings and take day-to-day decisions on the pandemic.

Lib Dems leader Willie Rennie warned: “Every minute of the next Parliament must focus on the climate emergency, creating jobs, mental health and education.”

Caption This

Do you have a good caption for this photo of Willie Rennie struggling to keep up with a pup at the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home?

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie meets Daisy - an English bull terrier - during a visit to the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home.

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#FakeNews?

On Wednesday, the Scottish Conservatives claimed SNP plans for another referendum “would smash Scotland’s fragile economic recovery into pieces”.

Hyperbole aside, it is true to say that researchers have expressed concerns about the economic shock a newly independent Scotland would face.

A report published by the Institute for Government the same day suggested that massive cuts to public spending would follow independence, as ministers attempted to slash Scotland’s deficit by more than half – as a pre-requisite for future EU membership.

The think-tank’s analysis follows work by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) on Monday, which also predicted a heavy deficit burden and “difficult choices” for an independent Scotland.

The IFS also heavily criticised the manifestos of the SNP, Labour and the Tories for being detached from the “fiscal reality” facing Scotland in coming years, condemning what it saw as a lack of transparency with voters.

Read More

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

Campaign Trail

•A focus group of Scottish voters has savaged Nicola Sturgeon and her former mentor Alex Salmond after being asked to name animals the party leaders reminded them of. The First Minister was likened to – among others – a fox, a hyena and a Scottie dog (“because she looks a bit like one”), while voters labelled her predecessor a toad, a snake and a warthog. Rival party leaders likely escaped similar excoriation by dint of the fact that pollsters didn’t bother to ask about them.

•Polling conducted as part of the same survey suggests the Yes and No camps on Scottish independence are in a “statistical dead heat” – on 49 per cent and 51 per cent respectively. In happier news for Ms Sturgeon, almost two thirds of Scots (64 per cent) said they approved of her handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

•The First Minister will need that morale boost after Tuesday’s bruising leaders’ debate on Channel 4. Ms Sturgeon struggled to defend the SNP’s record on drug deaths and education, while Labour leader Anas Sarwar looked deeply uncomfortable when pressed on the issue of Scottish independence. “If you don’t want to talk about it, it’s fine, you can sit it out,” quipped Krishnan Guru-Murthy to the Labour leader. Ouch.

Battleground

Eastwood

•Winning Party (2016): Scottish Conservatives

•Second place (2016): SNP

•Swing to lose: 2.22%

This affluent seat in leafy south-west Glasgow was first won by Labour’s Ken Macintosh in 1999. Mr Macintosh, who went on to serve as Holyrood’s presiding officer, held onto the seat until 2016, when a surging SNP vote helped the Scottish Conservatives’ Jackson Carlaw squeeze ahead. Mr Macintosh finished third.

The seat is now thought to be a toss-up between the Tories and the SNP. With Mr Carlaw, who resigned as his party’s leader last year, defending a slim majority of around 1,500 votes, his seat is high up on the SNP HQ’s hit list.

Taking Eastwood – and the even more vulnerable seat of Dumbarton from Labour’s Jackie Baillie – would deliver a clean sweep of the West Scotland region constituencies for the SNP. Doing so would mark the impressive culmination of the party’s mission to gain total domination in a region traditionally regarded as the staunchest of Labour strongholds.

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