Race for Holyrood: Your Scottish election briefing for Wednesday, March 31

A lighter look at the Scottish election campaign trail.

Soapbox

@_KateForbes: “Fair point by Anas Sarwar that we need more from the Tories than just constant negativity. It gets tedious after a while and even the Tories I know are waiting to see their party put forward some positive proposals. #leadersdebate.”

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Finance secretary Kate Forbes hit back at the Scottish Conservatives’ accusation the SNP is obsessed with holding a second independence referendum on Tuesday night.

While the leaders’ debate unfolded on the BBC, Ms Forbes appeared to back Anas Sarwar’s attack on the Tories’ “constant negativity”.

She labelled it “tedious” and called on the party to produce some positive proposals.

Ms Forbes will have to wait until mid-April, like the rest of us, to see what the Scottish Conservatives’ manifesto holds in store.

Caption This

Members of the public watch the Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross as he pays a visit to the former Loanhead police station. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Members of the public watch the Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross as he pays a visit to the former Loanhead police station. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Do you have a good caption for this photo of Douglas Ross’s warm welcome in Loanhead? Let us know in the comments.

#FakeNews?

The SNP was under fire on Wednesday after it claimed in an election leaflet that Scotland was “leading the UK and much of Europe in the vaccine rollout”. But recent vaccination figures, accurate to March 25, show that Scotland is actually in third place behind other UK nations in terms of the percentage of adults that each country has vaccinated.

England leads the other UK nations, with 56 per cent of people aged over 18 having received their first dose, followed by Wales on 53 per cent, Scotland on 52 per cent, and Northern Ireland on 49 per cent.

Loanhead’s famous Coghorn sculpture.

At the same time, around 6 per cent of Scots have received their second dose of a vaccine – far short of Wales’ 15 per cent, and still lower than Northern Ireland’s 8 per cent.

Campaign Trail

•The opening of the BBC’s election debate on Tuesday evening was beset with technical difficulties, with several party leaders introduced by title cards as “Anas Sarwar”. Viewers also complained of a series of glitches that saw cameras zoom in on candidates who were not speaking. While one source at the corporation suggested to The Scotsman that the robotic cameras might be to blame for the choppy start to the debate, a spokesperson for the BBC confirmed that the automated devices were not used during the broadcast.

•Douglas Ross is said to have been moments away from making a political gaffe at a photo shoot in Loanhead, Midlothian on Wednesday morning. The Scottish Conservative leader was being egged-on by a pack of photographers to clamber inside the town’s famous eight-foot-tall Coghorn sculpture, when a quick-thinking adviser dashed to his aid and nixed the idea. The disappointed snappers had to make do with much more sensible photos of Mr Ross outside a closed police station instead.

•The mood in Alba’s camp has been described as “buoyant” by one insider, as the party unveiled its full list of candidates for the coming election. A source told The Scotsman that Alba was likely on course to become Scotland’s fourth largest party in terms of membership. “I can appreciate that some in the SNP are feeling rather bruised,” they said. “I have friends there and I wish them well. We’re looking forward to working with them soon.”

Battleground

Edinburgh Southern

Winning party (2016): Scottish Labour

Second place (2016): SNP

Swing to lose: 1.47%

Leafy Edinburgh Southern has changed hands more times than a rusty penny. Formerly Edinburgh South prior to the 2008 boundary review, the well-heeled suburban constituency is known for producing razor thin majorities.

In 2003, Lib Dem stalwart Mike Pringle beat Labour’s Angus Mackay to win Edinburgh South by just 158 votes.

But it was the SNP’s (now Alba’s) Jim Eadie who won the newly-formed Edinburgh Southern in 2011, before Labour’s finance spokesman Daniel Johnson took it in 2016.

Mr Johnson, who sits on a majority just north of 1,000, is standing against Catriona MacDonald for the SNP, and Miles Briggs of the Scottish Tories.

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