Holyrood campaign – The first week

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By G.A.Ponsonby

Well it’s all kicked off in earnest; the election campaign has officially begun.  What have been the talking points, the gaffes and the stories this first week?

Profile:
Salmond has the higher profile as you would expect.  The SNP leader is an asset and the party strategy is clear in these early days.  He had the advantage in that he was able to appear in his capacity as First Minister and leader of the SNP in order to respond to the UK budget.  Iain Gray by contrast has been invisible, this will be Labour’s strategy as they try to minimise comparisons with Salmond and hope that loyalty amongst voters will be enough to secure victory.

Issues:
The budget threw North Sea oil into the election fire and the flames will sooth the SNP and burn Labour.  Scottish resources is the area where the SNP are strongest and it is no surprise that the BBC in Scotland have not gone overboard with this.  Thursday’s Reporting Scotland item on the North Sea tax hike managed to omit all mention of one country – Scotland.  By Friday the issue was not important enough to merit a mention.

There was a weak attempt by one or two papers at making LIT an issue, which looks as though it will be Labour’s way of detracting from the council tax U-turn, but it came to nothing.  So look out for the Scottish media homing in on LIT as the campaign progresses.

Friendly Fire:
Labour’s shadow health minister Dianne Abbott endorsing minimum pricing for alcohol in England only months after the Scottish branch of Labour helped block the move in Scotland was an own goal for Labour.  Labour were saved from embarrassing headlines by the Scottish media who all but ignored the story.

Two Tory candidates have gone and one Lib Dem, but neither party is expected to set the heather on fire so not a major game changer.

Gratuitous attack:
Angus Macleod on the excellent Newsweek Scotland radio show couldn’t help himself and used a story about some sectarian chanting at the Old Firm cup final to attack the SNP’s Kenny MacAskill.  Macleod suggested that the investigation into the chanting had backfired on Kenny MacAskill who had praised the behaviour of players and fans after the scenes at the previous encounter.

BBC Scotland’s campaign:
Low key, the usual Labour inspired headline ‘Salmond accused of broken promises’ still sits over the online report of last week’s First Ministers Questions.  (View what really happened at FMQs to the right of this article.)

There is also a helpful BBC online article, visible to the right of every online article, urging people not to turn against nuclear power.  This of course has nothing at all to do with the fact that there has been a nuclear disaster in Japan and Labour support nuclear power stations in Scotland whilst the SNP do not.

Smear:
Only one thus far, the story run by the Daily Record and the Scotsman suggesting that ‘Alex Salmond for First Minister’ on the ballot caused chaos at the 2007 election and might do so again.  Drivel of course, unless the chaos is within the newsrooms of … the Daily Record and Scotsman if the SNP win.

Bookies:
At the end of round 1 Ladbrokes have Labour at 2/9 with the SNP at 11/4.  However Mike Smithson over at politicalbetting.com has had a punt on … the SNP.