Just one week into the campaign and Scotland’s political scene has well and truly embraced General Election campaign mode, with our party leaders making it clear that they have not yet lost the desire to outdo each other the only way it matters on the campaign trail – the photo op. Naturally, Willie Rennie kicked things off with a possibly ill-advised return to working with animals followed by the First Minister precariously balanced on a heavily decorated Yes2 motorbike.
Although Ruth Davidson has yet to make her return to the photo-op wars the Scottish Conservatives started the week on a high after the publication of polling showing that their support has increased to 33 per cent, up 18 per cent since the last General Election.
Whether this surge in support will translate into seats remains to be seen, but the party is clearly taking its chances seriously. John Lamont has resigned his Holyrood seat to focus entirely on the campaign to unseat the SNP’s Calum Kerr in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk. The margin between the two in 2015 was just 328 votes so this is definitely one a seat to watch. Lamont’s colleagues Douglas Ross, Ross Thomson and Miles Briggs, as well as MEP Ian Duncan, have also indicated that they will stand.
Whilst is was hard to escape the General Election melee ongoing beyond its walls, business at Holyrood continued and the debate on Child Tax Credits brought a brief moment of anti-Tory bi-partisanship to the chamber. A moving and memorable speech from Kezia Dugdale received well-deserved commendation from all quarters and proved that the Labour leader can still land a hit on the issues.
The ‘rape clause’ is clearly a debate that Ruth Davidson would rather not have. Her campaign to de-toxify the Tory brand is now bearing fruit but the tension between her need to put on a show of unity with the Prime Minister and the public opposition to the clause has caused her discomfort to stumble in recent days. Coupled with accusations circulating that the party has borrowed from the election 2015 playbook on expenses, don’t expect this campaign to be an easy ride.
The SNP also got off to a faltering start. They have confirmed that Natalie McGarry and Michelle Thomson will not be allowed to re-stand under the party banner and both have signalled their departure from politics as a result. The lack of conclusion to both scandals is likely to make both their seats an uphill battle for the party.
Secondly, while their own numbers remain relatively steady this week, new polling figures showed a drop in support for independence. Whether the numbers are reliable or not, Nicola Sturgeon has sought to downplay the role of independence in the campaign, instead pitching the SNP as a direct opposition to the Conservatives on public services.
It was clear though that not everybody got the memo when Alex Salmond, with all the subtlety of that motorbike, made it clear that all Scots know what they are voting for this time around.
Much as Sturgeon may skirt round the issue, Salmond has a point. The Conservatives have built much of their revival in Scotland on a strong opposition to the SNP on the constitution and billing this election as a straight choice between the two only gives that message credence. With the Conservatives openly targeting SNP big hitters including Angus Robertson and Pete Wishart, the contest between the two will only heat up.
Eilidh Dickson is a Senior Account Executive at Indigo
This blog originally appeared on PubAffairs: http://www.publicaffairsnetworking.com/news/must-have-accessory-the-photo-op