The rosettes are being proudly worn, the placards are attached to the lampposts, the leaflets are filling up our mailboxes. Yes, you guessed it, it’s time for Scotland to step up to the ballot box and decide the fate of the 129 Holyrood MSPs.
In the Yellow corner, Alex Salmond; leader of the SNP, current first minister of Scotland.
In the red corner, Iain Gray; leader of Scottish Labour, the front runner to knock Salmond off his perch.
It looks like a fight that will go right down the final round. The most recent poll by Panelbase put them even on the constituency vote and gave the SNP a mere 5 points lead in the regional vote.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, are licking their wounds; it seems their part in the Westminster coalition has left many Scots disillusioned with politics.
Perhaps you’re wondering about the relevance of these elections. How will the re-election or failure to re-elect the local Lib Dem MSP, Iain Smith affect you?
This election is not any ordinary election. There have been no elaborate promises of 1,000 extra police officers or 250 additional new schools, as was seen in the 2007 election campaign. The Scottish Government’s block grant it receives from Westminster is to decline by £1.3 billion in the 2011-12 financial year, as the deficit reduction plans start to take hold. This election will be won or lost on which party can effectively manage their costings on policies the best.
Firstly, education fees. Higher education is a devolved issue in Scotland and the choice you make at the ballot box will have a fundamental effect on the way St Andrews and other universities in Scotland are funded in the future.
Alex Salmond, on a recent visit to St Andrews, was hounded by a concerned Lucy Pawle regarding his stance on the solution to higher education funding. He unequivocally assured her in a “cast iron pledge” that English students would not have to pay anymore than £6,000 to keep tuition fees free for Scottish students.
If you don’t like it, then there doesn’t appear to be too much of a choice. Only the Conservatives back the reintroduction of fees for Scottish students with their leader, Annabel Goldie, promising annual caps of £4,000, arguing that the stance of the other main parties “is not tenable.”
On the the issue of unemployment, Tavish Scott of the Scottish Liberal Democrats has promised 100,000 additional new positions, Labour has promised to “eradicate youth unemployment,” the Conservatives have guaranteed a new Minister for enterprise and jobs whilst the SNP have pledged 22,000 new placements in the green economy.
So if you’re from the UK, EU or a select commonwealth country, then get yourself down to a polling booth on May 5th to elect your local Fife North East Candidate. Even if none of the main candidates appeal to you, the Scottish Additional Member System gives you the opportunity to select a minority party, meaning you have no excuse not to go out and exercise your democratic right to vote!
Visit the Domestic Politics society website at: domesticpolitics.co.uk for full
interviews with the constituency candidates.