Saturday 3 December 2016

All eyes on race for second place in Scottish elections

Mark McLaughlin in Glasgow

Published 06/05/2016 | 02:30

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland went to the polls yesterday to elect its next batch of MSPs to the Scottish Parliament.

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The Holyrood election comes a year after the SNP, led by Nicola Sturgeon (right), won 56 out of 59 seats at the UK general election, and there are no signs the party's momentum is slowing.

Polls suggest the SNP is in line to take the largest share of seats, after its landslide victory in 2011 created the first Holyrood majority government.

But all eyes will be on the race for second place, with the Conservatives hoping to unseat Labour as Scotland's second biggest party.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has been increasingly optimistic in the days leading up to the election, insisting polling and canvassing returns indicate her party is "well on course" to be Scotland's main opposition.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has brought in a raft of new faces this year after Labour was decimated in the 2015 general election, returning just one MP in a land where it had dominated politics for nearly half a century.

Ms Dugdale has acknowledged she still has work to do to rebuild the party into a force capable of unseating the SNP, but she has stated her intention to take Labour back into government.

Scotland's constitutional future remains a key election battleground after 45pc voted for Scottish independence in September 2014, and a recent survey suggested half of Scots will not vote for a party that disagrees with their views on independence.

The referendum led to a surge in support for the Scottish Greens, with its membership quadrupling since then as many Scots apparently look for a pro-independence alternative to the SNP.

The nationalist left is also represented by newcomers Rise, which has earned the support of former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars, and Solidarity - which is led by former Scottish Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan.

Polls indicate the Greens could be in line for as many as eight MSPs, if their strategy of focussing largely on the regional list pays off.

Eurosceptic party Ukip has followed a similar strategy, and is hoping to emulate its success in the 2014 European Parliament election when David Coburn became the party's first Scottish parliamentarian.

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie is hoping Scotland has forgiven his party for going into coalition with the hitherto unpopular Conservatives in the UK government in 2010.

Irish Independent

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