Letter from Edinburgh

So the country is gripped by election fever. People are on the edge of their seats and can’t wait for the first of the leaders’ debates on TV.

Perhaps I am being a touch optimistic. But in many ways this is the most open general election since 1992 when, against all the odds, the polls and the apparent feeling of the country, Prime Minister John Major held on against Neil Kinnock.

In 1997 we knew Blair would beat Major. The polls couldn’t be that wrong. Labour were consistently so far ahead that it was only going one way. Since then, Labour has won twice more. Blair goes down in political history for many things, but no-one can deny he won three general elections.

I don’t hear too many Labour people claiming Gordon Brown could have done that. Brown doesn’t look like a winner. Fairly or unfairly in this televisual age he gets a pretty monotonous press – and it’s not good.

Polls say he’s the most unpopular Prime Minister since they started polling. I seem to remember them saying the same about John Major. When the media decide that they want something different, it’s into pushing water uphill territory.

And yet … and yet. If Brown was that unpopular why isn’t the main opposition party miles ahead in the polls like Tony Blair in 1997? Cameron is not. Now, with a tight election, much more scrutiny of his position, and his sidekick Osborne’s capabilities to be chancellor under review, this looks close.

A genuine contest for the future of the UK is badly needed and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats will make sure that happens. Nick is part of the leaders’ debates. In Scotland there will rightly be four-way TV debates so as to include the nation­alists. So our own Alistair Car­michael is going to get plenty of telly exposure in the coming weeks.

You have to be slightly extra­ordinary to knock on people’s doors and ask for their support. Well maybe more than slightly. It’s always challenging whether in Shetland, Edinburgh or London. And that’s what thousands of party workers will be doing over the next four weeks through to polling day on the 6th May.

So if I knock on your door in support of Alistair, please don’t allow me to start discussing the price of Shetland rams. My campaign team fears the calls on Shetland’s crofting fraternity as what should be brief invariably becomes a somewhat lengthier discussion. Well, I mean what’s the point of starting a discussion if you’re not allowed to carry it on?

I have a theory that there are not many places that you can be in the world and not meet either a Shet­lander or someone connected to Shetland. Last Saturday I took my scarf-waving son to Ibrox where the boys in blue stuttered past Hamil­ton.

Who did we meet on the subway from Glasgow’s Queen Street station out to Ibrox but folk from Shetland?

Tavish Scott MSP


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