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Annabel Goldie fires starting pistol on 100-day countdown to the Scottish Parliament election

By Jonathan Isaby

Annabel Goldie In 100 days' time, (among the various other elections and referendum taking place) voters across Scotland will be electing MSPs for the next four-year term.

And today Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie has taken the opportunity to show that the campaign she will be leading will be positive and highlighting the achievements of the 16-strong Tory group at Holyrood (the 17th is the Presiding Officer).

She says:

“I fear that this election is going to be 100 days of vitriol between Alex Salmond and [Scottish Labour leader] Iain Gray – senseless mudslinging. They both think that the campaign is all about them. It’s not. It’s all about Scotland. Scotland needs its politicians to stand up and tell it like it is. Hope for the future, but realism about today.

“This must be the election where common sense and straight talking win. I pledge to lead the Scottish Conservative campaign with a focus on the issues which matter to Scotland, and that is not the battle of egos of Salmond and Gray. This is not just about who gets the keys to [First Minister's residence] Bute House, but who will deliver for Scotland, and who will hold the balance of power after May.

“Without the Scottish Conservatives we would not have 1,000 more police, a freeze in Council Tax, tax cuts for our smallest businesses or a new national drugs strategy. We have delivered – and we will again.”

Those final words are the key: there has been an SNP minority administration under Alex Salmond for four years and there is a general expectation that there will be another minority administration after this PR election, albeit most likely under a different leadership. As such, the challenge for the Scottish Tories is to demonstrate that in that environment of a hung parliament, they have been relevant and have been able use their numbers to win certain concessions from the administration.

Expect them to be trading on what they have achieved under a plain-speaking leader who speaks as she finds, with the intention of again playing a pivotal role, whatever the parliamentary arithmetic after the election. Annabel Goldie is often asked her position on putative coalitions and post-election deals, and her answer has always been to rule nothing in and rule nothing out. Her aim is clearly to maximise the size of the Tory group at Holyrood, arguing that a proportional election is not merely a battle between the two big parties and their leaders.

The Scottish Tories strenuously denied the story which appeared this week suggesting that the party in London has in some way taken control of the party north of the border. "We remain a completely devolved party, a separate entity," said a spokesman, suggesting that the story in the Scottish edition of the Daily Telegraph seemed to be based merely on the fact that their HR department, to where job applications are directed, is in London.

As to current polling trends, reliable polls of Scottish Parliament voting intention are few and far between; but the two most recent YouGov polls (historically the most reliable indicator) were in September and October 2010, which both put the party on 15% when it comes to regional voteshare - up a little on the 13.9% the party scored in 2007, which delivered 17 of the 129 seats.

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