Labour manifesto: Cupcakes and tax pledges

Labour cupcakes
Image caption Labour handed out cupcakes topped some of the key messages from its manifesto

Nuanced it was not. Subtle? Behave yourself. Then again, we are but a week and a day from polling.

This has been a fairly blunt campaign from the outset - a fundamental series of choices on tax and spending. Labour's manifesto launch, then, was of a piece.

Indeed, in the ante-room prior to the launch itself, Labour even had cupcakes on display bearing bold legends relating to their core policy offer of increased taxation to fund sustained public spending, notably on education.

Labour has struggled somewhat of late in Scotland. And so it was perhaps understandable that there were references throughout Kezia Dugdale's speech to matters past.

Lowest paid

She talked, successively, of the foundation of the NHS, the creation of the minimum wage and the establishment of Scotland's devolved Parliament.

Then, to be clear, she linked to forward offers - again, primarily, the plan to increase taxation to fund education and other services. To add 1p to all bands, with the lowest paid partly protected by the Treasury's increase in the starting rate, and to increase the very top rate from 45p to 50p.

It was, she said, "a manifesto in the best traditions of the Labour Party". It was "a positive plan that returns to Labour's roots".

It was, further, not "just a manifesto of ideas" but a "manifesto of an idea."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ms Dugdale said the manifesto was a return to Labour's roots

What to discern from all this? That Labour perceives it has a problem with definition in the minds of the Scottish public, that voters wonder - or, rather, have been wondering - what Labour stands for, that Labour knows it needs to remedy that, for the immediate election and - should they fail to win this time - for subsequent contests.

To be clear, Ms Dugdale is pressing for every single vote. Like the SNP, she wants the electorate to back her party on both the constituency and list ballot papers.

Should that accumulate into overall victory, Ms Dugdale would be more than delighted to move into Houses, Bute and St Andrew's.

And if it does not? If Labour falls short? The manifesto launch then kicks into alternative mode - which involves two facets.

Series of traps

One, Labour hopes that with its offer on tax and education, it has more firmly established its political credentials in the public mind.

Two, Labour hopes that it may have set a series of traps which could snap shut upon the SNP government during the coming term.

Those traps would concern competing promises to sustain spending - but matched with different offers on taxation. In short, a claim that protecting spending is impossible without a tax hike.

But could Labour even fall behind the Conservatives in terms of numbers at Holyrood, as a poll for STV today suggests?

Understandably, Labour is less than keen to countenance that possibility. It would, to say the least, counter Labour's strategy of making progress (as a minimum) at this contest to construct a staging post for later effort.

We shall know soon enough.