Scotland politics

Nominations close for Holyrood vote

ballot box

The deadline to stand as a candidate in the Scottish Parliament election has closed as campaigning continues across the country.

A final list of candidates seeking election on 5 May will now be drawn up after the nomination period ended.

The SNP, Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will be fielding candidates in all 73 constituencies.

A further 56 MSPs will be elected from "party lists" in the country's eight electoral regions.

The Scottish Greens and UKIP will be among the smaller parties hoping to pick up seats.

The SNP revealed it is to use the message "Nicola Sturgeon for First Minister" on ballot papers for the election.

A similar label was used under Alex Salmond in the last two Holyrood ballots.

UKIP announced its full list of candidates shortly before the deadline, with the party fielding candidate lists in all eight electoral regions. Its Scottish leader, David Coburn, is top of the Highland list.

UKIP defended its procedures for selecting candidates earlier this week following criticism from Euan Blockley, who left the party after accusing its leadership of a "stitch up".

Politicians were again out in force ahead of nominations closing, with just over a month of campaigning left before the Scottish Parliament election on 5 May.

  • The SNP countered the Scottish Conservative pledge to reintroduce prescription charging with a promise to keep them free
  • Labour highlighted donations of more than £2m to the SNP from Stagecoach co-founder Brian Souter as it called on the SNP to stand up to "vested interests"
  • The Conservatives again said that people should not have to pay higher taxes in Scotland than they would in the rest of the UK
  • The Liberal Democrats set out a three-point plan to help small businesses
  • The Scottish Greens underlined their commitment to supporting a thriving food and farming sector and tackling poor nutrition and food poverty

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who is also the Scottish first minister, used a visit to a Falkirk pharmacy to highlight a Conservative proposal to end free prescriptions in Scotland by introducing a charge of £8.40 for prescriptions.

Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has said people on low incomes, students, pensioners, patients with long-term conditions and pregnant women would not have to pay.

'Forced to pay'

Ms Sturgeon said the SNP's policies stood in contrast to "Tory plans for hidden taxes on health and education, Labour plans for tax hikes on the low-paid and further cuts from a UK Tory government".

Ms Sturgeon said: "While Labour plan to hit one million low earners with tax hikes and the Tories want to tax essential services like healthcare and education with tuition fees and prescription charges, the SNP is providing the protection family incomes need during tough financial times.

"We've abolished prescription charges - and will resist any attempt from the Tories or any other party to re-introduce them."

Image caption SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon reiterated her party's commitment to free prescriptions during a visit to a Falkirk pharmacy

Labour's shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray visited Edinburgh to mark the 10th anniversary of his party bringing in the concessionary bus pass.

He was to call for greater regulation of the bus industry, and challenged the SNP to use new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament to stand up to "vested interests".

'Easier and cheaper'

Mr Murray said: "Labour will use the powers to introduce a single smart ticket that you can use on buses, trains, trams, the subway and ferries, making travel easier and cheaper for working people.

"To deliver that promise, our party - funded by the union contributions of train drivers and bus drivers - will do what the SNP, funded by Brian Souter, has refused to do every day they have been in government and regulate Scotland's buses to better serve Scotland's passengers.

"If the SNP want to stand up for Scotland, they should stand up to Brian Souter."

Image caption Ruth Davidson is attempting to portray herself as the defender of Scottish tax payers

Elsewhere, Ms Davidson focused on tax during a visit to Dumfries Icebowl to meet members of the Scotland female under-20s ice hockey team.

Pledging that the Conservatives would ensure a competitive tax regime for the south of Scotland, she said: "People shouldn't have to pay higher taxes in Scotland than they would in the rest of the UK.

"We are the only party in this election which is fighting to protect pay packets and ensure Scotland's economy remains competitive.

"We won't see the jobs and investment we need if we hang a sign at the border saying higher taxes here, something people in the south of Scotland understand all too well."

'Extra skills'

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie set out a three-point plan to help small businesses on a visit to jewellery business Rosa Red in Kirkintilloch.

Speaking before the visit he said: "Our penny for education will deliver the extra skills Scottish businesses need to succeed.

"But we also need to break down the barriers standing in their way.

"That means investing in broadband, strengthening the links between business and schools and making sure tax rates don't hamper growth on the ground."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Scottish Greens argue that farmers are being treated unfairly by supermarkets

The Scottish Greens said they would underline their commitment to supporting a thriving food and farming sector by introducing a new Food, Farming and Health Act in the next session of parliament.

The Act would enshrine a right to food and encourage simpler supply chains to improve connections between consumers and producers, the party said.

The Greens' legislation would tackle the "unfair control" big supermarkets have over Scottish farmers, who this week warned that the poor prices they are paid will leave them struggling to pay workers the living wage.

Green candidate Mark Ruskell said: "Successive Labour and SNP-led governments have failed to take the bold action required to bring the big supermarkets to heel. These massive firms squeeze our food producers and it's time to restore some balance."