It is only nine days until Scotland’s voters go to the polls to elect a new Parliament. But this third Scottish General Election is proving to be a strange one.
Many argued against the scheduling of the Alternative Vote referendum on the same day as elections for the devolved bodies in Scotland and Wales, fearing that the debate on future voting systems would not receive the full attention of the electorate.
But perhaps the opposite is happening. Voters might just see the spectacle of Tory and Lib Dem coalition partners attacking each other in the media on a daily basis as more interesting than the Scottish vote.
And the rather lacklustre campaigns being run by the major political parties in Scotland certainly doesn’t help. Their approach is perhaps only interesting for what they have not done.
The Scottish National Party has not been campaigning for independence, the sole purpose of its existence. Instead it is running something of a presidential campaign arguing that Alec Salmond is the best candidate for the post of First Minister.
The Labour opposition, lacking it seems a heavyweight political figure to give it focus, has spent much of its time attacking the Westminster coalition. While this should be popular with a majority of Scots voters, it does not distinguish the party from the SNP.
In a previous blog I wondered how the Nationalists would fare in an election as a party of government rather than one of opposition. It seems that the question has largely been moot, as the SNP has not really being forced to defend its administration’s record.
But, in a tacit admission that they got it wrong, Labour is now looking to change track and will spend the final week of the campaign focusing on its main rival for power. So things might get a little interesting after all.
The Scottish Tories and Liberal Democrats meanwhile are trying to keep their heads down. And what they are definitely not doing is arguing that their Westminster government is something to be proud of. The exact opposite is, in fact, the case. For both parties this election is all about trying to minimise the damage caused by the coalition, although it seems that the Lib Dems will fare far worse than their partners.
The opinion polls, as often happens, have been a little confusing. An early Labour lead vanished and then the SNP opened up a gap and has been consistently ahead since. The latest polls show the position to be very close, with a large percentage of voters still to make up their mind.
And with the new boundaries on which this election will be fought throwing up many marginal seats, a small number of votes here and there could change the entire picture of the final results.
It is unlikely that any single party will secure a majority of the seats available, leaving the possibility of a coalition. Would Labour or the SNP make a deal with the Lib Dems? Could the Greens or the likely independents, Margo MacDonald and George Galloway, have a role to play? Those are perhaps questions for after the votes have all been counted.
At present Alec Salmond will be confident of retaining his position as leader of the largest party in the Scottish Parliament. Meanwhile Labour knows it will need to perform much better in the final days of the campaign if it is to return to government.
The final week in this election is a crucial one.