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Last Updated: Monday, 11 April, 2005, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Start of long road to polling day
By Iain MacDonald
BBC Scotland

Back in 2001, "Good Morning Scotland" sent reporter Iain MacDonald off round the highways and byways of the country to document the Scottish Parliamentary election campaign.

As of this week, he'll be doing it again. Older - but not wiser - this is his weblog of the 2005 Tour of Scotland.

So eyes down, here we go. Again. It seems like only yesterday.

No, actually, it's two years since the last round of pattering politicians seeking advancement sent me off round Scotland to look for an election campaign.

Iain MacDonald
Iain MacDonald will keep a weblog of his campaign trail journey

Along the way a radio car died. A small and extremely dirty conveyance christened Plan B took its place. And we found an election, without - proud boast - having to speak to a single candidate.

What it proved for me is that there's plenty political interest out there in a Scottish community that's as divergent as it's ever been. It's just that the politics the people are interested in are not necessarily the politics the politicians are offering.

So will the people of Scotland speak out this time round? Well, I'm about to find out. I've high hopes of the radio car turning up this time and if it doesn't, Plan B is a newer and marginally cleaner car. Though it may not be by campaign's end, if we have 2,000 miles to go, as we did last time.

And this time it's different. This time it's Westminster not Holyrood. This time it's not about big electoral Issues, like health and education and crime, because these are devolved. In Scotland, this means they're decided by Holyrood and not Westminster.

'Surprises along way'

Instead we'll only hear about what's reserved to the London parliament - issues like defence, immigration and the economy. We won't be hearing about hospitals, schools and electronic tags, therefore. Oh really? Read any papers lately?

The politicians may have designed devolution. They may know the theory. But that doesn't mean they'll stick to the rules over this, or anything else, in the next few weeks. And just to make absolutely certain, the Scottish Parliament will keep on trucking pretty much all the way through this campaign, with MSPs eager to pick up anything their south-of-the-border colleagues miss out on.

Following the death of a Pope credited with a major part in the collapse of Communism, should church leaders have more to say about world leadership?

Today, though, a BBC Scotland poll looks at some of those big picture issues and what people think about them; 1,000 people in this case who were asked about issues as divergent as Iraq, independence, ID cards and immigration. The results are interesting enough to keep pundits and politicos going for some time to come.

Top of the heap in terms of priorities is more money on health and education. It may be argued that it proves we're still wedded to the welfare state, but it's also not surprising that it remains high on the priority list north of the border. After all it would have been top of the pops as a Scottish electoral issue even at the height of Thatcherism.

More for pensions too. Well it's been an issue throughout the lifetime of this parliament and the electorate is getting older. But keeping immigration down?

In a country with a skills shortage where the Executive wants more immigrants? A country that has a tiny proportion of the British immigration figure?

Message to politicians

Is this dog-whistle politics, kneejerk politics or can the pollsters be wrong? And if the pollsters aren't wrong, what message are the people sending the politicians now?

Interestingly, too, the introduction of ID cards seems to find favour here - they're high on the list of priorities with a vote of more than two-to-one for their introduction.

Independence, on the other hand, is 2.1 points down, at least according to our poll. Even some SNP voters opted against independence, it seems.

Commons vote
The "real" poll on 5 May will send MPs to the Commons

The only real poll, we will be told by parties who don't like these figures, is on 5 May. But how much will the results of "unreal" polls like this one influence what they say and do between now and then?

So, here we go. Today I'm rolling down the A9 heading for Glasgow and my own unscientific polling. I'll be examining whether we're looking for more morality - and more religion - with our politics.

The campaign came to a halt on Friday to mark the Pope's funeral. Strangely it then resumed to mark the Royal Wedding.

But, following the death of a Pope credited with a major part in the collapse of Communism, should church leaders have more to say about world leadership? Should the politics of a predominately Presbyterian country more reflect those churches' stance on moral issues?

Or would we just finish up with a hundred and one damnations? Should we be more inclusive of Islam? And is George Bush's America a shining city on a hill - or a dreadful example?

Surprises and scrapes

There will be more questions to ask and be answered over the next few weeks. And watch this space. My progress - such as it is - will keep coming up here.

There will be surprises along the way. There will be scrapes. There may even be a fully functioning radio car. And there will be an election on 5 May.

I'll try to get you there and you can help me - by e-mail to the website with suggestions, tip-offs and even requests to shut up.

Well, maybe not that one.

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