Holyrood Sketch 19-23 March

As we edge closer and closer to May the 3rd the Parliament is growing increasingly empty as more and more MSPs and staff hit the campaign trail in pursuit of electoral glory.

Manifesto Launches
This week was certainly a busy week for the Scottish Conservatives who launched two parts of their manifesto for May, firstly the manifesto on affordable housing on Monday and secondly the party's attack on drugs and crime on Thursday. The Party have correctly identified that these two issues are massive issues going into May's election. Many activists across the country will have met more people wanting to talk about affordable housing and the rise in anti-social behaviour than people wanting to talk about any other issue.

The release of Thursday's manifesto on tackling drugs and crime got the party the most coverage with the manifesto being billed as a £1bn attack on drugs and crime in Scotland. This, along with affordable housing, has been identified as a crucial issue amongst the electorate in the lead up to May's Holyrood Elections. Within the manifesto the Scottish Tories pledge to put 15,000 more police officers on the beat across Scotland, invest £100m a year in drug rehabilitation

Question Time
One of the big talking points in Scotland this week was in regards to he claims of convicted armed robber Stewart Potter that his privacy is being breached due to the warning on his outbound calls from prison that he is calling from a prison. This was the issue that Annabel Goldie quite rightly led with this in FMQ's. While Goldie led with this her opposite number in the Nats, Nicola Sturgeon, attacked the First Minister over the fact that since Labour came to power Council Tax has increased by a staggering 60% in Scotland while the First Minister retaliated by branding the SNP's local income tax a second poll tax.

While Sturgeon and McConnell continue to use FMQ's to tear lumps out of each other it is left, as usual, to Annabel Goldie to tackle one of the bread and butter issues and this week it was in regards to prisoners feeling their human rights were being breached by the warning on all outbound calls. Time and time again Goldie has accused the First Minster and the rest of the Executive of being soft on criminals and this has again been proved by this whole fiasco. It is appaling that a criminal can claim to be embarrassed that the message is on all outbound calls, a complete embarrassment to the Labour and Lib Dem Executive.

Farewells
This week saw the last speech by Lord James Douglas Hamilton in the chamber. Lord James was MP for Edinburgh West from 1974 until 1997 and list MSP for the Lothians since 1999. It was truly touching that members from all parties took the chance to thank and praise Lord James; it was especially nice of Margaret Smith, the MSP for his former Edinburgh West constituency, to thank Lord James for all of his work in Edinburgh West.

Lord James will be missed by all at Holyrood.

Craig Wilson

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