Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Scottish Parliament campaign takes off"

For those who haven't been north of the border recently, I can confirm that the second Scottish parliamentary election is now almost over. Obviously, war coverage has overshadowed the campaign but even if it hadn't, interest would be just as low.

The problem is that, apart from the issue of independence, there is little difference between the main parties. Ironically, both the Nats and Labour have got themselves in a fankle over this issue. The SNP tried to brush the issue under the carpet, knowing that it is a vote-loser, but Labour played into the SNP's hands by briefing initially that the London parliament would not allow a referendum on independence. Jack McConnell's refusal to allow Gordon Brown's election team anywhere near his campaign is proving disastrous. Labour will win, but only because there is no credible alternative.

The highlight of the campaign so far has been the MSP for Govan, Gordon Jackson, going on holiday to Spain in the middle of the campaign - and who can blame him? Oh, yes, and there was the man tipped to be the next James Bond, Dougray Scott, coming out in support of the Scottish Socialist Party even though he doesn't live in Scotland. Given the impact that the first James Bond has had on the Nats vote because he is a tax exile, you would have thought the SSP would want to avoid celeb endorsements.

One result is certain, though. There will be a record low turnout. If the Scottish TUC conference is anything to go by, Labour activists are simply refusing to canvass, so disillusioned are they with Tony Blair. The Prime Minister is about as popular within Labour ranks as George Galloway is in Downing Street.

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