Scottish elections: Fast cars, dance moves and feeding animals – life on the 2021 campaign trail

Coronavirus put a dampener on the election campaign with street stalls banned, hustings relegated to online and canvassing only allowed part way through.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 7:00 am

Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.

Even when it was permitted, some candidates decided not to send supporters door to door, fearing people would not welcome random callers asking for their vote while other pandemic restrictions were in place.

But when it came to posing for the cameras, the parties' big names did not let Covid caution cramp their style – and least of all, Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie the king of the photo call.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie drives a Lamborghini Huracan supercar at Ingliston Racing Circuit

He was pictured on a giant deck chair on the beach at South Queensferry with the Forth Bridge in the background, took a karate lesson at the Meadows, fed the penguins at Edinburgh Zoo and drove a Lamborghini Huracan supercar at Ingliston racing circuit at the Royal Highland Centre.

Mr Rennie also told the Evening News that despite polls showing the party flat-lining he had high hopes of Lib Dem Fred Mackintosh winning a Lothian list seat as well as Alex Cole-Hamilton holding onto his seat in Edinburgh Western. He claimed the Lib Dems’ strong showing in Edinburgh at the 2019 European elections showed the potential for an advance at Holyrood.

Nicola Sturgeon, riding high in the polls but under pressure to repeat the 2011 feat of winning an overall majority of seats in the parliament, took time to make appearances in Edinburgh’s two most marginal seats.

She joined Edinburgh Central candidate Angus Robertson on a visit to Love Gorgie City Farm, where she fed the cows and alpacas. And she went campaigning in Edinburgh Southern, calling at shops in Bruntsfield and stopping for a cuppa with candidate Catriona MacDonald in a local coffee shop.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie (right) taking part in a karate lesson with Robert Steggles at The Meadows

The First Minister also visited East Lothian, a Labour-held seat which the SNP hopes to win. She met up with candidate Paul McLennan, visited shops in Prestonpans and posed for selfies with supporters and pupils from Preston Lodge High School.

Ms Sturgeon said she had never assumed the SNP would get an overall majority.

"The Holyrood election system is designed to prevent a party getting an overall majority. I personally have never set that as the benchmark of the SNP's campaign.

"We're campaigning to win, If we can poll high enough and win a majority that would be fantastic but the important thing is to win the election so we can get back to work steering the country through the pandemic and into recovery."

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie feeds the Gentoo penguins during a visit to Edinburgh Zoo

New Labour leader Anas Sarwar won a round of applause from onlookers when he showed off his moves at a Saltire Burlesque Academy open-air class, dancing along to Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk, in the car park of Livingston FC’s Tony Macaroni Arena. He also made campaign visits to support candidates in several constituencies in and around Edinburgh. Mr Sarwar is widely seen as having a good campaign, putting in good performances in the televised debates and trying not to become mired in arguments about the constitution, but his positive popularity ratings have been slow to translate into a stronger showing in the polls.

As he voted yesterday he said: “I’m enormously proud of our positive and uplifting campaign, which has focused relentlessly on the priorities of the people of Scotland. We are building a credible alternative to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.”

Boris Johnson stayed away from the campaign in Scotland, but the Scottish Tories’ new leader Douglas Ross did welcome the help of one of his predecessors, Ruth Davidson, who is standing down as MSP for Edinburgh Central. The pair posed together on Calton Hill with a giant ballot paper, but critics said the Tories were using Ms Davidson to front the campaign because Mr Ross’s popularity ratings were so poor.

Ms Davidson told the Evening News early in the campaign she thought Mr Ross would win an even bigger share of the vote in Scotland than she did as leader in 2016. “I fully expect Douglas to break my record for the best result we've had."

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie on the campaign trail in South Queensferry.

Green co-leader Lorna Slater, who is standing in Edinburgh Northern & Leith and on the Lothian list, had a high profile throughout the campaign, including taking part in the first of the four televised debates.

And former First Minister Alex Salmond was busy promoting his new Alba party, including a visit to boxer Alex Arthur’s gym, where he proclaimed Alba was “taking a swing” at the established parties. But it was the new party which suffered the most awkward picture of the campaign when four leading lights holding the letters A L B A seemed to have trouble sorting out what order they should stand in.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

Nicola Sturgeon, with Edinburgh Central candidate Angus Robertson, feeding the cows during a visit to LOVE Gorgie Farm
Scottish Conservative party leader Douglas Ross (left) and Ruth Davidson put a giant party list vote into a giant envelope on Calton Hill
Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar joins in a dance class outside Livingston's football ground.
Alba party leader Alex Salmond and other leading members during a photo call at Stirling Castle.
Alex Salmond visiting Alex Arthur's Boxing Gym during the campaign
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar visited Edinburgh Pentlands to support candidate Lezley Marion Cameron