Leaders On The Campaign Trail

Scotland's political parties are hitting the election trail for the first full day of campaigning ahead of the May 5 vote.

The leaders will later go head to head in the first of the televised debates, where the issue of how to use Holyrood's new tax and welfare powers is expected to dominate.

Thursday's first day of the campaign also coincides with what would have been the first day of an independent Scotland had the country voted Yes in the 2014 referendum.

Labour leader Kezia Dugdale will take her party's anti-austerity message to the streets of Rutherglen.

Speaking ahead of the visit, she said: This election campaign must be about the future, and how we will use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts.

"Today isn't a day to re-run the old arguments of the past. The people of Scotland don't want to go through all that again.

"This is the election where we can choose to end austerity in Scotland.''

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon will visit the Dumbarton constituency with local candidate Gail Roberson, where they will meet residents.

On Wednesday the First Minister challenged political leaders to make the Holyrood election campaign "a battle of ideas, not a battle of insults,'' as she got her party's bid to win a third successive term in power in the Scottish Parliament under way.

Issuing a rallying cry to SNP candidates, she said: ''We seek to be the government of all of Scotland and that is why we will be out in force in every corner of our country.''

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "The days of the endless constitutional debate are over. The days of showing how Scotland can be the best again start today.

He will kick off his campaign with a visit to nursery in Edinburgh, where he will call for greater investment in education by adding 1p to the basic rate of income tax.

He added: "Scottish Liberal Democrats have bold and positive proposals to make Scotland the best again. Our penny for education will put our nurseries, schools and colleges right back up at the top. What we're putting forward will have a transformational effect on Scottish education.''

Conservative leader Ruth Davidson will mark the first day on the election trail with an event in Edinburgh to thank those who voted No in the 2014 referendum.

She said: "The SNP will never let this (independence) go. They will take Scotland back to more division and to more uncertainty.

"I will stand up for every Scot who thought, two years ago, that this was finished. Let's get the SNP to focus on what matters, not another independence referendum.''

Green co-convenor Patrick Harvie will focus on the refugee crisis when he campaigns in Glasgow.

He said: "We know that Scotland can be a welcoming nation and whilst it is the Westminster government who should be ashamed of their response to this crisis, the next Scottish parliament must assert its right to take responsibility in areas like devolved public services and protecting asylum seekers from discrimination and prejudice.''

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