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LGC FEATURE - IT'S BUSINESS AS USUAL

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Scotland's general election will carry on regardless of devolution, believes John Curtice. ...
Scotland's general election will carry on regardless of devolution, believes John Curtice.
The general election on 7 June is the first to be fought since the advent of the Scottish Parliament. Everyone is wondering what the reaction of Scots will be.
Have Scots lost interest in the House of Commons now they have their own Parliament? Will devolved matters like health and education figure in the election at all? How will the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats distinguish themselves from each other given they are in coalition in Edinburgh?
Mid-campaign, some clear answers are beginning to emerge. It seems devolution is unlikely to have much impact on either the conduct or the outcome of the election in Scotland after all.
True, Scots are not set to flock to the polls. ICM's first campaign poll conducted for The Scotsman found 60% of Scots said they were certain to vote - four points down on the same stage in the 1997 campaign. But it is five points higher than the average in two British polls taken at the same time. Moreover it is five points higher than the percentage who say they would vote in a Scottish election.
So while turnout may fall in Scotland, there is no firm foundation for believing it will fall to any greater degree than it will across the UK as a whole.
Meanwhile there is no sign the campaign in Scotland is any different for either the parties or the voters. Devolution has certainly not stopped the parties highlighting their proposals for health and education.
Scots appear to agree that the parties are right to be talking about health and education. Thirty eight percent believe the UK government has most influence over the quality of schools and the NHS in Scotland while just 27% believe the Scottish Executive does. With another 27% thinking the two are equally influential this means nearly two thirds of Scots still believe the UK government's decisions are important. Indeed, in order to get voters to the polling station, all the parties have been encouraging this belief.
All the parties argue that while the Scottish Parliament may decide how to spend the money Scotland is given for health, education and its other responsibilities, it is the UK government that decides how much they get to spend.
Equally, there is little sign that being in coalition has cramped the style of either Labour or the Lib Dems.
Labour has happily included, on the Scottish version of its pledge card, policies to which it is jointly committed in the coalition.
Meanwhile the Lib Dems are trumpeting what they see as their particular successes in the coalition - the abolition of upfront tuition fees and free long-term personal care for the elderly. Little wonder then that 29% of Scots feel there is no difference between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
-John Curtice, professor of Politics, Strathclyde University.
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