As the election campaign kicks off, the very latest from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
• DUP leader Peter Robinson sought to capitalise on divisions within the Ulster Unionists over the party’s electoral pact with the Conservatives, saying: “Whilst other parties are divided and visionless the DUP is offering the electorate a strategy to strengthen Northern Ireland and unionism.”
• A joint statement from UUP leader Sir Reg Empey and David Cameron read: “The alliance between the Ulster Unionists and the Conservatives offers us the chance to end Northern Ireland’s semi detached political status.”
• The Traditional Unionist Voice’s opening salvo sought to capitalise on splits in the UUP and uncertainty over Mr Robinson’s future, with its leader, Jim Allister, saying: “TUV will appeal to principled Unionists tired of the dysfunctional mess at Stormont and the broken promises of others.”
• The SDLP made the case it was the only party in Northern Ireland that could possibly stand up for the nationalist community. The party’s leader, Margaret Ritchie, said: “It is … important that the SDLP should have a strong mandate so that the voice of nationalism is heard when the vital decisions are being made.”
• For the Alliance party, their message is simple – they do not have the baggage the other parties have. Its leader, David Ford, said: “Alliance is relishing the forthcoming election and we know that people want to vote for a positive and constructive party, instead of other parties who simply want to cause trouble.”
• For Sinn Fein, its president, Gerry Adams, whose own leadership has been called into question, has said: “Sinn Fein have been preparing for this election for some months. Our activists have been out on the doorsteps and we now look forward to the campaign.”
• Across Scotland, the SNP’s message was that only SNP MPs would stand up for Scottish interests. Alex Salmond said: “The SNP are going into this campaign with a clear message for Scottish voters: more votes means more Nats, and more Nats means less cuts. The Westminster system is discredited, and only SNP champions can protect and promote Scotland’s interests.”
• Labour have sought to concentrate minds, shaping the contest as one between them and the Conservatives. Labour’s Leader in Scotland, Iain Gray, said: “Only a vote for Labour will stop the Tories dragging Scotland backwards.”
• In making confident predictions of gains for the Conservatives in Scotland, their leader at Holyrood, Annabel Goldie, continued David Cameron’s message of change. She said: “The choice is clear – 5 more years of Labour waste, Labour debt and Labour tax or a fresh start and change with David Cameron’s Conservatives.”
• The Scottish Liberal Democrats sought to argue that only they are the real challengers to Labour. The party’s leader, Tavish Scott, said: “The Tories only have one MP in Scotland and it will be the Liberal Democrats who make Scotland a Tory free zone.”
• Plaid Cymru have sought to sell themselves as the only party standing up for Wales. The party’s leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, opened his party’s campaigning by saying: “This is not a time for politics as usual. In this election Plaid has a real opportunity to break that Westminster bubble. With a balanced parliament Plaid’s duty will be to negotiate the best deal for Wales and the best deal for our communities.”
• For Labour, Welsh secretary Peter Hain used the start of the campaign to draw a distinct dividing line with the Tories, saying the choice was between “Labour for the many, the Tories for the few”.
• Welsh Conservatives will look to the election to build on their success in last year’s European Election. Shadow Welsh Secretary Cherly Gillan failed, however, to offer a Conservative vision. She said: “13 years of Labour has left the Welsh economy in ruins. Wales cannot afford another five years of Gordon Brown.”
• In reinforcing Nick Clegg’s message of change, Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said: “The Welsh Liberal Democrats are different from the parties whose campaigns are bankrolled by militant unions and non-domiciled millionaires.”
Quote of the Week
“The Scottish party really needs to look at itself. It needs to understand why it is not electable. It is becoming more reactionary, rather than learning about how to become more successful.”
The parting shot of Conservative candidate for Glasgow South West Heather MacLeod, who stood down amidst claims that part of the Tory party leadership were like a “nest of vipers”Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.