Holyrood 2016: Talking balls in the Borders

Hawick Balls Image copyright Walter Baxter
Image caption Hawick Balls were made famous by legendary rugby commentator Bill McLaren - just don't ask for them in Jedburgh

Ask my family. Mundane life, commonly, leaves me baffled. I could tell you the Liberal majority in 1906 but struggle to identify the price of milk.

But it is not often, in truth, that I suffer from confectionery confusion. I am generally pretty sharp on the subject of sweeties.

On traversing the Borders, however, I mangled my local delicacies. My head bows slightly as I confess that I muddled Hawick Balls with Jeddart Snails.

I know, I know, the shame. They are entirely distinct, one from each other. Yet I, fool that I am, contrived to inquire after Balls in Jedburgh.

Enough, Brian. I relate this tale of sweetmeats partly to whet your appetite but largely to emphasise that the constituency of Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire comprises a series of clear, proud communities, interspersed by vast tracts of land.

Somewhat neglected

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Labour manifesto: Cupcakes and tax pledges

Labour cupcakes
Image caption Labour handed out cupcakes topped some of the key messages from its manifesto

Nuanced it was not. Subtle? Behave yourself. Then again, we are but a week and a day from polling.

This has been a fairly blunt campaign from the outset - a fundamental series of choices on tax and spending. Labour's manifesto launch, then, was of a piece.

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Glasgow Pollok constituency: Voters fighting a stereotype

Media captionWhat issues matter to the voters in Glasgow Pollok?

It looks a little - a little - like the map of Italy. You know, that boot shape - from Milan in the north to Calabria, in the toe.

On balance, I think I will not stretch the parallel too far in that I am talking about the constituency boundaries of Glasgow Pollok, a keenly contested seat in these Holyrood elections.

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Holyrood 2016: What really matters?

Media captionWhat matters to voters in Orkney?

As we enter the final full week of campaigning in the Scottish Parliamentary elections, there has been much talk of the essential element at the core of this contest.

Is it about who becomes first minister? Is it about which party or parties comprise the government? Is it about the variegated political colour of the new chamber? Is it about who comes first? Second? Third?

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What happened to the independence referendum alliances?

Signs Image copyright Reuters
Image caption What happened to the Yes and No teams formed during the 2014 referendum campaign?

Whatever happened to the allegiances formed during the run-up to the independence referendum? Are they at all evident in this Holyrood election campaign?

The answer, simplistically, is no. But the underlying reasons for that blunt answer perhaps help explain trends in contemporary Scottish politics.

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SNP manifesto launch: Whooping, hollering and personal appeals

Nicola Sturgeon at manifesto launch Image copyright Getty Images

They whooped, they yelled, they hollered. There was even, at one point, a solitary but distinct "Yee Ha", issuing from the ranks of the invited audience.

Despite the noises off, this was no country hoedown. (Are there still hoedowns? Were there ever? I plead honest ignorance: please don't write in). Nor yet a rock concert. Nor yet again a revivalist rally.

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Holyrood 2016: Fun on Friday with the Liberal Democrats

Willie volcano
Image caption Willie Rennie launched the Lib Dem manifesto at a soft play centre in Edinburgh

Here's a game for a Friday. Loadsafun to play at home. Which animals do our party leaders most resemble?

Now, I'll leave it to you. There is, incidentally, no prize. (Who said "bit like United's season"? That was cheap and underhand.)

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Holyrood 2016: Scottish Tories prepare for (strong) opposition

Ruth Davidson and Tory candidates Image copyright PA
Image caption Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson with party candidates

It has become habitual, of late, to deride or downplay David Steel's famous exhortation to his party faithful. You remember the one: "Go back to your constituencies - and prepare for government!"

(Incidentally, I deploy the familiar "David". He is, of course, now Lord Steel although, while Presiding Officer at Holyrood, he charitably agreed to be called "just Sir David.")

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Green Party makes case for strong voice at Holyrood

Green Vote banner Image copyright PA
Image caption The Scottish Green Party are aiming to win regional list seats

Being, by nature, an abstemious person - ok, ok, settle down, take that person's name. I repeat, being by nature an abstemious person, I eschewed the substantial fare on offer prior to the Greens' manifesto launch.

However, as I eschewed, others chewed, with evident content. Both Greens and scions of the wicked media alike.

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Holyrood 2016: Lovingly crafted manuscripts

First Folio Image copyright Reuters
Image caption An original copy of the First Folio was uncovered on the Isle of Bute

Was that not a rare and remarkable document to emerge today, for the people of Scotland to peruse? Quite beautifully written, deftly structured - yet with key differences from previous versions.

No, not the UKIP manifesto, of which more later. Rather I am talking of the discovery of a Shakespeare First Folio at Mount Stuart House in Bute.

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