In this guest post, Jason Rose, former Head of Media for the Scottish Greens, gives his perspective on how TV appearances and photo ops are affecting the parties’ chances.

It’s a Westminster election so devolved topics should be off limits. Other than lobbying the UK Treasury to spend more (good luck with that), there’s not much a Scottish MP can do about the NHS or schools north of the border. But this is what the public say they care most about, so that’s what the parties want to talk about and what the media end up covering. As the newspaper editor in the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance said, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

So while our press and airwaves are filled with discussion of issues that Scottish MPs won’t be doing anything about, what can also help win votes is tone, how you come across. That’s where TV appearances and photo ops come in.

The Tories chose Silverstone for their launch. Metaphors of car crashes abound. Labour occupied a could-be-anywhere corporate building in Manchester, suggesting they are ready for the boardroom. The SNP appear to be pitching John Swinney as an everyman, by meeting and greeting real people, including getting his kilt on and downing steins in Munich with the Tartan Army. Meanwhile, I saw the Greens visiting a distillery where a small glass of something fiery was raised by the small and fiery Patrick Harvie. As for the LibDems, they have doubled down on wacky stunts, in marked contrast to Ed Davey’s incredibly moving and highly personal story used in their party election broadcast. Is the message that he is human? If so, they’ve nailed it. 

My teenage daughter’s perspective is instructive – she’ll be voting at the Holyrood election in less than two years’ time. Her sense is of a contest between Rishi and Keir – that’s the coverage analysed in the school debate club, and that’s the narrative she’s overheard from the radio that is always on in our kitchen. She has found it hard to shake off the sad image of Rishi calling the election while slowly getting soaked, while she has found it hard to form any opinion of bland (her word) Keir.

The most interesting TV moment so far, in my view, has been the SNP’s decision to embrace the middle way on oil and gas. On BBC Question Time, Kate Forbes said oil and gas licences would be climate-compatibility assessed case by case, leading to laughter from the audience, a haranguing from presenter Fiona Bruce, and applause for an audience member who said: “We’re in a crisis in both climate and nature – let’s start talking about it seriously.” 

Kate seemed pleased to be “in the middle” between Labour and the Conservatives, but it’s a muddle that simply pleases no-one. You either believe the scientists and the economists and leave the stuff in the ground while ramping up the alternatives, or you embrace the ‘This is fine’ fire-engulfed cartoon dog meme. It’s hard to imagine Nicola Sturgeon, for example, fronting the current position. It will be interesting to see if the SNP change tack as those with a clearer message press their advantage.

For many of us, this election is simply an appetiser for Holyrood 2026. The scale of Labour’s success this July will be key to any sense of momentum. Even if it’s close, say Labour 25, SNP 24, as the latest Survation MRP poll suggests, that will be enough to start the big ball rolling, with John Swinney as Indiana Jones. Now that would be a photo op.

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