[An Evening News report published today on The Scotsman website profiles the Scottish Parliament election contest in Edinburgh East, won in 2007 by SNP Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill. It reads in part:]
Two high-profile politicians are battling it out for votes in Edinburgh's most closely-fought seat. The SNP's Kenny MacAskill and Labour's Ewan Aitken are both seen as hard workers with a track record and they probably agree on more than either cares to admit.
Mr MacAskill won the seat from Labour last time with a majority of more than 1000. Projections based on boundary changes now suggest Labour should win by more than 500. But the signs are this will be a close finish.
A Labour insider says there is now only a small pool of undecided voters, with most already clear about who they will back, and the Conservative and Liberal Democrats will get a tiny number of votes. He says: "It's as clear a two-horse race as you could possibly imagine." (...)
Mr MacAskill's most controversial decision as Justice Secretary for the past four years was the release on compassionate grounds of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi. It's an issue Labour has made great play of ever since, so one might have expected it to feature in the party's campaign to win back Mr MacAskill's constituency.
In fact, Cllr Aitken basically agrees with the decision Mr MacAskill made and confines any criticism to the way it was handled. Asked whether it's an issue, he says: "It's not a big deal. We rarely get it on the doorsteps. It would be wrong to say it's not an issue in Scottish political life, but in the battle for Edinburgh Eastern it's not high on the agenda."
Cllr Aitken says he believes the principle of compassion cannot be limited "even for someone who has committed such a heinous crime". But he adds: "There are hard questions to be asked about whether the process was followed through properly."
[The same newspaper has a report headlined SNP races to big poll lead on the latest Ipsos Mori opinion poll showing the SNP well in the lead nation-wide in both the constituency and regional vote.]