Feature: The hopes and dreams of political parties in our hands on election night

Scottish party leaders in lead up to Scottish Parliamentary elections May 5, 2016. All pics by John Devlin.
Scottish party leaders in lead up to Scottish Parliamentary elections May 5, 2016. All pics by John Devlin.
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Fifers go to the polls this week to elect their next Scottish government - and they hold the fate of the major parties in their hands.

Thursday’s ballot promises another night of drama and political intrigue with results expected to be declared in Fife in the early hours of the morning.

Once again, Glenrothes is the focal point with all the Kingdom’s constituency counts being staged in the town.

Michael Woods Sports Centre will host the Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes and north-east Fife counts, while west Fife’s Dunfermline-Cowdenbeath seat will be handled at Rothes Halls.

And one outcome is guaranteed - Glenrothes and Leven will get a new MSP following the retiral of Tricia Marwick.

Her Mid-Fife and Glenrothes seat - the old Central Fife constituency once represented by Henry McLeish and then Christine May - is up for grabs.

All the main parties are fielding candidates but in reality it’s a bunfight between Labour’s Kay Morrison and the SNP’s Jenny Gilruth.

The latter has been bequeathed a solid 4000 majority by Mrs Marwick, and she heads into her first ever election night with the safety net of national polls all predicting a comfortable night for her party to be returned as government for the next five years.

But she is up against a long-serving councillor who is also depute provost of Fife.

Both candidates have enjoyed the support of their party’s big guns as they knocked on doorsteps and visited many local organisations.

But Labour’s challenge isn’t just over-turning the majority - it also has to defy the polls which point to a bleak election night for a party that once dominated Scottish politics at both local and national level.

The poll of polls has also raised the intriguing scenario of the Tories even eclipsing Labour as the party of opposition at Holyrood - an unthinkable outcome even just a few years ago.

Ruth Davidson has made that role her key pitch as party leader - one analysis had just two points between Labour and the Tories, although other surveys suggested the status quowould prevail.

But it all puts the pressure on Labour’s candidates to galvanise their support - even in its traditional heartlands of Fife as every single vote will count towards how many list candidates each party gets into Holyrood.

If Mid-Fife promises to be a fascinating contest, then Kirkcaldy is the one seat everyone will be keeping a close eye on.

It’s often seen as a barometer for the rest of the country.

And it’s also number two on Labour’s list of target seats it wants back.

David Torrance’s triumph in 2011 gave the SNP a historic majority at Holyrood, but his own margin of victory was narrow - there were just 200 votes between him and Labour’s long-serving MSP, Marilyn Livingstone.

Labour have pitched Claire Baker, one of their Shadow Cabinet, up against Mr Torrance in another Fife seat which is, in reality, simply a two-horse race.

The Tory vote locally has dropped to around 2000 - their candidate Martin Laidlaw is aiming toget that up to 3000 but to do that he will have to turn back the clock to 1999 when Mike-Scott Hayward stood.

The Lib Dems’ traditional pockets of support has withered badly in recent elections - a direct result of their time in coalition with the Westminster government.

Last time round they barely scraped 800 votes, and that trend has continued at local by-elections with some dreadful figures.

But their prospects in north-east Fife are very different.

The seat is in their top three electoral targets.

And they’ve put party leader,Willie Rennie, up against the incumbent Rod Campbell (SNP).

The unknown factor remains how the Tories will fare in the more ruralsetting where they’ve finished as high as second place in three previous elections.

There’s a lot riding on the shoulders of candidate, Huw Bell who previously stood unsuccessfully in the General Election.

The election also sees a number of smaller parties all standing for the second vote.

They include Solidarity, led by Tommy Sheridan, which is campaigning against PFI, for a second independence referendum, and the creation of a national pharmaceutical industry in Scotland and the legalISation of all drugs.

Also on the list are UKIP, led by the equally outspoken David Coburn, the Greens and newcomers, the left-wing RISE which stands for respect, independence, socialism and environmentalism.

Results aren’t expected until the early hours of Friday morning - the Fife count has a reputation for coming in later than anticipated.

However the chips fall, it is going to be a long and fascinating night ...

>> The Mail will have a team of reporters at the Fife count, and will be covering it live online.

We will have updates and reaction at www.fifetoday.co.uk

On Twitter you can follow @ffpmaggie plus @FFP @eastfifemail @GazetteNeilH and 
@fifefreepressed.