This time next week we'll be waking up to headlines telling us who has won Scotland's election. And, as we approach the final few days, the SNP campaign is once again moving up a gear.
Over this weekend there will be extensive campaigning nationwide with efforts focused on the key seats and as importantly on the crucial list ballot. With the list vote determining the final balance of the parliament and thus deciding who will become First Minister, we will be urging voters who want to re-elect Alex Salmond as First Minister to make sure they give us both votes. First, on the larger, peach or salmon coloured ballot paper with a vote for SNP (Alex Salmond for First Minister) and then on the lilac or lavender coloured constituency ballot with a vote for an effective local SNP MSP.
This message will be repeated online, on leaflets and in the national press in a campaign that is designed to reach out to every single household in Scotland. My view is that the SNP will be doing more over these final few days than all the other political parties in Scotland put together. And what will be clear is that we are working hard for victory - working hard to earn each and every vote.
I'm playing my own small part with a declaration to the world - or at least my neighbours and passers by via window posters - my intention of voting SNP.
We have learned many lessons over the years in terms of our campaign approach and perhaps the most important is understanding better the various elements that together determine how someone will cast their vote. First is relevance - being in the race, being seen to be credible, is an essential starting point. Second is tone or, perhaps more accurately, how we tap into people's emotions. A key lesson from the 2007 election - and one confirmed by recent academic analysis of that election - is that the positive and upbeat nature of the SNP's message was crucial. A significant number of people voted for the party they thought had run the best and most positive campaign. Why? Because that campaign made them feel good about themselves, their nation and that party. The style of the campaign was a key influencer. And in this regard, hope does beat fear.
And finally, and most importantly, is what could be crudely termed as 'what's in it for me'. People are looking for a realistic policy platform that will make life better for them, for their family and for their community. The reality of a modern political campaign is that most voters do not engage with every aspect of a party's policy pitch, but they do pick up on those issues which mean something tangible to them. The SNP's Council Tax freeze is a perfect example of this, whereas Labour's scaremongering about independence, in contrast, is more distant. It is one-step removed.
And likewise, on justice where the SNP and Labour have both made strong pitches for their respective offerings, the prospect of keeping the 1000 extra police on the beat is more real to more people than Labour's alternative.
In these final few days one of the most important leaflets we will issue features these 'what's in it for me' policy pledges. This leaflet alone will go to 1.9 million households and it has been designed with swing voters in mind. At the heart of it is our determination to build a fairer Scotland, a message we know has real resonance with people who voted Lib Dem in 2010, for example. And that means a fair deal for families, with Council Tax frozen; a fair start in life for young Scots with Sure Start investment and more new schools and, a fair chance at a job with 25,000 Modern Apprenticeship places and action to support our job and wealth creating local and national entrepreneurs.
In contrast, I've seen the new leaflet Labour are putting out over these final few days in parts of the country. It focuses on the claim that the SNP are pro-Margaret Thatcher (I know, you could hardly make it up!). It offers little reason why people should vote for Labour and instead centres on a completely unreal and unbelievable claim about the SNP. If I thought the Labour material I reviewed last weekend was poor, this latest offering is even worse. Do they not realise that people have got to know the SNP, for good and bad, over these past four years? Make-believe in a leaflet cannot in any way hope to overcome the day to day experience people have of the SNP government. People know us by our own actions and not by Labour's words. And, they will cast their vote on that basis. Is this all part of a well-thought out Labour grand plan? I don't think so. But if it is all part of the plan, why on earth, on this final weekend when so many people are making up their mind, did they think it was wise to look back 20 years rather than make any offer for the future?
For the SNP, our actions in these next few days are part of a plan. Back in August 2010 we began to map out our campaign and the final week and indeed the final day message is the one that we decided on all those months ago. From our engagement with voters across Scotland what we discovered was that we had two crucial foundations for our campaign: a belief that we were the most credible government and an assessment that we had done quite a good job over these past four years. As a result we focused in the first part of the long and short campaigns on team and record, before, at the manifesto launch, moving more firmly on to the ground of team and vision. And it is this vision, deployed by our top team, that will be at the heart of our final week efforts.
Will it be enough to secure victory? I certainly hope so, but of course we won't know until all the votes are cast and counted. However, over these next few days we will be working flat out to earn the support of even more Scots. And the more people who back us, the more we can achieve.
To close off today's blog, two campaign favourites from this week. First, an excellent video posted by musician and writer Pat Kane. Pat Kane gets it 100% right when he talks about Black Watch. I've heard the First Minister wax lyrical about this excellent National Theatre Production and complex and challenging as it is, this matters less than the way it showcases Scotland's creative energy and talent.
And finally, my picture of the week. That honour goes to one taken earlier in the campaign but only this week published on the SNP facebook page. It was taken by our social media expert Kirk Torrance. The first copies of the SNP manifesto had just arrived at HQ and I think it is pretty clear that I am pleased with the final result!
And hopefully, this time next week, I will be equally pleased with the final election result. There's lots more to do if we are to secure victory, but be assured, everyone in the SNP will be working hard to earn the trust and support of the people of our nation.
And, what is in it for me, for you, for all of us? Quite simply a better and fairer nation. Together, we took the first steps on that journey four years ago and with your support we can build on the progress made. Yes, there is more to do. So lets keep Scotland moving forward.