FIFTEEN days left to the decisive election (thirteen if it's the American one you're interested in) at Glenrothes in Fife where Labour and Gordon Brown will be defending a majority of 10'664 in a constituency next to the prime minister's own. Lots of questions arise of which one of the most interesting is whether Mr Brown will put in an appearance at Glenrothes before the voters go to the poll. It is said there is a convention whereby prime ministers do not participate directly in by-elections but conventions exist to be broken.

The stakes are high: if Mr Brown were to show up and yet Labour lost the seat, what would his own prospects be at a general election next door in Kirkaldy & Cowdenbeath even with a majority of over 18'000?

There are six candidates in the election but the real fight is between Labour and the Scottish Nationalists, who took Glasgow East from Labour last July.

The economic crisis is at the heart of the contest: Labour insists that a stand-alone independent Scotland would by now have been as bankrupt as Iceland; Alex Salmond, the Nationalist's first minister argues that, to the contrary, independence would have prevented the disaster that hit the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Scotland and put Scotland in a better position to protect jobs, investment and stability. He probably has no alternative to taking this line but many economists believe that by itself Scotland would have gone under by now.


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