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Tabloid in Holyrood U-turn as The Sun comes out for Salmond

What a difference four years can make.

For the 2007 Holyrood elections the Scottish Sun famously pictured the SNP logo in the shape of a hangman’s noose around a map of Scotland.

“Vote SNP today, and you put Scotland’s head in the noose”, the headline ran.

Yesterday, however, the tabloid told readers to “Play it Again, Salm”.

To be fair it was not the most unexpected move.

Observers had been predicting for weeks the paper, hostile to Labour since it came out for the Tories in time for last year’s General Election, would back the SNP.

The Sun has changed its allegiances before, supporting Labour from 1997 through three Westminster elections.

Last night there were mixed views on the effect of the paper’s endorsement.

John Curtice, from Strathclyde University, said: “There are always plenty of people who make up their minds about these things at the last minute, but what you have to remember about the paper coming out for Labour in 1997 and the Tories more recently is that both times they were following their readers.”

He added that there were commercial reasons for the paper to back the SNP, as telling Scottish readers to vote Tory, “might not be the best way of maintaining a Scottish image.”

Media commentator Roy Greenslade said supporting different parties across the Border “appears a very cynical, pragmatic move”.

“They clearly realise the Tories will not do well.

“I’m not sure how much difference it will make to voters. But they do like to back a winner, and claim it is ‘the Sun wot won it’, so it does suggest they think the outcome will be favourable to Alex Salmond.”

The SNP welcomed the endorsement rather cheesily describing yesterday as “Sun-day”, while Labour responded by highlighting the newspaper’s backing for the Tories in England.

The party mocked up a new leaflet showed a chortling and red-faced Mr Cameron wearing an SNP rosette. “The Tories would much prefer it if the SNP beat Labour on May 5”, the headline read.

Anne McGuire, the Labour MP for Stirling, said: “The Sun is the Tories’ biggest backer, so it’s no surprise they will do anything to stop a Labour victory here,” she said.

“There’s more than a nod and wink going on here – he goes easy on the Tories, and in return the Tories get their in-house paper to back him,” she added.

The SNP said the support “reflects the hopes and aspirations of the people for a successful Scotland”.

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