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#BothVotesSNP? Some voters say they want a strong opposition instead Carole Erskine

Analysis: Carole Erskine gives you the inside track on the race to form Scotland's next government.

Table talk: Carole Erskine on political chatter over dinner.
Table talk: Carole Erskine on political chatter over dinner.

As all the parties get into campaigning mode with gusto, I've noticed that family and friends are slowly tuning into the election debate.

People I meet down the pub or while out cruising in the Cadillac with the roof down (I wish, but not really in an often soggy Glasgow) have started to talk about May 5 and which party will get their support.

In what has to have been a first during a Saturday night dinner at our house, income tax rates were discussed at great length. The views served up with the entrées echoed others I've spoken to in agreeing with the policy of increasing income tax by a penny.

"If I can afford to pay it then why not?" said one.

Another commented that "if it goes towards those who really need it and re-balances some of the cuts then I'd do it".

But when I asked them if that meant they would vote for Labour, the Liberal Democrats or the Greens (the parties who advocate this tax increase) I was met with a mixed response.

Some were planning to change their vote while others wanted to know exactly where the extra money would be spent, questioning whether it would go towards helping the most disadvantaged communities.

But where there was real agreement was on which party their second vote would go to, or not go to as it turned out. Almost everyone agreed that the SNP was on course to form the next Scottish Government and, interestingly, none of the SNP supporters at the table were planning to use their regional vote to support Nicola Sturgeon's party.

There was a feeling across the board about the second ballot being used to ensure "an effective opposition to the SNP" rather than, as one put it, "Scotland being a complete one-party state".

And this logic appears to be playing out across Scotland with a poll for TNS this week showing a fall of 8% for the nationalists in the regional vote. The Scottish Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Greens are all up by two points while support for Labour remains unchanged at 21%.

Nicola Sturgeon dismissed suggestions her campaign slogan "both votes SNP" might not be resonating with voters but it appears a growing slice of the electorate is considering supporting another party in the regional vote without worrying that it will jeopardise an SNP victory.

I suspect this will not worry her greatly as polls show the SNP continues to be well ahead in the constituency vote and are very likely to have a larger majority than they had after the 2011 election.

But for journalists it provides some excitement in an otherwise predictable campaign. There are only so many times you want to see a party leader pose with a small child/baby/group of supporters.

Next week's manifesto launches should finally give us a bit more meat to chew over and something more concrete to quiz the leaders about.

It should also give voters something more definite to think about as we edge towards May 5 and decision time looms for everyone.

Analysis by Carole Erskine, STV's politics reporter. You can contact her at carole.erskine@stv.tv.

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