Anyone who was in any doubt that Cumbernauld is one of Scotland’s key General Election battlegrounds only has to consider the recent photo opportunity visits to the town by Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy.
Our photographer snapped him in action at the town’s Little Treasures nursery, where the embattled East Renfrewshire politician enjoyed meeting some of the voters of the future, while also discussing (for example) the finer points of cycling.
It was Mr Murphy’s latest trip to a constituency which in many ways could be a barometer for the way other west of Scotland will vote on May 7 – because on the face of it Labour candidate Gregg McClymont, shadow pensions minister, should be in one of the country’s safest seats.
But the same could be said of Mr Murphy, a seasoned political campaigner whose own astonishing success in East Renfrewshire – where he “came from nowhere” to wrest the seat from the Conservatives – proves the unusual can sometimes happen.
This time around everyone knows the SNP is mounting a formidable challenge to what used to be seen as the established order of things, and every Labour-held seat is in the frame.
Equally it seems a given that in the Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East four horse race there are only two serious runners.
Mr Murphy (press observers agree) has the ability to appear ubiquitous, pursuing a hectic schedule of public appearances – not excluding the sometimes emotionally-charged ones which have seen him banter with highly vocal critics while standing on a crate of Cumbernauld’s most famous soft drink product.
The visit to the nursery was a no doubt welcome break from the hurly burly of street politics and the scarcely less raucous exchanges in recent TV debates.
But will these visits make any difference to Mr McClymont’s bid to retain his seat, or to the Labour campaign in Scotland generally?
Some might argue that while that’s an imponderable there’s always a chance some swithering voters may be won over, while at the same time such a trip is another opportunity to get over a key party message.
Mr Murphy argues a vote for the SNP helps the Tories, while a vote for Labour, he claims, will not only get the Conservatives out but also allow Labour to bring in policies he says will include millions more for the NHS in Scotland, and a tax on the super-rich. He wants “work to work for working class Scots” and has spelled out his disgust at zero hours contracts and other unfair working practices.
Meanwhile it’s unlikely the Scottish Labour leader will be the only big-hitting politician to visit the area – during the referendum Nicola Sturgeon visited Kilsyth as Deputy First Minister, and Gordon Brown staged a Cumbernauld rally for his faithful supporters.
In the contest to win the hearts and minds of North Lanarkshire voters, Cumbernauld and Kilsyth is the destination no serious contender can afford to ignore.