Scottish election 2021: Nicola Sturgeon, Anas Sarwar and Douglas Ross set out key policy pledges

Anas Sarwar, Nicola Sturgeon and Douglas Ross are fighting for the position of First Minister in the Scotland elections Credit: ITV News

Ahead of the Scottish elections in May, ITV News spoke to the leaders of the three biggest political groups.

Here's what Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Douglas Ross (Scottish Conservatives) and Anas Sarwar (Scottish Labour) said about their key policy pledges.

Other parties vying for seats in the Scottish Parliament are the Scottish Greens, Scottish Lib Dems, Reform UK and Alba Party.

SNP - Nicola Sturgeon

The SNP have been in government in Scotland since 2007 and Nicola Sturgeon has been First Minister since 2014.

She is seeking re-election for another five year-term, putting a stable Covid-19 recovery and, of course, Scottish independence at the heart of her party's offerings to the people in this election.

All polls have predicted the SNP will win, but they need to win big if they are to get an overall majority in the Scottish parliament, and they need that to secure a mandate for a second independence referendum.

An unlikely threat - or possible aid - to Nicola Sturgeon has emerged in the form of Alex Salmond, her one-time mentor and predecessor as FM.

The old SNP leader is now leading a new party called Alba. Mr Salmond made the surprise announcement about his project, and said it aims to prop up Nicola Sturgeon with a "supermajority" so she can pile the pressure on Westminster to give Scotland that independence vote.

His offer has not been welcomed by Sturgeon after these one-time friends and colleagues had the bitterest of public fall outs. Her team has even questioned whether he is suitable for public office.

But what if the independence cause relies on Alba working with the SNP?

Perhaps surprisingly, Nicola Sturgeon did not categorically rule out working with Alex Salmond's party.

She did say: "I am not planning to work with Alba and they're not helping the independence cause right now and they could hinder it."

Nicola Sturgeon says the SNP is focused on getting a majority for themselves.

But when offered the chance to absolutely rule out working with her old boss, once and for all, she declined to put it in those clear terms.

Scottish Conservatives - Douglas Ross

Ruth Davidson is gone - the former Scottish Conservatives leader has left Holyrood for the Lords. Now it's Douglas Ross at the helm for the party that won the second most seats at Scotland's last election.

He is an assistant referee as well as a politician, and is raising an early flag for the Scottish Tories as the party you vote for if you absolutely don't want a second independence referendum.

This arch-unionist identity will make these elections feel more like a 'referendum on having a referendum' - and it could backfire if the SNP end up winning a majority and claiming that, by Douglas Ross's own words, the Scottish people have said in clear, democratic terms that they do want another independence vote.

He is also facing the challenge of convincing a Scottish electorate who voted to remain in the EU that 'Brexit Britain' is working for them. He focuses on the success of the UK's vaccination programme as evidence for this.

The Scottish voters don't know him as well as his predecessor yet, so he needs to work on that to make sure his party's message cuts through.

Scottish Labour - Anas Sarwar

Scottish Labour used to have an iron grip on Scottish politics. Those days are gone.

They were replaced in the Scottish Government by the SNP in 2007 and it's been a downward spiral since then - at the last election in 2016 they were overtaken by the Tories and became the nation's third biggest party.

They've also been through 13 leadership changes in just 14 years (including temporary leaders) and the latest captain of this ship in troubled waters is Anas Sarwar.

He is a pro-EU, pro-UK politician who wants to rebuild his once-dominant party. They have been squeezed out of the debate by trying to keep the middle ground on polarised constitutional debates, but Mr Sarwar sees that now as an opportunity to present Labour as the vote for people who want to heal the nation's divisions.

Expect to hear him use the words "divisive referendum" quite regularly in this campaign.