THE General Election that has been called for December 12 is quite simply the most important election in Scottish history since the introduction of universal suffrage, for the result will determine Scotland’s future as a nation both in the short and the long term.

The choices are clear – we can be trapped in a broken Union and be dictated to by the Tories, or be free and independent and set our own positive course; we can be stuck with Brexit or be able to choose our own relationship with Europe; we can suffer the colossal economic and social damage that Brexit will bring, or we can begin the process of opting out of the UK and back into Europe and the world; we can be ruled over by Boris Johnson’s diktats from London or choose a government and leaders that work in Scotland for the best interests of Scotland.

Those are the stark choices we face, for this is not the Brexit election, this is the independence election.

The National’s front page today reflects this newspaper’s opinion as the only daily and Sunday paper which supports Scottish independence – we really do have just six weeks to save Scotland.

Those parties which support independence, principally the SNP and Scottish Greens, must campaign on a policy of gaining a mandate for a second independence referendum. We would never argue that an election should be a single-issue plebiscite, but getting a clear majority of MPs winning seats on the policy of mandating a second independence referendum must be the aim of all who support Scottish self-determination.

We could cite Margaret Thatcher’s rule that if a majority of MPs elected in Scotland were in favour of independence then it should happen, but instead we will merely say that if a majority of MPs elected in Scotland on December 12 are in favour of a second independence referendum, then the next UK Government must allow it. To do otherwise would be anti-democratic.

There are senior figures in the SNP who were not keen on this pre-Christmas election, but they must now set aside all doubts and campaign as never before for what Scotland needs – at least 30 MPs, and hopefully many more, at Westminster who are pledged to the cause of independence.

The SNP has been handed an unprecedented opportunity to make electoral gains at the hands of opponents who are in some disarray. The Scottish Conservatives’ greatest asset in recent years is now a busted flush as a result of her brief flirtation with the world of public relations. Ruth Davidson played her sole policy card at the last General Election with the “no to indyref2” mantra. The Tories may try that tactic again, but the Scottish electorate will see that one-trick pony for what it is – a policy that is out of date.

The Scottish Conservatives are leaderless – are they seriously going to have Jackson Carlaw in pole position? – while their machinations over Brexit have shown them to be directionless unless following instructions from London. The same description applies to Scottish Labour whose splits have turned into unbridgeable chasms under a leader who appears unable to impose his policies or any discipline on the party.

The Liberal Democrats will at least have a settled anti-Brexit policy and that may be enough for their leader Jo Swinson to keep her East Dunbartonshire seat, though even that may be a close-run thing.

The Scottish Greens, the Scottish Socialist Party and others who seek independence will all have their supporters, but it is up to the SNP to deliver what Scotland needs and wants – a second independence referendum, leading to independence itself.

The party leadership must have the courage to make that case to the voters of Scotland. If they do, it is our belief that the SNP will gain more seats and, having stood on a platform advocating a second independence referendum, the case for it will be unanswerable, no matter who next occupies 10 Downing Street.