I’VE been spending a lot of time on the campaign trail lately, as you would expect, and it is not an exaggeration to say that this election is the most important we have ever seen.

I’m privileged, of course, to be a candidate for beautiful Stirling. Not only is it the heart of Scotland and the focus of the campaign, it is going to be a bellwether on how the campaign is going. We have every community that exists – urban, rural, commuter and former mining village – with every demographic as well. We are facing a well-established and well-dug-in Tory MP with a well-funded campaign. It was Robert the Bruce who said “he who holds Stirling holds Scotland”, but I’d put it another more urgent way: if we don’t win Stirling, we’ll not win Scotland.

So I’m pleased to report the campaign is going well. I picked up the keys to my new flat last week so am now a local, albeit a new one, and the campaign team has come together great. With the years of hard work Bruce Crawford and Keith Brown have put in as the local MSPs, covering the Westminster seat alongside our hardworking councillors and branches, there is already a good organisation in place, which I have slotted right into. We’re canvassing three times a day across the seat and getting nationwide, UK and international media interest. It was telling that one of the journalists out shadowing us has told us it was almost impossible to find the Tory candidate if he’s getting the same response we’re getting I can see why he’s gone to ground!

But, we’re working hard because we need to. It is not going to fall out the sky for us and I would make a plea to each and every National reader: don’t believe the polls. There’s a lot at stake because there’s a lot of things moving and a lot of people are genuinely feeling adrift from where their politics would usually be. There are tectonic shifts under way in Scotland’s politics and we need to be out there to make sure we influence them.

We have a unique confluence of events in this campaign. The aftermath of the independence and EU referendums, the legacy of the 2015 and 2017 Westminster elections and the chaos we have seen at Westminster since the EU referendum as we face the prospect of being dragged out of the EU against our will. Where the SNP is solid, united and focused, our opponents in the Labour and Tory parties are going through I believe a transformative event.

Labour is hopelessly Janus-faced on the European question and hopelessly split on independence too. They can’t “out-nat” the SNP, but they can’t out-Union the Tories, so they’re being squeezed. They came sixth in the European election earlier this year in Stirling and are clearly not giving the seat much effort. I’m suspicious there is even a tacit understanding that the once-proud party of working people is actually giving Boris Johnson’s candidate a free pass.

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So where do their former voters go? I’m finding that those who care most about community and social democracy have come to the SNP a few elections ago and are sticking with us. But of those who care most about the Union, they’re vulnerable to the Tories, so we’re reminding people that they might be fellow Unionists, but they’re still the party of Thatcher, Universal Credit and the worst pensions in Western Europe.

The Tories are, I think, going through an even more significant phase. They’re the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, but I think after this election they’ll either be the Conservatives, or the Unionists. There’s a difference.

The National:

There is a space, even there is a need, for a right-of-centre voice in Scottish politics, arguing for small government, pro-business, low taxes, that sort of stuff. But from the Tory campaign so far I’ve seen no ideology whatsoever, just a desperate focus on the constitution, and a referendum that isn’t happening yet, to try to distract people from the real-world consequences of the one that has.

The Tories are well on the way to being the DUP. This is not going down well with many voters who would be on the right of the political spectrum but are more agnostic on the constitution and, crucially, pro-EU. I’m finding often in discussion with these folks the phrase “I’m usually Conservative but ... not these Conservatives”. Ruth Davidson’s second job that never was, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s lounging in the Commons like he owns the place and even his subsequent shameful remarks on the Grenfell fire disaster have all been noticed and have all gone down badly.

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A lot of our former opponents are looking at the SNP with fresh eyes, let’s make sure we look appealing, welcoming and hopeful.

For our part, we also need to make sure the SNP support is holding up as we cannot take anything for granted, so much is in flux. There is also the reality that the Brexit Party has, entirely as we expected, stood aside for the Tories. Vote Boris get Nigel, what a gruesome prospect altogether.

So there are seismic shifts under way in Scottish politics and this election is a lot more important than many realise. There’s work to be done and if you’re minded, there’s a local campaign that needs you. There’s work for all folks from stuffing envelopes to leafleting, to canvassing to a dozen other things. What happens in this election is going to set the tone for what happens next on Brexit and independence.

We’ve a great campaign under way, come and be part of it.