THE UK General Election is 12 days away but already one-fifth of voters are able to cast their ballots. Postal votes have been delivered by the Royal Mail in the last couple of days across the country, and they tend to be returned quite quickly by voters.

In 2017 Scotland had the joint highest percentage of postal voters in the UK, together with Wales, totalling 19.4% of the electorate, and saw the biggest increase from the previous General Election in 2015. The turnout amongst postal voters is significantly higher than among “in person” voters, with a whopping 85% of eligible postal voters taking part in 2017, compared to 66% of “in person” voters.

No wonder political parties now make a two-stage effort in election campaigns: targeting postal voters and then working on maximising support among everyone else.

It’s also pretty transparently why Boris Johnson has been holding off doing tough media debates and interviews, like with Andrew Neil of the BBC. Neil is a tough and forensic interviewer and gives everyone a hard time. I should know, having been interviewed a number of times by him in a longer format programme. In an age of soundbites, where the Tory campaign is dodging leaders’ debates and prioritising social media output over the traditional mainstream media, it is ever more important to stand up for the highest standards of scrutiny.

That’s why Channel 4 were quite right to empty-chair both the Tory and Brexit parties when neither sent along their leaders to a special leaders’ climate change debate. Instead, a melting ice block was left in their places, reminding viewers that neither Boris Johnson nor Nigel Farage thinks the environment is important enough to turn up. Fair play to Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP, Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party, Jo Swinson of the LibDems, Adam Price of Plaid Cymru and Sian Berry of the Greens for debating the climate emergency facing our planet.

In contrast the Tories sent along Michael Gove, Boris Johnson’s dad and a camera team to create a manufactured stooshie with Channel 4 about not being allowed on the programme. How ironic a week after BoJo was refusing to debate with Nicola Sturgeon, the Tories were insisting on sending a substitute to do just that. How pathetic.

Instead of tough interviews and tough debates, Boris prefers radio phone-ins where he can signal to cut a tricky subject like social care costs. That’s exactly what happened on LBC yesterday when he appeared with Leave-supporting host Nick Ferrari. The problem for Boris is that he forgot the interview was being live-streamed and his “throat-cutting” gesture was there for all to see. It has since gone viral.

It was still hugely uncomfortable for Johnson with his past views on single mothers as “irresponsible” and their children as “a generation of ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate children”. A caller to the show challenged him on why it was that he could publicly attack single mothers and their parenting, but wouldn’t answer any questions about his own record. When asked by Nick Ferrari about how many children he has, he refused to answer.

Given how gaffe prone and mendacious Boris Johnson is it’s no wonder that Tory minders don’t want him on tough interviews with Andrew Neil or debating the likes of Nicola Sturgeon. They certainly didn’t want it happening before the issuing of postal votes to a fifth of the electorate. If they can hold out until the end of the election campaign they will.

Recent opinion polls have shown two trends that should be particularly interesting to people in Scotland: firstly, the SNP is in a strong position and is the main challenger in all Tory-held seats north of the Border; and secondly, there is evidence of the Conservative lead narrowing across the UK as a whole.

There are only two realistic outcomes in this UK General Election: a Tory victory giving Boris Johnson the green light for his damaging Brexit plans or alternatively a hung parliament where the SNP potentially holds the balance of power.

Every voter in Scotland should understand the power they can wield in this election. They can help Boris Johnson by voting Tory or they can empower Scotland by voting SNP. It is a straight choice. With Labour and the LibDems bombing in Scotland, voting for either of them is a boost for BoJo. It is the SNP that he fears and he is right to do so. Voters in Scotland who want to scupper Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans and want to decide our own future must vote SNP. Opinion polls are one thing, but it is election results that really matter. Use your postal vote now or cast your ballot on polling day for the SNP.