THIS Thursday’s election is the most important in most of our lifetimes. The stakes could not be higher. Scotland’s future is on the line. The result has the potential to shape our country and our society for many, many years to come.

Boris Johnson craves a Tory majority that will allow him to railroad through a Brexit deal which would take Scotland out of Europe against our will. He needs to be stopped, and in Scotland that means voting SNP.

We are the main challengers in every seat the Tories hold in Scotland, and taking seats away from them here could be crucial in depriving Johnson of a majority across the UK.

Make no mistake, if he were to win such a majority then pushing through his plans to leave the EU would be only the start of things. Brexit will not, in any sense, be done, whatever happens on Thursday.

Trade talks with the EU haven’t even started yet, and are set to drag on for years. Tory suggestions that they could be wrapped up within 12 months are pie in the sky.

That means the prospect of a catastrophic No-Deal Brexit is still very much alive – the threat would just be postponed, not removed. Indeed, the Tories are openly saying that they are prepared to drive over the cliff edge of No-Deal if a trade arrangement is not in place.

That is not just irresponsible, it is reckless almost beyond belief, given that we know a No-Deal Brexit would destroy so many jobs and hit living standards hard for everyone.

It would deal a devastating blow to businesses large and small. It would hit exporters, including Scotland’s booming food and drink sector and would lead to a whole host of other complications.

READ MORE: First Minister says Boris Johnson is on 'thin ice' in bid for majority

But the Tories wouldn’t stop there. This current crop of Conservatives are the most right wing in many, many years – possibly ever.

They see Brexit as a chance to reinvent the UK as a low-tax, low-regulation offshore economy.

And that means they are prepared to rip up current rules on things like environmental protections, food standards and workers’ rights. It would be a regulatory race to the bottom with no winners other than the very richest.

Most worryingly of all, a re-elected Boris Johnson would pose a clear and present danger to our NHS.

For all his bluster and protestation, it is clear that the health service would be on the table as part of any talks in the trade deal Johnson is so desperate to sign with Donald Trump.

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That’s why the SNP are proposing an NHS Protection Bill to prevent that happening, which would also mean that no such trade deal could be signed without Holyrood’s explicit approval.

We also want to see an increase in health spending across the UK, something which would ensure the NHS in Scotland also sees its budget continue to grow in real terms.

This election is also fundamentally about democracy. It’s about Scotland’s right as a nation to choose its own future.

We voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU but now face being dragged out of Europe and the world’s biggest single market against our will.

But the unfairness to Scotland goes even deeper than that. We are the only nation of the four UK nations which, if Brexit goes ahead, will not get what it voted for – like England and Wales – or get a special deal – like Northern Ireland.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: The longer we stay in the UK, the more damage will be done

IT is clear that Scotland should have a choice on its future. The SNP’s 2016 Holyrood manifesto commitment on the right to an independence referendum in the event of a change in our circumstances such as being taken out of the EU against our will was crystal clear. And the Scottish Parliament has voted by majority for a referendum.

The continued attempts by the Tories to stand in the way of Scotland’s right to choose is both shameful and indefensible.

But it also cannot hold indefinitely. Everyone knows that there is going to be a fresh Scottish independence referendum – and another election win for the SNP this week would leave Boris Johnson without even a fig leaf of an excuse for trying to block it any longer.

I have already said in this campaign that Boris Johnson does not deserve to be re-elected. I do not make that claim lightly. I base it on the evidence of the things he has said and done – and equally the things he has not done, including his ducking and dodging of interrogation from the BBC’s Andrew Neil.

Such evasion does not suggest a man who is confident of his arguments or his ability to withstand even the moderate scrutiny a half-hour TV interview can provide.

Boris Johnson does not deserve to return to Downing Street because he is a shameless chancer and a charlatan, the like of whom should not be occupying the highest office in the UK.

On Thursday, we have a chance to stop him. And in Scotland that means voting SNP – to escape Brexit, to lock Boris Johnson out of Downing Street and to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.