EVERY election is important. But tomorrow’s will be crucial to making the next step towards an independent Scotland. If this is what you want (and if you are reading this paper you most likely do) the only way to get there is by casting both of your votes for the SNP.

Some will say that a second vote for the SNP is a wasted vote. “Look how many people voted for you on the regional list in 2016 and you still lost a majority!” they cry from behind their Twitter screens.

And that is true – we did get more votes on the regional list in 2016 than in 2011; but – crucially – we got a smaller percentage of the regional vote, and that small drop of a couple of points was enough for us to lose the majority that we had.

Just this weekend, the Scottish Conservatives admitted that an SNP majority will “guarantee” another independence referendum. Not a coalition, not any other party – only an SNP majority will give the people of Scotland another chance to decide our future. Every vote counts when the margins are this small and the prize is this big.

The SNP is, and always will be, the party for Scottish independence. But it is also about improving the lives of the people of Scotland. This is why we are committed to holding a second, legal referendum once the pandemic is over so we can use the full powers of independence to ensure a fair recovery from the devastation of Covid.

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With independence, we will take our place on the world stage, leading by example and showing there is an alternative to Tory austerity, Tory cuts and bombastic Brexiteering.

Moreover, and I can’t stress this enough, only a legal referendum will enable us to be accepted by the international community and actually gain us independence. Until that day comes (and it is coming for a’ that) we will continue to get on with the day job and use the powers we have to improve the lives and opportunities of the people of Scotland.

And what’s not to like? – 100,000 new homes by 2032, a new National Care Service; £1 billion investment in the Scottish National Investment Bank; providing every child with a device to get online with a free internet connection and support on using it; free school breakfasts and lunches all year round for primary school pupils; a Young Person’s Guarantee which will ensure access to employment, educational and training opportunities for every young person; a 4% pay increase for NHS staff; and a 20% increase of NHS frontline spending – the list goes on. Our manifesto delivers radical, positive changes for the youngest to the oldest, from the islands to the Borders.

It is ambitious, it is bold, and, more importantly, it is achievable. We may not be independent yet but with this manifesto we will continue to lay the foundations of a fairer, more prosperous and inclusive Scotland.

Contrast this with the Tory government at Westminster, where corruption scandal after corruption scandal infests the corridors of power and where they delight in being doubly cruel at home and abroad.

DESPITE the Tory rhetoric of a “Global Britain”, they march on with their relentless obsession of hurting the world’s most vulnerable by cutting international aid by 30%.

Amid a pandemic where hygiene and sanitation measures are key to preventing the spread of coronavirus, someone had the bright idea to slash water, sanitation and hygiene projects by more than 80%. Moreover, the UK is the only G7 country not to increase its foreign aid commitments during the pandemic. So much for Global Britain!

Let’s not forget that their disregard for vulnerable people begins at home. Only last year this UK Government had to be dragged kicking and screaming to feed schoolchildren, while the past decade has seen an endemic crisis in the poorest communities as it mercilessly targeted jobseekers and those unable to work.

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And while we debate about how much the Prime Minister got for renovating his flat, the UK continues to face a housing crisis which makes home ownership a fantasy for many young people.

I haven’t even mentioned the mess that is Brexit, which is destroying whole communities across these islands and denying opportunities to current and future generations.

As has often been quoted, how a society treats its most vulnerable is the measure of its humanity; by that metric, the Tories are severely lacking. There is an alternative to the continuing austerity, embarrassing isolationism and empty slogans. You don’t have to continue putting up with sleazy scandals and a government which doesn’t listen.

By giving both of your votes to the SNP, you will bring about a Scottish government which cares about the most vulnerable. You will deliver food to those who need it, give opportunities to those who have none, and support a government which puts people first rather than their private-school chums.

Independence is the means to a better future, and we’ve never been closer. The SNP have a vision of an internationalist Scotland which plays its part of being a good global citizen and investing in its people.

If you want to put Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands, then give both votes of your votes to the SNP tomorrow.