THERE’S a stirring in the Highlands: a mood of determination and thoughts of change. It weaves itself through the narrow streets of Inverness, up beyond the lochs and hills, and on to the doorsteps of Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey too.

Because it is here that one of the most intriguing political battles of the 2015 General Election is being fought, where political giants can be slayed and heroes made.

Drew Hendry sits in a chair in his home, sunshine streaming through the windows as he considers whether or not his duel with sitting MP Danny Alexander could be as seismic as some predict.

“It’s a cliche, but I’m taking nothing for granted,” says the Highland Council leader, who is standing for the SNP. “I have to go and earn this seat and that’s what I’ll be doing as I speak to as many people on their doorsteps and in the community as I possibly can.

“It is going to be a tough seat to win; it’s very high-profile.

“The Lib Dems will be throwing an awful lot of money which they’ve got from their big donors at the seat. That’s what we have to fight against.”

It would be easy for Hendry to feel a little cowed, intimidated even.

After all, when a 10-year incumbent is able to draw on the wealth of a well-oiled UK machine that’s still in government, then the writing really should be on the wall.

But he’s far from fazed. In fact, he’s taking the fight to Alexander, on the streets.

He said: “The fact that they’ve got money is an advantage for them.

“What is an advantage for us is that we’ve got hundreds of local volunteers who have turned out to support this campaign. People from across the political spectrum – not just traditional SNP supporters, people who voted for other parties and even some who are members of other parties who are coming out to support this campaign just now.

“So what we lack in funds we more than make up for in the sheer dedication and hard work of local people.”

The same picture is being replicated elsewhere.

The most recent Ashcroft National Poll predicts Hendry will win by 29 points.

In London, the numbers are being treated seriously, with one LibDem grandee telling The National: “If these numbers are right, and the way this poll has been done is the best, then many more of of us will be out too.”

Hendry, 50, knows what happens here on May 7 could be a marker of how the rest of Scotland votes.

He said: “This place is the new frontier - for opportunity, for change for the better in Scotland and a real political opportunity too. It can be the place that a real move forward can be registered.

“This is nobody’s seat by right. This is a seat that is decided by the people locally and they are very attuned to what they want to see.

“People in this constituency want to vote for someone who is going to deliver on the priorities they want them to deliver on. One of the deficits we’ve seen is the number of promises made to tackle important issues such as the Highland housing debt, which was described by Danny Alexander as a millstone around our neck, yet despite doing the one job where he could actually do something about it, he has singularly failed to do that.

“Also hooking up with a Tory government has gone down extremely badly. It was a betrayal of the constituents.

“Nobody voted for the Conservatives in any numbers, they didn’t vote for a Tory government, the whole of Scotland definitely didn’t vote for a Tory government so to prop up a Tory government and bring in policies which have led to increased poverty in this constituency is not I think something he can be forgiven for.”

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has conceded the election will be “tight” but has given no indication of nerves about May’s poll, going so far as to dismiss the challenge of Labour’s Mike Robb and the Conservatives’ Edward Mountain out of hand. He has accused Hendry of having independence as a priority over local needs.

Hendry said: “Outside of the Highlands, Danny is obviously much better known. But here in the Highlands local people can see the record that we’ve had of actually delivering on manifesto promises on things like living wage for the council and encouraging local employers to do the same, of building council houses, of policies that we said we would deliver on that we are delivering on, as opposed to the promises that were made that were just ignored once the chance of power came knocking.

“I’ve got a very good record of delivering across the piece, not just for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey in terms of major projects like the Inverness campus, but through schemes like the £30 million flood scheme, new schools that are all around this constituency and beyond. I can point to a good, solid record – I don’t think Danny can.”

He rejects claims a vote for the SNP over Labour would let the Tories win control, saying: “The option was there to avoid having a Tory government last time. The difference now is you will have a strong group of SNP MPs who can make sure Scotland’s priorities are represented. The best way is to get behind the SNP so that we can make sure we’re taking forward those priorities, to change the dogma of austerity and make sure of having a proper representation of the people of Scotland.”

“The fact is for decades Scotland has been voting for Labour at Westminster elections and it has made absolutely no difference.”

“Having strong representation at Westminster gives us the opportunity to change the political system for the betterment of Scotland and rest of the UK, but also allows us to make sure that those powers that were promised – and the vast majority of people who voted yes or no actually believe should come to Scotland – are delivered.”

You get the sense that Hendry really has the toolset for the job. Prior to entering politics, the Edinburgh-born Hearts fan was head of sales and later a senior director for Electrolux, set up his own web services firm Teclan and has successfully managed one of the few sustainable coalitions in Scottish local politics with Labour and the LibDems.

He points to victories in delivering jobs and new schools, surging towards becoming a carbon neutral area, but is frustrated at not yet being able to force Ofcom to do more about mobile coverage for the area, or tackling fuel poverty in areas such as heating oil.

He’s hungry to do more.

“This is a seat I intend to work hard for, regardless of what’s going on in the background,” he said, “It’s a real time of opportunity to make a difference and I’m thrilled to be part of that.”