I CAN’T not write this week about tomorrow’s elections, our next chance to register our thoughts on where Scotland is and who is best placed to represent us.

It has been great to be out knocking on doors in Stirling which, as well as the city itself, as a council area includes a part of Scotland as big as Luxembourg all the way from Tyndrum, Crianlarich and Killin to Fintry, Kippen, Killearn and Drymen, a huge diversity of communities I’m privileged to represent at Westminster.

Much as I hae ma doots about that latter place, I love representing the heart of Scotland and doing what I can to lead opinion, knit the SNP team together and be responsive to local needs.

The canvassing has been heartening, really heartening. I was concerned that after 10 years of austerity, two of Covid and now war in Europe on top of Brexit and climate change, people would have enough on their plates without politicians darkening their doors.

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But no, people have been keen to speak and keen to make their thoughts known.

And there is one thing that is clear as day – the SNP are doing well and the Tories are having a shocker. They are divided and divisive, led by a man unfit for office yet enabled by his MPs at Westminster, with the Scottish Tory leader as incredible in his hokey-cokey support for the UK leader as he is unappealing in his priorities and presentation.

I was struck by this at the 2019 General Election when we won Stirling from the Tories. People who would usually identify as Conservative, but not necessarily Unionist, who were pro-EU and repelled by Boris Johnson’s Tories, were finding themselves with fewer reasons than they thought they had not to vote SNP.

The doorstep conversation almost always went the same: “I’d usually be Conservative but I really don’t like them or what they’re doing on Europe, and I like Nicola Sturgeon and I like you. I’m still not convinced on independence but I’ll be voting SNP.”

Those folk are still with us. I’ve been sure to go and check and they’re even more curious about independence than they were back then.

Similarly, Covid has brought home to people that they want serious politicians with integrity to represent them, and they’ve not seen much of that at Westminster.

Locally in Stirling, the SNP made up the outgoing administration along with the Labour Party, an administration that has delivered despite the challenges of Covid and the wider economy – and there will be more to come.

I feel positive about the wider picture so my only worry is, as it always is, turnout. If we get our vote out, we’ll do well, the question is whether we can get our vote out and that will come down to how many volunteers we have across Stirling and Scotland.

These elections will decide who is in charge of Scotland’s local government as we have our independence referendum.

It is important we have as many partners to the Scottish Government in place as possible. We also have a good record in local government that needs to be continued.

If you have time to give there’s plenty to be done. But even if you can’t, for goodness sake remember to go vote. It is a proportional election so it is numbers in order of preference – not crosses, please! (they’ll count as spoiled ballots) – and run through the whole ballot paper.

There’s a certain satisfaction, I find, in both expressing an actual preference (SNP then Green for me personally) and going right through the paper and ranking someone last. STV seats are won on the second, third and even seventh or eighth preferences, so don’t bow out early.

And then by Friday we will see where the runes have fallen and the negotiations will begin, and again we will see Scotland’s distinct political culture.

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Collaboration and co-operation are written into our electoral system. I was company secretary to Fairshare Voting Reform which successfully campaigned to replace the mini-Westminster first-past-the-post system with STV PR in local government, and it is fantastic to see it largely working in Scotland to change our political culture.

It is not winner takes all.

Everyone has to win on their merits and then often there will not be an outright majority, that’s the point. The parties then have to discuss, negotiate and agree a programme, working on where they agree and pooling efforts and talent to those ends.

That makes for longer-term planning and decisions, greater accountability and a more collegiate and fraternal culture. No wonder the Tories want rid of it.

Scotland and the UK are different places, going in different directions. This election is your next best chance to make your voice heard and to send a message to Westminster but above all else to get decent people into power.

I’m taking nothing for granted but I’m looking forward to writing next week’s column.