AND we are off! It went from whisperings in political circles, and a case of “will he/won’t he”, to “well, he did”.

Lagging 25 points behind in the polls and barely making an impact on his own party members’ confidence never mind the nation’s, the Prime Minister called a General Election.

Some of us cynical of any Tory motives may be forgiven for thinking he was ready to jet off into the Californian sun, leaving the sorry mess behind him. Others suggested they are just that incompetent – so perhaps it’s a mix of both?

Whatever their thinking, the call to campaign with Rishi Sunak languishing in the rain (there is a poem in that) may be the worst optics of any campaign call I have ever seen. What a sorry sodden mess, reflecting their sorry sodden government and the state they have made of this country.

The National: Keir Starmer attempted to brush off the snub by pop group D:Ream

The Tories and Labour offer nothing new to Scotland; two sides of the same coin. Both Keir Starmer (above) and Sunak are claiming to want to protect public services but lower taxes. In what world does that happen?

Meanwhile, in Scotland, the SNP has implemented a progressive tax system – a challenging but necessary decision. Despite facing criticism, this approach generates additional funds for essential public services.

READ MORE: Argyll, Bute and South Lochaber: Smart money is on SNP despite polls

It’s a tough path, but one that yields better outcomes, reflecting the reality of daily life and the importance of making difficult choices for the greater good.

The election promises from both Labour and the Tories are wish lists handed to them by populist polls, with no thought to implementation, no thought to cold hard truths. Let’s face it, they are playing to the UK electorate in a loose term. These are UK parties for the UK; the SNP is the only party solely based in Scotland, working for Scotland. When the SNP wins, Scotland wins.

Party leader John Swinney (below) is dedicated to his country and the people, demonstrating this over decades of commitment, and I was delighted to welcome him to Buckie in my constituency this past weekend where he clearly laid out the message he wants the electorate to hear.

The National: John Swinney said the Tories have been working against Holyrood for some time (Jane Barlow/PA)

The ABC of this election is: Austerity, Brexit, and Cost of Living, all three foisted upon us in Scotland.

We have continually mitigated the worst impacts of austerity, driven by the Tory government, while Starmer has made no commitments to roll back on the harsh, poverty-inducing policies of the rape clause and two-child cap, and the bedroom tax. No movement on austerity. No commitments to real change, just a change of colour.

The Tory party had no campaign ready to go on day one. Sunak visiting the Titanic Centre in Belfast, trying to sell the Titanic as a British success story? Had no-one told him it sank! Then picking a Highland constituency to have his first visit to Scotland which does not currently have a Tory candidate is awkward, to say the least.

Meanwhile, Labour appears to be mirroring the Tories on various key issues, including immigration, austerity, NHS privatisation, and anti-European Union sentiments. The party’s proposed GB Energy company has faced criticism for lacking a clear plan on whether it will produce energy, own infrastructure, or operate as a functional company.

READ MORE: This alternative to council tax in Scotland would be far fairer

The GB brand is being relied upon heavily for that to pass any scrutiny. Additionally, both Conservative and Labour plans for the oil and gas sector have raised concerns about the potential risk to thousands of jobs in North-east Scotland.

Reflecting on these early campaign missteps and the broader political landscape, it’s clear that neither the Tories nor Labour has a compelling vision for Scotland’s future. They offer more of the same policies that have already proven detrimental to our nation. In contrast, the SNP’s commitment to progressive taxation, social justice, and independence presents a real opportunity for change. It’s not just about mitigating the damage, it’s about building a better future.

My constituency of Banffshire and Buchan Coast, predominantly focused on fishing, has faced significant cost and trade impacts. The complexities of international trade are clearer than ever, and the need for robust international relations is paramount.

Brexit Britain, with its isolationist stance, has done nothing but embarrass us on the global stage, look to be closed for business and fickle about foreign trade.

The international relations that Scotland needs for growth and opportunity are being stifled by a Westminster government which shows no signs of changing under a Labour banner. As I reflect on the campaign so far, it’s clear that the SNP is the only party offering real solutions to Scotland’s challenges.

Our commitment to progressive taxation, social justice, and independence stands in stark contrast to the empty promises of the Tories and Labour. We are focused on addressing the cost of living crisis, protecting public services, and building a fairer, more prosperous Scotland.

The Tories and Labour have shown their true colours. They are willing to sacrifice Scotland’s interests for their political gain. The SNP, on the other hand, is committed to prioritising Scotland’s needs.

We have demonstrated this time and again, through our policies and our actions. Our progressive tax system, the baby box, free prescriptions, abolition of university tuition fees, and free bus travel for under-22s are just a few examples of how we are working to improve the lives of people in Scotland.

The SNP’s focus on people’s top concerns is unwavering. We are investing in the NHS, extending all-day off-peak rail fares, and keeping an estimated 100,000 children out of poverty through our social security powers.

We are avoiding NHS strike action by investing in pay deals for staff, ensuring patients in Scotland do not suffer the disruption seen south of the Border.

The SNP’s vision for Scotland is not an abstract thought, it’s been implemented by clear actions. We have had a rough time of it as a party, that’s in no doubt, but to succeed for our country and our movement we must put our energy into uniting for independence, for Scotland.