THE six-week General Election campaign is now in its second half. Euro 2024 football matches are supplanting repetitive, uninspiring political leaders’ TV debates – which even non-football fans seem to be welcoming.

Scotland’s support for our national men’s football team hasn’t crumbled after our disappointing opening match and it’s that commitment to a common cause that I feel sure will ignite the people of Scotland’s determination to rise to the challenge of changing our politics for the better of all of us.

This General Election has political parties in a spin to convince the public to trust them for the next five years of power. Still, in Scotland, that power is in a Parliament beyond our arithmetical reach to influence.

Even if every Scottish constituency voted for a single party, as almost happened in 2015, our more populous southern neighbours’ votes override Scotland’s choice if their electorate does not agree.

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The public I’ve spoken with across Scotland, from Ayr to Ullapool, has been almost universal in its frustration with the shallow, often contradictory political promises – many they’ve heard before – and the perceived inevitability of a mere rosette colour change at 10 Downing Street. This sentiment, not unique to Scotland, is exacerbated here by the feeling of powerlessness for Scotland’s electorate to influence a UK Government on the direction of our country.

But the Alba Party is different. We are not just another political party. We are here to give you back your power and voice, to empower the Scottish electorate in a way no other party has. We believe in a future where your voice matters and your power is restored. Alba fulfilled our commitment to democracy before a single vote was cast – by putting independence on the ballot paper.

As announced at our campaign launch in Glasgow and emphasised in our brilliantly received party election broadcast, every Alba election campaign is an opportunity to listen to the people of Scotland, and that’s precisely what we have been doing.

Our 19 candidates across Scotland, plus Angus Brendan MacNeil (below) in Na h-Eileanan an Iar, are not just politicians but active listeners. We are here first and foremost to understand your concerns and aspirations and hear your voice so that we can best represent your interests and work towards shaping a better Scotland.

Alba’s message is simple: the re-empowerment of our Scottish electorate – let down for 10 years in our democratic right to choose our future path. Democracy is the power of the people. It has motivated Alba Party candidates to focus on learning more about those across their communities who quietly get on with supporting and inspiring people who need help to survive and thrive in the aftermath of continued political failure.

The work I’ve seen from the groups and organisations our candidates have introduced me to is not just political talk of eradicating poverty, addiction and social isolation but determined action.

They achieve far-reaching, tangible results while relying largely on volunteers and public donations. This power also drives Alba Party members, in deeds, not just words, to make a real difference to our communities and Scotland. The results achieved by volunteer groups on shoestring budgets are a testament to the commitment to positive change we can bring across Scotland, community by community.

Diamonds In The Community in Airdrie, where our local candidate Josh Robertson stands in the Airdrie and Shotts constituency, is a genuinely incredible community hub of active support. A growing team of primarily volunteers identifies needs and then creates actions to address them, from football memories groups and walking football to baby banks, ensuring no community member is left behind.

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The theme of community continued in Dundee Central with visits to Just Bee with our local candidate Alan Ross to see the pragmatic and focused work they are doing to combat the impact of poverty on local people.

Our Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock local candidate Corri Wilson introduced me to another inspiring team at Harbour Ayrshire, where they continue to build out their addiction recovery community to empower individuals and families of those recovering from drug and/or alcohol addiction, which is a national crisis in Scotland.

The Harbour Ayrshire team is proud of what they have built and continues to grow to meet increasing needs and new support options for those who need them. Their mantra, “your shelter from the storm of addiction”, captures their deep understanding of addiction problems that politicians and quangos have failed to understand, let alone tackle.

Glasgow Alba have a laser focus on real housing for urban solutions to stop the dangerous disgrace of insecure housing in energy-rich Scotland, while up the road in Falkirk and Grangemouth candidates are tackling Scotland’s energy scandal head-on.

The Keep Grangemouth Working team came together, supported by trade union Unite, to forge community power and launch a national campaign to “Extend, Invest, Transition”. Our experienced campaigner and candidate, Kenny MacAskill, brought up just along the road, has embedded himself in the fight to save Grangemouth from the outset, as he understands the criticality of saving this local and national asset.

(Image: PA)

In Aberdeen, Ullapool, Milngavie and Edinburgh, women from groups like Women’s Rights Network have come up to share their knowledge, experiences and passion to protect women’s rights and child safeguarding and to end the cancel culture that has blighted our once enlightened nation. They seek evidence-based solutions based on rationality and positive discourse.

As one of the 34 authors of The Women Who Wouldn’t Wheesht collection of essays, I’ve been happily overwhelmed by the public response and warm wishes when asked to sign this Sunday Times bestseller – it always brings a huge smile that people are now listening.

Each group, organisation and community I have visited have succeeded in restoring the independence of those who sought their help, and in supporting their reintegration into a community that will scaffold them in the long term. It is incredible to achieve what they have against a tidal wave of need. And how these self-sustaining communities achieve that is a lesson for Scotland and politicians everywhere.

Alba are listening and have put independence on the ballot paper, so let’s make every cross count in this and every election. Only by inspiring, as we did in 2014, and mobilising Scotland’s people by giving them something clear to vote for, is the real change that we need possible.