EUROPE and the EU is the SNP’s secret weapon in this Westminster General Election campaign.

The starting gun has been fired and we are ready to take the fight to the Westminster parties for Scotland’s future.

Only the SNP are fighting for the real change Scotland needs – independence in Europe. People know Brexit is bad news. They want to hear a positive ambition, and we have it in spades.

That’s not to say the election is without challenges for us as a party. I will not be sad to see this UK Conservative Government go and Labour in England have an easy message. But in Scotland the arithmetic is different, if getting rid of the Tories is your thing then it’s the SNP that can do it but we’re also fighting for real change, not just a shuffling of the deckchairs on the Westminster Titanic.

These things are not separate, after all. What is good for the hive is good for the bee and independence along with sound policies which deliver for the people of Scotland are mutually beneficial. As I said last year, I’m standing again because the job’s not done. I am up for taking the positive case for independence to the people of Stirling and Strathallan, as well as the rest of Scotland alongside my colleagues. We have a positive story to share and I want to make sure that story is heard loud and clear in every town, on every street, on every doorstep.

That means we must go to the voters, listen to them and provide answers to their concerns. Over the course of this parliament, they have had to deal with the effects of Brexit, a global pandemic, war in Ukraine and genocide in Palestine as well as a cost of living crisis which has seen energy bills, food bills, mortgages and rents skyrocket.

People have less income and have seen a decline in public services due to Westminster austerity, something even the Labour party acknowledges now. People want to see an improvement in their lives and it is up to us to offer that vision.

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In this parliament, it has been the SNP being the radical opposition while Labour offers weak beer.

On Brexit, we fought for Scotland’s place in Europe while Labour stayed silent.

On immigration, we have made the case for sensible and humane policies while Labour and Tories tried to outdo themselves on being more cruel to refugees. On Palestine, we pushed Labour into eventually backing a ceasefire when they would have otherwise followed the Tory line.

In the next parliament, we want the powers held at Westminster returned to their rightful place at Holyrood so that decisions impacting the people of Scotland are taken by the people of Scotland. When it comes to energy, we want that power in Scotland’s hands so that you pay lower prices.

When it comes to trade, we want back into the European Union so you have more opportunities and lower prices for food, goods and services. When it comes to Scotland’s constitutional future, we want that power to decide returned to Scotland’s Parliament, permanently.

The National: First Minister of Wales Vaughan Gething (Ben Birchall/PA)

No other party is offering this proposition in Scotland and has a chance of winning under the Westminster system – only the SNP. The SNP are the real party of change. In Labour-run Wales, we see not only how the structures of the Union have hindered it but also how Labour’s choices have led to worse outcomes than in Scotland.

Whether it be on A&E waiting times or teacher-pupil ratios to name a couple of metrics, the SNP Scottish Government outperforms Labour-run Wales.

The Scottish Government has made tough choices but it has prioritised the wellbeing of the people of Scotland first and foremost, with one example being the Scottish Child Payment which has kept 100,000 children out of poverty.

That doesn’t mean everything’s perfect. We have limited powers so there are limits on what can be done to help the people of Scotland.

We should not compare ourselves though to how our neighbours in England and Wales are doing but we should set a higher standard for ourselves – the goal is to ensure that Scotland can be the best country it can be, not that it is simply better than our immediate neighbours.

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This is why independence matters and why reclaiming our powers from Westminster is necessary. Holyrood needs as many levers as possible at its disposal to build a better Scotland from the ashes of the Union.

SNP MPs have made sure that independence and more powers for Holyrood are on the agenda in Westminster in this parliament, even whilst the Tories have sought to centralise control.

In the next one, a strong contingent of SNP MPs will ensure that whoever is in 10 Downing Street will know that independence will not go gently into that dark night but is here to stay until the question is put to the people of Scotland again.

So from now until polling day, best of luck to all the candidates and activists. It’s going to be an interesting few weeks and I look forward to meeting you all on the doorsteps!