AND we’re off! The last few weeks have been great with a sense that the campaign has kicked up a gear. I am delighted at the way the team in Stirling has come together and we’re powering away. Stirling is the constituency to watch – we’ve already had a lot of media interest and that will only continue. Our party leader Nicola Sturgeon was in town to launch the campaign and it was a great morning. She certainly draws a crowd! We were hosted by Made in Stirling, and Nicola was as impressed by them as I am.

Retail is changing fast, partly because of technology but also economics, our high streets need support and we need urgent reform of how we support local business. I know there’s a lot of people looking at this but we need all the powers in Scotland to take a comprehensive look at how tax and development policy is impacting in the real world. Small businesses are by their very definition local so rooted in the community and creating local employment, as well as more likely to use local services themselves.

Creative Stirling is an example of how we can harness these changes for good. They took over an empty retail premises and have turned it into a real attraction to the city. They’re a collective of local makers from across the Forth Valley, with all manner of things for sale from ceramics to prints, jewellery to household goods. There’s classes, exhibition space, a community radio and soon there will be a community kitchen and garden too. The venue is a real hub for local services and is going from strength to strength.

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They’re doing exactly what Berlin and Barcelona did, using creative and sustainable inclusive growth to make the place not just more economically productive but more interesting too – I can’t see people travelling to Stirling to visit a chain store but I can see them travelling to come and see Made in Stirling.

Obviously, retail is a diverse community and we’ve done a lot with the business improvement districts and small business bonus, but there’s more to be done to make our high streets the attractions they could be.

But meantime the threat to all business everywhere continues – Brexit. It is the one word people are bringing up on the doorstep time and again, folk are sick of it altogether. I thought that people had reached the “make it work or make it go away” stage and would be vulnerable to the Tory “lets get Brexit sorted” nonsense, but I should give the voters more credit.

They’re not facing for the Tory lines, and know well that it is the Tories who are causing this chaos. Be in no doubt, Johnson’s deal is worse than May’s, and all it does is guarantee vassal statehood then the same cliff edge just a few months later. This is in no sense certainty for business or us as a society, it is reckless and dishonest. Nobody of good conscience could promote this package as a good thing, far and away our best option is to revoke Article 50. Whether this is by a vote of the House of Commons or by a referendum is an open question, but stopping this nonsense is far and away our best course of action.

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Of course, revoking Article 50 would not stop the conversation, there would be consternation in some parts of England. But remember all those who were predicting chaos if we didn’t leave on October 31? It passed by with nary a remark. Making Brexit happen is not a top priority of the vast majority of folk, and making it go away is a top priority in Scotland. The Tories are having a rotten election with wholly unstable candidates being exposed as such, and a fundamental premise that is deeply unappealing to people. We by contrast in the SNP have the wind at our backs, a positive message of hope and a united and disciplined party machine working hard to get it across.

Yes it is the election nobody greatly wanted but it is the only way to put this rotten government out of its (and our) misery. The degradation of public discourse, the breathless drama and shameless stonewalling are reaching new depths with the refusal to release the report into Russian interference in our democracy. There must be a reason, and it cannot be good.

The idea that the UK Government would willingly hold back a report so important from publication stinks, and while I’ve no idea why I can’t imagine any good reason for it. It’s not good enough, we need strong voices at Westminster to hold such actions up for what they are, not pretend it is somehow alright.

This campaign is going to be a long one, but Scotland stands at a crossroads. There is something happening out there and we’ve a choice – an inclusive open welcoming Scotland working towards independence in Europe, or an awkward region belittled and denigrated as part of a dysfunctional UK. I’m relishing the campaign and enjoying taking our message of hope forward. I’m not sure I can say the same for the Tories.