IN anything between one year and 18 months we will be going to the polls to decide the next UK Government.

All of the previous six elections I have fought have been inevitably described as the "most important ever" but you get the feeling that this time around there seems to be an awful lot at stake.

After 15 years, we may finally rid ourselves of Tory Government and we have to ensure that the momentum we are making towards independence isn’t reversed. 

This is the first time in almost two decades that we in the SNP have faced a resurgent Labour Party.

We are so used to their ongoing decline that there is a bit of a novelty factor watching them climb the polls and complacently boast of gains across Scotland.

This might explain the initial misfires in our approach to Labour. The sometimes inconsistent messaging around Labour has been gleefully and wilfully misinterpreted by political opponents and the mainstream press.

This is something that will have to be resolved as soon as possible.

And we are still unsure how much progress Labour is actually making. Of the two latest polls, one showed them winning 21 seats from us, and the other, next to nothing.

There is a real sense that there is only so much of Keir Starmer’s adoption of core Tory policy that prospective Scottish Labour supporters can stomach.

A hard Brexit, an unforgiving immigration policy, tuition fees reversal and an ongoing clampdown on protests might work well in red wall seats needing to be won back, but I’m not sure they will have a resonance across the Yes city of Glasgow.

READ MORE: Inside Westminster: SNP MPs calm as polls show party losses

Starmer remains distinctly unloved in Scotland and he has a long way to go to convince ordinary Scots that he is the change they want. 

Then there is our support. No one would try and suggest that the current political environment for the SNP isn’t tough just now.

What we don’t know is how enduring the weeks of negative headlines will have been, or whether Scots will want to get back to the real politics and the issues that matter to them most.

What we are finding in our now regular canvass sessions is a fatigue and increasing boredom with the relentless and sometimes ridiculous allegations being made about the party.

Some of it has been so far-fetched that people have simply tuned out. If ever there was an example of media and political opponents overplaying their hand with daft stories of lady shavers and wheelbarrows then this is most definitely it.

There is one thing that we do know, though, and that is support for independence remains as strong as ever.

If the SNP can connect with and motivate that support then there is a good chance we can safely defend all our constituencies in seats that retain high levels of support for independence. 

READ MORE: 'The clock is ticking': How can SNP take on Labour threat ahead of General Election?

So how do we prepare for the next General Election with a resurgent Labour Party?

Well, there’s no point in trying to say that Labour are the same as the Tories. We are dealing with real voters with real experience with a multitude of means to secure news and opinion.

It is absolutely right to point to the Labour’s adoption of a hard Brexit and their newfound relish for Tory policies, but our job is to say what we would do differently on these issues.

We have to highlight our core values and compare and contrast with the vacuity of Starmer’s Labour.

There is also the constitution and devolution. This is likely to become a key battleground in the run-up to the election and Labour have said next to nothing other than the meaningless and tired verbal blancmange of Gordon Brown.

For example, will Labour abolish or significantly amend the Internal Market Act? Will they respect the outcomes of the Scottish Parliament? Will they move towards the "near federalism" and fiscal autonomy hinted at in the last referendum? 

These will be big questions for Labour and such is the tensions with satisfying red wall voters they are likely to find themselves on the wrong side.

The Tories have adopted a highly antagonistic and aggressive approach to devolution and we have naturally responded by reinforcing our image as the defenders of Scottish democracy.

Labour will probably find themselves somewhere in a glutinous middle ground with nothing but Brown’s platitudes to help them negotiate some sort of path through it.

It is also right to point to influence we might have in a hung Parliament. From dancing to Scotland’s tune, to ‘feet to the fire’, this has always been a theme in a General Election.

This time round Labour seem to be adamant that there will be ‘no deal’, ever’. They of course are still haunted by those Tory posters of Ed Miliband in Alex Salmond’s pocket to the strains of Danse Macabre.

In that disastrous Scottish campaign Labour took about four attempts to finally rule out any arrangement with the SNP, and at that painful conclusion the damage had already been done in both Scotland and England.

After this experience I actually believe them when they say no deal. Labour would probably prefer to see a Tory Government than do any arrangement on an independence referendum. 

They have calculated that we will never vote with the Tories, and on that they are probably right. Where we would never support Labour if they resurrected Blair’s cavalier military adventurism or penchant for ID cards and other anti civil libertarianism, lining up with the Tories is never a comfortable place to be.

But what I never quite understand is what Labour would do to get devolved legislation through if they don’t have the numbers in England? Yes, we would back them on legislation that may have a social benefit in Scotland but we don’t vote on English only legislation that doesn’t affect our constituents.

Without some sort of arrangement Labour will be at the mercy of a majority that might well see them defeated. But such is there antipathy toward independence they might not care about that either.

All of this, though, is largely out of our control and we must focus on what we can do. Our trump card is Scottish independence. It is that which defines us and it is what at least half of the Scottish population want.

What we must say loud and clear is that a vote for the SNP is a vote for independence and if we secure a majority of votes cast we will have demonstrated that Scotland wants to be an independent country.

In a Westminster General Election several contests are played out simultaneously with different belligerents advantage only to fall away the next day. Our focus would be on securing independence for our nation and asking our fellow Scots to vote for us in that mission.