TODAY, voters in Rutherglen and Hamilton West have the opportunity to vote for a fairer Scotland.

As an SNP member for most of my adult life, I consider myself a son of the party.

And nowhere do I feel more at home than on the campaign trail, listening to voters and ­sharing our ­positive ­vision for an ­independent Scotland.

Over the course of the ­by-­election campaign in Rutherglen and ­Hamilton West, I have been proud to stand alongside our hard ­working SNP ­activists – from local ­communities, and beyond. The SNP are Scotland’s largest ­political party and our 75,000 ­members are second to none when it comes to campaigning.

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Rain or shine, our SNP teams have been pounding the pavements and knocking doors in support of our incredibly talented candidate, Katy Loudon.

It is not surprising that the key ­issue in the minds of voters in Rutherglen and Hamilton West today is the Westminster cost of living crisis.

Whether it be energy bills, food ­prices or mortgage payments – ­everyone is feeling the impact of rising inflation, caused largely by economic decisions made at Westminster by the Tories.

Thirteen years of ­austerity has hammered the incomes of working ­people in Scotland and a hard Brexit has destroyed many ­Scottish businesses – and that was before the Tories’ mini-budget landed the blow that sent the UK economy into meltdown.

Yet, despite inflicting this financial misery on households – Westminster has failed to deliver the real cost of living support households in Scotland need right now.

That isn’t good enough.

The National: RUTHERGLEN, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 5: Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf (R) campaigns alongside Scottish National Party candidate and councillor Katy Loudon ahead of the upcoming by-election on August 5, 2023 in Rutherglen, Scotland. A by-election was

Voters in Rutherglen and Hamilton West have been failed by ­Westminster and they deserve better.

We know from experience that the Tories, Labour and the rest of the Westminster establishment only sit up and take notice of ­Scotland when the SNP wins elections.

Scotland will not be ignored by Westminster and a vote for the SNP today will force the UK Government to listen.

We know Labour isn’t up to the job of holding the Tories to account. Far from it.

Sir Keir Starmer has been ­copying the homework of successive Tory prime ministers for years.

It seems the closer the Labour ­leader gets to Number 10 the further he drifts from his party’s values.

The National:

Let’s remember what a fresh start with Labour in Rutherglen and ­Hamilton West will get you: Labour will maintain support for the hard Brexit that you didn’t vote for.

Labour will pursue ­continued Westminster cuts and cruel Tory ­austerity measures, like the two-child cap, which Scotland has rejected.

And Labour will attempt to ­maintain Westminster’s ­undemocratic ­refusal to allow the people of Scotland to choose their own future.

But today, voters in ­Rutherglen and Hamilton West have a huge ­opportunity to force Sir Keir ­Starmer to change course. 

As we saw with Labour’s defeat in Uxbridge, Keir Starmer is a politician that blows with the wind. 

A defeat for Labour there caused him to panic and rethink his support for vital measures to tackle climate change.

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And closer to home, Labour ­councillors in North Lanarkshire crumbled this week under the weight of SNP opposition to their ­shocking plans to close 39 sport and ­community facilities.

In this by-election, voters can force another U-turn by unequivocally rejecting Keir Starmer’s pro-austerity and pro-Brexit Labour party.

In Katy Loudon, the SNP has an excellent candidate – a former teacher with a track record of delivering for her community as a local councillor.

By voting for Katy and the SNP, people can protect the progress that has been made in Scotland to ­tackle poverty and build a more equal ­society.

They can back a party which has been fighting for years to tackle the cost of living – from scrapping ­prescription charges and tuition fees, to giving free bus travel to under 22s and introducing the Scottish Child Payment which is estimated to lift 90,000 children out of poverty.

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Only an SNP MP can be ­trusted to stand up for the ­priorities of local ­families and stand against Westminster cuts.

An SNP victory here in Rutherglen and Hamilton West will be a clear ­message that Scotland rejects more of the same from a ­broken Westminster system.

While the Labour Party was ­claiming victory before the ­by-election was even called – the SNP have never, and will never, take a single vote for granted.

Every single vote counts, and voters in the constituency must ensure their voice is heard.

Today, let’s send a message to Keir Starmer and the Westminster ­establishment that Scotland chooses a different path from the broken ­Brexit Britain they have to offer. 

Scotland chooses a fairer, greener and wealthier Scotland with the full powers of independence.