LAST night I was lucky enough to have a ticket to a buzzing town hall event featuring FM Humza Yousaf and MP Tommy Sheppard, warmly curated by Scottish crime writer Val McDermid. You could not help but be hit in the brain by the falsehood about politicians: "They are all the same." The obvious reality is they most definitely are not.

One of the most democratically corrosive and politically toxic phrases we’ll encounter this election cycle is that "they’re all the same". Yes – there is a passive, lazy, can’t-be-bothered very human element to this statement. TAATS has long been part of the lingua franca of peoples lucky enough to live in (still) functioning Western democracies, who cannot be bothered to engage even at the very minimal level of casting a vote. However, we’re seeing something deeper and darker this time around in the battle between the poison of political prejudice and the power of political passion.

The legacy media’s unbalanced attitude to scandals, sleaze and corruption helps the incumbent administration in a very obvious way. The Tory Party – mired in extreme scandal after scandal, sleaze after sexual misconduct after financial wrongdoing on top of partygate and the PPE profiteering – clearly benefit from the notion that the other parties are just as bad.

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The suggestion that this is business as usual for political groups of all colours dampens democratic response and involvement. Lack of engagement at the most basic level – ie at the ballot box – has always benefitted the right wing. Those who have a vested interest in supporting those in power will always turn out. Ironically, the invidious notion that "they’re all the same" is possibly the only "levelling" the right-wing have ever attempted. But like the economic levelling-up they claimed to want under the hideous Boris Johnson – it’s all smoke and mirrors.

I’d not realised until recently that SNP politicians pay an after-tax levy to help support the party. (Thanks to MSP Colin Beattie for that info.) This is the first major difference. The SNP have not been steeped in Russian Oligarch millions like the Tories. Nor do they have never-ending donations from other eye-wateringly wealthy, sometimes nameless individuals who have a stake in maintaining a government that puts their greed front and centre. Neither do the SNP have trade union money. Many of those unions convinced their members to vote for Brexit and those members, be they Scottish farmers or fishermen, are now paying a heavy, painful price.

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SNP funds come from activism and membership and grassroots fundraising. It's real people making real effort for something they really believe in. No wonder the majority of the media have to tie themselves in knots to sneer and denigrate this party. They are up against it. But – make no mistake – some of what has been flung has stuck. Worryingly, that never-ending assault, that war of attrition may pay dark dividends in the coming elections.

But they are not all the same, and political parties are not the same. Nowhere was that clearer to me than listening to the presentations last night along with a large, attentive and enthusiastic audience.

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Val McDermid (having survived some of those horrid tech gremlins that almost seem to be working for the opposition) introduced the First Minster simply as “a man who loves Scotland”. And you only have to listen to Humza Yousaf for a very short while to know this is true. That is his drive. Like Sturgeon before him – who he generously credited with Scotland’s progressive (though sadly now re-scheduled) green progress – it’s all about Scotland and the people who live here. No doubt. He’s never sung for a Russian supper or cravenly courted the media barons or billionaires.

I would urge anyone reading this, next time they hear someone make that tired, depressing statement, challenge them to attend one of these events or really listen to presentations by SNP MPs and MSPs compared to the two main parties. Look at the record of a group of politicians who, despite being at the mercy of Westminster, have done so much to try to protect Scotland from the worst of Tory/ Labour failures – as was said last night by Sheppard, “with one hand tied behind our backs” – and really make that judgement for themselves. Don’t just swallow the media bait hook line and sinker.

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And then, as it was his constituency, it was MP Sheppard’s stage to address the audience which he did in a calm, authoritative yet passionate from-the-heart speech (and I’ve heard a lot of politicians make a lot of speeches). The MP for Edinburgh East and Musselburgh is an experienced politician who has taken his political knocks but is comfortable with and knowledgeable about both international subjects and domestic.

By the end of his succinct, well-pitched and moving presentation, I doubt there was a single person there who did not believe him when he said that if we put in the effort and believe in Scotland we could "imagine a better country in a better world".

They, politicians, are so very clearly not all the same ...