KENNY MacAskill was the MSP for Edinburgh Eastern but in Inverclyde he was a well-known politician because it was in Greenock Prison that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi resided when he was the centre of global news.

While in Greenock, Megrahi was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had applied for compassionate release to return to Libya to die. The pressure of the United States, and from a mixed opinion in the UK, was on MacAskill not to do so.

However, he made the decision to grant compassionate release. At the time, I remember being very proud that we had a Scottish justice secretary that showed to the world that Scotland was a country that – even to those who had inflicted the most grievous of injury and devastation to us – would always be a voice for peace and compassion in the world.

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This was my first experience of Kenny MacAskill. But I come from an area that is blighted by alcohol misuse, drug misuse and when I was in school had a frightening level of knife crime. It wasn’t an accident that we made such great strides in reducing serious violence – it was leadership from the top that made violence reduction a national priority.

In fact, when my youngest brother left school, he reflected to me that he went through his entire six years there without once ever seeing a fight. This was no accident, it was the result of years of great work, resourced services and political priorities – all of which were led by the SNP Government of Alex Salmond and his justice secretary Kenny MacAskill.

Over the past months, Alba have been the only political party in the country standing by the side of the workers of Grangemouth attempting to save the refinery from closure. Those that stand back and do nothing if it closes without a fight will have been as complicit to a devastation inflicted on the industrial heart of the Forth Valley akin to the stench of the guilt that the Tories and Labour’s feeble 50 wear to this day for their part in allowing Scotland’s industrial heartlands to be no more.

Alba Party will not allow Grangemouth to be no more.

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MacAskill has spearheaded our campaign to save the refinery from closure and with it the thousands of jobs that rely on it.

You won’t be surprised then to learn that I was delighted when MacAskill, our depute leader, announced he would be seeking the Alba nomination to fight the Grangemouth and Alloa constituency at the General Election.

As he said at our campaign conference at the weekend, the threatened closure of Grangemouth is the industrial issue of our age. It is time to make a stand about the nation we were, the nation we can be and the nation we will be.

If Grangemouth is closed, we will be the only top 25 major oil-producing country in the world that doesn’t have an oil refinery. Scotland as an oil-producing nation requires a refinery capacity.

As the trade unions say, Grangemouth is and can be even more profitable. It would be economically disastrous to close Grangemouth and would force thousands into unemployment in the Forth Valley.

Nothing makes the case for independence more than being energy rich but fuel poor. Scotland discovered oil at the same time as Norway but we did not see the benefits they have. And now the great renewables bounty is set to turn Scotland into a giant transmission station, with the revenue missing, jobs absent and business lacking.

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MacAskill’s decision to seek the Alba Party nomination to be our candidate for Grangemouth doesn’t only put the campaign to save Scotland’s industrial capacity at the heart his campaign but front and centre of Alba Party’s campaign for making the case for independence across Scotland at the General Election.

And we will fight that General Election as the only party that will be putting independence on the ballot paper thanks to the strategy our members approved at our conference.

Alba Party’s big objective has always been breakthrough at the Scottish elections. However, now Alba have emerged as the only party seeking an independence mandate at each and every election and – with the SNP, Greens and Tories now all in substantial disarray – we are increasing our effort for this year’s Westminster poll.

We originally thought to contest 12 seats but have now announced that many more candidates will be standing for Alba at the General Election. If we work hard, then Alba Party can make a big impact for independence in the coming election.

It’s a great privilege to be given the opportunity to stand alongside someone like Kenny MacAskill as we go to the country asking them to support Alba Party for independence.