ALBA Party have been launching candidates across Scotland since Rishi Sunak announced the General Election. I was delighted to welcome Alex Salmond to Inverclyde today to launch my own campaign.

Along with Ash Regan, Alex has been travelling Scotland and the response has been good.

Alba are the only party standing in the election that are offering voters the opportunity to vote for independence. We believe that each and every election should be fought seeking a mandate for independence now that the referendum route to independence seems unlikely thanks to the extreme folly of asking the Supreme Court to rule on the matter.

At the weekend we launched our Highlands campaign and our candidate Steve Chisholm spoke of the fact that he joined the Alba Party as we are the first party to recognise the unique challenges and opportunities facing the Highlands. He’s since been working with our local team developing a Highland Manifesto tailored to the needs of the region.

No-one has done that before, and it is testament to the commitment that Alba has to supporting our Highland communities.

For too long the Highlands have been subjected to national policies imposed by the UK and Scottish Governments.

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As Alex Salmond (above) said, we are delighted to have someone of Steve’s calibre and business experience carrying the Alba Party Saltire in the Highlands at the General Election. It emphasises Alba’s credentials as a truly national party representing all parts and all communities in Scotland.

His extensive experience and dedication to Highlands and Islands development is an huge asset for Alba in shaping and driving forward an economic and industrial revival in the north of Scotland.

Focusing back on Inverclyde, CalMac received a temporary reprieve last week.

READ MORE: The presence of Douglas Alexander convinced me to run for Alba

The last time the ferry company was under threat of privatisation, I backed the campaign of the RMT to ensure it was kept in public hands.

However, that threat has again been hanging over the hundreds of staff based in Gourock as well as the hundreds of staff across the ferry network that go to sea every day to serve communities on the Clyde and across the Hebrides.

It is welcome that there is a one-year extension to the CalMac contract, but what is needed is long-term assurance from the Scottish Government that CalMac will remain in public hands.

I am calling on the Scottish Government to make that commitment ahead of the General Election and not wait until after the poll to then allow the privatisation of Scotland’s ferry network.

Although this is a General Election many of the issues voters want to talk about are services they rely on. Regardless of whether they are devolved matters or reserved matters, the priorities of voters are what Alba Party are listening to and talking about.

That’s what makes STV’s decision to omit Alba Party and the Greens from their election debate all the more odd.

The STV election debate will have four Holyrood leaders, all men, taking part. Just to ensure that female voices are completely omitted from the broadcast they’ve also chosen not to have a woman oversee the proceedings.

If they had included Alba and the Scottish Greens they could have had Ash Regan and Lorna Slater on their panel and fulfilled their obligations to diversity as well as political balance, since they would have had three panellists each for and against independence.

However, the panel they have announced instead has 75% opposed to Scottish independence and 25% for Scottish independence. This is clearly not balanced. Meanwhile, Alba are the only party making independence the central issue of the election, but have been omitted from the programme.

This is indicative of a General Election campaign that to date has been reported (with an honourable exception being The National) through a British lens as opposed to the unique circumstances of Scotland.

STV should hang their head in shame for snubbing the only Holyrood party solely led by a woman.

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Although, unless they change their mind and issue an invite to Ash Regan (above), Alba will no doubt come out of the debate we aren’t included in well, because those that tune in will be left asking: “Is that the best Scotland has to offer?”.

Our answer is that if the people of Scotland want to vote for a political party that will prioritise their interests and Scottish independence then they should mark their cross next to Alba Party on their ballot papers at the General Election.