IS it worth rousing yourself today – and getting out to vote SNP? Hell yes.

Whatever past disappointments and current shortcomings, one thing is certain.

The SNP are the embodiment of Scotland’s democratic and cultural distinctiveness in the eyes of Unionist rivals, London media commentators and voters from Pitlochry to Penarth.

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That might be unfair – other indy-supporting parties like the Scottish Greens and Alba are available and talk a lot of sense. But in this archaic first-past-the-post election, they have no hope of winning seats.

For the smaller Yes parties, this unwinnable Westminster clash is a dry run – an important dress rehearsal for the proportional Holyrood elections of 2026. A chance to let candidates work their patch and test out arguments and skills. Which is fine. But for the SNP and for Scotland the stakes are higher.

If the main party of independence and government fails to secure a majority of seats north of the Border today, Unionist opponents will never let that go. It will be used time and again as evidence that Scotland’s political ambitions have curdled.

Is that a bit o’er the top? Mebbe.

But for the vast majority of folk with little time for politics, Scotland will be nigh on invisible if the SNP fail to pip Labour today. Commentators will fall over themselves to declare that – 50% support for independence notwithstanding – the cause is effectively dead and Yessers are in stubborn denial to think otherwise.

Some have got their retaliation in first.

Writing in The Times (former?) independence supporter Iain Macwhirter says: “The SNP has had its indyref2 and lost. That’s what opposition parties will say, loud and clear on Friday morning.

“Didn’t Nicola Sturgeon say that this was going to be a ‘de facto referendum’? She surely did, and while John Swinney didn’t endorse Sturgeon’s idea … he did say if the SNP wins a majority of seats on Thursday it will embark on negotiations with the UK government. Actually, if [the SNP] return 18 MPs against Labour’s 28 … the message will be clear: you’ll have had your de facto referendum.”

Now there is plenty to chuck back at that argument.

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First, the Scotsman/Savanta poll which shows the SNP nudging ahead of Scottish Labour at this 11th hour. Mind you. That’s just one poll.

Second, the fact incumbent governments are being ousted across Europe and by comparison, the SNP’s grip on government has been quite extraordinary – they’ve outlived five Tory premiers, two Labour leaders and maybe yet President Macron and Chancellor Scholz.

That grip is unquestionably weaker today. But it has not collapsed.

Ebbs and flows are normal in the life of political parties. But the SNP are treated differently – partly because it has the higher-level goal of winning independence not just elections and that’s unusual amongst British parties who’ve abandoned socialism and one-nation conservatism for a dull samey managerialism and partly because Westminster watchers have been waiting for years – almost two decades – for the party to slip up.

Rivals, commentators and the old Labour establishment were all proved wrong about the SNP’s electability in 2007, wrong about the enthusiasm for independence in 2014 and wrong about its enduring popularity in Scottish and UK elections ever since.

In short, many Unionist observers have been nursing their wrath for 17 long years, and are determined finally to be proved right today.

If the SNP falter, “normality” will return, idealism will be shown the door, hope will be banished, horizons will be lowered. Scotland will revert to the grim Tweedledee/Tweedledum politics that’s destroyed England. We’ll give up on Trident. Knuckle down over the two-child cap. Stop wanting control over our unparalleled renewable energy resources and revert to arguing amongst ourselves while Westminster is allowed to do what it does best.

Lay down the law. Is that what lies ahead? Hell, no.

Even if the SNP are a few seats short of a Scottish majority by the end of today, the really important election still lies ahead. This frustrating London-shaped campaign has only served to whet the appetite for a proper debate focused on Scottish realities.

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In 2026 each party will run on a single Scottish manifesto – not a confusing devolved/reserved pick ‘n’ mix. And each will be able to make a properly costed pitch for government – not reduced to promising mitigation against the worst excesses of whoever goes down well in Surrey.

There are so many big important decisions facing Scots – about our oil and gas reserves, the centralisation of power and decision-making, erosion of devolution, the best way to run our health service – but they only get fleetingly aired in a General Election that’s overshadowed painfully easily by one Boris Johnson appearance, several Ed Davey bungee jumps and Keir Starmer’s stated intention to have a normal Friday night with his family. Do Scots have to waste our time by turning up to vote on this?

Yes – today we must.

Then we can move on to have the “grown-up” Scottish debate a British General Election just cannae provide.

But there’s one box to tick first – and that’s for the SNP.

I know there’s disappointment and dissatisfaction. Lots needs to be turned around by the new leadership over the course of the summer.

But Sturgeon, Humza Yousaf, Swinney and most Scots are united in wanting a democratically run referendum not a proxy vote to decide Scotland’s constitutional future. We should never lose sight of the fact that indyref2 is a reasonable, normal and doable demand. A de facto vote is sloppy seconds – considered reluctantly by the SNP and Scottish voters because British prime ministers ignore election outcomes in Scotland.

Until it’s an election where the SNP “fail”. Then they will have a field day.

Insults may not be hurled on Friday. The “loss of privileges” for the Scottish Parliament will not happen overnight.

Starmer and Sarwar won’t copy David Cameron who rubbed Scottish noses in it with English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) straight after the fateful No vote in 2014. But the Labour duo will diminish and work around their own creation – the Scottish Parliament – like an o’er feisty, ungrateful bairn they are ready to disown.

Macwhirter – or perhaps The Times’ headline writers – argues “the threat of independence will finally die on the fourth of July”. No way.

The cause of independence will not end over a single General Election result. It’ll end when we get there or when Britain’s political consensus finally chimes completely with our own. And that will never happen.

I’ll stop campaigning when the colossal damage done by Thatcher’s disastrous privatisations is called out and reversed not praised by a “socialist” prime minister, when English water is nationalised, when the House of Lords is abolished, when PR drags Westminster elections into the 21st century and Holyrood truly becomes the “world’s most powerfully devolved parliament”, when “pro-European” parties reverse Brexit instead of mouthing platitudes, when Trident is axed and family support is seen as growth-promoting investment not a “hand-out”.

This is just the bare minimum of political consensus needed to get the Union back on the road in Scotland and hell will freeze over before the right-wing consensus dominating England is undone.

Look at the Marine le Pen-like adulation surrounding the toxic Nigel Farage and understand – Scotland and Westminster do not walk in lockstep on the most important issues and never will.

To be noticed at all within the UK, to stop five years of proving independence is not dead, to put the SNP properly through the mill in our own Scottish elections, one hurdle must first be louped.

The SNP must win the General Election in Scotland.