HAPPY New Year to all readers of the Glasgow Times. I hope 2024 brings all you wish for.

One thing it will bring for all of us, of course, is a UK General Election. The smart betting is that polling day will be in October or November, though I am sure most people would prefer it to be much sooner than that, so desperate are we to see the back of this Tory government.

In Scotland, we will hear the usual claims about voting Labour being the only way to stop the Tories. That is no truer now than it has ever been.

The colour of the Westminster government and identity of the Prime Minister is determined south of the border, not in Scotland – after all, we account for less than 10% of Westminster constituencies.

In the days when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, the fact that Labour won most Scottish seats didn’t stop her having a thumping majority.

And, conversely, Tony Blair would still have been Prime Minister even if Labour had lost all of their seats here.

So, I hope the General Election debate won’t be based on some arithmetic fallacy but, instead, on an assessment of which party offers the best long-term prospects for Scotland.

As someone who has been in politics for a long time now – longer than I care to remember sometimes – it genuinely confuses me that Labour, under Keir Starmer, are being so timid (and let’s be in no doubt, he is the boss when it comes to Scottish Labour).

At a time when people are crying out for change at Westminster, he seems intent on minimising his differences with the Tories.

He has given up on restoring the EU membership that most Scots voted to retain. He won’t even countenance membership of the single market to help the economy.

He has rowed back on his promise to invest heavily to secure green jobs from the renewables transition. And he won’t commit to getting rid of the cruellest of Tory policies like the rape clause.

The field is open, then, for the SNP to offer the real change that people want.

Westminster elections have never been easy for the SNP – our landslides of recent years make it too easy to forget that until 2015 we had never scored more than 11 seats in a UK election, never mind won one outright.

But in 2015, 2017 and 2019 we showed it was possible and I believe we will do so again, by offering hope for the future.

We should set out exactly what we think is needed now, what our MPs will campaign for, and what our own government is doing with the powers we have already – lifting thousands of children out of poverty with the Scottish Child Payment, for example.

But we will also put the case for independence front and centre, making the argument that the best future for Scotland lies in no longer having to hope for the best with Westminster governments, but in equipping ourselves instead with the social and economic powers to build the kind of country we want.

As has always been the case, voting SNP is the only way to keep Scotland moving towards independence.