It’s customary for many newspapers, just before an election, to tell their readers how to vote.

The Advertiser’s columns, as far as I’m aware, have never been used in that way, and so I’m not going to change the habit of this newspaper’s lifetime now.

It’s in the nature of politics that when every election comes around, parties’ central message is “X is broken – vote for us and we’ll fix it”. And this one is no different.

Vote for us, says one, and we’ll get Brexit done. Vote for us, says another, and we’ll rescue the NHS, take Scotland away from the broken Union, lead the fight against climate change, save us from terrorism or whatever.

And it’s in the nature of voters to want to believe those promises. But of all the things that have been – supposedly – broken in Britain in the past, how many has the governing party actually fixed? Answer: not a lot, at best.

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No matter how you vote on Thursday, I don’t believe for a moment that whichever party – or parties – end up in power will actually sort Brexit, or save the NHS, or solve the question of Scotland’s constitutional future, or tackle poverty, or take us much closer to a solution to the climate emergency, now or any time in the next 10, 15 or even 30 years.

That, of course, is politics: all sides want to build a better society (though whether that’s for the benefit of others, or for themselves, depends on your level of cynicism), but no two sides will ever agree quite how to do it.

So, with trust in politics and politicians at an all time low, and fake news, empty promises and vacuous soundbites dominating the campaigns to an ever more depressing – and, frankly, ever more deliberate – extent, why bother voting at all?

The easy answer is that voting is a hard-won privilege to be treasured, not an automatic right to be casually tossed aside.

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I like the idea that ballot papers should include a None Of The Above option – except that in an awful lot of seats, that choice would probably emerge as a comfortable winner, and goodness knows where we’d go from there.

But failing that, I do still think that if you don’t choose someone, no matter how limited you think the choice may be, any criticism you might make afterwards will ring more than a little hollow.

One thing that many candidates – in Argyll and Bute and elsewhere – have said, that I do believe, is this: that this election really is the most important the UK has seen in many years.

Whether you’re treating it as a vote about Brexit, about the NHS, about Scotland’s future, about the environment, or about something else entirely, right now this country stands at a hugely significant crossroads.

So please do use your vote. But more than that, think carefully about how you use it, because your vote on Thursday will shape the future for us, our children, our families and the communities in which we live – more than any other vote in a long, long time.

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