17/04/2015 13:32 BST | Updated 17/06/2015 06:59 BST

Austerity v Humanity and the Rise and Rise of Nicola Sturgeon

The story of the lead-up to the 2015 general election is the story of Nicola Sturgeon's emergence as the voice of progressive politics not only for people in Scotland but all over Britain, battered by five years of a Tory-led coalition government that has extended itself in using the 2008 global economic crisis as a pretext for waging an all-out assault against working people, the disabled, immigrants, benefit claimants, and every manifestion of the common good that still exists in British society - i.e. public services and the NHS.

The latest leaders' debate - at which Cameron's non appearance backfired spectacularly, delivering a message of malign contempt for the British electorate - saw progressive politics at long last given a mainstream platform, and how refreshing it was. Austerity is the very antithesis of humanity and its champions have much to answer for when it comes to the roll call of human despair, destitution, and damage it has wrought.

Nicola Sturgeon, along with Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood and the Green Party's Natalie Bennett, outlined a vision of hope as an alternative to the conservatism of the mainstream parties, Labour included, who remain prisoners of Thatcherite nostrums to greater or lesser extent.

Ed Miliband's repeated rejection of Sturgeon's offer of help in keeping the Tory's out illustrated the bind he's in. Of course, in the event of a hung parliament, the Labour leader will cooperate with the SNP and other progressive forces in order to govern. But as a prospective prime minister, and with a feral right wing press south of the border to contend with, he can't admit to it with just a few weeks to go before the polls open on May 7.

It is key that Miliband becomes the next occupant of Downing Street, but that likely won't be on the back of a Labour majority. When it comes to this the political genie is well and truly out of the bottle, with those who continue to hold to the mantra that the only way of getting rid of the Tories is by voting Labour increasingly tilting at windmills.

This election is not about independence. A vote for the SNP in Scotland in May is a vote against austerity and a progressive alternative to the status quo. That said, Nicola Sturgeon is clearly to the left of many within her own party, and her huge popularity, which now reaches beyond Scotland, brings with it the danger of being unable to deliver on the hope she has unleashed. But, no matter, for those whose lives have been blighted by one of the most vicious Tory governments in many years, hope is more than a word it is a lifeline.

Austerity is not only morally reprehensible it is economically illiterate, the economic equivalent of treating a cut finger by taking an axe and hacking the entire arm off. The country is crying out for an investment-led alternative in order to return sustainable growth to the economy. Such an alternative is founded on the understanding that self interest is indistinguishable from common interest and vice versa.

Tory Britain is desolate and callous place, wherein human beings are reduced to nothing more than economic units. Child poverty, pensioner poverty, the demonisation of benefit claimants, immigrants, the 'othering' of entire communities, these are the fruits of an ideology so brutal and barbaric that in a civilised society its proponents would be identified as sociopaths rather than taken seriously.

This is why Nicola Sturgeon, in articulating the need for transformational change, has become the story of the 2015 general election - to such an extent that the old saw, 'Cometh the hour, cometh the man', needs to be amended to read 'woman'.

Austerity v humanity. The choice and stakes in a general election have never been more stark.