My first impression of Athens is of a city on its knees.

The boarded up shops in the heart of the tourist district near the world famous Acropolis are covered in graffiti. The grimy street stalls selling blackened corn on the cob, the beggars and rough sleepers.

The Greece of 2015 is in crisis. It has the second highest debts in the world owing 319bn Euros to the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund representing 177% of its GDP. Unemployment stands at 27%, youth unemployment above 65%. Wages and pensions have fallen 40% since 2008. The economy has shrunk by a quarter in five years. Millions of Greeks are barely able to afford food, basic health care, electricity or housing. The nation will go to the polls today and all the signs are that Alexis Tsipras, leader of 'Syriza', the 'Coalition of the Radical Left', will emerge as the winner. If that is the case Greece will have elected the most radical left-wing Government in Europe since the Second World War. And the reasons for such a dramatic result are visible everywhere.

Syriza has made clear it will not pay back 50% of Greece's debt to the 'Troika' [European Central Bank/International Monetary Fund/European Union]. They will not pay insists Tsipras because they cannot pay. 'Let's assume I owe you a million dollars' he imagines 'you have two options. One, is to give me the chance to have some income so that I can pay you back, even 50% of it. Or two, let me lose everything, go bankrupt and you get nothing. What would you choose?' It is the creditor's classic dilemma, accept 50% of something or insist on 100% of nothing. Tsipras has unearthed a precedent for such a course of action. In 1953 the post war allied powers, USA, Britain and France wrote off all of Germany's debts in order to help rebuild the defeated European state anew. Tsipras knows no serious economic analyst in the world believes Greece can ever pay back such crippling debts.

Deflation is the big problem for the Greek economy now. Prices have fallen for 22 consecutive months because people have no money to spend. Syriza has promised to stimulate the economy by returning pensions and the national minimum wage to 2008 levels of 700 and 751 Euro's per month respectively. They have also promised to create 300,000 new jobs and ensure every Greek has electricity after energy bills soared. These are the mainstays of its social programme. Tsipras realises such policies are very ambitious in the present circumstances but insists his Government will use all their budget for these reflationary measures rather than repaying crippling debts. And by the looks of things the Greek people agree.

Implementing such a manifesto puts Greece on a collision course with the ECB and IMF. Christine Lagarde, President of the IMF, has warned there can be no question of Greece reneging on its financial obligations. Furthermore she holds the vital bailout monies - some 11bn Euros - due to be paid to Athens in February. The world is watching to see whether it is Syriza with its powerful new democratic mandate, or the 'Troika', that emerges victorious in the end.

Syriza contains 19 different groups. They came together in 2004 to fight austerity and neo-liberalism. Although they had little early success, as the financial crisis deepened so did Syriza's support. In 2012 it became a formal party.

The political coalition includes former Communists like its leader Alexis Tsipras, Trotskyists, social democrats, feminists and greens.Their slogan, seen on posters and billboards across Greece today reads 'Hope has arrived. Greece is advancing, Europe is changing.'

They must deliver more than slogans or their mass support will disappear just as it did for PASOK [the Labour Party equivalent in Greece] which won 44% of the vote in the 2008 General election and today stand at 4% after imposing the Troika's infamous austerity programme.

Syriza promises to organise an international conference of all European countries affected by crippling loans and austerity. It also promises to introduce collective bargaining rights for workers to protect jobs and conditions. And it guarantees food for all Greeks as well halting house repossessions and evictions of poor families.

Tsipras, 40, is an engineer by trade. He will be the first Greek Prime Minister educated at a state school if elected. He lives with his partner and two children in a working class neighbourhood of Athens. Like all Syriza's MP's he gives back 20% of his Parliamentary salary to the party and another 20% to fund social programmes such as clinics, food banks and advice centres across the country. 'Citizens of Athens' he told a huge rally on Thursday night, 'the whole world is watching us. I am here to tell you hope is here. No one will be left behind in our new Greece. We are all advancing. This is no time to be scared. We will win.'

But Stellios Pappas of Syriza's Central Committee - who has family in Bishopbriggs - accepts that winning the election might be the easy part. 'We have a nation to rebuild' he told me 'a nation that is facing enormous social problems, demoralised by many recent disappointments. We face political resistance from the Greek state too, and from the oligarchs and the 'Troika'. But we are determined to make progress and quickly. Change will take time of course but we fully accept we do not have much time.'

'Our dignity as a people has been stripped away from us these past few years' said Eleni a middle aged Syriza activist who works as a tourist guide and translator near the Acropolis. 'We Greeks have been humiliated as a people by previous Governments and by the Troika. Syriza's victory offers us a restoration of our dignity and pride in ourselves.'

Syriza are set to win today's election not because the Greek electorate have suddenly become socialists but because they are at the end of their tether. They have tried every other political alternative and been let down.

After PASOK people voted for the conservative 'New Democracy' but they too imposed austerity and impoverished the population. Syriza are seen as 'the new kids on the bloc' and were the official opposition in the outgoing Greek Parliament.

The polls put Syriza on 35% of the vote. New Democracy stand on 30%. Syriza leaders are uietly confident an overall majority will be won. Otherwise they will have to seek support from other parties. The Greek Communist Partywith about 6% of the vote has ruled out any alliance with Syriza whom they regard as 'left-wing capitalists'. PASOK, the Independent Lefts and the liberals of 'Potami' have each suggested they might back Syriza on an informal issue by issue basis to allow it to govern outright. Syriza leaders believe they are about to shake the political foundations of Europe way beyond the frontiers of Greece.

Syriza's triumph will galvanise those campaigning against austerity across Europe particularly in Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal. They will line up outside the offices of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt if Greece's defiant message of rebellion bears fruit seeking similar agreements. Indeed Pablo Iglesias the leader of 'Podemos' in Spain flew in to join Tsipras on the podium of Syriza's final election rally in Athens on Thursday to make that very point.

Tsipras and Iglesias are the poster boys for a new generation of left-wing activists across Europe combating austerity. I met them both on Thursday night. Both believe Syriza will win the election and that the result will be the stimulus for a European wide rebellion against the policies of austerity and neo-liberal, laissez-faire capitalism. Iglesias, who lived in Glasgow for 6 months in 2012 while studying geography, believes Podemos will be the biggest beneficiary of Syriza's success internationally and sees a similar triumph for the left occurring in Spain in November when they hold their general election.

What can the left in Scotland learn from Syriza? First and most obviously Scotland is not Greece, and the economic, social and political collapse in Athens has not been seen to the same extent in 'the Athens of the North'. That is not to say there have not been severe cuts and a pronounced fall in living standards in Scotland since 2008. But the severity is not the same and neither have the social democratic alternatives of Labour and the SNP yet been exposed in action.

Notwithstanding those reservations the left in Scotland can certainly learn a great deal from Syriza. Nineteen groups got together to form Syriza and they now have the chance to make a real difference in Greece. That is something for socialists in Scotland to ponder deeply. The spirit of political engagement we saw during our Referendum debate is even greater and more enthusiastic than here in Athens.

But the most important point to appreciate if Syriza does win is that Greece will inspire radical left-wing socialists throughout the world.