CAT Boyd was 29 before she voted. Until backing Yes in the referendum, she ignored Holyrood elections and the “centrist politics of devolution”, while for Westminster polls she made only a grudging effort to deface her ballot. “It was just a big score across the paper,” she says, recalling her anarchist phase studying economics and Spanish at Strathclyde University. 

But last year the former job centre worker who is fast becoming the face of the radical Left in Scotland finally embraced electoral politics and put a cross next to the SNP. In doing so, she helped elect Patrick Grady the MP for Glasgow North. He’s unlikely to return the favour. 

In May, Boyd will be the top Glasgow candidate for RISE, the anti-austerity alliance trying to elect socialist MSPs via the list system. She needs around 15,000 votes to get to Holyrood.

She admits it’s “pretty ambitious” given RISE’s novelty - it was only constituted in August - but also “not impossible”; Tory Ruth Davidson and Green Patrick Harvie were both elected in Glasgow with fewer than 13,000 votes in 2011.

There’s more to RISE than the ‘kids with megaphones’ caricature of the right-wing press.

As ever with the Left, it has a messy lineage, one taking in the International Socialist Group, the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) and the Scottish Left Project. But the constant thread has been a bid to reunite and renew the Left after the implosion of the Scottish Socialist Party, and the loss of its six MSPs, following Tommy Sheridan’s bitter exit as leader in 2004.

Boyd was calling for a new “detoxified” party of the Left back in 2013. She hopes RISE is it.

“That’s the important thing about RISE. It’s not written on the back of a fag packet. This is something that a lot of thought, a lot of analysis, has gone into, about where the Left is and where it needs to be, in order to put Socialist ideas back on the map. 

“RISE is a project for the next 50 years, not just the next five. This isn’t just about this one election. The radical left have been in the doldrums in Scotland since the collapse of the SSP. There wasn’t a masterplan with evil villains, but this was always on the horizon.  

“RISE has the three aspects the Left needs right now - an intellectual basis, an organisation that can run and election campaign, and continuing as part of a social movement. I think if we poll three or four per cent [nationally] that would be really successful.”

A key task is reaching the working-class areas which voted Yes, and where RIC's “Britain is for the rich, Scotland can be ours” message resonated loudly.

“The general pitch is: we want a second referendum, we want the rich to pay their fair share, and we want an open and transparent Police Scotland,” says Boyd. 

“We’ll be talking to the people who felt the referendum was the first time that they had some sort of control. We are the only new thing to come out post-referendum. Everything else existed before. If we weren’t standing this would be the most boring election in Scottish history, let’s be honest. Everybody knows the SNP are going to win. 

“We want to get in there and take the fight for ordinary people right into the parliament, right into the belly of the beast, and shake things up a bit.”

She cites the SNP’s policies of scrapping prescription charges, free bus travel for the elderly, and free school meals as examples of how the Left can have a real impact in Holyrood.

“They were all originally SSP policies. Now we’d put forward policies like paying carers to look after sick relatives or elderly parents and an economic justice fund to end benefit sanctions.”

But the first priority is to table a motion calling for Holyrood to have the right to call a second referendum when it chooses, not when Westminster permits.

With the SNP going cool on Indyref2 and reverting to gradualist caution, Boyd says there is an urgent need for others to keep the momentum for independence going.

“That’s why RISE matters. You need to have pro-independence options.”

The SNP approach - wait for an upswing in polling data - is “a piece of nonsense”, she adds.

“When the referendum was first announced support for independence was 25, 30 per cent. [A Yes next time] is all about going out and convincing people of the case for it. You can’t constantly rely on what the polls are saying before you take a decision on these things.” 

On this week’s hot topic, tax, Boyd says the SNP’s failure to restore the top rate of income tax to 50p was “depressing” but foreseeable as the party morphs into the new establishment. 

“We need people in parliament who are going to argue that the rich need to pay their share. “Our policy is raising the top rate to 60p and creating a new band underneath that of 45p for those earning £50,000 to £150,000.

“Someone has to be honest about this and say the more you earn, the more you have to pay. “That’s the only way to start to equalise the problems in Scottish society.” 

To veteran ears, a lot of this might sound like traditional Left-wing pipe dreams. But Boyd reckons RISE has something that other parties crave but invariably lack: youth. In particular, the millennials, the generation born between the early 1980s and the year 2000.

In America, it is the millennials who made “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders the surprise threat to Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. 

“Our target voters are predominantly young people,” says Boyd. “People of my generation, millennials. Young, urban, working class people. That’s who our message resonates with - people whose entire political outlook has been defined by austerity and economic failure.

“All you’ve got in your future is a government at Westminster you didn’t vote for, college places being cut, zero-hour zero-respect jobs. It’s pretty bleak. The referendum unlocked something. It became a revolt against that type of alienation. 

“I did a school hustings the other day. By the time those kids are my age (31), Tory cuts will be irreversible. Where will they be if we haven’t managed to break away from Westminster? It’s frightening to think about. It’s those kids that are champing at the bit for a second chance.”

One of Boyd’s other big issues is republicanism. The Royal Family are “parasites”, she says, advocating a referendum on the monarchy. 

In a recent column in the National she wrote: “Monarchy is not as harmless and silly as many politicians think. Deference to unearned privileges of birth is a truly evil phenomenon.”

But her mother [Isabelle Boyd, a former headteacher] accepted a CBE from the Queen for services to education in 2009. Is your mum evil? She laughs, then turns defensive.

“I’m proud of my mum, right? I wouldn’t accept a CBE, but my mum dedicated her life to public service. I knew that it was going to come up in the election campaign and people would say, ‘Oh your mum’s got a CBE’. Who gives a s***? That’s my mum’s life. She’s dedicated her life to education and I’m proud of her. I don’t think you need a recognition award from the Queen for that. I would much prefer that she got an Order of Lenin.”

In another National column she also wrote about the need for more social housing, saying “the distortions that led to 2008 – the mad competitive dash to get on the ladder – will leave future generations with neither real wealth nor real autonomy.”

Wouldn’t you have more credibility on the subject if your mum hadn’t helped you buy a flat in the leafy west end of Glasgow in 2009 with a joint mortgage? 

She launches into a long explanation about a surprise inheritance at 25 from her grandmother. “I was living in a flat that was infested with beetles. I was trapped in consistently bad accommodation, paying way over the odds, putting money in a private landlord’s pocket. I was lucky enough to have a gran that saved like a demon. She would be happy that I bought a house. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about social housing.

“I’m a Marxist not a moralist. I don’t think that because I live in a certain neighbourhood I don’t care about politics. I feel really lucky to have that security, but it shouldn’t take luck.” 

Boyd faces a tough fight to get elected. RISE is short of cash, still building a profile, and the far Left’s vote is traditionally small and liable to splinter. Meanwhile the #BothVotesSNP message is being rammed home in Glasgow and elsewhere.  

But she is also smart, funny, articulate and in for the long-haul, with a nice line about how a former Labour MP could benefit from Yes supporters supporting a single party.

“The SNP will win every constituency seat in Glasgow. The cold, hard truth is both votes SNP in Glasgow will get you Anas Sarwar [on the list], it will get you Johann Lamont. That’s just the way it is. Who would you rather have in parliament? Me or Anas Sarwar?”