THE last two weeks have been a draining, emotional journey. From watching the heart-breaking personal tributes in Parliament to our colleague Jo Cox, to sitting in a BBC studio last Thursday evening as the results of the referendum on our EU membership came tumbling in, it’s been a week of more lows than highs.

As Scotland comes to terms with the full consequences of last week’s referendum result, it’s now time for all of us who are committed to achieving a better future for Scotland to dust ourselves down and do our part.

While Scotland’s First Minister is providing our country with the strong, decisive and inclusive leadership that is lacking at Westminster. Everyone who wants Scotland to remain in the EU now has a responsibility to step up to the plate to defend Scotland’s interests.

This is not a situation of our choosing.

Let’s remember that we have a Tory Government we didn’t elect, who held an EU Referendum we didn’t want, which has left us with a result we didn’t vote for. Now we’re in danger of being ripped out of the EU against our will.

But our situation is not hopeless. I know that many of us have been working hard, firstly to elect our candidates to Holyrood then to keep our country in the EU, but if we are to turn the UK’s calamity to Scotland’s opportunity, we need to roll our sleeves up once again.

Over the past weekend my email mailbox filled up with messages from voters in Scotland who genuinely took at face value Better Together’s misleading statements – now exposed as falsehoods – that Scotland could only keep our place in the EU by voting to remain in the UK. Given where we are now, the UK as it stands is indisputably different from the one we voted on in 2014.

It’s now time to reconnect with the people who voted No with the very best of intentions in 2014.

Let’s take this chance to listen to their concerns and hopes for the future, and to take stock of our progress.

We must be open and welcoming to those who have now started their personal journey to independence, and honest with ourselves about the detail of our own arguments. Right now, however, we need to exhaust every opportunity to retain Scotland’s EU membership. The First Minister has already started to build partnerships with other parts of the UK who share our interests, and to engage with the EU and wider European stakeholders and institutions to investigate how this might work.

I hope that these efforts prove successful. But if they are not, we must be ready to ask the people of Scotland to think again about what’s in Scotland’s best interests.

Our work has been helped by a clear softening of the rhetoric employed by some of our previous opponents. Across Scotland our political parties, media and civic organisations are all reconsidering their positions. Let’s welcome them to the conversation, not condemn them for past deeds.

The SNP now has almost 50 additional MPs at Westminster. For the past year, over and above our work to serve our constituents, we’ve been spending time making contacts and building trust with parts of our society which had previously been hostile to Scotland’s independence. But now, and especially since last Thursday, the diplomatic community, business, and especially London’s financial sector, are open to discussions around the opportunity that independence for Scotland in Europe presents for us all.

Last week I spent two days in Strasbourg discussing Europe’s future with parliamentarians from across the continent. These representatives consider Scotland to be an integral part of the European family. Over the past few days the bonds we’ve built between our outward looking country and key stakeholders in other EU member states have served us well in ensuring that senior political figures from across Europe have responded positively to our situation, and have publicly recognised that we have a mutual self interest in maintaining Scotland’s EU membership.

Yesterday at the Foreign Press Association in London, Alex Salmond, Stephen Gethins and I briefed the world’s foreign correspondents on our evolving situation. It was clear to each of us that the tone of their engagement was interestingly far more positive and optimistic than it was even before the independence referendum.

The world is willing Scotland on.

If we’re forced to choose to hold another referendum on independence, it would be complacent and wrong to think that that “one more heave” will be enough to win a historic majority for independence.

In the days ahead, all supporters of Scottish independence need to look outwards, not in on ourselves. Let’s build bridges, not fortresses.

We can protect Scotland’s interests if we focus on our goal.

Now we all need is to deliver for Scotland.

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