TO celebrate the Year of Young People, every week in 2018 The National is giving a platform to young Scots. This week, 20-year-old Paul Anderson.

SCOTLAND is at a crossroads. One road leads to poverty, alienation and the subjugation of our national identity; the other leads to liberation, liberty and living to our full potential. Our future is at stake, and the choice will come down to you, Scotland’s people.

Why do we need independence? Will we not suffer more as an independent country? Will the broad shoulders of the union not protect us from ourselves and others?

When life expectancy in Glasgow is the lowest in the UK’s cities, we have destitution. When the farmer, the fisherman and the oil worker are sold out for London’s profit, we are exploited. When the Highlands and Islands remain a human desert, the product of 150 years of clearances for sheep and stags, then we are living in deprivation.

Yet this is not all the demon of Westminster’s fault – we have created our own demons of sectarianism, of Highland-Lowland division, of institutional patriarchy and racism. Change comes first from within and only we can change our society. The independence referendum awoke the political consciousness of Scots from Stornoway to St Andrews, from the Shetland Islands to the Borders. Urban and rural, businesses and trade unions, young and old – every part of society experienced a political reawakening as we debated our future as a nation. We realised that change is within our grasp. and our future is determined by our actions today.

We are aware of the structural oppression within our society – it is up to us to end it. Independence is the road to our future as a vibrant, prosperous and liberated nation – there is no alternative. Holyrood has used the limited powers at its disposal to mitigate the worst of Westminster’s austerity, to protect our public services and to give young people a future. Power devolved to Holyrood is power retained at Westminster – in the absence of full independence the journey to a better future begins within our own communities.

Politics is politicians trading rhetorical barbs at one another across the chamber; political action is the ordinary person changing their community. It is the teenager supporting their elders in their retirement. It is the entrepreneur setting up local businesses and creating local jobs. It is the people of this nation shaking the pillars of polarisation, poverty and patriarchy. We are bringing the future to the present: a future of liberated citizens working together for the common weal.

With independence, another Scotland is possible. The youth of this nation are not only the leaders of tomorrow; they are also the leaders of today. They are the snowflakes that will cause a political avalanche. The old Scotland is dying, a new Scotland struggles to be born – now is the time for action. In the Year of Young People, our future is now.

Paul Anderson is a third year student of International Relations at the University of St Andrews. He is also Convenor of St Andrews University Students For Independence.