IN 2016 the people of Scotland went to the ballot box. They returned an SNP government with the highest ever amount of constituency votes. That election was only a month before the people of Scotland again went to the polls in the EU referendum.

The SNP were clear – a vote for us meant that if Scotland voted to remain in the EU but we were taken out of the EU by the rest of the UK, then we would have the right to hold a referendum on Scottish independence. That is the mandate the people of Scotland gave our government of Scotland.

The moment for exercising that mandate is coming fast upon us. We are teetering on the cliff edge watching on as the UK Government stands ready to fritter away our membership of the EU.

Despite the Scottish Government putting forward a raft of compromises to safeguard Scotland, and indeed the entire UK, from a disastrous Brexit, we have been ignored and disregarded at every opportunity.

The contrast with the Irish position is telling. In the days after the 2016 referendum, the two cases of remain-voting Scotland and Northern Ireland being dragged out of Europe were given a parity of esteem as key issues arising from the UK Brexit vote. How different now.

The Irish border has been the dominating issue of the Brexit bourach while the cause of Scotland has disappeared without trace. The entirely reasonable arguments of the Scottish Government have been swept aside by Westminster with total contempt.

We have ever so politely played the game and we have ever so politely been sent to the subs bench.

Be under no doubt, the weakest government in the history of the UK has no appetite to make whatever positive case that may be left for Scotland staying in the UK at a time of Brexit despair. That weak government does not respect the Scottish Government because they do not fear it in the way that Cameron feared Salmond.

It is our preferred choice to achieve our independence through a referendum, but if we are denied the right to hold a referendum on our future then we must take our destiny into our own hands.

The consented referendum policy of the SNP is not integral to our national cause. It was devised and deployed by Alex Salmond to create our first ever SNP government and then our first opportunity at independence in the modern era.

If Alex had been required to find another route forward then he would most assuredly have found one.

The 2021 Scottish Parliament election cannot be an election to gain a mandate to hold a referendum, we already have such a mandate. If the UK Government continues to refuse us our right to exercise democracy via a referendum then we should rely on our own sovereign and democratic parliament to deliver that.

FIRST, we have to look like we mean what we say. The independence movement is crying out for determined leadership. Let us deploy the referendum demand as it should be deployed with democratic determination.

Of course it is entirely possible that Westminster will arrogantly continue to say “No”, so what then? Should it be a unilateral declaration of independence or Catalonia? No – it should be neither of those.

The first parliamentary test – be it Westminster or Holyrood – should feature an SNP manifesto commitment to secure a mandate by a majority of pro-independence Scottish seats for our government to then open independence negotiations with Westminster.

Faced with that clearly stated proposition Theresa May could well reconsider her “now is not the time” rhetoric on the Scottish referendum. If she does not, then so be it.

In 2021 (or sooner) a parliamentary vote for the SNP should be a vote for Scottish independence. And if we win that vote then we shall deliver what our party was born to achieve.