TWO heads are better than one, as they say.

So it’s little surprise that the talents of 120,000+ members of the SNP are one of our party’s most valuable resources when it comes to honing and strengthening our case for independence.

Last year the Sustainable Growth Commission, established by the First Minister, set out 50 recommendations on how our country could reach its full potential if decisions were taken in Scotland and not Westminster.

It is a bold prospectus which, from the moment it launched, stimulated debate over Scotland’s future. It has been a great privilege as Depute Leader of the SNP to chair discussion of the commission’s findings at the SNP’s biggest ever National Assemblies and at local branches the length and breadth of Scotland.

That conversation has been one of the most invigorating in our party’s history and the difference could not be more stark when compared to the dismal, depressing and, frankly, dire debate over Brexit that has consumed Westminster politics for the past three years.

The level of energy and depth of enthusiasm for building an independent Scotland is in no doubt.

Scotland faces a stark but vital choice: economic decline with Brexit or taking our future into our own hands with independence.

EXCLUSIVE: The SNP WILL propose a new currency for an independent Scotland

For too long, Westminster politicians have imposed damaging policies on Scotland without a democratic mandate. They think they can do what they want to Scotland and get away with it. Brexit is simply the latest example of this. It is not the first, and certainly won’t be the last.

It is imperative that we do something different, that we strive for something better.

And to do that the economic blueprint we put to the people of Scotland must do two things.

Our proposals to build a better nation must convince more people than we managed to reach in 2014, so they must be ambitious but also credible and deliverable.

In April at our National Conference, I want to put that case to the party. Alongside Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, I have proposed a resolution on the three main arguments made by the Sustainable Growth Commission and enhanced by the contributions of members through the National Assemblies.

The National:
Finance Secretary Derek Mackay

Firstly, we must become an independent country to reach our full potential – matching the success of other small, independent nations the world over should be just the start of our ambitions. Scotland should never accept being sold short or held back.

After all Scotland has a vast array of resources and talent: we are energy-rich with extraordinary renewable potential. Our universities, food and drink, and tourism are all world-class and we are also at the cutting edge of games technology, photonics, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and other growth industries of the future.

We’re already building our new National Investment Bank, investing in innovation and stepping up efforts to attract people to live and work in Scotland. But we can do so much more with the tools of independence.

Secondly, we must become independent to break free from the economic mismanagement of successive Westminster governments.

We must reject austerity outright and build sustainable public finances, so we can invest in the radical and transformative policies that will allow Scotland to fully prosper. We must put people to the fore.

Our plans for the economy must put wellbeing on a par with prosperity, breaking down the barriers of inequality and tackling the challenges of poverty.

Finally, to underpin these economic ambitions, we will propose that it should now be party policy that an SNP government in an independent Scotland would establish an independent currency.

Of course, until that can be done safely and securely, our currency would continue to be the pound sterling. That’s the same approach that newly independent Ireland took for a period.

The process of moving to a new currency must be managed robustly and be guided by the best interests of the Scottish people and economy – in short, it must be done at the right time, in a way that affords necessary protection for our nation’s economy and for people’s personal finances.

Firm foundations are essential if we are to build the fairer, more equal Scotland we know is possible.

We propose that necessary preparations, including the work of building the institutions that we need, such as an independent central bank, would begin during the transition period.

And the aim of an SNP government would be to complete preparations in time for the newly independent Scottish Parliament, informed by assessments and information from the Central

Bank, to take a decision on establishing a new currency by the end of its first term.

This will ensure that the use of sterling is not an open-ended commitment – an issue raised at the National Assemblies.

I believe this approach will maximize support for an independent Scotland. And it goes to the heart of the case for independence – providing a democratically elected independent Parliament with the means to take the best decisions for Scotland.

I believe that approach properly balances the security and stability that citizens, businesses and governments require, with the ability to use the powers of independence to the full.

More people in Scotland now, for the first time in 20 years of devolution, view independence as positive for Scotland’s economy than those who believe otherwise. We must build on, and develop, that trust.

The proposals I have put forward to conference will enable us to build a solid and persuasive platform for independence.

They give us the powers to fulfil our potential – to build a fairer society, based on shared values of equality and compassion.

We can reject austerity outright, and protect valued public services like our NHS from the harm of Tory cuts and the damage of Brexit.

We can pursue a currency policy that’s right for Scotland to maximise our opportunities as a proud, successful European nation in a global economy.

We can raise our sights by building an independent Scotland that brings about the change we need to face the challenges of tomorrow.

The SNP looks forward to taking that ambitious case to the people.