THE SNP has selected a strong team of candidates to contest the European Parliament election. Now it is essential that we put the arguments for independence at the heart of our campaign.

For many, the European elections will be a de facto ‘People’s Vote’; the chance to demonstrate support for retaining EU membership or a desire to leave the EU. These elections will also allow people to deliver a verdict on the UK Government’s handling of the entire Brexit process, which has been so shambolic and incompetent, it is now beyond parody. The prospect of people turning to far-right extremists to register this protest is very real and terrifying. In this election, the SNP must position itself as a progressive alternative to this by making the case for a brighter future as part of the European family of nations.

For the SNP to do well at this election, we need to articulate a clear message that our success will send a strong message to Brussels that Scotland wants to remain part of the EU, and a strong message to Westminster that they have failed Scotland and indeed the rest of the UK. A vote for the SNP is a vote for Scotland’s voice being heard in Europe, and a clear protest at the UK Government’s handling of Brexit.

But our campaign needs to be about so much more, because winning elections is not the end game for the SNP. We don’t seek power for its own sake. We stand in elections so that we have the opportunity to serve the people we represent to the best of our ability – so that we can do whatever we can, with the means at our disposal, to make our communities and country a better place to live.

A victory in this election will also strengthen our mandate to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence. The last two years have shown that Scotland’s interests are not met as part of the UK. This election gives voters in Scotland yet another opportunity to make their voice heard and demand their right to choose a different path.

Every election is an opportunity to make the case for independence, and to make progress towards that goal. The European Parliament election is no exception. Indeed this election may be the best chance we have to finally persuade a majority of people in Scotland of the urgent need for independence.

The case for independence isn’t predicated on any permeation of Brexit outcome, but the whole Brexit fiasco from start to finish is a compelling example of why we need independence. It is ‘exhibit A’ in terms of explaining why we need to be in control of our own destiny, and to move decision making from the cesspit of governance that is Westminster to our own parliament here in Scotland.

Putting independence at the heart of our campaign will appeal to those tired of UK mismanagement and help energise our activists, supporters and boost turnout across Scotland. This election will inevitably help build momentum for the real campaign to come, the campaign for an independent Scotland in Europe.

In this election, the SNP has to continue to be a champion for young people and their rights as European citizens. It is a democratic scandal that not a single person born this century voted for Brexit and still our future is now under threat. We need to continue to make the positive case for the EU and the advantages it provides for young people across Scotland. The future of Scotland’s next generation is in our hands. We need to protect it.

Brexit has only fuelled cynicism of politics, quite understandably. But amidst the chaos, the SNP has been a beacon of principle and consistency. So let us give Scotland a voice in Europe at this election and register our protest at the UK Government. But let’s deliver more than messages – let’s deliver independence.

Alex Kerr is an SNP candidate for the European Parliament, and Julie Hepburn is a member of the party's National Executive Committee and its campaign committee