THIS past weekend should have been a time for commemoration, celebration and invigoration for the independence movement in the build-up to yesterday’s 700th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath, a document which signifies the unity and birth of a nation.

Instead, the streets of Arbroath, like the streets of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and every other town, village and city in Scotland, were ghostly quiet as the nation followed the rule, stayed home, stayed safe and protected the NHS. Like so much in our lives, the festivities will have to wait.

Last week, Voices for Scotland announced that our campaign will pause during this crisis, with staff going into furlough. Many other issues are taking priority in people’s lives. There is little space for politics while so many are fighting to survive the virus and the economic strain caused by the shutdown.

With this pause in campaigning, and the Scottish Government’s plans for a referendum this year put on ice, where does this leave the independence movement?

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Outside the context of the Covid-19 crisis, there has never been more of a need for independence, there has never been bigger support and there has never been such engagement, opportunity and knowledge to create a Scotland for Everyone. The changes that come after this crisis have the potential to make the Covid-19 period a hinge that changes the direction of society. We will talk of the pre-Covid time as one of austerity, inequality and hopelessness where so many survived with so little for so long. The post-Covid era is unwritten, but it can be a time of hope, opportunity and a re-birth of society where people come first and politics strives for fairness and opportunities for all. We may be over the worst of the crisis in a matter of months, but the fallout and rebuilding process will take much longer.

Part of that process is seizing the opportunity to make positive changes for Scotland, engaging in debate about the country we want to be, and working together to turn ideas into a reality. The most significant and effective step is to become independent.

While the campaign is on hold, it might be prudent for us all to interrogate our own ideologies and reasons for believing in what we believe. Our views become so ingrained that it’s easy to forget the journey taken to arrive at these opinions. When the ice thaws and the campaign re-ignites, the challenge will be to identify the path through the unknown towards independence. Key to this is an understanding of what we’re campaigning for, and how we bring on board those who are as yet undecided on the merits of independence.

For me independence is fundamentally about two things, the recognition of Scotland as a nation, and the opportunity to make the future better than the past. The former is an issue of international bureaucracy and the latter cemented in nationalist ambition to make Scotland a country that works for all its citizens and contributes to a global society. We have been and will again be campaigning for a better future and for the opportunity to right the wrongs of the past.

The post-Covid era will be a place of work and toil to ensure that the generations to follow aren’t left wanting in any aspect of life. A campaign for the future will put in place measures to support those most affected by the Covid-19 crisis, strengthen the NHS, take positive action on climate change, build a fair and equal society and end poverty. It is a campaign to create a Scotland for Everyone, in the collective image of the people of Scotland, learning from the past, not repeating it. As a kid I saw Oscar Marzaroli’s

images of “street urchins” in the slums of Glasgow. Black and white images of grubby white kids on the soot black streets. I read Robin Jenkins’s The Changeling at school, I felt the itch of the lice and heaviness of boots on weary legs. It was a romanticised view of a by-gone era consumed in an OK suburb of Glasgow.

Except that era is not gone. Until last year I worked with young people who in the time of Marzaroli and Jenkins, would be referred to as “urchins’”. Young people who have been let down by a system creaking under the weight of austerity. Young people who would turn up with empty bellies, dirty clothes, too much responsibility at home and worries that robbed them of a childhood.

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It would be easy to point the finger of blame at one political party but these issues span the generations and are an accumulation of failings at all levels of government over a long period of time. Failure to act appropriately when the opportunity arises sets in motion the whole cycle of problems once again, creating another lost generation and eats further into the overdraft of the moral bank account.

Change will only come from the people who want it. Coming together in your community to set out a vision of what a Scotland for Everyone looks like is a path towards independence, but success depends on working together and maintaining the networks that help us stay connected.

The Voices for Scotland campaign has the plan to build grassroots support for independence, connect people and ideas and win, but we are only as strong as the collective will to succeed. We need your support now, tomorrow and for the future.

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