THE Panelbase polling data released at the weekend should not be underestimated. It is, in political terms, nothing short of miraculous.

Thinking back to 2006, when I first joined the SNP, those numbers would’ve been something to pray for, but after more than 13 years in government, support for the SNP is far from a divine act but rather down to overwhelming public support for independence and confidence in the manner the First Minister has handled the coronavirus crisis – in stark contrast to Boris Johnson’s “take it on the chin”, herd immunity disaster.

Understandably, there has been much caution over the delivery of messaging over the past months (in Scotland), with particular attention given to focus on what can best save peoples lives. Party politics has not being the driver of decision-making.

However, as the UK Government attempts to rush out of lockdown, Scotland now faces the prospect of having to deal with the political decisions Westminster wishes to impose upon us. If we don’t start talking about the political choices independence will both make possible and save us from, then we will be stuck with the decisions Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings choose for us, and they are not people whose vision you should trust.

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Will it be more austerity to pay for the coronavirus or will we choose to invest in our future in the manner that happened when the NHS was created – when debt levels were even higher than they are now? Will it be more nuclear weapons on the Clyde as food-bank usage rises or will we live with the prospect of Scotland being dragged out of the worlds biggest single market place as unemployment crisis is projected by the Office for Budget Responsibility?

Political choices are coming, and it’s for that reason focus can’t be taken off next year’s Scottish Parliament election and the possibilities for Scottish independence it presents.

In 2016, the SNP were clear that Scotland would have a mandate to hold an independence referendum if we were dragged out of the EU against our will. The Greens said there should be one if a million people signed a petition for it.

It’s always been my preference that we determine our own future by a consented referendum but I have also always wanted to ensure that Boris Johnson can’t veto the demonstrated will of the people of Scotland in the manner he did after the SNP’s landslide victory at last year’s General Election.

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It’s now inevitable that there will be a debate on a Plan B, but plan Bs by their very definitions need a Plan A first – and that’s a plan I want to help improve so we have a much stronger position than that which Boris Johnson brushed aside with one anti democratic stroke earlier this year.

He doesn’t want Scotland to have a choice on our future and with support for independence at 54% and rising, he has even more motivation to stop us having one.

With that in mind, there is a need to have a grown-up conversation with all pro-independence parties so that we give the same firm commitments for a vote on independence in our 2021 manifestos. That would involve pro-independence parties coming up with a similar form of words to leave the electorate in no doubt about our intentions.

If every single pro-independence vote counts for the same thing then an incontrovertible pro-independence mandate would be secured. If Westminster still wished to block that position then the popular legitimacy of a Plan B could well become overwhelming.

Unsurprisingly, I want to see as many pro-independence MSPs elected to the Scottish Parliament as possible in order that the democratic voice of Scotland is heard in the heart of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet room – and polling shows us the SNP can win a majority next year.

The more MSPs championing Scotland’s independence in our national Parliament the better, therefore another grown-up conversation will be required in regards to how best to achieve this.