IN the chaotic weeks immediately after the 2016 Brexit referendum, I was sent, as Scotland’s then Europe minister, on a rapid succession of flying visits around European capitals. Once, I think, I managed to visit three national governments inside 24 hours.

My job was to explain why Scotland had a very different take to Westminster on what had just happened and Scotland always got a friendly reception. Governments were keen to learn more about why Scotland had just voted so differently to England and Wales, what that meant for Scotland’s relationship with the EU, and (as I sought to set out) what all of that implied about Scotland’s right to choose her own future.

It is tempting to imagine this means countries are presently queuing up to recognise the right of Scotland to be independent, regardless of the circumstances in which that independence might come about. Clearly, the international community does not work quite like that.

I feel the need to say all this now because recently I have had conversations with some (genuine and sincere) people in our movement who believe “the international community” is standing ready to recognise Scotland’s independence – and all we need to do is announce it.

If anyone wants disproof of that idea, they need look no further than Catalonia.

I strongly support Catalonia’s right to self-determination, yet it has proved eloquently how declaring a country to be independent does not necessarily make her so. No number of declarations (on or offline) give a new state any control over her own natural resources, or taxes, or of any national assets such as government land or military installations.

Likewise, declarations themselves bestow no international recognition.

So, despite the wave of well-founded sympathy around the world in 2017 for Catalonia, not one independent country recognised its independence.

The international community is a club of independent governments, a club, of which Scotland is conspicuously not yet a member. That’s what we need to change. What does exist internationally, however, is a genuine sympathy and goodwill among EU and other states for Scotland’s predicament.

There is a new understanding that Scotland has a distinctive voice. Governments and international institutions can now at least imagine Scotland as an EU member state, far more than they were able to in 2014.

This change is largely because they can see Scotland is trying to do things by due democratic process. They can also see us being opposed in that at every turn by a UK Government which (in many eyes around the world) has gone increasingly rogue.

We can best ensure this sympathy for what we are saying continues among the international community (and indeed among Scottish voters) if we keep trying to use that due process.

That road can sometimes feel frustrating, when Westminster makes haughty threats to block the next referendum. But that is not a case for abandoning the road.

Marches and opinion polls – seriously impressive as both of these now are in their scale – have no claim on the “international community”. Independence will take a negotiated settlement between Scotland and the UK, and that will mean bringing the UK Government to the negotiating table. The best way by far to do that is through a majority SNP Government next year – accept no imitations – and a referendum.

Whatever noises the UK Government makes against the referendum route, we need to be consistent. We need to keep calling for the matter to be decided by the people – not least because the people themselves expect nothing less.

Let’s work together, at this moment of unprecedented support for our movement and our party, to achieve just that. Only by doing that will the world take notice.

Alasdair Allan is an SNP MSP for the Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency