THERE has been a great deal of debate in some quarters lately on the policy of the SNP, and as policy development convener of the party, I have been delighted at the extent to which branches up and down the country have engaged with the new structure and are keen to talk.

Next week we roll out I think the most important policy exercise we are undertaking – the Social Justice Commission under Shona Robison MSP and Neil Gray MP. The work of the Growth Commission in ventilating the numbers on Scotland’s economic case for independence was important in saying what we can do with the business and growth side of the economy, and in the same way I think the Social Justice Commission will give us a blueprint for how to achieve not just a prosperous independent Scotland, but one with fairness at its heart.

The commission will take centre stage next week at our first virtual National Assembly, and will give SNP members the chance to debate and discuss issues ranging from pension reform, universal basic income, fair work, paying carers, ending precarious employment and more. It is exactly the sort of discussion I got into politics for.

We were delighted in Stirling city branch on Monday night to welcome Shona and had a great discussion about what we can do and how we can make Scotland better. It is the sort of discussion that I think will bring people over from undecided on independence to enthusiastic.

Often I have found on my virtual travels that the discussion of policy is confused for discussion of tactics or process – the “how” of independence.

The timing of a referendum, the idea of anything other than a Section 30 Order, gaming the list with a second party, all these things are not policy to my mind, but process and strategy.

They’re also, bluntly, not that interesting to anyone but us. While I’m delighted to discuss, of course, in my experience people who are as yet unpersuaded are left cold by such debates and want some actual ideas about a better Scotland to energise them.

We would do well to remember that independence will be won on the centre ground of middle Scotland, and we need good ideas to enthuse people.

The good news is we also have plenty of issues to debate – climate change, spurring a green growth from Covid, and indeed the Social Justice Commission work all give us plenty to get our teeth into. What will the future of the High Street and retail look like? How do we encourage active travel and green public transport? Should we reform the education system to a more European model?

These are all the ideas I see coming from our branches into our policy-making process, which will inform the manifesto for 2021 and the independence prospectus when it comes.

Meanwhile the opposition, by which I mean the UK Government, becomes all the clearer to anyone paying attention, which is most people in Scotland.

The Covid support package, massive borrowing on our behalf, is being found wanting on a daily basis, with huge swathes of Scotland’s economy ignored and unsupported. The power grab under the guise of the UK internal market is, despite their blandishments, proposing to turn the devolution settlement on its head.

It really is straightforward – there are some powers that were exercised at EU level (by democratically elected MEPs like I was) that are now accruing to the Holyrood Parliament, except a new barrier to the exercise of these powers will be inserted in the form of a politically appointed panel, with the power to overrule any decision for any reason.

In the same way as Al Capone was put away for tax evasion, not his other crimes, state aid rules can be used to control anything, and they will be. The internal market paper makes quite clear that they will not respect devolution if it cuts across the UK – their – priorities. From their perspective this is to make trade deals easier, so they will be able to negotiate on behalf of the whole of the UK, but from our perspective it is London rule made real.

It must be fought, and I hope all the parties of devolution will unite to defend the settlement.

If they do not then they will refuse to do so under the full scrutiny of the people of Scotland with a looming election ready to make their voice heard.

Independence is not a luxury, it is essential to regain our European rights, protect our economy and public services, and indeed our Parliament itself.

Not everyone is persuaded yet but with the right ideas and the passion for the fight, they are waiting for us to persuade them.