THERE was always going to be bumps on the road on our way to independence, and I’m always struck by my dear friend Jim Mather’s phrase to describe the SNP – we’re a team game. Sometimes it feels less of a team game than others, and I’m afraid we sometimes need to be tough with our own side to get the job done.

The recent decisions of the National Executive Committee of the SNP have been controversial in some parts, I’ll acknowledge that. It could have been worse. I have been a member of the NEC since 2005, first as European Group rep and since 2019 as policy development convener. I will say that I am making some suggestions to the party’s business convener on how we can remedy things going forward.

But beyond that it is a fundamental principle of the NEC that we are bound by collective responsibility and solidarity, and that what is discussed in the NEC remains confidential. Some of my colleagues evidently do not feel the same way and it is a poor show.

The only people to benefit from SNP disunity are our opponents, and there are plenty of them. By all means have the discussion, but have it in the appropriate place and then unite after the decision is made.

There is nothing to be gained from loose talk, whether to our pals or late night Twitter discussions broadcast on the internet for our opponents to file away for future attacks.

Besides, we have so much good stuff going on, and so many more pressing problems to deal with. Yesterday we had the first online National Assembly session of the Social Justice Commission, a body of work I have already said is vital to winning independence.

As I write the session has not yet started but we had several hundred SNP delegates signed up to the online format, it is an exciting time to see it all finally coming to fruition!

The opening lines of the Social Justice Commission discussion document are inspirational: “The aim of the Social Justice and Fairness Commission is to deliver a route map to the real prize of independence.

“That prize is a fairer Scotland that values and cares for everyone who lives here, from baby box to grave, and in which everyone can fully participate and have the opportunities they need to flourish. Independence will empower the people of Scotland, but in order to build a better society, with wellbeing at its heart, we need our Parliament to use those powers differently.

“Independence would provide an opportunity to think afresh about the kinds of policies we could pursue, and how we make decisions at every level in Scotland.

“Our ambition is constrained only by what we collectively consider is desirable and the response to the current pandemic has been a shining example of what we can collectively achieve when we put our minds to it. Change is possible, and very few people want to return to the way things were. As we chart our recovery and rebuild, we must build something better.

“No-one should be reliant on a food bank to eat. No-one should be without the basic human right of a home. No-one should be sat shivering in the depths of our Scottish winters because they can’t afford to heat their homes.

“As we move forward and look towards a better future, we must accept that no-one should be left behind in our new Scotland.

We all have a duty to look after one another. With independence we can reset our society; one where the economy serves us, the people, and not the other way round.”

SURELY, there’s some real heavy lifting we need to get into as a party and as a movement to build the Scotland we all want to see.

Yes, there are other issues to deal with but if we do not focus on combatting poverty and building back a better Scotland than the pre-Covid one, then we miss an opportunity as well as fail in our duty to the people we serve.

Shona Robison MSP and Neil Gray MP as chairs, and Julie Hepburn as secretariat, have done fantastic work to get us here, it is now up to all of us to get behind it and have the deepest and rashest debate possible.

Politics is not about avoiding debate, far from it – it is about having that debate in a way that builds us up. We have the ball at our feet in Scotland, and I’m excited about what we can achieve working together.