NEXT year will bring the most important election since I joined the SNP in Perth 27 years ago – there is too much at stake to sit this out and that is why I am seeking to become the party’s candidate for Holyrood for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire.

The news this week that the UK Government was going to break international law came as little surprise to those of us who have been holding this right-wing Tory administration to account for years but that does not make it any less devastating to what remains of the UK Government’s trustworthiness.

The German ambassador, the actual ambassador, tweeted that it was an “intentional and profound deterioration of a negotiation”.

The deterioration in the UK’s standing in the world will mean that it is more difficult for deals to be done as we all have to wrestle with the mayhem of a No-Deal Brexit in just a few weeks – and all of this in the teeth of a pandemic that is costing lives and an economic downturn already costing jobs. It will impact on us all from the food on our plate to the rights that we enjoy as European citizens.

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When I first joined the SNP in Perth back in 1993, I wanted to see an independent Scotland take its place as a full member state of the EU. I had the great fortune to start my political life campaigning in my home town for Roseanna Cunningham, an experience that has stood me in good stead ever since.

As a party, we campaigned for “Independence in Europe” not to be better than anyone else but to be the same. Look around at our friends and neighbours from Ireland through the Nordic states to the Baltics. They have built success as independent member states of the EU.

I went back to my old school this week, Perth Academy, where I started my political journey. If I thought we needed independence back then, I couldn’t have imagined how much we need it now.

I want the pupils who are at my old school and schools across Scotland to have the same opportunities as I had. The opportunity to study and work abroad giving me insights and experiences that I would never have had otherwise. The object in politics should be to leave a country that is better and has more opportunities than my own generation enjoyed.

The UK is seen as a pariah in Europe with more and more of our partners wondering when Scotland will become independent. Next year’s Scottish Parliament election is among the most important that any of us will ever fight.

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That is why I want to go back where it all started for me and seek selection to replace the irreplaceable Roseanna Cunningham, who I first campaigned for 27 years ago.

Scotland can and must do better than this for the sake of us all and future generations. The forthcoming parliamentary election will be crucial to making the case for and delivering an independence referendum. The cost of remaining in an isolated and declining UK under the Tories is too much.

Independence is normal, being a member of the EU is normal and working with our neighbours and partners on an equal basis is normal.

Stephen Gethins is a Professor of Practice at the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews. He was the SNP’s Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson and MP for North East Fife from 2015-19