LAST Friday was the 23rd anniversary of Scotland’s second devolution referendum as well as being 19 years since the awful events of 9/11.

We all remember where we were on that day, but I also recall with clarity both referendums.

The first was on March 1, 1979, and there was a huge sense of anger when, despite a majority in favour, the result was simply ignored by the UK political establishment which had imposed – surprise, surprise – a unique set of gerrymandering rules.

The second, scheduled for September 11, 1997, almost didn’t take place at all.

Princess Diana died 12 days before and I was wakened around 3.00am on that Sunday morning by my old university friend the late Angus MacLeod – then political editor of the Sunday Mail – roaring down the phone and demanding from me, as the SNP’s referendum campaign director, a pithy quote and a snap verdict on whether the vote could go ahead.

Later that day I was parked by the road at Buchlyvie on my way to Edinburgh, with a mobile phone the size of a brick to my ear, debating that issue with Murray Elder, one of the key figures in the Labour campaign. In the end it did prove possible to held the referendum and the result was a resounding demand to restore Scotland’s parliament, adjourned for 292 years.

That happened because Scotland, united against the Tories, would not give up on its demand for self-determination and would not accept the veto of a party which it did not elect.

The SNP has been the government of Scotland for more than half the time since then. Yet today the vital powers of our Parliament are under threat from another duplicitous UK Government with no mandate, and moreover one that appears to care nothing for the rule of law or its international reputation and which feels itself severely threatened by the growing desire of our fellow citizens to make Scotland – Parliament and country – fully independent.

It is hard not to get mad in these circumstances but it is also hard not to be apprehensive.

Most of us have never lived under the shadow of a ruling clique who are so openly contemptuous of ordinary people’s wishes – desperadoes, as I called them at Holyrood last week – set on whatever aim they choose without restraint and no matter the consequences.

But calm heads and clear thinking are required in all moments of danger and we have two issues we need to address in that way.

The first is what to do to derail and destroy the threat to Scotland’s people from the Internal Market Bill. The second is how to move on to independence so that this current hand-to-mouth, grace-and-favour, pale imitation of real democracy in Scotland is put behind us once and for all.

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Defeating the bill will require unity amongst the political parties at Holyrood (except the Tories, although there are Scottish Tories who are dismayed by what is happening ) and the same at Westminster. It will require vigorous co-ordinated action by our MPs and MSPs, good co-operation with Wales and, in so far as these proposals affect them, Northern Ireland and all other possible steps up to and including legal action should that be necessary.

We should, though, always remember that key parts of the constitutional settlement of these islands are not even written on the back of a fag packet as far as enforceable democratic rights are concerned.

WE also need to intensify our work on the referendum bill and the case for independence whilst being open to any and all other possible options which would allow Scotland to clearly express its will on the issue of our collective future.

All potential actions must be thought through, although we are and will be constrained – and this is vitally important – by a pandemic which remains a very real threat to the economic, social and personal wellbeing of all of us and which is still capable of endangering many lives.

The Tories are now desperate because they see the Brexit project – on which rests their isolationist backward view of their future, as well as big profits from speculation and spivvery – disintegrating before their eyes.

Desperate people are dangerous and defeating desperadoes – as we know from innumerable westerns – always takes courage and the determination of the whole community.

But Scotland isn’t daft. It is more than capable of applying those lessons now to save not just its current Parliament, but also to finally secure the even better one that is within our grasp.