The National:

INDEPENDENCE is normal. This year, for the first time ever, a sustained majority of people in Scotland support independence.

It is not hard to see how this dramatic change has come about. Both the Tories and Labour are dead set on pursuing a damaging exit from the EU that Scotland has rejected at the ballot box over and over again. Now, more than ever before, the reality of Scotland’s place in this so-called “Union of equals” has been laid bare.

Nicola Sturgeon’s assured leadership during the pandemic has shown us how to put care and compassion at the heart of strong government. It is no wonder that public confidence in her as our First Minister is at a record high, and the SNP is projected to win another victory in Holyrood next year.

Of course, we will always demand that the UK Government respects democracy. If Scotland once again elects an SNP Scottish Government and there is a pro-independence majority at Holyrood, it would be a democratic outrage for the UK Government to refuse to work with us to deliver a referendum. So, the Scottish Government is right to follow the “gold standard” set in 2014 and defend Scotland’s right to choose its own future.

READ MORE: SNP MP says Holyrood can 'grind down' Westminster until indyref2 is granted

But this UK Government, headed by Boris Johnson, is no stranger to democratic outrage. It has repeatedly stonewalled the Scottish Government’s attempts at cooperation - on independence, but also on crucial decisions about post-Brexit legislation like the Internal Market Bill and the Immigration Bill. There has been no sign that they intend to change that position, so we must also be ready.

There are several potential democratic and legitimate routes to independence. The SNP Common Weal Group tabled an amendment to the SNP Conference Agenda to establish a working group on potential alternative strategies. Our plan received support from branches across the country and we look forward to bringing it to the new NEC for consideration.

There is, however, one thing that is far more important than the discussion on mechanisms and processes: putting in the serious work to build a national momentum behind independence.

Some of this work - like the Constitutional Convention - has been delayed to allow the Scottish Government to focus on Covid-19. As we emerge from the pandemic, we will need a new urgency to get this work done.

It is crucial that we update the economic case for independence for a post-Covid world and provide clear answers on EU accession. This is the perfect opportunity to draw on ideas from the wider independence movement and build relationships with trade unions and the pro-independence left, as the SNP Common Weal Group has been doing.

We also need to have a clear vision for the future we are working towards. The next few years will be defined by global challenges like recovery from Covid-19 and the climate crisis, as well as the chaos of Brexit. We must put resilience and sustainability at the heart of our ambitions.

The SNP Common Weal Group has developed six priorities for an independent Scotland: a Green New Deal, a National Care Service, radical land reform, improved tenants’ rights, public ownership of key services, and strong local economies. I am one of twelve SNP candidates who have pledged to champion these priorities if elected next year. This is the vision of a progressive independent Scotland that I am proud to campaign for.

READ MORE: Independence ‘won’t lead to hard border’ with England

That is why I am encouraged to see Pete Wishart setting out plans for how, if Westminster continues to deny democracy, Scotland might begin to behave like the progressive independent nation we plan to become.

I agree with Pete that the Scottish Government should push devolution to its limits where urgently needed - for example, by legislating for a public health approach to the drugs crisis to save lives. We cannot accept a Westminster veto on Scotland’s decisions.

Most importantly of all, we must work together. The SNP’s membership and branches are its lifeblood. They supply the energy, the vision, and the hard graft that is behind everything we have achieved as a party. That is why the SNP Common Weal Group has created a Manifesto for Democracy for the SNP’s upcoming NEC elections. We want to return power to the grassroots and unite the party around a progressive campaign for independence.

We can deliver independence and build the better future we all deserve. It will take determination, creativity and hard work. This weekend’s SNP NEC elections are an opportunity to choose a team who will bring the membership together around our shared goal. The power is in our hands - let’s use it.

Catriona MacDonald is the SNP Candidate for Edinburgh Southern and the SNP Common Weal Group Communications Officer