AS another Friday copy deadline goes past without an outcome from the EU/UK talks I have been reflecting on four and a half years of Brexit battling and preparing myself for the inevitable deep feeling of disappointment when the UK finally leaves transition in just under two weeks.

The fact that Big Ben is being reconnected in the midst of its restoration in order to finally “bong Britain out” of the EU at 11.00pm on Hogmanay speaks volumes.

It is an expensive, empty, backward looking gesture which appeals to the worst and most insular of politicians and their hangers on, obsessed with symbols rather than substance. If there were no other reason for deploring Brexit than some of the company it keeps, then that would be in my opinion almost reason enough.

I am prepared to accept that there are some honest Brexiteers who still believe that leaving the EU will usher in a new era of opportunity. The fact that there is not a single fact to support that belief does not invalidate either their right to hold it, nor their right to campaign for it.

I also realise that there are those who cling, mistakenly but doggedly, to the view that Scotland has no right to complain about the outcome as we live in a unitary state, at least as far as external affairs is concerned, where the votes of the totality are the determinant, even though this view runs counter to all the basic and best tenets of modern democracy.

And it is not absolutely impossible, though I would have still opposed it, that there could have been a well planned and efficiently executed way to leave the EU which would ideally have sougwhich make up the UK.

What I cannot accept is the lies, deceit and sleekit sneering from the UK Tory Government under both May and Johnson as it has sought to impose a hard right, extremist, ideologically dangerous, economically disruptive and reputationally ruinous type of Brexit that was never even mentioned during the 2016 EU referendum campaign.

Some in the national movement have sought to differentiate Brexit from the independence campaign but that approach fails to recognise the true nature of what has happened, and those who have made it happen.

The UK Tories today are both ignorant and contemptuous of devolution and the rights of the people of Scotland and Wales.

You have only to spend a few moments in the company of extremists like David Jones, a former Welsh Secretary, or our current Secretary of State against Scotland to appreciate their utter snooty disdain for the the devolved Parliaments and Governments.

An ugly, centralising, arrogant, Westminster sovereignty-asserting, global-Britain glorifying Brexit is now firmly anchored in the DNA of the Tory party, even at Holyrood.

It is the antithesis of what Scotland, as all the evidence shows, is and wants to be – outward looking, inclusive, and collaborative.

That difference is now crucial, because both the pandemic and Brexit present the same challenge; how to we rebuild and renew ourselves?

Brexiteers intend to do it by going backwards and pretending that the old clothes of empire still fit, even if they never really did and are now in any case threadbare and moth-eaten as Britain’s imperial might withers beyond the point of recognition.

Scotland wants to do it by choosing to go forwards and finding something new to wear as equal citizens of the world.

Those two positions are utterly irreconcilable. Only one can, in the end, prevail.

I joined the SNP in 1974 and voted for membership of the EEC in the 1975 referendum when the party was against joining.

I welcomed the concept of “independence in Europe” in the 80s because it allowed Scotland to define itself positively and set a clear context for our future as an independent state.

I opposed Brexit, and was honoured to be asked to lead that task in government, because as a European and a Scot I knew then, and know now, that Brexit was stupidly isolationist and would not only inflict serious damage on the people of Scotland but also embolden the worst elements who want our emerging, positive society not to flourish, but to be forced back into its old, subservient, box.

The dawning of Ne’erday will be gloomy for me. I am steeling myself for it but it will also make me even more determined to help secure the only change – independence – which will allow us to be a member of the EU once again.

For me, its personal.