IF a week is a long time in politics, then the last five years feel like an eternity. I have no doubt that everyone in the SNP and the Yes movement have felt pangs of frustration, anger and despair at some point over those five years – I know I have.

Since 2014, we have watched three Tory Governments, that Scotland did not vote for, rise to power. We have had a chaotic Brexit, that Scotland did not vote for, foisted upon us. We have watched Northern Ireland receive the very concessions that our Scottish Government asked for and were refused by Westminster.

In the face of all this, the real salt in the wound is having to watch this Tory Government arrogantly say no to the demand for another independence referendum.

When I can feel all of the above really getting under my skin, I remember how important it is to reflect on how far we have come, to keep perspective and to keep our eyes on the prize. I joined the SNP in 2011 and, I don’t mind saying, as a party member it was evident that there is always room for improvement when it comes to internal structures.

The same is true of every political party and it should not be controversial to admit so. After the 2014 referendum, the explosive rise in SNP membership launched what was once a fringe party into being the third-largest political party in the UK. This meant that what some deem the “old guard” of the SNP effectively became the minority in their own party. Some may think that is a negative, but it is worth remembering that a palpable surge in membership and support is the envy of every other political party.

I have no doubt that the vast majority of those who joined the party did so because of their firm belief that independence is the only way we will see a radically different Scotland in their lifetime. They want to see a progressive Scotland. They want an economy that is built around the needs of people and the environment. They want a government that reflects society and how Scotland actually votes. More so, they see that independence gives us the ability to make that vision a reality, and they see that the SNP is the best vehicle to achieve that independence.

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When I feel that frustration I spoke of, it only makes me respect the patience of the so-called old guard and makes me appreciate how hard they have worked to bring us this far. Despite the ridicule, the abuse and the hopelessness they faced, they carried on. Walking or crawling, they always kept us moving forward.

We are now at a stage where 20 consecutive polls have shown that a majority of people in Scotland support independence. It is a fact that we have the most popular, capable and articulate politician in the UK as our party leader. People often forget that politics is made up of human beings, and Nicola Sturgeon has shown more grace, wit and humanity than any other politician I’ve encountered. Her communication and commitment throughout the pandemic alone should be applauded, whatever your view.

Despite the British Union winning the 2014 referendum, the trajectory has only gone against them. Election after election shows overwhelming support for the SNP’s policy agenda.

Westminster does not have a grasp on what is happening in Scotland and they know it. Despite all the puffed chests, the Rule Britannia’s and the plastering of the Union flag wherever it’ll stick, Scottish independence is still very firmly on the agenda. Every question asked about Alister Jack’s “Union task force” is left unanswered. No-one can tell me what its budget is, what its structure is, etc. They are panicking and making it up as they go. Their arrogance is their only defence because they have no other argument left.

Be of no doubt, the SNP are currently the biggest threat to the British Union. We are closer to independence than we have ever been. The only thing that can stop us from achieving independence, and making that progressive Scotland a reality, is ourselves. Given the trend in worldwide politics, particularly America, it is dangerously stupid to think Scotland is exempt from bad actors and disinformation, particularly online.

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The formula is usually along the lines of finding an obscure or nuanced issue, and then using that issue to stoke division. To prey on the legitimate worries or genuine grievances that people may feel, and then manipulate that into their own egotistical conspiracy theory. Bot accounts online then allow that conspiracy to be punted around to give the impression to you – reading your social media timeline – that genuine people are sharing it.

I have watched good people in our movement be radicalised into a spiral of hatred, and it is because the formula works. It creeps up on people and politely waits until you invite it in. The only antidote is to learn how to spot it.

Since 2014, the international community has watched what is happening in Scotland. If we achieve an SNP majority at the upcoming election, think what the consequences for Westminster will be if the rest of the world watches them deny democracy. The rest of the world will tell you, it doesn’t last.