JUST four weeks ago, despite the very real threat of a deadly pandemic still raging in their communities, the sovereign people of Scotland turned out in huge numbers and chose to give direct authority to those who represent them in Holyrood to hold a further referendum on bringing to an end three centuries of political union with our neighbours on these islands.

I think the people know how bad things are but recognise how much worse they might have been and how many lives might have been saved had the Scottish Government not had both hands tied behind its back.

Right now that pandemic, and ­limiting the loss of life it has yet to cause, must be the only priority of the Scottish Government and it is right that talk of setting a date must wait until the crisis has passed. Make no mistake however, all too soon the day will come when all of our sacrifices over the last year and more will have paid off and the pandemic will be under control.

Cases will one day return to manageable levels and the success of the vaccine roll-out will have put a stop to the ever climbing death toll. And when that day comes, when calm returns, and we have had time to grieve those we have lost, there will be a date announced for that ­referendum.

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When that day comes I suspect that many that are today impatient for its arrival will be surprised at how quickly it has come and a little panicked, as I often am, at how much there is still to do to prepare for that referendum, and to do the heavy lifting that will be needed after the people of Scotland choose to vote Yes this time.

A campaign will need to be fought. A campaign that will have the ­entire might of the last desperate dying ­embers of a once mighty Empire ­arrayed against it. An Establishment that knows this time it will have to pull out all the stops to prevent the 99% taking control of their own destiny. An Establishment that perhaps has its locus of power in Westminster but that we should not forget, that just like in the 14th Century, has many members that are prominent Scots.

Everybody who will vote Yes in that referendum is my ally

As Lesley Riddoch has pointed out, last time we caught them with their pants down. It will be harder this time. You can expect to hear the same old lies and misinformation pouring out of their tame state broadcasters but you are foolhardy if you do not think that there will be new strings to their bow when they fire up the next project fear.

They have spent seven years preparing and we underestimate them at our peril.

I often find myself having to take a step back, breathe in, and remember that my real adversary is the Unionist coalition that so effectively weaponised tactical voting a few weeks ago to prevent an independence landslide.

Everybody who will vote Yes in that referendum is my ally. My staunchest friend who will have my back through thick and thin in that final effort to win the prize that we all so yearn for.

I understand all too well the frustration of wanting that day where we win our freedom to come as soon as possible. I recognise that the passion that we all hold in our heart for that goal can be all consuming.

So I understand why it is all too easy to let that passion magnify and inflame the minor disagreements we all naturally have about how to reach that destination. And I know that sometimes I too need to do better in not letting petty personal squabbles get the better of me.

We must all step back, take a breath, and resolve to let go of our petty ­grievances if we are to work ­together in this great quest to ­liberate our nation. It would pay us all to ­remember that it was the ­British ­Empire that first forged ­“Divide and Conquer” as a weapon in our ­conquests and refined it to ­exquisite sharpness in ruling that global ­dominion for centuries.

I know how hurt feelings and frustrated ambitions can lead us to fall out with our closest allies. Our ­nation needs us to be bigger than that if we are to be midwife to its birth into a world that really needs its leadership if it is to survive and prosper.

It is time for us to put aside the past, remember the hope that has brought us all here, and to unite under one banner.


Chris Hanlon is the SNP’s national policy development convener and a member of the party’s National Executive Committee