WE need to talk. And as a party this deputy leadership contest should allow us the ideal opportunity to facilitate that debate. We need the widest possible conversation in the party at this important juncture for the SNP, and we need to ensure that it is inclusive and wide ranging.

The most obvious issue that requires our attention is the question of a second independence referendum. We need to start to design a roadmap to secure a successful outcome with an honest assessment of the difficulties that have still to be confronted.

READ MORE: Pete Wishart lays out independence vision as he admits he's considering going for Depute

I have already argued that we need to craft a brand new independence offering meeting the realities of where we find ourselves within a UK hurtling disastrously out of the European Union. The White Paper of the last referendum is now a historical document for another political era. A new case needs to be urgently constructed.

As a party we need to properly discuss where we find ourselves with an honest assessment of why we lost so many SNP MPs last year. Critically, we have to better understand why so many supporters of independence were reluctant to support the SNP in last year’s election. We also need to be more agile and nimble in response to the quickly changing Scottish political environment. At Westminster I chair our electoral readiness group tasked with keeping an eye on the prevailing political trends and equipping colleagues with materials if another snap election is called.

We are now a mass membership party and the way we operate has not caught up to reflect that. This needs to be urgently discussed with solid contributions in how this is achieved.

We also have to unite the Yes movement and span the differing views about the European Union.

On the EU there is no point chastising SNP Leave voters by simply extolling the virtues of an EU they feel alienated from. We have to construct a way forward that can enlist them and with which they can feel comfortable with.

Unless something dramatic happens within the next few months Scotland will find itself out of the EU as part of the UK in a year’s time and we have to face up to that reality.

I would suggest a graduated approach for an independent Scotland rejoining the European Union with a series of steps and breaks where we can properly consider our progress. These steps would be EEA, then EFTA then full EU membership. The last and most important step of rejoining the EU should only be taken with, at the very least, the full consent of an independent Scottish Parliament with a majority of members who have been elected on a platform of rejoining the European Union. This approach, I believe, would bring back many EU leave voters that we have lost over the past year.

We need to look at issues to do with securing the most from our membership, repairing our campaigning base and communication and political positioning. There is so much to debate and now is the time to do it.

I take no truck with the view that the next depute leader should only come from the MP group. It should be the candidate who has the best vision for the party and the best ideas to take the party forward. In the next few weeks I will consider whether to put myself forward after taking soundings from colleagues and friends within the party. For me, though, it is the debate, the ideas and the vision that are the most important feature of this opportunity.

We do need that debate and a depute leadership contest is a safe space to do this while fully engaging our membership. Let’s take full advantage of this opportunity.