A POIGNANT report from the annual Church of Scotland Burns Supper in Brussels last week has left a lasting impression on me. It is one of deep sadness at our imminent departure from the EU.

This “last supper”, as journalist Andrew Gray called it in his Politico article, attended by the local Scottish community full of despair at our imminent exit, seemed all the more telling given the Scots’ deep commitment and invaluable contribution to the European project. That was through larger-than life-characters like Madame Ecosse herself, the irrepressible Winnie Ewing, one time EU Commissioner; the late George Thomson a former Labour MP, or Sir David Edwards, who left his judicial mark on the European Court of Justice.

Despite Scotland’s active involvement, it’s just 58 days now to B-Day. The pun is not intentional but on Brexit Day Scotland’s European role will be largely flushed away. We face being dragged out of our supportive role in this relationship with 27 other member states, against our will, and against our democratic vote to remain. In this Brexit bourach, Scotland has been silenced, our choices disregarded and our national contribution to the debate held in contempt. We’re just an appendage to the Prime Minster’s “precious Union”, an unequal partner whose inconvenient voice has been drowned out by the braying Tory Brexiteers.

Well, not quite.

Our SNP MPs in Westminster have doggedly resisted the more right-wing Brexit bulldozers. These people are determined to “take back control” whatever the cost to our economy and jobs, our health, our universities, our future, with “contingency planning” for martial law and army intervention to bat down civil unrest. A senior Government minister, apparently in all sobriety, told the BBC on Sunday that we should all relax because martial law was not being looked at “specifically”!

This “whatever it takes” attitude without detailed planning or indeed adequate preparation is the road to perdition. This Rule Britannia marching band of Brexit enthusiasts have been right royally exposed as charlatans from the yellow corner of the green benches in the House of Commons. But Scotland has fought for the truth and Europe has been watching.

Scotland has also thrown the rest of the UK a lifeline in its support for a People’s Vote, for an opportunity for the country to think again now all the bare, naked, and downright terrifying facts are on the table. But is it enough?

Whatever happens this March, deal or no deal, an extension to Article 50, or a second crack at the big question, Scotland should be preparing itself wholeheartedly for independence and dusting down our application form to join the EU as an independent nation. We need to be thinking beyond B-Day to “Indy Day”, imagining our future, our opportunities for growth and our place in the world.

After all, we may be a small nation, but we don’t have to think small. Let’s think big and inject some much-needed positivity into this Brexit debacle, let’s throw off our reputation for understatement and gruff modesty, let’s blow our own bagpipes and remind ourselves of all the positives we could bring to that big round EU table in Brussels.

For starters, our attitude to immigration is streets ahead of the rest of the UK in terms of progression and inclusion. We want new Scots to come to Scotland and make their home here. We value their contribution and we recognise their skills. We value freedom of movement. As our workforce dwindles and our elderly citizens grow in number, we need these new Scots to grow our economy and take part in making Scotland a global player in a network of support from the EU. We’re already making waves with the UN endorsement of our New Scots strategy on refugee integration which the United Nations has recommended as a blueprint for other countries to use.

In terms of climate change and environmental policy, we’re on course to meet our targets to reduce carbon emissions by 2050 and have committed to new green initiatives and sustainable energy sources, with opportunities for even more ambitious climate goals in the

near future.

We have a fair taxation system and are open to new economic models which put people and the planet first over pursuit of pure economic growth at any price.

And when it comes to putting people first, we’re re-organising our security system based on intrinsic values such as dignity and respect for which we have garnered further praise from the UN in terms of mitigating and fighting back against draconian austerity measures imposed by Westminster.

We’re aiming to be an inclusive nation, not just in terms of immigration but also in our commitment to gender equality with the Scottish Government recently included in Stonewall’s list of 100 most gender inclusive companies in the UK.

Why is this important? And why would this be of interest to the EU? The European project needs support from within to protect and further their central beliefs and foundations – human rights and dignity, equality, respect for democracy and the rule of law and freedom of movement.

With the alarming and rising tide of populism across Europe, aided and abetted by Trump’s former strategist and right-wing agitator, Steve Bannon, and personified by the likes of Marine Le Pen in France, Matteo Salvini in Italy and their populist courtiers, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Austria and President Victor Orban in Hungary, it’s all the more important that Scotland adds our voice to the fight against hate, racism and attacks on democracy.

In addition, Scotland can bring its unique contribution to science in terms of the nation’s growing space industry, its life sciences, its innovations in block chain and cyber security, and in our commitment to Women in STEM – the list goes on.

In this sense we could also provide an important bulwark against the anti-science, dumbing-down, anti-rational right-wing agenda, with climate denial at its cold heart.

There’s a bit of optimism in a world gone mad and even listing our positive contribution makes the heart sing.

So, in this Burns season let’s

raise a toast to an independent Scotland in a partnership of equals with the EU. It’s worked for Ireland; my dream is to see it work for Scotland too.