IT’S rare that I wake up in the morning and DON’T thank my lucky stars for my good fortune in living in a small, independent country with all the advantages that brings to the people of Scotland.

And it could have been so different; I remember very clearly the sense of panic emanating from the establishment in England as we approached the referendum day – or as we now call it, the first day of living in the early days of a better nation!

I remember with disbelief hearing how well-known English (and Scottish) Unionists planned a “love-bomb” just before the vote, and how a late, principled strike by journalists prevented the publication of an almost unbelievable intervention in the democratic process by a well-known red top just before the vote! Instead, an emphatic (unauthorised) media rebuttal of the Better Together camp’s blatant lies served to get us over the line. Power to the people – to me, it was reminiscent of the story of workers’ solidarity so beautifully told in the Nae Pasaran film, something to restore our faith in human nature and the will of a nation!

Of course, it wasn’t plain sailing, particularly in the early days following the vote. The sheer and utter rage of the hard Unionists, the disbelief that the Scots could have the nerve to go it alone. The rioting and carnage that followed was awful to witness. Strange though – how on earth was that behaviour going to convince a single soul that we’d made the wrong decision?

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The transition period was a revelation. A time of optimism and hope – not easy by any means, but there was an underlying sense of relief and a feeling that anything was possible. Personally, having always been absolutely opposed to nuclear weapons, the sheer determination of the Scottish Government to remove the warheads from Faslane as an absolute red line in the negotiations was a joy to behold. I think, perhaps, that was a turning point for many undecideds – there had always been a sense that Holyrood would cave in to the pressure to retain the nuclear arsenal, that the power of money would prevail and we’d be obligated to retain the weapons for many years to come. The fact that this victory was achieved so early in the negotiations was an absolute game-changer and seemed to shift the power from that day on.

I was lucky enough to be selected for one of the first People’s Assemblies which helped determine some of the priorities for our country as we moved towards independence. What a privilege and a revelation. An assembly drawn from every walk of life and representing a cross section of Scottish life, new Scots and old. We started from positions poles apart in terms of our preconceptions and understanding of how society should perform. Many were initially sceptical of what we, ordinary people, could achieve. How refreshing to be able to debate and discuss from a politically neutral base, and how reassuring to find, at the end of the day, that most of us really want what’s best for ourselves, our families and our communities.

Of course, the rage of England following our vote and the inexplicable vote by the rest of the UK to leave the EU has left Scotland thanking our lucky stars that we’ve disengaged ourselves from this madness. A smooth transition to becoming an independent member of the Union following ratification by our own EU referendum has saved us from the fate of our neighbours!

We can but look on with sadness and marvel at how any sane government could inflict this enormous own goal upon their own people. However, to see our businesses flourish while those south of the Border suffer is bittersweet indeed, as most of us have friends and family across the British Isles.

Several things have stood out for me in the ensuing years, not least the way that an independent Scotland has been able to deal with the pandemic, which for most of us, came utterly out of the blue. In line with several other small, independent nations like New Zealand and some of our Nordic cousins, a seemingly harsh, even authoritarian approach in the early days has reaped many rewards. The power to control our borders, the decline of the private care sector in favour of our new, national care service, the clear, science-backed messaging and the swift implementation of an equitable and generous furlough scheme have all contributed to an outcome which is light years away from our neighbours in England and Wales.

The National: LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 27: Members of public protesting against Britain's nuclear weapons system Trident and demanding the parliament to vote against renewing the nuclear base in Scotland, in London, England on February 27, 2016. (Photo by

The removal of nuclear weapons from the Clyde was an early win for the new nation in negotiations with the rUK

The death toll they have suffered is sad beyond belief but the example of the way our government has performed is just one of the factors which is starting to turn the tide against the blight of the far-right which has been a feature of English politics over the past few years. The country which elected Boris Johnson (yes, seriously!) to the highest position in the land has been forced to concede that there may be a better way! We may yet see a socially democratic government in the very near future and the decline of the right-wing politics which have caused so much suffering for so many.

Talking of suffering, today is a good day. As one of the many women who faced a sudden change in their planned retirement age under the Westminster government, I am so relieved to be spared the unexpected stress of imposed delay of retirement with little warning or time to plan. Like so many others in Scotland, not only will I now be collecting my pension on time, but already it is a far more generous one than that offered to my contemporaries in the rest of the UK, and will continue to rise over the next few years until it matches the average of those of the rest of Europe – a dramatic improvement! This will allow me the luxury of more time to devote to the community projects I have become so involved in, and of course the luxury of spending precious time with my grandchildren – time we all know is so easily lost forever among the stresses of modern life!

MY family, of course, are also feeling the benefits of our decision in 2014; from the continuation and expansion of free at the point of use NHS, early learning and childcare, smaller class sizes at school, inclusion in the Erasmus scheme (particularly pertinent as one of my granddaughters heads off on an amazing learning adventure to Catalonia next year), I could go on. And this in stark contrast to England, where self-imposed austerity is once again biting and, sadly, privatisation takes an ever-increasing part in the delivery of NHS services.

I’m particularly thankful to see some changes which weren’t perhaps at the top of everyone’s wish list prior to the independence vote. Land reform for one – it didn’t really

strike a chord with a lot of people, however it really should have! The changes that are now being made will help people stay and work in the rural areas where they grew up thanks to changes in rules about second homes and vast estates owned by very few, extremely rich people. The ability for communities and individuals to purchase land for productive purposes has been simplified. The gradual repopulation of our long-abandoned communities is something which brings a lump to my throat. I’ve always felt a great sadness coming across derelict and ghostly settlements, whose inhabitants were forced from the land in days gone by. To see those places start to come to life is an unexpected joy.

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Of course, to aid our recovery, we have now taken a completely different path in terms of our immigration policy. I have long been dismayed beyond belief at the hateful “hostile environment” approach taken by the Westminster government, which has only deteriorated in the past few years. What a welcome contrast to see new Scots welcomed to Scotland and to feel part of an inclusive, welcoming country. I know my own community is a richer place due to the people from many parts of the world who have chosen to make this their home. It’s particularly personal to me, as I’ll now be able to welcome my daughter and beautiful grandson back to the country – after marrying a Canadian national, she had previously been dismayed to find out

just how difficult it was to navigate the immigration system here and had settled in Canada instead, meaning my grandson was becoming a stranger.

I’ve already mentioned the sense of relief now that our beautiful country is no longer home to the abomination which is nuclear weapons. I realise there is still a long way to go in terms of removing all the paraphernalia that goes along with the warheads, but we’re moving in the right direction. It’s with a great sense of pride that I see our nation reimagine our defence forces and take her place as a well-respected peace-keeping force in the world. A force for good, one I would be happy to see any family member join, in contrast to the dread many people felt when troops of the British armed forces were sent to fight and die in wars they’d no business being part of!

Pride in my country – I think that sums it up. I think the nation as a whole has rediscovered that pride has lost the “cringe”, has realised who we are, where we’re going and are very happy to be part of the journey.

We’re definitely not too wee, too poor or too stupid. By a long, long way!