HAPPY New Year! Here’s to 2022 being better than its predecessors and the year we finally get to grips with Covid and make visible tangible progress on independence. In that order.

I managed to catch Covid just as I got back from London in December – my partner is a school teacher, so it was only a matter of time till he brought it home from the weans, or else I picked it up in the plague ship that is the mother of parliaments down the road. Either way, we were laid low for a few weeks and I’m still feeling tired, though I feel we were lucky. Honestly, the “it’s just a cold” crowd can away shoogle. This is a serious disease that knocked me sideways and I’m glad to live in a country where the government has taken it seriously.

I have noticed, though, that the amount of constituents getting in touch complaining about the rules has increased a little. There is a different pitch to some of it and I agree the weariness and frustration is rising – I share it. But the vast majority of people are getting in touch to clarify how to work within the rules, or indeed to call for stronger ones. Contrasting the perception of the Scottish Government with the UK, I’m confident that we have the support of the people we are trying to protect. Just as well; with record infection rates, we’re not out the woods yet. Where there are some hopeful indications that Omicron is less severe, to my mind it is far too early to say that that means we can relax. The next few weeks are still going to be bumpy.

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Aside from the pandemic itself, I’m also seeing a lot more people worried about the economic fallout from it and the cost of living more generally. Hospitality businesses especially, already on their knees, have been hit hard by the restrictions and deserve more support. I and many other SNP MPs (and others to be fair) have pressed the UK Chancellor to borrow further funds to tide affected businesses over until we’re through this health crisis, and avoid a lost generation to the economic crisis the pandemic has caused. Business support and the cost of living crisis will be a focus for me in the coming weeks as well as leading for the Group on Foreign Affairs work.

But all that said, the SNP is not just a political party – we have a cause. What about the big project, independence? I share the frustration that we’re not where we want to be, but a global pandemic is a good excuse – and more to the point, I don’t see that the people of Scotland we need to persuade are in listening mode right now when many are worried about how next month’s rent will be paid.

We are living through what the sociologists call a disruptive event, a time when people reassess their lives, their politics and their attitudes because change has been thrust upon them, not just by Covid and its consequences but by Brexit and this hapless UK Government. I think that a lot of people have been shocked at the UK, and reassured by the Scottish Government. This is why the opposition is doing a Scorched Earth policy – that anything Scottish must be rubbish, that being out of step with England (on anything) must have negative consequences but only for us. This might chime with the Rangers Da Facebook group they seem to be aiming all their comms at, but it does not chime with Middle Scotland. A lot of chickens are going to come home to roost as Covid (hopefully) recedes and the real world consequences of Brexit become apparent. A lot of people have recently for the first time given serious thought to who represents them and whether they share their values.

All this, I believe, strengthens the case for independence in Europe. When the referendum will be is for folks above my pay grade, but I think we need to be ready when it comes and restart the campaigning in earnest soon. The council elections are looming and are going to be vital – if all goes to plan, these will be the administrations that will administer a referendum and deliver vital public services before and after it. We need to make sure we hold and gain as many as possible.

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The SNP made the decision long since that we are not an oppositions party howling from the sidelines, we’re a party of government. We will make power work for the people we serve. We’ll be competent, work with integrity and deliver, thereby building the credibility and the case for more powers culminating in independence in Europe. I think a lot of people are more open to that than they were, precisely because of the frustration with the global situation we all share. Our challenge is to turn that into the argument for more powers at home, and solidarity abroad with the EU, the world’s global A Team.

It is a Chinese curse to live in interesting times, but here’s hoping 2022 is going to be interesting for the right reasons.