MONDAY was a grim date for me: the second anniversary of our failure to prevent Scotland being removed from the European Union against our will. It was a real moment in my life, a day I had been dreading for months and years, ever since the weeks before the 2016 EU referendum when I realised it was lost in England.

I remember that day as well, I had just got back from a campaign trip to Wick as David Cameron excitedly announced they were extending the deadline for folk to get on to the electoral register. What he didn’t realise was that the same had happened as we had seen in the independence referendum 18 months earlier – people who had checked out of the democratic process don’t want back in to endorse the status quo.

I spent the next four years fighting Brexit, for Scotland, for peace in Northern Ireland and yes, for the UK as well. Where I’m a proud Nat and I want to see Scotland independent, I think we had to give saving the UK from itself a decent shot as well so that now we can look pro-EU moderate Unionists in Scotland in the eye and say we really did try. It’s a choice of two unions – Brexit Britain or Independence in Europe.

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The year of 2019 had itself been a rollercoaster, personally and professionally. At the start of 2019 there was not supposed to be a European election, then with the delays to Brexit because of chaos at Westminster there was, in May.

I was honoured to be the lead candidate for the SNP and we delivered the best result the party has ever had at a European election. Having been elected for my fourth time and settled in my great colleagues Christian Allard and Aileen Mcleod, I concluded that the fight to keep Scotland in Europe was in Westminster. It was obvious most of the Tory MPs sounding off and voting on Brexit clearly didn’t understand the first thing about it so getting into the House of Commons was actually where the fight was. My old friend and mentor Bruce Crawford and I made a plan for me to stand for Stirling at the upcoming Westminster election. We won it from the Tories with 51% of the vote in December Westminster election.

But even as the cheers echoed round the Albert Halls in Stirling, it was obvious that despite the result in Stirling, and across Scotland, Brexit was happening. With an 80-seat majority, Mr Johnson and his acolytes could force through anything they wanted. My first speech in the Commons bemoaned the fact that I had won but I lost.

In that speech I also sketched out some of the broad strokes of the independence campaign to come, and this is where I find myself two years later not as downcast as I might. I said that a union can only be maintained where there is consent and respect, that the people of Scotland did not consent to being removed from the EU, and that in passing the “grubby, shabby” Withdrawal Bill the Tories would prove the SNP right that the chamber I suddenly found myself in does not respect Scotland.

Two years later, Covid has thrown all of that turmoil into sharp relief and a lot of people, myself included, have spent the past two years reassessing what actually matters to them. Who makes decisions for us matters. Family matters. Community matters. International solidarity matters and what happens on the other side of the world, in a wet market, say, matters to us here too. Who holds power matters, what values they follow matters and accountability matters too. Covid has shown that the Scottish Government has been diligent and serious, and I believe the people of Scotland have seen this, especially pensioners who now talk of “our Nicola” with a respect many did not before.

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The damage of Brexit has for many been hidden in the fog of Covid, but clarity is in the post, especially as people start travelling again and are funnelled into the “rest of the world” queue. Attitudes too across the EU to Scotland’s EU ambitions are light years more positive – for us – than they were before. Scotland could be the good news story out of the ashes of Brexit for an EU that could use a good news story right now.

So we didn’t stop it, but I don’t see what we could have done that we didn’t. And having been through that wringer we have now boiled away the froth to a binary choice that faces our country: Brexit Britain or independence in Europe.

The last independence referendum was fought on the UK’s political ground and we were proposing change.

Next time we’re the ones proposing change at home certainly, but a regaining of the advantages, solidarity and stability taken from us by Brexit. That is an argument we’ll win.