FOLLOWING the abject failure of His Majesty’s Government and His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to engage with the central question in Scottish political life, the SNP has taken up the task of driving our national question forward.

The political backdrop to our debate has transformed since 2014: in every single parliamentary election since the first independence referendum, pro-independence parties have been elected to a clear majority of seats. Time and time again, the Scottish electorate look at the competing visions of Scotland’s future on electoral offer and choose parties which support Scottish self-determination and statehood.

In the same period, we have also seen the development of a new, more muscular form of British nationalism within both the Conservative and Labour parties. And in London, the UK Supreme Court’s recent unanimous ruling, shattering the myth that the United Kingdom is a “union of equals”, gave complete legal certainty to the fact that Scotland can only leave the Union with Westminster’s consent.

So how do we move forward from here? Faced with the short-sighted economic damage wrought by the Conservative Party and the timidity of the Labour Party, an impatient desire to escape the union is legitimate, shared, and understandable. Yet it would be a mistake to let this impatience author our strategy.

Over the past few months, I have spoken to countless members of the party and the wider independence movement. It’s no secret to say that we are experiencing testing times, faced with a government in Westminster that offends the social and economic fabric of Scotland, and divisive issues in and across our own movement. We must overcome them, and I believe we do that with an independence strategy that is sound and moves us forward.

In approaching the conference, I know that members of party will uphold that fine SNP tradition of robust debate and fraternal exchange of ideas. Political debates are often at their best when fuelled by passion, emotion, and grand ideas. But we must not fall into the trap John Le Carré described in his first novel: a group of political activists who “fought each other and believed they fought the world”.

We must go over and above the issues that have caused us internal division and instead match the moment that we find ourselves in. It’s time to upgrade our cause and modernise the strategy to secure independence by putting it on a new footing.

That is why I am today publishing ‘A Scotland That Can Vote Yes’. This paper is an attempt to step back from our debate and see it in its long historical context and give an honest assessment of where the national question sits today, and how we get to where we need to be.

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I outline why I believe we are currently having the wrong debate about a de facto referendum – a mechanism that I am not convinced will deliver independence - and how we instead get ourselves on to an alternative path that starts to deliver the sea change in public opinion we all want to see.

I am grateful to Alex Neil, a stalwart who commands considerable respect across the party, movement, and country, for his endorsement of the paper’s ideas and agreeing to write the foreword. He has enormous experience as a former cabinet minister and MSP of 22 years. Alex Neil and I have different views on big issues such as Brexit, but we are both in agreement that a de facto referendum is unsound and that a better way forward is needed.

As our Special Democracy Conference approaches, we must find the most productive way of channelling our energy into the development of a strategy which takes us materially closer to an independent Scotland. This, I believe, must take the form of a popular national campaign to drive support for independence even higher than it is now and to sustain that support to secure the necessary transfer of power for a legal referendum.

It must be our unambiguous objective in the next election to secure this transfer of power and do it with the public at our backs.

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That is why I believe members should embrace a strategy that will drive up support for independence, reinforce the mandate for a referendum and maintain our commitment to a legitimate process underpinned by democracy and law. This is what the public will expect of us.

There is a solid majority for independence in this country waiting to be won. Our job is now to turn a dispassionate eye to the long-term factors that drive support for Scottish independence and channel the energy of our movement into helping those tectonic plates of history to shift.

We have made it this far on our political journey because we stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us, and we owe it to their legacy to ensure we get this right. It’s time to up our game.