SUPPORT for independence has tended to hover around the 45–50% mark for most of the time since 2014. Meanwhile, the last poll shows that 72% of Scots want to be back in the European Union.

It has long been my opinion that a successful campaign to win back our independence has to focus on the European question, and it is important that we continue to refine and work on this case as we chap on the doors.

So as the SNP Westminster group’s Europe and EU accession spokesperson, it was good in the last weeks to focus heavily on Scotland in Europe.

I was back in Brussels a couple of weeks ago with our still, I guess, new Westminster leader Stephen Flynn for productive meetings with a range of stakeholders, including MEPS, diplomats, journalists and think tankers.

Contrasting the modern buildings of the European Commission and parliament with the dilapidated state of Westminster just about sums up the current situation of the respective institutions.

Everyone in Brussels knows there is a big proportion of Scots want independence and even more want EU membership back, but meantime Brussels is getting on with life and we need to be talking about the things they want to hear about.

Happily, Scotland has lots to offer on all the EU’s big questions. Energy, education, health, tourism, food and drink, IT services, financial services – you name it, Scotland is a willing and attractive partner.

Particularly on energy. Scotland has a secure and stable supply of fossil fuels now, and virtually limitless potential in its renewable and hydrogen industries to meet the needs of Europe at a time when the EU is looking for alternatives to Russian gas. The fact that the energy is clean and green is a welcome bonus as we look to ramp up the just transition away from fossil fuels and create jobs in Scotland.

What is also striking is the maturity of the SNP as seen from abroad. We have our worldview and our project, but we also work in the real world. We took a practical approach to the Windsor Framework, supporting the UK Government in ironing out some of the lumps and bumps in their own Northern Ireland Protocol, and this pragmatism has gone down well with our European friends.

We’re clear we want an independent Scotland back in the EU, but we’re conscious also that the closer the UK is to the EU the better for all of us, and the better for an independent Scotland in Europe. After all, in large parts, the relationship between Brussels and London will also be the one between London and Edinburgh!

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So if we can help get the UK back into Erasmus we will do so. If we can get it back into Horizon, we will assist. If we can get the UK more integrated with the EU, then all the better for us too. This is a scenario where everyone benefits – an independent Scotland most of all.

It is also an important space for us to occupy in the domestic political debate – as the most pro-EU party in these islands, we have a job to do in setting the agenda, where the Tories and Labour, even, amazingly, the LibDems, have all gone quiet.

In the end though, the UK can negotiate issue by issue, deal by deal but it will never be as good as membership of the European Union.

With the news last week that the UK has taken a step closer to joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (a trade agreement literally on the other side of the world), the UK searches in vain for the fruits which are so plentiful in the single market.

In this light, it’s clearer now more than ever why we must gain Scottish independence back in the EU.

It was therefore excellent to launch the first Scotland in Europe roadshow in Stirling last Thursday alongside our Westminster group leader, Stephen Flynn. The event was well-attended, with 200 or so folks eager to chat all things Scotland and Europe, but also chew the fat over the past few months.

The National:

There is nothing more encouraging for all of us than speaking with other SNP members and Yessers and post-Covid it’s important we all get back into the habit of speaking to each other face-to-face instead of screen-to-screen.

Earlier in the day, we’d met with local businesses who reiterated the costs of Brexit on their situation.

One organisation would never have gotten off the ground without EU funding. Another reiterated the added costs to farmers of exporting our phenomenal food products to our European neighbours.

Everyone was unanimous that leaving the EU has not been good for them.

So as the UK wrestles with trying to find a non-existent diamond in the ashes of its EU withdrawal, it is equally important for us to reiterate consistently why EU membership will be good for Scotland.

With EU membership, we will have frictionless trade with 27 other European countries. Our students will have access to Erasmus whilst our universities will benefit from the world-leading Horizon Europe programme.

Our musicians will not have to deal with touring visas to perform in the likes of Paris, Berlin or Warsaw. Our energy companies can help power the transition towards a clean, green Europe and Scotland.

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And all of our citizens will be European citizens, too, with their rights protected under the EU and the European Convention on Human Rights (the latter an institution the UK Government seems determined to wrestle itself away from).

Crucially, our party is united on this – that EU membership is in the best interests of the people of Scotland and our future independent state.

Instead of being a rule-taker under the UK or Efta, we will be a rule-shaper for nearly 500 million people. Business uncertainty will be minimised since they will know exactly under what conditions they will be trading under the EU or the UK. And for everyone in Scotland, EU membership means lower food and energy prices.

So as we approach Easter and some welcome time with family to unwind a bit, we know that there is a case to be made. The world has changed since 2014 (and 2016) and we must continually update our case and equip our activists with the knowledge needed to persuade.

Full statehood as an independent member of the EU is Scotland’s best future – let’s keep getting out there and make it happen.