ASK yourselves this. What really matters to you in your life? What do you value in the communities that you live in? What kind of country and society do we really want to be?

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon asked these questions at a Ted Global talk a few years ago.

She told the audience at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre: “When we engage people in those questions and finding the answers to those questions, then I believe that we have a much better chance of addressing the alienation and disaffection from politics that is so prevalent in so many countries across the developed world today.”

I’ve been pondering those questions a great deal lately.

As multiple crises continue their grip on much of the world, Sturgeon’s call for a focus on the broader measurements of health and wellbeing as a gauge of our country’s success (rather than our wealth or Gross Domestic Product) has never been more fitting.

When we focus on wellbeing and make the happiness of Scotland’s people our guiding principle, we give hope to so many who are plagued by apathy to politics. We inspire a generation who otherwise do not trust the ballot box to solve their problems.

Our country has experienced great upheavals in recent years and in these times of turbulence, our wellbeing has found renewed importance. And we have put in perspective those who are essential to our wellbeing.

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If the pandemic and associated lockdowns taught us anything, it is that our wellbeing depends fundamentally on a healthy and active society full of citizens who are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society. Without our healthcare workers and our teachers, this would not be possible.

It’s testament to First Minister Humza Yousaf’s ability that he was responsible for Scotland being the only nation across the UK to stave off industrial strike action in our NHS.

Communities which are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe are vital to a wellbeing economy and the role of social enterprises and charities in this regard cannot be overstated. It has been my privilege, during parliamentary recess, to spend time with some of those doing great work in the North East.

One of the many gems Banff has to offer is Vanilla Ink The Smiddy, an incredible social enterprise offering silversmithing and jewellery opportunities to many, including disadvantaged young people and neurodiverse people.

The North East is a powerhouse for Scotland’s wellbeing. So many of our national outcomes will depend on us. In Scotland, we are blessed with abundant natural resources and the infrastructure to make use of them. It is vital, however, that we protect these assets for future generations to inherit.

Their way of life and wellbeing depend on it.

Much of my work in parliament lately has been focused on the impact of the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis on our country. In the North East, we are already seeing the alarming impacts of these twin crises.

We are hit hardest by storms, rising tides and coastal erosion. Acres of forestry have been lost across my constituency as a result of never-before-seen gale-force winds. And the migration of cod and urban gulls has had a notable impact on the lives and livelihoods of my constituents.

And while many recognise we have a climate emergency, not all of us know that we face a nature emergency too. Professor Des Thompson, principal adviser on biodiversity and science at NatureScot, told me at the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee that while “there is a growing realisation of the nature emergency, we’ve got a long way to go”.

He told me: “What’s happened with gulls is a catastrophe, but it’s because of what’s happened at sea. The food base for gulls has declined for a great many reasons, so gulls have had to move inland. So they’re moving into towns and cities not adapted to breeding. Gulls are now very good at tracking schoolchildren where they know there will be ready food for them.”

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What we are seeing with gulls is just the symptom of climate change. The broader realisation of climate change contributing to the nature crisis and therefore to the problems we have on our doorstep cannot be overstated and our agricultural workers, more so than anyone else, get it.

They are witnessing these changes in real-time and understand the changes that are taking place.

Sustainable and regenerative farming is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s vision for agriculture. And rightly so. The twin biodiversity and climate crises are existential.

They will present challenges and opportunities for Scotland’s farmers and crofters and if we are to ensure that there are fewer of the former and more of the latter in the years and decades to come, it is vital that we act with our climate targets and net-zero ambitions in mind.

Agriculture makes up around one-quarter of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Throughout history, Scotland has been fertile soil for innovation. And our transition to net zero, building infrastructure that is resilient to the twin climate and biodiversity crises and the safeguarding of our food security, all depend on innovation.

In recent years, we have witnessed many disruptions to global food supply chains, most recently with Russia’s abhorrent war in Ukraine. The Covid pandemic posed some very difficult challenges to the global food system.

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And while those impacts were not unique to Scotland, those caused by the hard Brexit imposed on Scotland were entirely avoidable.

The UK Government has done immense and irreversible damage to our world-class food and drinks industries and to rural and coastal communities such as the one I represent. And it’s affecting the wellbeing, present and future of our young people.

At the Young Scots for Independence inaugural international conference this weekend, I heard first-hand the severe impact it is having on the education and prospects of the next generation.

As the UK Government turns its attention to curtailing our diplomatic efforts overseas, Scotland must ask itself another existential question: Does it want to be held back by Brexit Britain or flourish as an independent European nation?

On this question, at least, my mind is made up.