I REMAIN to be convinced that Labour will win an overall majority at next year’s General Election.

Outflanking your opponent at every turn doesn’t offer an alternative. On welfare, immigration, Brexit , tuition fees, strike action, nationalisation and much more, it’s hard to tell Labour and the Tories apart, and inevitably many voters in England will stick with the devil they know. It’s clear that Sunak is playing the long game in the hope of the economy showing green shoots of recovery by the autumn of 2024. If he succeeds, even partially, we could be entering hung parliament territory with the SNP holding the balance of power at Westminster .

But for the SNP to triumph, they must fight the election on independence as the core and central campaign issue. Indeed, they must make independence the most attractive option on offer. It must be a rallying call to all those who seek to protect Scottish democracy, now under attack from a Tory government determined to unpick devolution. And ultimately, it must be an invitation to lock the Tories out – because only the SNP can beat the Tories in Scotland. And only independence can banish the Tories for good – a proposition Labour can’t compete with.

I’ve read assertions in recent days that the SNP are now “playing the long game” on independence. Well, I have news – we’ve been in government for 16 years – the long game has been played. Make no mistake – the next electoral test will decide the fate of Scottish independence for years to come and that opportunity can’t be squandered. Assuming an autumn election, it leaves the SNP 18 months to get match ready – and I believe we can win. But only if we’re fully committed to the tasks ahead of us – strengthening our party’s governance, prioritising internal democracy and getting on with the work that will deliver independence.

Firstly, we should communicate the refreshed case for independence which hasn’t been comprehensively updated since the White Paper of 2013. Readers of my contributions to The National and Sunday National know that I have repeatedly called for the independence prospectus to be published and subsequently translated into doorstep messages and campaign assets.

That work must progress at pace in the months ahead. It must set out Scotland’s alternative future as an independent country, laying out a strategy for economic prosperity, investment in public services and Scotland’s newfound role in Europe and beyond. Simply accusing Westminster of reckless mismanagement doesn’t persuade voters of our case and it won’t shift the dial. It’s up to us to spell out what an alternative future looks like, addressing the questions that remain unanswered and raising Scotland’s self-confidence.

Secondly, we should resource and mobilise a nationwide grassroots Yes campaign in support of independence and in defence of Scottish democracy, with the explicit aim of growing public support for independence to well beyond 50%. As someone who was heavily involved in the grassroots efforts of 2014, I understand the value of working across the movement. We should formalise a campaign with the likes of Believe in Scotland and the Scottish Greens and reaffirm the Yes declaration of 2014 that bound us together. Collectively we represent a broad, progressive cohort of Scottish society, from the left to the business community. This would allow us to platform non-party political voices, build on previous joint campaign efforts and organise occasional mass mobilisation events to build momentum.

Thirdly, we should empower our members and grassroots activists and that begins with internal democratic events. I’ve been calling for the restoration of the National Council for some time and members fully expect it to take place this year. Similarly, our postponed special conference to debate strategy should still go ahead. These two events could be combined – but they should happen promptly to allow us to focus on the substance of independence in the second half of the year. Last year’s annual conference saw an agenda largely shaped by the grassroots of the party. Motions like raising the school start age, abortion rights and land reform were properly debated. Conferences Committee put a red pen through self-congratulatory motions – of that I was pleased, but it’s just the start. Fundamentally, we must bridge the gap between party policy and government policy and work as one team.

As the saying goes, in the midst of every crisis lies a great opportunity. So let’s grasp it wholeheartedly – because Scotland can’t afford a future of Tory rule. Even the independent Bank of England is now urging us to accept being poorer, yet Scotland didn’t vote for a hard Brexit or years of austerity. Comments that are emblematic of a system built on privilege where the wealthiest remain untouched and the poor are left to rot – a reality that will be further accentuated during next week’s coronation.

Lord Frost’s recent remarks reveal Westminster’s contempt for Scottish democracy – be it the undermining of workers’ rights, the Section 35 order or the Internal Market Bill power-grab. Devolution is not safe. So let’s roll up our sleeves and fight for a better future – only independence can deliver lasting change, fairness and prosperity for all of our people.