IT’S been almost a week since the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, and there’s been a stream of comment, prediction and headline. I’m not going to add to it. Instead, I want to focus on what comes next.

The First Minister quickly promised to reflect, reorganise and regroup, which is important. We (and by “we”, I mean the SNP) need to genuinely reflect on how voters feel, accept constructive criticisms levelled at us by sympathetic voters and focus on how we can better deliver for them. Because the SNP has – time and time again in the last 16 years – done exactly that.

As the Scottish National Party, our strength is our willingness to listen to voters, adapt and deliver for them. To stand up for Scotland means to stand up for all of Scotland. It means to show compassion for the plight of families, households and businesses who are currently grappling with the impossibility of making ends meet and keeping the show on the road.

Then we need to reorganise, considering how to maximise our resources, inject buoyancy and enthusiasm into our campaign and inspire hope and confidence at a really challenging time for people. Our strength here is our members. Later this week, we will meet at conference, renew friendships and debate the state of the world over a free fringe sandwich.

The SNP isn’t an entity independent of its members – it is its members. That includes every member. In the last few weeks, I have heard members of the SNP talk about the SNP and I’ve reminded them that they are the SNP.

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But lastly, we need to regroup. History reveals, time and time again, that disunited parties lose the confidence of voters. Internal squabbling doesn’t endear voters to us. That isn’t an argument to shut down debate and reflection. In fact, to reflect requires an in-depth MOT – with plenty of open and honest discussion, starting at conference.

There will be disagreements – in fact, there must be disagreement for a proper debate to take place. Shouting down or penalising constructive disagreement is counter-productive, especially if those words comes from a place of care and concern for our country and our party. But then, after conference, we must unite behind a winning plan and proposition.

The key word there is “winning”. To that end, we can learn a lot from the last 16 years of power. I often reflect that our greatest successes are those which planned for the longer-term; when we started to lay the groundwork for a better nation. That requires ambition and careful planning. But I strongly believe that the people of Scotland are attracted to initiatives that will deliver for the next generation.

So often we hear politicians criticised for introducing policies that are time-bound by the next election. Few will plan for the long-term, because they want quick results. We know that real change will only be realised decades after investment and reform. In fact, it’s somewhat remarkable to see the Conservatives claim to be making “long-term decisions”, when the opposite is true.

The last decade and a half has been tumultuous to say the least. The 2008 financial crash happened, followed by years of austerity. The independence referendum was followed by the Brexit referendum. Covid struck, and we are now living through a cost of living crisis.

In that time, there have been a number of investments which I believe will continue to reap rewards for Scotland’s people in the years ahead.

We expanded free childcare to 1140 hours, which currently saves families around £4500 per child per year. That isn’t a one-off policy, it is one which will reap benefits for generations to come.

We built a new social security system, largely from scratch, based on principles of dignity and respect. People in need now receive much more support in a more humane way than if this hadn’t happened.

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We delivered 118,000 affordable homes, significantly increasing the supply of warm, affordable housing. We expanded free bus travel across the country, meaning that pupils and students can travel anywhere for minimal cost, increasing the use of public transport.

We built a bank – the Scottish National Investment Bank.

We have pioneered initiatives like minimum alcohol unit pricing and now drug consumption rooms.

But if we are to continue to win elections, govern Scotland and show the world why Scotland should be independent, then we need an equally radical prospectus for the next 16 years.

That prospectus must be built from the ground up – it must be informed by the grassroots, shaped by the party and appealing to all of our citizens. It must be radical, but realistic. Popular, but pragmatic. Inspiring, but relevant.

None of the current cohort of politicians might see the results, but the next generation will. And remember, good, competent government is part of the route map for independence.

We face twin crises of depopulation and climate change. Our focus should be on policies that support people to live, work and raise a family while also meeting our net-zero commitments. There are so many policy areas that allow us to do both. Common Weal have presented policy proposals as part of a Green New Deal for Scotland.

In the first sentence, it highlights the environmental crises and enduring social failures of poverty and inequality. Both should be our northern star. The compass, on every policy, must swing north.

For example, we should focus on eradicating fuel poverty while simultaneously shifting away from fossil fuel consumption – in that order. Doing it in the opposite way might help us get to net zero, but only at the cost of poor families.

There are some things we can’t control – like the energy market. But we should invest in the supply chain for renewables, with a laser-like focus on attracting new businesses to Scotland and ensuring there is a steady stream of new skilled workers to meet the need and work with energy companies to transition away from oil and gas – in that order.

Doing it the other way round risks thousands of jobs and jeopardises the Scottish economy.

We should identify a few ambitious infrastructure projects and pour our capital budget into those. It will mean that other, smaller projects might not proceed but it will be easy to identify the successful initiatives. The Queensferry Crossing stands tall as a testament to the SNP’s ambition.

We need to see the same again – perhaps in the form of fixed links to our islands, or a fully electrified rail system, or completing the promised dualling of the A9 and A96.

The total capital budget of £5 billion per annum doesn’t go very far, but over a few years of focusing on a few massive projects there will be no doubt as to the SNP’s ambition and focus on the future.

As an SNP member like any other, those are just my suggestions to deliver for people and planet.

Others will disagree, but let’s have a brilliant debate that focuses on the priorities of our people, demonstrates our compassion and care and helps make the case for independence.