ONE of the few “benefits” of being too unwell to fully participate in parliamentary business or take part in campaigning is that it gives me more time to ruminate on where I feel the SNP need to go to continue to be a) Scotland’s largest party and b) lead us to independence .

There can be no disguising that the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election result was a poor one for the SNP. We had the best candidate, the best policy agenda. I’m not convinced Michael Shanks was sure what Labour’s was except that it was whatever Anas Sarwar/Keir Starmer said.

The National: Michael Shanks, MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, takes his seat in the Commons (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

And yet the people of Rutherglen didn’t want to hear from us. There were some mitigating factors of course – the previous MP and the ongoing, seemingly never-ending, investigation into the party by the forces of law and order. But none of that completely explains why our vote decided it would rather stay at home than support us.

Since then, I’ve had to listen to unnamed MPs saying we should be putting independence on the back burner; others saying we should be seeking greater devolutionary powers; and others saying we should simply continue to grow support for independence until such times as Westminster sit up and realise that they’re acting undemocratically.

None of these suggestions appear to me to do anything to help grow support for the party or, even more importantly, move the cause of independence forward by one inch and I fundamentally disagree with them all.

If we put independence “on the back burner” we simply become another party asking for your vote while knowing that all we can do is try to make the best of a system that is built to stop Scotland from achieving all it can do.

The National: AUOB Edinburgh

Seeking more devolutionary powers might, if successful, make life a little bit easier for the people of Scotland but what sign has either of the two main Westminster parties shown that they would even be willing to countenance such a thing?

The Tories are taking power back and the Labour Party were the strongest opponents of powers coming to the Scottish Parliament during the Smith Commission process. The facts are all out there.

And as for the idea that we continue to build up support until we reach a magic, yet unknown number, which triggers Westminster’s democratic conscience? Do me a favour! Are we really going to face the electorate at next year’s Westminster election with a slogan of: “Vote SNP, Things Can Only Get (Slightly )Better’? Utter madness.

I joined the SNP for two reasons. One was to make Scotland a better place to live in and the other, connected, reason was my belief in independence and the right of the people of Scotland to have the decisions that affect them made here by politicians who live here. How does continuing the status quo go any way to fulfilling either of these? It simply doesn’t.

I’ve always been a believer in waiting for the optimum moment for that second referendum. However, if people in my own party don’t think that time is now then either they or I are in the wrong party.

We have had countless governments ignoring the wishes of the people of Scotland on everything from Brexit to the powers of devolution. We have the two major UK parties saying Scottish democracy is of no importance if it happens to go against their belief, although we know that they have said different things at different times on the right of Scotland to have its referendum.

We’ve also spent the last 10 years mitigating the worst of the odious Westminster attacks on the poor by spending hundreds of millions of pounds from a pretty fixed budget that could have been spent elsewhere on making life better for the people of Scotland. If this is not the right time to make the break from the corrupt uncaring Westminster system, then when is?

Neither the solution to Scotland’s ills, nor the continuation of the SNP’s success, lies at Westminster. In my view there are a number of things we can do to make that clear to all. First, put independence front and centre of everything we do, accompanied by a clear outline of why this is the answer.

It shouldn’t be difficult to compare the possibilities of an independent Scotland to the drab, dreich recent past, present and future under Westminster governments of whichever political hue.

Highlight that, outside of London, the UK has the worst transport system, a failing education system and a poorly funded health service, all in comparison to countries of comparative wealth. And of course it has the meanest benefits/pension system among these countries while at the same time being the most generous and accommodating to the super-rich.

I am hugely in favour of our partnership with the Greens and support much of, if not all of, what they have brought to the table. However, and it grieves me to say this, I do wonder if, as a devolved government living off a fixed budget we should be reconsidering our prioritising expensive environmentally friendly policies.

If we were part of a union that was all moving in the same direction on climate change, I would completely understand and support the sacrifices people are being asked to make. However we are living in Victorian Britain Mark II with not the slightest indication that Labour intend to change anything when they get in, just speak nicely to us as we continue to get shafted. Where is the benefit in us spending our limited resources on making a difference at the edges of climate change while the UK Government opens oil fields and opencast coal mines and continues to push back every environmental target put in front of it?

Our sacrifices are surely more symbolic than practically meaningful in these circumstances.

We live in the most difficult of peacetimes. People are struggling to make ends meet, some finding it impossible to properly feed their families. Should we not be reconsidering our funding priorities?

Should we not be using every single penny we can towards policies like our world-beating Scottish Child Payment where the benefit will be felt immediately by those who need it most?

The last thing I’d say is that every political decision is a matter of choice and comes at a price. It’s time the Scottish Government and the party made clear what those choices are, for example why we chose to spend our money on Scottish Child Payment, what potentially missed out and what more we could do if we had full control of the tax and benefit system.

Come the Westminster election, the people of Scotland will have a choice to make; I think it’s time we made sure they have all the facts, the costs and the impact that choice will have when they make that choice.

What I do not think is that we should stand on a platform of “Vote SNP, Things Can Only Get Slightly (Better)”. We need independence and we need it as soon as possible.

Make that front and centre of every campaign until it is ours. If we don’t, then all we look like is another party asking for votes simply to get into power.

We are better than that! We are a movement, a purpose, a cause.

Let’s remember that and get back on the front foot in the fight for Scotland’s independence.