CONFERENCES are a special affair in political life. An opportunity to catch up and recharge with friends and colleagues, learn more about campaigns and causes from across Scotland, and sharpen up our party policy and direction ahead of the coming year.

I’m glad to say our most recent SNP conference in Aberdeen achieved all three, providing much-needed space for our elected members and activists to reflect both on the party’s recent challenges and shape our approach in the new chapter on our journey to independence.

The debate on our independence strategy was good-natured but passionate; encompassing yet pragmatic. In the end, the finalised motion as passed by conference delegates provides unity across our party, and clarity to voters ahead of the next UK General Election – combining a demand for powers to tackle the cost of living crisis alongside a mandate for independence talks.

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The SNP manifesto for the UK General Election will state on page one, line one, the following simple and powerful statement: “Vote SNP for Scotland to become an independent country.”

Should the people of Scotland once again put their trust in the SNP and we secure a majority of seats, then this will be a democratic mandate and basis by which to enter into talks with the UK Government to give this mandate democratic effect.

This could range from agreeing to an independence referendum, transferring the powers to hold a referendum and other powers, such as employment law, to the Scottish Parliament, or indeed entering into independence negotiations – taken forward by a Constitutional Convention constituted by the MPs elected to Westminster, MSPs and representatives of civic Scotland.

Conference also agreed to pursue the following actions:

  1. Publish “Withdrawal from Westminster – a New Partnership Agreement”, which would set out the detailed terms we would seek in discussions with the UK Government for Scotland becoming an independent country and include draft legal text on the transfer of powers from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament necessary to prepare for independence.
  2. Conduct a nation-wide consultation on a draft interim constitution, which would be the founding document of an independent Scotland.
  3. Prepare the ground for Scotland to rejoin the international community and become an independent member state of the European Union, by establishing envoy positions to act as representatives of the Scottish Government in supra-national forums.

We have now an agreed strategy to pursue independence. Talk of process can finally move on to substance, the why of independence.

Our party leader, and Scotland’s First Minister, Humza Yousaf spoke at length during this conference, as did many other fantastic contributors, on the core purpose of the SNP and the independence campaign – to convince more and more of our fellow Scots that we can build a successful, fairer, more equal and more prosperous independent country in the EU.

That is now the task before us ahead of the next UK General Election: to speak to as many people as possible across communities, industry and civic Scotland. Listen and address their concerns. Empathise. Take people with us.

We must rally Scots from every background and walk of life to the cause of independence, and focus laser-like on how the powers to tackle the cost of living crisis must rest with our Scottish Parliament.

It remains truly obscene that households across my constituency of Stirling, and indeed the whole of Scotland, face yet another bleak winter while their nation is blessed with the renewable power potential to keep them warm.

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That our farmers, producers and businesses face barriers to the world’s largest single market. That Scotland’s rural communities face demographic decline, and yet Westminster refuses a bespoke Scottish solution.

The innate right to self-determination is the belief that those with the greatest stake are those who live here. That anyone can call Scotland home, and put their collective shoulder to the wheel to improve the lot of their family, their community and their country.

Those beliefs and values are what we need to embody daily. I believe with every bone in my body that independence in Europe lies in Scotland’s future.

And after this resoundingly successful conference, we can see the path to it.