INDEPENDENCE is and always will be central to the Scottish Greens’ vision.

It was the 2014 referendum that made me join the party. It was the sense of hope, optimism and debate, with hundreds of thousands of people challenging themselves and each other to think bigger and better.

I’d never seen Scotland coming alive like that. Every coffee shop, every pub and every living room became a forum for debate, with families, friends and even strangers taking the time to discuss Scotland’s future.

We were promised one of the closest systems to federalism in Europe, but instead the years since have seen an all-out attack on our parliament.

I see it every day in my work as a minister. We’re forever being told by both the current UK Government and the Labour opposition that very basic changes simply aren’t possible.

They won’t let us introduce a minimum wage that people can live off. They won’t allow us to introduce better rights and protections for workers. They won’t allow us to build a migration system that recognises the worth and value of people.

I have experienced their full force. When I tried to introduce a simple can and bottle recycling scheme like the many that are already operating across Europe they acted as if the world was going to end.

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They said it went too far and that instead we had to wait for a UK scheme with no details, no dates and no plan. All of this may have been fronted up by Tory ministers, but they have done so with the support of the Labour leadership both in Holyrood and Westminster. Between them, they’ve formed a coalition against change.

The Scottish Greens are a party that will work with others to deliver change in the areas where we have common ground. We are in politics to make a difference for people and for planet. We will always use our position and our influence to put the people of Scotland first.

We are committed to working with progressive parties to deliver change on individual issues. It is what we did in opposition, and it is why we entered our cooperation agreement with the Scottish Government.

It is why, with Scottish Greens in government, we have taken on the vested interests and worked to reform social security while doubling the Scottish Child Payment that has helped to lift more than 90,000 children out of poverty.

It is why we have delivered free bus travel for everyone under 22, scrapped peak rail fares and invested record sums in nature.

These are Green changes that we are proud of.

Today the Scottish Government will be presenting its positive and progressive vision for migration in an independent Scotland. It will be a stark contrast from the punishment and pain that is so central to the hostile environment that both the Tories and Labour have been responsible for inflicting.

An independent Scotland will extend a helping and welcoming hand to people in need and open ourselves to the world around us.

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If Labour MSPs are prepared to stand up against Keir Starmer and support those kinds of radical changes then naturally we will work with them on an issue-by-issue basis to make them as robust as possible.

That is the approach that my Scottish Green colleague Gillian Mackay has taken on the introduction of buffer zones to stop anti-choice protesters from targeting hospitals. She has built a huge parliamentary consensus with MSPs from across the chamber.

It was the same when it came to gender recognition reform, where we worked across party lines to ensure the biggest majority possible.

Indeed one key achievement of the SNP, before the Scottish Greens were in government, involved similar cooperation. After months of blaming each other for the failure to find a way to mitigate the cruel Bedroom Tax, both the SNP and Labour decided to settle their differences, find common ground, and work together to agree on a solution. They were both due credit for putting the public interest first.

We are open to having conversations with others where we have points in common, as we always have been. Our position on the constitution wouldn’t block us from working with other politicians to introduce rent controls and tackle child poverty, for example.

These are all important policies, yet none of them reduce the urgent need for Scottish independence and for us to take our future into our own hands.

Anas Sarwar and Scottish Labour should have the courage to call out Starmer’s vision of a Labour Party, which has chosen to join the coalition against change by supporting a disastrous Brexit and a punishing two-child benefit cap while refusing to curb new oil and gas drilling.

How can that help Scotland?

A lot will happen between now and 2026, but one thing we know is that the election will be an essential moment for our journey to independence.

If there is a pro-Union majority they will halt our progress and allow the most important powers to stay with a broken Westminster government.

That is why it is utterly critical that we deliver – once again – a clear majority for independence. I’m confident that we can and that the Scottish Greens will form a major part of that majority.