While there is no doubt that the priority of the Scottish Government right now is to guide the country as safely as possible through the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been a week of big news for the growing number of supporters of the case for Scottish independence.
With the SNP unveiling a roadmap to a referendum that is beyond legal challenge, we now have a clearer picture of how a vote on whether Scotland should be an independent country can be held once the pandemic is over.
As Nicola Sturgeon has clearly said, the pandemic is the overriding priority at present, but when that subsides the people of Scotland must have the right to decide how best to rebuild our country. And the conclusion that an increasing number of people are coming to is that Scotland’s future will be fairer and more equal as an independent country, rather than as part of an increasingly dysfunctional United Kingdom.
The Scottish Government, of which I am a member, maintains that a referendum must be beyond legal challenge to ensure legitimacy and acceptance at home and abroad. This is the surest way by far of becoming an independent country. A referendum should be held after the pandemic, at a time to be decided by the democratically elected Scottish Parliament. The SNP believes that should be in the early part of the new term.
Of course the issue of whether there should be an referendum is different from the issue of whether Scotland should be independent. To that end a national campaign of information and education on independence, hopefully within the context of a renewed and widely based Yes campaign, will take place in parallel with the work being done to organise the referendum. Such a campaign, which I am looking forward greatly to being part of, will take place during and after the passage through the Scottish Parliament of a short draft bill for an independence referendum.
It is clear that the process of getting to a referendum is important as it must be legally watertight, but I know that it is the substance of what independence will mean for the people of Scotland that I and so many other supporters will be keen to take to voters across the country when the time comes.
That is what around 1000 SNP members, including your local candidate Robert Leslie, discussed as they gathered for Sunday’s virtual National Assembly. Folk from across Scotland – and some further afield thanks to the nature of the event – had numerous lively discussions around topics such as engaging with the international community, and how to deal with disinformation.
All this came on the same weekend as the the 20th poll in a row showed a majority for independence, indicating a really strong trend as we head towards the Scottish Parliament election in May.
This election campaign may be more online than on doorsteps, but I sense that the debates will be every bit as keen as ever.
Stay strong folks.
This is a regular column by SNP MSP Maree Todd. All regional Highlands and Islands MSPs have been offered the same space to share their personal views in The Orkney News