Don’t worry,  independence is still a great idea - Tommy Sheppard

Tommy Sheppard MSPTommy Sheppard MSP
Tommy Sheppard MSP
The SNP meets next weekend in Dundee to consider its policy on independence.

Don’t worry, it’s not going to change its mind on that being a good idea. Rather, the focus will be on how to achieve it given that the UK Government seems determined to block people here having any say on the matter.

Now, the first thing to say is that no decision will be taken next week. That’s a good thing. There is no need to rush into this. We need a considered and thorough debate which engages all our members over the next three months.

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And in case anyone hadn’t noticed, the SNP is having a few internal difficulties presently that we need to get beyond first. Of course, the arrest – and release without charge – of people in the public eye will undoubtedly create tabloid filling drama. It also allows the “no smoke without fire” brigade to point the finger of guilt. Our opponents are having a field day.

As I’ve said before in this column, I really have no idea whether anyone in the SNP has done anything wrong. But if they have, it must be dealt with. Firmly. Quickly. It’s the not knowing that is now eating away not just at our party, but at Scottish democracy generally. I have no desire to influence the outcome of the police investigation, but I do wish they would get on with it.

One of the remarkable things about politics here over the last six months is that whilst the turmoil in the SNP has unfolded, support for independence has remained rock solid. In some polls it has even increased.

That’s because people can see a compelling argument for Scotland becoming a self-governing European country with the power to take control of our resources and harness our potential. I think many also look not only at how the Tories have inflicted inequality and misery, but at how Labour now seems so timid as to offer no real prospect of change.

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Next year’s general election will allow people to express that ambition, and the SNP must put the power of independence front and centre of its campaign. But we must show at every turn how independence will make life better, tackle the cost-of-living crisis, provide funds for our public services, and move faster to net zero.

But we cannot pretend that next year’s general election vote will make independence happen by itself. There can be no shortcuts to becoming an independent country. It will require a clear, eyes- wide-open, decision by a majority of those who live here. And that is best achieved through a referendum asking a very specific question.

Last year, the Supreme Court said that the Scottish Parliament did not have the authority to organise a referendum. All our efforts now should be directed at getting that power. We are beyond asking permission. The time has come to assert the right of the people who live here to determine their own future. To demand a change in the UK constitution to give the Scottish Parliament the power to speak and act on our behalf. That is the mandate that we must press in the new Westminster Parliament.

Tommy Sheppard is SNP MP for Edinburgh East

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