I’M back in Brussels after SNP conference – our usual jamboree of speeches, debate, catching up with old friends and new, voting and discussion. It was a great event, held in The Event Complex Aberdeen (TECA), which looked more like the Starship Enterprise than anything else, a great addition to the north-east and Scotland’s event capacity.

I’ve been trying to find the right words to describe the mood, but the best one would probably be: determined. There’s a lot going on in the world just now that is hugely frustrating. Climate change; Brexit; Trump; Putin; the ongoing war in the Middle East, most recently erupting with the Turkish incursion into Syria but still raging unchecked in Yemen, Syria and Iraq; authoritarianism in Hong Kong; the dreadful sentences handed down to Catalan politicians – there’s not a lot to be cheerful about.

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The National: The SNP solidified its stance on Northern Ireland at conferenceThe SNP solidified its stance on Northern Ireland at conference

But the party is in good heart and is serious about the challenges we face. People in Scotland are coming our way, many are not there yet but they are on a journey. People outside Scotland are looking at the Scottish Government with increasing respect. I know this from my vantage point in Brussels, often I hear “if only the SNP was in charge ... ” from folks in Brussels. If only!

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I proposed on the last day a motion for the party to take a formal position on Brexit ahead of the coming days and weeks to ensure the party membership endorsed our strategy, which is evolving fast. In the end it was endorsed by acclaim by the assembled delegates on behalf of the membership. It is worth repeating it here: “Conference recalls that Scotland voted overwhelmingly across every counting area to remain within the European Union.

“Conference also unequivocally supports the peace process in Northern Ireland which is underpinned and predicated upon all parts of the island of Ireland being in the EU, single market and customs union, and is deeply concerned the UK Government’s most recent Brexit proposals fail to properly respect the Good Friday Agreement.

“Conference reiterates that it is the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to choose our future and endorses the policy of the Scottish Government that if Scotland is removed from the European Union against our democratic will, then the Scottish Government will take all steps necessary to organise a referendum on independence and commence preparations with the EU for pre-accession and accession talks as an applicant state.”

Firstly, I’m delighted to say it has survived at least 48 hours! More seriously, it is a continuation of our policy. We have not been in charge of Brexit. The DUP may have been consulted extensively in the run up to Boris agreeing his deal with the EU but the Scottish Government was not. Scotland rejected Brexit and wants to remain in the EU. We have been trying to turn Brexit around, not just for our own benefit but also for our neighbours and I am deeply worried what might happen in Northern Ireland. I remember The Troubles, they didn’t impact me personally but

I remember well enough the hurt and sadness others had to endure. I’m back and forth to Belfast pretty often to keep in touch and it is a great place, despite a troubled history and complicated present. Peace in Northern Ireland is still fragile and the Tories are playing fast and loose with it.

The National: Boris Johnson announced a deal but his strategy is still one of fearBoris Johnson announced a deal but his strategy is still one of fear

The announcement of a deal this week makes some things clearer. For now we know what Mr Johnson’s strategy is. Actually, it is the same as Mrs May’s: scare everyone with the prospect of No Deal in order to push through a half-baked fudge, except with a Northern Ireland-only backstop, more bluster and more menaces to MPs. Since the half-baked fudge is acceptable to Dublin, it was acceptable to the EU27.

While I worry because I genuinely cannot see this deal surviving, I respect their desire to mitigate the damage to their interests as much as possible, and ensure as orderly an exit as they can. They are in a difficult position and though – for now – we have different positions I hope we can all understand and empathise with Ireland’s position. Their position also brings home to us that we cannot expect the world to solve our problems for us, the EU27 is, quite properly, looking after EU27 interests and we find ourselves in the pretty awful position that our interests are being looked after by Boris Johnson.

The deal will be put to the House of Commons today and the only question is how hypocritical and/or craven Labour and Tory MPs are and whether they collude, or hopefully resist, in nodding through a package that will fall apart in days. Tomorrow will be a complex day with amendments tabled on the UK Government motion, so there is plenty of opportunity to push for an extension or referendum.

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There will need to be an extension to implement the deal even if it passes. To be clear, this will be granted by the EU. I realise that for now they too are trying to pressurise MPs into voting for the deal and so are, in a more tasteful way, echoing the UK Government’s “this deal or no deal” rhetoric. However, it is not the case. The Benn Act opens the way to extension and, trust me, the EU will not say no.

In amongst the chaos I’ll keep coming back to the last paragraph of the SNP position. If Brexit happens (and we will try everything to avoid it!) then independence in Europe will be our only route back. We are already well advanced in our planning and the SNP membership has backed our strategy. We don’t know exactly what the sequence of events will be, but we know what our North Star is: independence.