THE phrase “the new normal” is overused, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what the immediate future looks like and have come to the view that it is a thousand back-to-back online meetings. We’re all Zoomers now!

This takes a lot of getting used to, but I think I can make a virtue out of necessity and the SNP can use this time and the technology available to us to our and Scotland’s betterment.

As convener of the party’s policy development committee (PDC), I, along with the rest of its members, have a remit to encourage debate within the branches and the party and to facilitate the development of policy and endorsement of it by national assemblies and national conference.

Our structures are all grand, it is for the PDC to gently behind the scenes encourage folk to use them. But the reality is we are not going to be sat with a thousand other folks in a meeting hall any time soon, and our practices now need to reflect that.

But there is an upside – I can be anywhere at the click of a mouse. I’ve tried it out with the Stirling branches and with a few other constituencies and can report that a virtual branch meeting works well.

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It is not a properly constituted meeting so we can’t take decisions, but we can discuss, and I propose that each and every branch up and down the country uses this technology to discuss policy – and what the Covid-19 outbreak means for independence.

I’m of the view that a global pandemic proves the need to work with our friends and allies, not bask in a delusion of exceptionalism. There are some who would contend this applies only up to the borders of the UK and no further – I would disagree.

The UK’s failure to participate in EU procurement schemes for vital PPE equipment has had a real impact on the fight against Covid-19. The potential rupture of the UK, and with it Scotland, from EU research funding and expertise networks will diminish us all.

The remarkable admission yesterday in answer to my question that the UK Health Secretary was unaware of comments from the head of the EU’s Disease Control Agency indicates just how narrow a canvass the UK is contemplating. I think the case for independence in Europe is stronger than ever, but when we come to present our proposition for an independent Scotland it will not be a rerun of 2014 – the case will be different because times have changed.

The UK has left the EU, rejecting international solidarity for a backward-looking delusion that the world stops at Calais. Covid-19 would disagree.

The EU is evolving fast and dealing with challenges, and we should be part of those efforts, not pretend they’re nothing to do with us.

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We had, in the PDC, set the programme for national assemblies for the 2020, just in time for them all to be postponed for the foreseeable as the pandemic hit. But we can still discuss issues and ideas and I’m keen to do so. I’m available to speak, virtually, to any branch or constituency that wants to discuss policy – drop me an email to and we can set the meetings up.

I’m also working with our party spokespersons at Westminster for me as policy development convener to host specific themed discussions and meetings on their remits, so that those members nationwide who want to take part in a chew of the fat (and I’d not put it any stronger than that, we’re discussing, not deciding) on a particular issue. The meetings are obviously closed groups, SNP members only, and will be convened by me.

We’re midway through a crisis, and those who are on the front line need our help and support. Those of us who are less directly involved have a duty too – think about what comes next.

Now is not the time for politicking, but it is the time for taking stock and thinking ahead among ourselves. I’m keen to play my part and at the click of a mouse can travel nationwide to do so. Come join me.