THE Prime Minister announced yesterday that the UK Department for International Development, based partly in East Kilbride, will be taken under the direct control of the Foreign Office. It is an appalling decision, if it happens.

There are those who would suggest it is just a distraction to deflect attention from all the disasters afflicting his hapless Government, but I think there is more substance to it. This is yet another sign of where the UK is going and it is not where Scotland wants to be.

First, a confession. In the independence referendum in 2014 the UK’s role in international development was a major strength to the Union. There’s no question that an independent Scottish operation will be smaller. I remember many of those involved in or interested in international development in Scotland being of the view that the status quo was working pretty well.

Well, no longer. In the same way as many people voted No to independence on the basis of protecting their EU status, many people across the international development field will today be looking at where the UK is going and reconsidering whether Scotland would do better being independent.

The objectives are clear; the Prime Minister said it umpteen times in what pretended to be yesterday’s debate at Westminster. It is to broadcast the UK’s prestige and interests, not the interests of those on the ground – some of the poorest in the world. Politicising the UK’s aid budget means the priorities will now be entirely backwards. Aid will be allocated not on what some of the poorest and most vulnerable in the world need but how the UK wants to feel.

It is a desperate decision from a desperate government. Scotland can do better. Smaller states operate differently in the world.

I well remember hearing from the Norwegian foreign ministry on why they implemented EU sanctions on Russia over the illegal (and ongoing) annexation of Crimea when they were not actually obliged to – it was “because international law is all we have”.

The UK under these Tories is under a rather sad delusion that it is a major power, when all the evidence suggests it is on the slide – militarily, economically, and in the regard of the wider world. Brexit was a spasm, a last-gasp to show the UK is somehow special or exceptional, and deserves a central place in the world rather than having to submit to co-operation with its neighbours to make a difference.

Well, Scotland can do it differently, we lack the delusion of exceptionalism and will want from the get-go to co-operate in the world, making our own decisions at home and finding common cause with our friends and neighbours.

It is frustrating, for me more than many, that we are not yet at that point. When I see my Twitter feed, I’m well aware that there’s an expectation upon me to somehow “just get on with it”. I’ve devoted my adult life to the cause of Scotland’s independence, I’m not giving up now and am regularly energised by the enthusiasm and passion of other Yessers. But the fact is for many in Scotland we still have an argument to win and many are as yet unpersuaded.

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I have been (virtually) meeting people across Stirling, which I am very conscious voted 60% against independence in 2014, and many people are struck that the UK they thought they knew in 2014 is not the UK they see now.

Be it EU membership, the economy, the way Scotland is ever more clearly not in a partnership of equals and now on international development, people are examining which Union will work best for them and their communities.

WE need to keep that campaign going and have those respectful conversations one-by-one to bring people to us.

For the SNP, despite all our frustrations the polls are good, the momentum is good, the opposition at home is weak and divided and the UK Government on a daily basis proves our point that Scotland can do better.

And on the big prize, people are coming to us. We need to win the argument by making the people of Scotland aware of what is actually going on, not obsessing over process and hunting silver bullets among ourselves. In Stirling we are focused on building that campaigning organisation, we’re putting plans together to go after every vote.

We are organising candidate training for council candidates in the 2022 election and I’m delighted that the party’s local government convener and leader of next-door Clackmannanshire Council, Ellen Forson, is going to help us train up the next generation.

There is not an immediate prospect of a referendum because we’re mid-way through a global pandemic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare the ground.