REJOINING the EU will put rocket boosters on our recovery from Covid, and from Brexit, and will give Scotland the chance to shine. We had our SNP conference online over the weekend and I said this in my speech moving a motion on international trade and climate change.

It seems to have riled the right people but it also seems to have reached precisely the people we need to reach – those previously unpersuaded by independence but who, in the new post-Brexit and post-Covid world, are thinking really hard about where they think Scotland’s best interests lie.

It was online, of course. Life seems to have been one long Zoom call lately and I know I for one am really pleased that we’ve been able to get back to face-to-face meetings. Some people have thrived working from home, personally I have always hated it much as I have had a home office set up since 2004 and was already well used to it. I feel I never really stop working, but somehow never really start either, also that I do not see my job as sitting at a desk – I should be out and about meeting people and seeing how they’re doing.

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There’s no right or wrong of course and I hope that some of the learnings of the last 18 months will be kept – where working from home has worked is cutting down on commuting, saving on time, money and carbon as well as cutting congestion and allowing a better work-life balance.

I’d hope too that business travel will be very different in the future, with fewer meetings for the sake of it and more online meetings meaning fewer flights, hotel bills and wear and tear on individuals. We need to make sure that the changes benefit workers and their families, not just the companies saving costs.

And politics and the SNP has adapted to the new reality too. Our national Parliament has been virtual, and socially distant for members in the building, but seems to have adapted well with staffers and MSPs working remotely and things progressing smoothly.

The same cannot be said for Westminster, it seems to be the only organisation in these islands determined to go backwards. We were able to vote remotely on our mobile phones just a few short months ago, but now we need to be physically on the campus and troop through division lobbies at indeterminate times, with barely a few hours notice of when we will be required to attend.

I’ll confess, I think the whole point of a parliament is that we’re all there and can have the small background chats, the bumping into each other, the informal meetings that allow things to happen so I have less objection to the lack of virtual proceedings.

But the way votes are organised (and I use the term loosely) will continue to be a source of irritation to me for as long as I’m at Westminster I suspect. In the European Parliament votes happen on a regular scheduled basis and the guts of the work is done in committee, so by the time a dossier gets to the plenary it is well choreographed, there are few surprises and voting sessions are each Strasbourg week – at 5pm on Monday, noon on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 4pm on Thursdays – so you have fixed points in your calendar and can organise your time.

There’s a lot to be said for having few surprises! In Westminster we can guess that there might be votes, but we do not actually know and this leads to the biggest aspect of Westminster I find so irksome – the hanging about.

Politicians are busy people and we’ll always find things to keep ourselves busy, but the amount of pointless busywork I have seen at Westminster still staggers me.

Meantime, the action is elsewhere. I wrote last week that Scottish politics was about to get a whole lot more exciting, and it delivered. The SNP conference was a great success and testament to the hard work that went into putting it together.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon

We are pretty buoyant after the latest set of opinion polls showing a majority for independence and a very clear majority for having the vote when Covid is past us. This will be the fault line of Scottish politics for the next years and I was glad to hear our leader and First Minister (above) be so categoric in her speech to conference that it is when, not if, a referendum happens.

We have a job to do: persuade people that independence is the right choice, and the momentum for the referendum and for Yes will become unstoppable.

With every week that passes this hapless, mean and nasty UK Government is doing our job for us, and the people of Scotland are watching quietly and open to our arguments in a way many were not before.

All of my speeches are aimed at the unpersuaded middle ground – people who are not hostile to independence but have real concerns and real questions, people who voted for us to stop Brexit and are open to independence as a way back into the European mainstream.

We need to think less about when and how the referendum is happening, because it will, and more about how to win those folks over.