SCOTLAND welcomed the world to Glasgow, and spending time in the city over those few weeks was an invigorating experience.

To see the place I am proud to call home, and our country as a whole, play host to COP26 was uplifting. Countries large and small were represented at the top table as world leaders addressed the challenge of climate change, the biggest single issue facing us collectively as a global community.

And while Scotland was not represented in its own right at that top table, I have no doubt that not only are we more than capable of making our own way in the world as an independent country but, just as importantly, we will bring a lot to the table when it comes to making our own unique contribution to the global good.

Take climate change itself. Scotland is already leading the world in our efforts to decarbonise and to reach net zero.

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We already have the world’s most ambitious framework for emissions reduction, which has seen us nearly halve our emissions since 1990. Indeed, as the UK’s committee on climate change recently stated, “Scotland has decarbonised more quickly…than any G20 economy since 2008”. And in 2045, when we are pledged to become a net-zero economy, Scotland’s contribution to climate change will end altogether.

We still have much more to do of course – but the reaction to our efforts from the world leaders I spoke to in Glasgow was hugely encouraging. It’s all too easy to forget, amid the day-to-day politicking that goes on at Holyrood and Westminster, that Scotland has a great story to tell, on the climate agenda and much else besides – and that people across the world are interested in what we have to say.


Of course there are those for whom – even on as vital an issue as climate change – any hint of Scottish success, progress or potential needs to be downplayed, called into question or ignored.

Maybe that was why the Scottish Tories suggested during this year’s Scottish Parliament election campaign that they would refuse to co-operate with the Scottish Government on any issue, including climate change.

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That probably says far more about the Scottish Conservatives than it does about the Scottish Government, but it shows the extent to which opponents of independence are prepared to go to dismiss any notion that we can be a success story as a nation in our own right.

The case for independence is stronger than it has ever been.

The status quo that was voted on the 2014 independence referendum quite simply no longer exists. Since then Scotland has been taken out of the European Union and the world’s biggest single market – which is seven times the size of the UK market – against our democratic will.

The huge irony, among many, is that in 2014 we were told that the only way to preserve Scotland’s place in the EU was to reject independence.

We were also told that Scotland was a valued and respected partner in the UK and that by voting No to independence we would instead have the most powerful devolved parliament in the world.

The reality is that Scotland’s voice has been utterly ignored throughout the whole Brexit process, while our Parliament has been subjected to an assault on its powers via a power grab led by Boris Johnson’s government.

And no one should believe any suggestion that some form of enhanced devolution would protect Scotland – because the hard reality now is that no amount of so-called devo max would have protected Scotland from either Brexit or the Tory power grab.

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Meanwhile, the real-world damage being caused by Brexit to our economy and communities is huge and still growing.

Figures show that in the first two quarters of this year, Scotland’s food exports to the EU, including fish and seafood, were 14 per cent lower than the equivalent period in 2019. This compares with a three per cent drop for non-EU exports of food over the same period – that decline reflects not just the impact of the pandemic, but also the irresponsible, hard-line approach the Tories have taken to Brexit.


Meanwhile, the UK Office for Budget Responsibility now also forecasts the impact of Brexit on the UK economy will be even worse in the long run than Covid-19.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the UK Government is now threatening an all-out trade dispute with the EU in the ongoing row over the Northern Ireland Protocol. All of this is happening of course as Westminster is sinking in a sea of Tory sleaze reminiscent of the worst excess of the John Major years.

Scotland can and must aspire to better than this.

Independence will give us the chance to re-join the EU and its single market in our own right, and given our previous membership – meeting all the key requirements – we will be better placed than any nation has ever been to join.

Independence will also give us the chance to focus on our own needs, and allow us to prioritise things such as pensions instead of spending billions of pounds on nuclear weapons. The fact is that the UK sits at or near the bottom of a whole range of league tables of developed nations when it comes to issues such as welfare spending, equality and economic productivity.

Scotland can, and will, do so much better as an independent country. Independence will not be a magic wand, and there will be tough challenges to be faced. But the question is no longer whether Scotland could afford to be a successful independent country – the question now is whether we can afford not to be independent.

There is a wealth of goodwill towards Scotland from our friends and neighbours across Europe and beyond, many of whom are waiting for us to take our future into our own hands and many of whom have themselves become independent nations.

There is a cast-iron democratic mandate for an independence referendum, secured by the people of Scotland in this year’s election. Boris Johnson’s Trump-like bid to defy democracy is unsustainable and doomed to failure.

No country should be prepared to simply accept what Scotland has been subjected to in recent years.

As First Minister, I am not prepared to accept it because I know that a better way is possible, and that a brighter future awaits Scotland.

But the only way to make sure we do not continue to face misgovernment by Westminster and having our interests ignored is to become an independent country.

The time has come to take our future into our own hands with independence.

This article was part of our eight-page independence special, with one million copies printed and distributed. Click here to find out more