‘WHAT does this have to do with independence?!’ seems to be a regular comment on my social media from a small but vociferous element of the Yes movement, so it might be worth explaining how I work at Westminster and how I work at home for those who have not been paying attention Everything I do is about promoting independence at home and abroad. Having been thrown out of my first Parliament, I really am working hard to be thrown out my second and I didn’t win Stirling with 51% of the vote by not knowing how to campaign. Often you win people into a discussion by starting with what they’re interested in hearing, not what you want to say.

I’m the SNP foreign affairs lead at Westminster, so have a busy brief voicing the SNP view of global events and critiquing the UK Government’s performance on them, thereby demonstrating how we will do it as an independent state in the EU. We have four strands to work of my office. We can Do Stuff as the government of Scotland, and my job is to amplify that to a UK and international audience. We can, at Westminster, Critique Stuff and hold the UK Government to account, and Call For Stuff that they should be doing but are not. And finally, we can Commit to Stuff, giving an earnest of what sort of international actor an independent Scotland in the EU will be.

All of these strands are about giving credibility to the work we do now, showing we are serious, have done our homework and know what we’re doing, thereby building up the trust from the people of Scotland that we are ready for the next step. I’m building on work that has been started and developed by others, like Stephen Gethins, Angus Robertson and further back to the much-missed Allan Macartney and Professor Neil MacCormick. Building that credibility has taken time, and it is testament to that credibility that over the recent war in Ukraine the SNP has looked and sounded like a party of government in the European mainstream – not a protest movement or an NGO.

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But we are also using the prospect of independence and the exciting things we can do with it to energise people in Scotland that we’re not just going to be the UK but smaller; we’re going to be a different actor in the world and do things differently. The FCDO team at Westminster with Dr Philippa Whitford as our Europe spokesperson and Chris Law as our international development spokesperson is doing a power of work to build the case, and there will be more to come in the coming weeks and months. Likewise, my good friend and our defence spokesperson, Stewart McDonald, has launched Project No Surprises, an outreach project to make sure that our future friends and allies are not taken by surprise at what is happening in Scotland.

At home, I need to build the team in Stirling, and that means getting out from behind the keyboard (and getting out of Westminster!) and speaking to people. I was able to spend two solid days campaigning across Stirling over the weekend, and it was good for the soul, I have to say, after a week in the nest of vipers by the Thames. The local elections on May 5 are the next electoral event on our horizon, and are important to build the ground for the independence referendum and the work we need to do to persuade people that when the SNP and Greens have power, we use it wisely and to the betterment of all our communities – the same as Scotland will, independent in the world.

In Stirling, our team of candidates has come together with some real strength and depth, diversity and talent. We’re the joint administration presently with the Labour Party, and we’re going all out to remain the administration, hopefully as a majority. A few things have struck me as I’ve been out and about. Firstly, how pleased people are to see us out and about! Covid has been a long two years for everyone, and while we’re not out the woods yet, people are clearly comfortable about seeing folk on their doorstep.

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Secondly, how keen people are to talk and to talk politics. I’ve long thought that Covid has shaken a lot of people free from their previous preconceptions, both about the SNP and the constitution, but also about far deeper issues like work/life balance, where they work, how they work, how the kids go to school, what really matters in life and so much more. People have been keen for a chat, and while many might not quite be with us on the constitution yet, the questions are real and they’re clearly thinking hard. It is our job to be there to catch them at that curious moment when they fancy a chat. We might not have all the answers, but we’re on their side, and I’m convinced that the performance of Scotland’s government at home and the Westminster group “down the road” are building the credibility we need and the reassurance people need.

We face a cost of living crisis, and while we do not have any likelihood of winning a vote at Westminster, we can try and prove to the people of Scotland that the Tories really don’t have their interests at heart and the UK is going in a different direction to the one we want to see. For those cyberwarriors unconvinced by this approach, I can only say: the thing that is holding us back is not Boris Johnson’s absurd avoidance of a referendum. It is because we don’t have enough people in Scotland backing us. If independence was sitting on 60, 70, 80% of the population, no UK prime minister – least of all this blowhard – would stand in the way.

It is our job to build the case and win the allies. The council elections are our next vote. Let’s be sure and use it properly – not just to win control of councils so we can win them better, but in so doing win the argument for independence.