IT has been a joy to be able to kick start this year with such a strong focus on Scottish independence. It is fantastic to see it very much in the public eye as a discussion point and not just something we indy supporters are nattering about behind the scenes.

Having the opportunity to talk openly in the Scottish Parliament Chamber about the democratic right to hold a referendum, with it being the very first debate after the Christmas break, was such a wonderful opportunity to not only have this front and centre but to send a message that we are starting the year as we mean to go on and have some exciting events coming up to ensure we solidify this focus on our route to independence.

I am pleased to announce I have been asked to be one of the guest speakers at Aberdeen Independence Movement’s weekend-long grassroots independence conference next month.

AIM is a non-party affiliated independence organisation which, from a grassroots level, concentrates on the north-east of Scotland, not just the city itself. It will host the event at Aberdeen’s Altens Hotel on February 25-26, with some fantastic names from the independence movement in attendance.

I was at the first conference last year and was encouraged by the number of supporters and the expertise of the speakers and guests. It is a vital aspect of all our campaigning to ensure we get the right messaging for our regions. We are one Scotland but still very much have our own culture and politics from place to place.

It is certainly a strong start to the year and with the special SNP conference announced for March, this will be a crucial time for us in the party to forge a path forward.

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The resolution brought forward by the national executive committee for this conference sends a clear message that we have our feet firmly dug in the soil and will not be turning backwards. We can only move forward now, ensuring that we keep the momentum going.

I have read and listened to much discussion over the last few days on the resolution and the fact the response varies from person to person. This can only be a good thing and hence why it will be brought to a conference for us all to have the opportunity to amend or agree.

We have always been a party of grassroots democracy and that means putting it to our people. We may disagree but that disagreement ensures robust and thorough policy once it is debated out.

My own thoughts on any resolution are that it must be able to withstand legal challenge to have a clear direction with set out actions. Above and beyond this, I can’t stress enough how I feel in regard to making sure we are not looking at anything in a bubble, in our own wee political silos.

We must have a plan that isn’t just for us. That’s easy to say, for sure, but we must have a plan the Scottish public can get on board with. Without that we will lose the ultimate vote.

I think this is the aspect of any independence discussion which is vital to have in our focus. Getting a referendum and winning it are two very different things. Each step must be digestible for the public.

If we go ahead with a vote with public opinion being low in how we do that, it affects how they ultimately vote. I am in it to win it, not to score points against Unionists. That’s a distraction that ultimately wont bolster any argument of ours.

I have written the goals in my journal with all the necessary steps I need to do to ensure I progress through this year closer to achieving independence from my end and I will be holding myself accountable as I go.

As a politician I, of course, work, live and breathe politics. I see it in everything around me, from the price of bread, to my children’s education, to equalities as a woman, and right through to the home I want to save for and providing for my family.

I see it everywhere and I can get frustrated when I have conversations outwith my political bubble when others don’t see the connections that I do.

It’s a wake-up call when I am challenged to “live in the real world” because I see politics as the real world. But, really, most people just want to get food on the table, to have a job with honest pay, a roof over their heads, and good transport links. While I see all of this through a political lens, many do not.

I think we as politicians and activists must remember this when putting forward our thoughtsand ideas.

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When I was first elected as a councillor, I had no previous experience in a professional setting. I had been a carer and volunteer for most of my life. It was like having to learn a whole new language, or rather not just one. We have many “languages” spoken – from the corporate to the NHS, and education departments, they all had their own ways of communicating.

I liken that to what it must be like for those who are out of our bubbles, and its important we keep that in mind. My family are good at giving me a metaphorical elbow in the ribs when I go off on a political rant and they ensure when I speak, it is to them and not an audience of imaginary politicians.

We have an exciting year ahead for our path to independence, and I hope we can work together speaking the same language. A language a Scottish majority can get on board with.