SAFE to say, it has been a long few weeks in SNP politics.

I have not mentioned recent party events in this column because I don’t see there’s much usefully to be added while investigations are ongoing and see no point in feeding a speculation-hungry feeding frenzy.

I was a member of the National Executive Committee for 16 years and have been loyal to my party and its leadership, whoever they have been, in my continuous party membership since 1996.

The whole point of politics for me is fraternity and loyalty, both of which are based on trust. You trust your colleagues to be loyal, you trust the procedures and rules, and internal scrutiny, to ensure ongoing competence.

You trust that everyone will publicly support the agreed policy of the party even if they have private doubts about it because we’re a collective and the cause of independence and the strength of the collective are bigger than any one individual. I’ve been, remarkably, accused of Stalinism for that. I’d simply call it loyalty. I’ve raised privately within the party my own thoughts on the efficacy of the NEC, and the information leaked to a hostile media and I didn’t get much thanks for it.

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We’re not short of enemies in the UK and Scottish establishment who will be all too quick to hold us to unearthly standards of accountability while turning blind eyes to industrial-scale wrongdoing elsewhere. We’re midway through an independent investigation, so it is best we all hold our thoughts, in public at least, until it concludes. There will be plenty of time for consequences then.

Meantime, I remain upbeat that the people of Scotland have bigger issues to think about than the internal travails of one party and that independence remains the first and biggest step to fixing the problems we all face.

The cause of independence remains bigger than any of us, and Young Scots for Independence did us all a favour last weekend by organising an impressive gathering to discuss independence in Europe.

It was a pleasure to speak at the first YSI international conference. I reiterated that our future relationship with Europe remains a central plank of the SNP’s vision and that we will continue to develop those ties. In an increasingly polarised world, such in-person events with international friends are especially vital.

And the world has changed significantly. A decade ago, the UK was a member of the European Union. A Trump presidency existed only in the Simpsons. Support for Scottish independence stood at 29%. In the moment, it can feel like nothing changes. It is only with hindsight that we can see how much can change there has been in a short time span.

The conference programme included a wide variety of speakers, from politicians to activists to strategists and academics. The international delegations delivered presentations on the politics of their home countries, the challenges they are facing and the opportunities that lie ahead.

Our European future was discussed passionately and with serious debate as our young people discussed how to best address common challenges such as climate change, inequality and the rise of the far-right.

The conference culminated in The Edinburgh Pledge, where delegates committed to continuing to support Scotland joining the EU when it votes for independence in a legal and internationally recognised referendum. All credit to the YSI for their hard work in bringing this together, particularly their international officer, Olaf Stando.

As a passionate Scottish European, I always find it heartening to see others in our party take the initiative to engage with our European partners. It is equally heartening to see us be a pro-European, pro-independence movement which strives for full statehood not to be apart from the world but to join it.

With 72% of Scots backing a return to EU membership, it is absolutely clear that joining the EU must be a core part of the independence prospectus.

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I genuinely hope this is a type of conference which the SNP can engage in going forward. We have a vision to sell and there are those who are interested in hearing it, but it is up to us to get out there and speak to them instead of remaining in our social media bubbles.

At the same time, we must set out our stall on what Scotland offers the world but also what an independent Scotland can offer our own people at home.

There is a wide variety of areas in which we can engage with the EU, both now and in the future. Scotland’s clean energy resources should be used to help lower bills at home while helping Europe transition away from hydrocarbons.

Our universities should be able to engage freely with counterparts in Europe through programmes such as Horizon or Erasmus. And our businesses should be supported to help overcome the post-Brexit trade barriers that have threatened their viability.

Some of this can be achieved now – if the UK wanted that to happen. But it will only be with the powers of independence that our full potential will be unleashed.

Conferences such as last weekend’s are setting the tram tracks for a more fruitful, more productive relationship between Scotland and Europe. All of these young people will have a part to play in the coming years in building the European societies of the future, whether it be in politics or in some other sector.

It’s important that, as we enter the next crucial years, we empower them to do so.