The Covid-19 pandemic has been the greatest public health crisis for generations – but we can now see a light at the end of the tunnel, and the SNP government will continue working hard to rebuild and recover from the crisis.
Yet, as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis, the question many are asking is who should have the right to lead Scotland through the recovery and make the decisions that will shape our future for generations to come?
Should it be Scottish governments – of whatever party – elected by the people of Scotland and with the priorities and interests of Scotland at heart? Or Westminster governments – led by the likes of Boris Johnson – that time and again we have rejected?
The choice of two futures has never been clearer – growth and prosperity as a full independent member of the European Union, in a genuine partnership of equals with our friends in the rest of the UK – or accept the Tories’ Brexit disaster and a Boris Johnson-style government that we didn’t vote for, and which is taking Scotland in the wrong direction.
We’ve been clear that it is for the people of Scotland to choose if we have a referendum and that if we do, then it should be held after the pandemic has finished.
The pandemic is, of course, the overriding priority at present but when it subsides then surely the people of Scotland – not Boris Johnson – must have the right to decide how best to rebuild our country.
Our “Roadmap to Independence” clearly sets out that an independence referendum “should be held after the pandemic, at a time to be decided by the democratically elected Scottish Parliament”.
And while the Scottish government put on hold work on independence because of the pandemic, the UK government pressed ahead with Brexit and forced both Scotland and the UK out of the transition period in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis, against the express wishes of the people in Scotland.
That act of unforgivable foolishness has caused chaos for our vital fishing industry, put workers' rights and NHS protections under threat, and stripped our own young people of the opportunity to travel, live and work freely in Europe – all consequences that the Tories were explicitly warned about before Brexit.
Not content with dragging Scotland out of the EU against the wishes of our people and our Scottish Parliament, the Tories have also launched a power grab on the hard-won powers of devolution via their Internal Market Act, which enables Westminster to override the democratic decisions of the Scottish Parliament.
That Act undermines devolved policy-making, grabs spending powers and removes state aid from being a devolved responsibility – all from a Tory government which says “it doesn’t matter one jot” what the Parliament the people of Scotland elect and a Prime Minister who was caught red-handed describing devolution as a “disaster” and a “mistake".
The UK Treasury Secretary has also claimed that Whitehall will bypass the devolved administrations to replace European structural funds with a fund controlled by the UK government – which means that more than £100 million will be spent by the Tory government on projects normally devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
Over the past seven years, Scotland received £780 million in funding from the EU that was spent on infrastructure, economic development and workplace training. These funds are crucial to meet the priorities of Scottish businesses and communities. Now they will be decided on the whim of Westminster – in contradiction to the position unanimously expressed by the Scottish Parliament’s finance committee.
Boris Johnson is undermining devolution, which people in Scotland overwhelmingly voted for, and at the same time has forced through Brexit, which people in Scotland voted overwhelmingly against. Now he wants to deny the people who live here the right to choose a better future.
On Monday, we saw the UK Tory Health Minister Matt Hancock use a public health briefing to campaign against independence. The fact that the Tories feel the need to try to use these briefings to make blatant constitutional arguments shows how deeply rattled they are by the opinion polls, which say independence is clearly becoming the settled will of the people of Scotland.
And this week, Boris Johnson is to visit Scotland in an attempt to ‘save the Union’ despite Scotland’s clear Stay at Home message, and his Scottish Tory colleagues’ insistence that any discussion on Scotland’s future should wait.
With 20 consecutive polls now putting support for independence above 50 per cent, it’s clear that people in Scotland believe they have the right to choose a better future as an equal, independent country – rather than being subjected to governments they don’t vote for.
And no matter how much Boris Johnson copies Donald Trump by trying to deny free and fair election results, the people of Scotland will decide upon that future. In the end, the outgoing President had to bow to democracy – and the Tories will have to do likewise.
At May's election, we will make the case for Scotland to become an independent country, and seek a clear endorsement of Scotland’s right to choose our own future.
Everyone who lives here cares for Scotland. Let’s put our future into our own hands and build that better country we know is possible.
Keith Brown is SNP MSP for Clackmannanshire and Dunblane and the party’s depute leader