It’s been a tough one for all of us.
We’ve faced time away from our families. I’ve lost track of the number of people who have written to me, heartbroken, about only getting to wave to through the windows of care homes to their relatives.
We’ve missed out on big occasions, from milestone birthdays to weddings to most tragically, the chance to properly mourn the loss of a loved one because of the limited numbers who can attend funerals.
We’ve all had to put our lives on pause. Even the most optimistic of us would have liked to have done more with this past year.
But it hasn’t been a waste because we have found the time to rediscover some community spirit and we have had a chance to learn again what’s important.
For me, that’s my family. It’s getting a little bit more time to spend with my wife Krystle and my young son Alistair.
That’s why I’m in this election, fighting for your vote. It’s to build a better future for the next generation.
And that’s why you will hear me so strongly argue against the SNP’s plans for another divisive independence referendum, when we’re still battling a health crisis and there’s a looming economic crisis still to come.
Because this last year has shown us that we are much better off when we come together. When we unite around a common goal.
It has demonstrated the very best of our United Kingdom and shown why it’s so important, to ensure we deliver opportunities for the next generation, that Scotland remains united.
We’ve seen that when Scotland is under threat, afflicted by a health and economic crisis, we are safer and stronger because we work together with our neighbours.
Looking back to the start of this pandemic, nearly a year ago, the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak threw traditional Conservative economics out of the window. He recognised the challenge facing us and he expanded support from the government like never before. His crowning achievement was the furlough scheme.
That UK Government’s furlough scheme has protected around a million Scottish jobs. It’s a truly incredible feat and it was only possible because of the strength of our country.
It is a feat not only rivalled, but surpassed, by the effort to roll out the Covid-19 vaccine.
At the moment of greatest challenge, facing one of the most difficult operations in peacetime, Scotland and the UK got it absolutely spot on.
Thanks to the unbelievable efforts of vaccinators in our NHS, emergency services, armed forces and the legions of volunteers, we have a world-leading vaccine scheme.
Today, I will be joining one of those heroes on the frontline, the Scottish Conservative candidate in Glasgow, Sandesh Gulhane, who is a GP by day.
Sandesh and I will be unveiling our election pledges to support Scotland’s NHS.
We will be saying an enormous thank you to everyone who has taken part in the vaccine rollout. I was honoured to be able to volunteer myself and see the dedication, commitment and good spirits of everyone who is going above and beyond to make this vast programme work.
It is a real Scottish and UK success story for the ages.
And I want us to continue having those same momentous success stories that show our country in its best light.
We’ve got to take this chance to focus entirely on Scotland’s recovery and get our country back up and running again, so that future generations don’t suffer more limited opportunities because of coronavirus
We’ve got to get Scotland’s two governments working together to deliver an ambitious programme of infrastructure and housing development that doesn’t just rebuild Scotland but rebuilds it even better than before.
We’ve got to use the global platform of COP26, the international climate conference, to finally take the necessary steps to maintain and improve our environment, while protecting jobs at the same time.
I firmly believe Scotland can achieve all these things and we can rebuild our country stronger.
But only if we reject the SNP’s plans for another divisive independence referendum because we cannot rebuild Scotland with all the division and the uncertainty that another referendum would undoubtedly cause.
You see, Nicola Sturgeon claims “independence is essential” to Scotland’s recovery.
Actually, Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom is “essential.”
Just this week, the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that public spending in Scotland is almost 30 per cent higher than south of the border, and that’s because of the Barnett Formula. That’s because we pool and share resources.
So today and throughout the rest of this election campaign, the Scottish Conservatives will unashamedly be making the argument that rebuilding Scotland has to be our top priority, instead of another referendum.
We will be proudly demonstrating the benefits of Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom.
The SNP will try to claim that their campaign is positive. It’s not. Their central, overriding, fundamental goal is divisive.
They want to break up our country.
We are going to stop them and get the focus back onto Scotland’s recovery from this health and economic crisis.
On to rebuilding Scotland, not another referendum.
And we’ll stop that SNP majority and the division they want to cause with our positive vision that Scotland and the United Kingdom can come through this crisis together, better than before, precisely because we will do so together.