After 20 years of devolution, it’s time to complete our journey to independence

On Saturday, people from across Scotland gathered at Holyrood to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Parliament.

After two decades of devolution, it is hard to believe there was once a time when we didn’t have our own parliament and government.

The Scottish Parliament is now at the beating heart of our democracy – and throughout the last 20 years it has worked to make a real difference to the lives of people across the country.

I’m proud of the many achievements that our Parliament has delivered in that time – with all political parties contributing changes that have made Scotland a better place to live.

Among the 290 Acts that the Scottish Parliament has passed have been world-leading laws on climate change, child poverty, women’s equality and LGBTI rights.

We now have among the toughest climate targets of any country in the world, and we are leading the way on equality and human rights, with policies like our progressive equal marriage legislation, and our ground-breaking laws on domestic abuse, and gender representation on public boards.

The Scottish Parliament has backed the social contract, and taxpayers now have the best deal anywhere in the UK – with cherished benefits including free university tuition, free prescriptions, the baby box, the education maintenance allowance, free school meals and childcare support.

Devolution has enabled Scotland to take decisions in line with our values and interests.

While Westminster has imposed a decade of austerity cuts on public services and social security, the Scottish Government has spent hundreds of millions of pounds mitigating the worst of the Tory Government’s cuts – including hated policies such as the bedroom tax.

While Westminster has spent the past decade tearing apart our social security safety net and demonising those on benefits, Scotland has chosen a radically different path.

The establishment of Social Security Scotland, with dignity and respect at its heart, and the creation of new benefits like the Scottish Child Payment and the Carer’s Allowance Supplement, typify the change we can make.

But recent years have also highlighted the limits of devolution and the cost to Scotland of not being independent.

Westminster has completely ignored Scotland on the biggest issues facing the country – from Brexit to austerity and immigration to foreign affairs.

We now face the prospect of Boris Johnson leading a Tory Government we did not vote for, dragging us out of the EU against our will and inflicting serious and lasting harm on Scottish jobs, living standards, public services and the economy.

As the Brexit crisis deepens, it is clear the only way to protect Scotland’s interests is by taking our place as an equal and independent European nation.

Only with independence can we fulfil our potential and build the fairer and more equal country we all want.

After 20 successful years of devolution, it is time for Scotland to complete our journey to independence.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Record.