The longer we stay in the UK, the more damage will be done

All elections are important, but this one is shaping up to be the most crucial in more than a generation.

It gives Scotland a chance to escape Brexit and to secure the right to choose a better future as an independent country.

It’s clear that people here are increasingly recognising that Scotland has reached a cross roads.

Events both north and south of the border during this election campaign so far have borne out what the choice facing us is.

This week we had the extraordinary spectacle of former Labour and Tory ministers urging people to vote for other parties. David Gauke – who just a few months ago sat around the Tory Cabinet table – warned that a Tory majority would be bad for the economy.

Call me old fashioned, but I’m just going to urge people in this election to vote SNP.

These slightly unusual endorsements are symptomatic of a wider existential crisis which is engulfing not just Labour and the Tories, but the whole Westminster system itself. Brexit is not the cause of this broken system – it is merely a symptom of it.

And the longer we in Scotland allow ourselves to remain at the mercy of this Westminster chaos, the more damage will be done to our economy, and the more our future opportunities will be limited.

The Tories are desperate to claim that if only we can get out of the EU, all of this pain – that they have of course caused – will be over. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Alongside the economic damage of Brexit itself, what follows will be years, potentially decades, of infighting about future relationships and trade deals. Leaving was supposed to be the easy part.

There are many others in Westminster who argue that the way to end the Brexit chaos is to have another Brexit referendum, and secure a remain vote.

Now, it is in Scotland and the UK’s overwhelming interests to remain in the EU – so SNP MPs will always support another referendum on EU membership if it is proposed in the House of Commons. The SNP is Scotland’s remain party.

That vote may or may not take place in the first half of next year – but crucially, Scotland is not in control of if and when that vote occurs, or of what the outcome would be.

And I don’t think we should just sit around hoping that Westminster might suddenly get its act together.

There comes a time where we have to ensure that we can choose our own future.

Because even if there is a second EU referendum – and even if the UK doesn’t leave – the risk is that Brexit will continue to consume UK politics for years to come.

Nigel Farage, Arron Banks et al are not simply going to shrug their shoulders and go home.

The lesson of the last three years is that if you allow others to decide your future for you, you get ignored.

In the independence referendum of 2014 people in Scotland were promised that if we voted No we would be an equal partner in the UK.

We were told that voting No would mean we stayed in the EU.

And yet, five years on, those promises have been smashed to pieces.

The solidarity Ireland has been shown by the EU is in stark contrast to the shabby way Westminster has treated Scotland.

It’s time to re-set relations in these islands – to build a genuine partnership of equals with Scotland as an equal, independent country.

Scotland will always be the closest friend and neighbour to the rest of the UK.

And as a member of the European Union in our own right we can act as a bridge between the UK, if it decides to Brexit, and the EU.

So the SNP is campaigning to give people in Scotland the option of choosing a better future with independence.

This clear message is winning support and is setting the election agenda in Scotland.

It is for the people of Scotland to decide their future – not any Westminster government.

This case is unarguable – and perhaps it explains why both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have got into such a mess during their recent ventures north, in trying to defend the indefensible.

The Prime Minister flew in and out to a whisky distillery – one which, incidentally, had publicly warned against Brexit – arrogantly declaring that he would never agree to holding another referendum even if the SNP wins in Scotland with a clear commitment to hold one.

Take a moment to think about that. The Tory pitch to voters in Scotland is that it doesn’t matter how you vote in this election – we’re going to ignore you.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn came north and managed to articulate three different positions on a Scottish referendum in barely 24 hours, as his Scottish Labour branch office colleagues looked on ashen-faced.

Like Boris Johnson, he claims he wants to block the people of Scotland from choosing their own future. He just can’t decide for how long – which I strongly suspect is a sign that he know the position is democratically indefensible.

But both Mr Corbyn and Mr Johnson know that they cannot simply ignore a clear statement from the people of Scotland – expressed repeatedly and democratically in elections – that they wish to be given a say over their own future.

And that’s why it’s all the more important to vote SNP in this election – to put our future in our own hands.

There are now 25 days until the election – 25 days to ensure that Scotland can escape Brexit.

And that is the powerful message of democracy and hope that the SNP will be delivering the length and breadth of Scotland over the next few weeks.

This article originally appeared in the Sunday National.