JOINING the SNP was not a quick or easy decision for me. If life is a journey, so is politics. The rules have changed. The world of 2014 is gone. The UK will have its constitution and progressive laws gutted and redrawn over the next two years. Reactionary hawks look liberal compared to Trumpism.

The journey for Labour has been painful: unelectable and embracing Brexit at Westminster; pushed into third place by the Tories in Scotland.

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Scotland has two futures ahead of her. We can be pulled out of the European Union and single market against our will. Our financial services sector needs passporting rights to the EU or firms will relocate jobs and headquarters out of the country. It’s already happening. Alternatively, we can take control of our destiny as Scots and Europeans and deliver a Scotland for each and everyone of us.

The suggestion from the Prime Minister that special arrangements will be negotiated is fantasy politics. Europeans have already ruled out cherry picking deals. “Global Britain” is just a slogan. We are swapping the free market for a future of World Trade Organisation tariffs. Consumers will bear the financial cost. There is an opportunity for Scotland to remain in the EU or single market but we would need to be independent.

For me there is a fundamental principle at stake. The direction of political travel at Westminster has been seriously out of step with Scotland for some time: austerity politics; greater inequality; punishing the poor and low paid; and plans to scrap the Human Rights Act. Now we have an increasingly insular and shrill approach to “foreigners”. It’s going to get a lot worse over the next two years. We need to ask: is this what we want our future to be? Scapegoating and prejudice?

Why join the SNP? Scottish Labour MSPs point to the failure of the SNP to use new tax raising powers, cuts to local government funding, fewer college places, problems in the NHS and less social care. I want to see the SNP doing so much more on all of these issues. No one in Scotland should sleep rough; go hungry; be charged for being disabled; fail to have the best education; or be excluded from fair employment rights. I’d enshrine these principles as robust legal rights but it won’t happen with the Tories at Westminster.

Independence won’t be easy. We have a big deficit, as does the UK. Many other states in the EU and around the globe have been in this position. But what is our choice? More austerity and dependence on a Conservative Government or beginning a discussion about how to close the GDP gap without neo-liberal fantasies of low wages and corporation tax?

It might be tough in the short term but it’s an investment in our future. We need to have an honest debate about how we would build and develop our economy. Our greatest assets are our people. Taking a different path is a long-term investment. Do we want to have a confident, outward looking country where we give everyone the same opportunities in life, or continue on a narrow, bad-tempered path 62 per cent of us didn’t vote for? The politics of the Brexit referendum was spiteful and ugly. We have yet to experience the full impact of this folly. Voting No in the 2014 independence referendum was supposed to have guaranteed our place in the EU. As our constitution is about to be re-written without our consent, there is a powerful legal and political case for a second referendum.

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In 2014, I spoke on behalf of the Better Together campaign. The tone of the debate was often ill-tempered and divisive: much heat but little light. We can all learn lessons from that time. We need to have a fundamentally different conversation: thoughtful, hard economics, looking an international comparisons and not being afraid to admit there are risks. There are risks with anything but they can be mitigated. Opposing views must be respected. Above all we need to be honest. There are big challenges ahead but big opportunities, too.

The Conservatives look set to be in power at Westminster for the next three general elections. We can either be dragged in their direction of travel for a couple of decades: great for the tiny privileged elites, a downward spiral for everyone else. Or we can create our own journey.

Mike Dailly, Solicitor Advocate, writes in a personal capacity.