WHEN I was re-elected to serve as the MSP for Clackmannanshire and Dunblane fourteen months ago, I stood on a platform that seeks to build a better, fairer, greener, and more just Scotland.

I have long since held the view that the best way to achieve this is by having the full powers of a normal country to manage our own affairs.

Independence for me isn't the end goal, it's the beginning of something new; a better way of doing things.

I am pleased therefore that last week, the first minister set out the Scottish Government's intention to hold an independence referendum on the October 19, 2023.

The people of Scotland elected a parliament committed to giving them a choice on independence, and that democratic will must be respected.

It must be up to the people of Scotland – not a Westminster government they didn't vote for – to decide how Scotland is governed.

The case for independence is a strong one, and over the coming months it will be presented openly, frankly and with confidence and ambition.

A couple of weeks ago, the Scottish Government launched the first of a series of papers, setting out what an independent Scotland would look like.

Titled Independence in the Modern World. Wealthier, Happier, Fairer: Why Not Scotland?, it's available to read and download on the Scottish Government website and I would encourage to you have a read.

When compared to other small nation economies, Scotland as part of the UK does not perform to its full potential. The vast majority of economic levers remain under the control of Westminster, meaning we cannot tailor our economic policy approach to Scotland's needs.

As the published paper points out, productivity (a key indicator of the health of a nation's economy) is much lower in Scotland than in other comparable countries.

An hour worked in Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Austria, and the Netherlands contributes much more to their GDP than that worked in the UK. An hour worked in Ireland is worth nearly twice as much.

Just imagine how successful an economy we could have, if only we had an economic and fiscal policy tailored to Scotland's needs, not disproportionately balanced in favour of the needs of the South East of England – as is currently the case.

A stronger and more successful economy is important. It will help us deal with issues like a cost of living crisis, it will embolden our public services to better withstand events such as a global pandemic.

However, for me, by far the most important aspect of building a better, fairer, and more prosperous society, is in how this will enable us to eradicate poverty.

Currently, the percentage rate of poverty of the UK is higher than every one of the above-mentioned countries.

Political choice plays a large part in this, but it is hard to deny the correlation between lower rates of poverty and smaller, more successful economies across Europe.

Scotland has so much potential, and independence – despite not being a magic wand – will help to unlock many opportunities for our country and the people who live in it.

I look forward to the discussions and debates in the months ahead.