'FOLLOWING the Parliamentary Easter break the First Minister set out in Parliament the SNP approach to Brexit. This was a speech of two parts with the first part setting out the processes she would wish to put in place for a second Independence Referendum that can be activated if we are in a position where the UK leaves the European Union. Independence, the First Minister states will allow us to protect our place in Europe. Legislation will be introduced into the Scottish Parliament to facilitate a referendum that could take place from 2020 onwards but this would require the agreement of the Westminster Government.

Personally, I do not think we would be in such a position in 2020 as it is almost certain even if we have an agreement to leave the EU we would not know the terms of such an exit and we would not know the implications of any independence vote. Given that the rest of the UK is our largest trading partner by far we would have to know the implications of Brexit. Therefore, my own view is there will not be a second Independence Referendum before the next Scottish elections in 2021.

The second part of the First Minister's speech I found very interesting. She proposed cross party discussion/working on the big challenges that face Scotland and on the solutions. Scotland, in my view, has remained polarised between those supporting remaining part of the UK and those supporting independence with many hardening their views on each side of the debate. We have also allowed politicians and the media to define quite wrongly people as being either nationalist or unionist.

I say this is wrong because I believe for those who do not believe that the economics of independence are in our best interest, but also do not support the current arrangements as being in our best interest we must be able to set out the alternative way forward. I believe that Nicola Sturgeon's speech opened the door for those kinds of discussion and debates to take place in a calm and constructive way.

She also said her Government would establish a Citizen's Assembly. The detail of this is to be set out but the principle is one I very much welcome. Experience from other countries where they have faced division and hard decisions has shown that citizen’s assemblies can work. I know many are fed-up with constitutional debate but these are big issues that will not go away unless we can come together and work on the way forward'.