The 77th Annual Conference of the Scottish National Party, recently held in Inverness, was a record breaker in terms of attendance - with delegates, observers and journalists overflowing the Eden Court Theatre complex.

Record numbers of diplomats and overseas visitors attended the Conference too, reflecting the fact that Scotland's political evolution towards Independence is of great interest around the world. It has been most enjoyable in the European Parliament since the election in May, to have colleagues from other Independence parties expressing strong support for our aims, and showing considerable amounts of envy at the SNP rate of electoral advance.

Fellow MEPs from normal, already independent, nations are keenly interested in our progress too. They know very well that the right of input at the top table in the EU is of immense value, and only available as an automatic right to independent Member States. The guaranteed right to represent our own interests in the international community is one of the most compelling reasons for voting Yes for Independence.

Membership of the European Union is hugely important, not just to us, but to the rest of the EU too. Around Scotland's coasts lie much of Europe's oil and gas reserves, and we have massive development potential in renewables too. And our fishing waters are a vital, and renewable, resource.

With Independence we will remain part of the EU, but with much more of an input into policy. At present our interests in Europe are generally represented (and often mis-represented) by the Westminster government. An independent Scotland will be able to speak up for itself, communicating our distinctive circumstances and needs, particularly in areas such as energy, agriculture and fishing, at the top table. With Independence Scotland would have much more political clout in arguing the case for replacement of the current, discredited, Common Fisheries Policy.

With independence, we will be able to make the most of opportunities to supply energy to EU markets, and to establish a fund for our oil and gas revenues, just like Norway's National Pension Fund, which sees the fruits of its energy wealth invested for the future of the country. Instead of Scotland's oil money flowing to Westminster, as at present, independence will enable us to invest it for the long-term benefit of the Scottish people.

Crucially important policy decisions are debated, jointly by MEPs and the 27 Member State governments of the EU, which will shape the future of agriculture and fisheries policies, and create massive opportunities for Scottish jobs in the renewable energy sector. It is vital that Scotland's voice is heard, loud and clear.

The SNP Conference provided a launch pad for the campaign to win a Yes vote for Scottish Independence in the forthcoming referendum, to be held as promised during the latter part of this five-year term of the SNP Government.

Every SNP member and supporter can play a part in encouraging voters in Scotland to join the other normal nations of the world, by voting Yes to Independence.

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