THIS is normally a time for reflection, looking back at key events of the past year and looking forward to what the future may bring.

There have been so many events over the past year it would be difficult to include everything, or even to go into too much detail, so this is just a brief overview of what has happened in 2016 followed by my thoughts on what 2017 could bring us.

In May, the SNP won an historic third term in the Scottish elections, claiming almost 49 per cent of the seats in the Scottish Parliament. After 10 years in office this was a very strong result for the SNP and a good result for the independence movement with the Scottish Greens picking up a further six seats.

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Despite the EU referendum having taken place six months ago now, and a change of prime minister, we’re still no nearer to understanding what the UK Government’s plans are for Brexit. Leaving the European single market could have a dramatic effect on our economy, costing Scotland 80,000 jobs and a potential loss of more than £11 billion.

The Scottish Government has published its proposals on how to keep Scotland in the European single market, yet there are still no details from the UK Government. Could you imagine the media coverage if we had won the 2014 Scottish independence referendum by merely stating “indy means indy”, yet all we’ve had from the Tory Government is that “Brexit means Brexit”. You really have to wonder how they are able to get away with this and where is the scrutiny from the UK media.

Of course, the other major political story of the year was the election of Donald Trump as president of the USA. It would be an understatement to say that his period in office will be interesting if his comments on Twitter are anything to go by. We will have to wait and see what impact a Trump administration has on both US and global politics, but the signs so far aren’t promising as he has filled his administration with some of the richest people in America.

His Twitter obsession will lead to a new era in political communication.

The political highlight of my year was the launch of my Private Member’s Bill. Only a few MPs get a realistic opportunity to launch such a Bill and even then it’s often after waiting many years for their name to come out at the top of the draw.

I was extremely surprised to get this chance so early and tried to use the opportunity to reduce the impact of sanctions on benefit claimants. Unfortunately, there was a lack of support from Labour MPs which meant it couldn’t go to a vote and this allowed Tory MPs to basically talk the Bill out.

It was an interesting process and I was glad to have this chance to try and bring in legislation in my name, however, the failure of my Bill doesn’t mean I’ve given up on this issue. Benefit sanctions is one of the most common issues that my office deals with and there are serious issues with the way these sanctions have been implemented.

A significant number are overturned on appeal, as are the actual assessments for various benefit claims. A recent report highlighted that 61 per cent of Personal Independence Payment assessments were overturned despite the two main companies carrying out the assessments being paid more than £500 million to do so.

In contrast, a recent report from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre has revealed that Scots are missing out on around £2 billion of unclaimed benefits, including working tax credit and housing benefit.

Turning to 2017, there will be opportunities to ensure that the campaign for Scottish independence grows even stronger. At some stage the Tory Government will invoke Article 50, announcing the start of the process of withdrawing from the EU. If we want to keep Scotland in the European single market then our best option will be to claim our independence.

Even if you don’t believe Scotland should remain part of the EU, Scotland can do so much better if we have the full powers of a real parliament rather than the crumbs handed to us by Westminster.

No-one believes the Unionist claim that the Scottish Parliament is the most powerful devolved parliament in the world – it’s complete nonsense. We’ve been handed more responsibilities but without the full financial or economic levers to make a real difference. It is the equivalent of being told to drive the car but only being given control over the indicators!

Next year will be a year for encouraging more people to come over to the independence campaign. It’s already happening and we should be welcoming everyone with open arms. We can attract more people over to our point of view if we show them the positive reasons for supporting independence and try to move away from any antagonism towards No voters. We need the support of as many people as possible to ensure that whenever the next indyref comes, we are ready.

We probably won’t get a long run at it like last time so we should be looking at every opportunity to put forward the positive case for Scotland having the powers of a normal independent nation. Let’s enjoy the festive break but refresh ourselves for the battle ahead.