Last week National Records of Scotland released the latest population statistics. They show that Scotland’s population is now at a record high of 5.44 million people.

The main driver for this growth is inward migration. In fact over the next 25 years, all of our projected population growth will be because of migration.

There is an important message here. While immigration can be a controversial subject, the fact is that Scotland needs to attract people to live here - for the sake of our own prosperity.

If we want to sustain public services and continue to build a vibrant successful economy, we need to grow our working age population, and that means encouraging people to come to Scotland to live and work. If we don’t, there is a real risk of our population going into decline - and that means fewer people doing jobs that need done, and fewer people paying taxes.

However, immigration powers are not in the hands of the Scottish Parliament; instead they remain reserved to Westminster. And instead of recognising this major demographic challenge by developing policies to help encourage migration to Scotland, the UK Government is trying to severely restrict migration, not least by ending freedom of movement as part of Brexit.

This is just one of many examples of a broken Westminster system that neither respects nor serves the interests of Scotland.

And it demonstrates - as so much of the Brexit mess does - that Scotland needs to have more control over our own future.

Since the vote to leave the EU, the agreed constitutional principles which have underpinned devolution have been cast aside by the UK Government. Scottish Parliament votes have been ignored and vital powers have effectively been taken way from us without our consent,

In place of an equal partnership there is a democratic deficit. The status quo is broken.

Twenty years on from devolution, instead of the Scottish Parliament having more influence on the decisions which shape our country, there is the risk it will have less.

Devolution was delivered by consensus, with the shared belief of putting the people of Scotland first - and if we want to protect Scotland’s future we must seek to build that consensus once again.

Whatever our different views in politics and on independence, these past few years should persuade us all that we need a more solid foundation on which to build our future as a country.

We may disagree on how we do that, but it shouldn’t stop us from having the conversation. Indeed, I know there is potential for common ground between different parties and different strands of opinion.

And it is vital that, as we look to the future, we do try to find as much common ground as possible.

We’ve seen in Westminster what happens when parties fail to work together. I believe Scotland can do better.

It’s why I have reached out to other parties in the Scottish Parliament and asked them to bring forward proposals which will equip Holyrood with the powers we need to protect and advance Scotland’s interests.

Together we can consider the major challenges facing Scotland and discuss solutions that might help us to address them, whether that’s more powers to tackle poverty, powers to grow our population or powers to give us a stronger voice in the UK.

Of course, it’s not just politicians who are invested in and have views on our country’s future.

To ensure people across Scotland can also guide the conversation, the Scottish Government will establish a Citizen’s Assembly.

It’s a concept which has helped countries like Ireland find consensus on issues where people have divided opinions.

We’ll bring together a representative cross section of Scotland to consider in broad terms what kind of country we are seeking to build.

In short, the conversation we will have about Scotland’s future will be an inclusive one. No matter your views, you will be welcomed with open arms.

Recent polls show us support for independence is growing. For those of us who believe Scotland’s future is best served with independence, we must continue to build confidence in that case by answering people’s questions, addressing concerns, and inspiring them about the future.

Brexit was not the choice of our country, but we will be tied to that fate if we do not choose another path.

A Tory minister told the BBC the UK Government should not agree to an independence referendum. They said “Once you hit the iceberg, you’re all on it together.”

Well, I believe Scotland’s future should be decided by us, not for us, and if the UK won’t change course then Scotland must have the option to become an independent country.

To ensure we have that choice, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation for a referendum, with the aim of passing it by the end of this year. That will protect Scotlands right to choose.

The UK as we knew it no longer exists. Change is happening - the question for Scotland is what kind of change do we want to see.

I believe it’s time for us to look ahead with confidence, and unlock the full potential of all Scotland can achieve.