THE debate on Scotland’s future has grown up significantly.
Compare it with the 2014 white paper and the differences are striking.
Back then the Scottish Government had the uphill battle of making the arguments to a nation unused to thinking of itself as even capable of independence, let alone whether they wanted it to be.
Now, it seems the argument isn’t if Scotland could be independent. The SNP have been in power long enough to cement that concept in the minds of voters and the groundwork has been laid.
Perhaps this is because more of the population is comfortable with the idea of independence, it being less novel to them now than it was eight years ago, perhaps it’s because few can point to the UK as a beacon of political or economic stability nowadays.
The 2014 white paper bizarrely included a list of things invented by Scots, as if to reassure weary voters that Scotland at least had the brains to go it alone.
No such lists were included in the Scottish Government’s new paper, which instead focused on the nitty-gritty of the practical points of growing the economy of a newly independent nation.
It is a chunky document, numbering 108 pages with 300 endnotes and includes dense discussion about the finer points of how Scotland could hope to trade as an independent country and the challenges of setting up a new currency.
But some questions remain frustratingly unanswered. There are good reasons for this.
The biggest one is when Scotland will join the EU. Many converts to Yes have been won over by the disaster of Brexit.
But without its own currency, access will be denied.
The workaround for this is that a new currency will be established but the First Minister refused to be drawn on the detail of when this would be implemented.
She said she didn’t want her, or her successors, being pulled up on pledges to introduce a new currency by a certain date, fearing this would “undermine” the tests which must be met before the Scottish pound is brought into use.
That is sensible but it leaves the Yes side vulnerable to charges one of its key pledges – to help Scotland escape the ravages of Brexit – falls flat, at least in the immediate term.
Sturgeon’s response to this is that Scotland would be able to apply for membership of the EU, even if it did not then meet the criteria.
We have no idea how long it will take to introduce a Scottish pound or how long it will take for Scotland’s membership application to be processed. Yessers must hope both are quick.
Questions around borders are also easier answered in the post-Brexit era than they were in 2014.
Accusations of “you want to throw up borders” when the UK has erected borders with 37 nations with which it used to enjoy unfettered and uncomplicated trade.
No border for people moving between England and Scotland, Sturgeon confirmed, but goods would be subject to checks once Scotland re-joins the EU.
Overall, the document comes over as confident, asserting boldly that Scotland not only has what it takes to become independent but that the reasons for doing so are becoming increasingly urgent.
The suggestion to build a sort of sovereign wealth fund for investment in green projects funded by a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies is predicated on the high price of oil, so time is of the essence to implement it.
But it must convince voters that leaving the Union is not only possible – that was 2014’s argument – now the Yes side needs to convince Scotland cannot do without independence.
Sturgeon put it well when she said that the independence debate was no longer about “certainty or uncertainty”. The Yes movement should seize on that.