The White Paper Project: Renewing the case for Scottish Independence

Common Weal’s White Paper Project to produce a series of papers on structures and systems of an independent Scotland brought together in one White Paper in early 2017

THE case for Scottish independence was never and cannot ever be a tablet of stone – it must be made and re-made constantly as circumstances change.

It seems that, after Brexit, everyone is very conscious of the fact that the case for an independent Scotland is in urgent need of renewal. From Alex Salmond to Joseph Stiglitz, big players in the 2014 referendum accept that there’s aspects of the argument that need updated in light of events.

This is a critical period for Yes supporters: Britain’s exit from the European Union has thrown the prospect of a referendum open again, but polls show Scots to still be at best jittery about the prospect.

There’s a confidence deficit in Scots’ belief in independence that needs to be made up in the Yes argument. That won’t be resolved through clever politics or deft diplomacy. We can only properly go back to the people of Scotland with another Yes offer when we have well thought out answers to the questions they didn’t feel were answered adequately last time and new questions that have been raised since.

What currency do we use? How do we deal with the collapse in oil revenue? How do we ensure Scotland has a credible fiscal position? What do we do about Scotland’s border with rUK? What would the division of assets and liabilities be?

These are some of the big structural questions that Common Weal is working on answers to in what we’re calling our White Paper Project.

Our White Paper is not going to be like the Scottish Government’s in 2014, which attempted to amalgamate structural issues with specific policy offers. We won’t be looking at, for example, whether an independent Scotland would raise or lower taxes. As far as feasibly possible, we’re going to try to focus only on the systems and structures in establishing an independent Scotland, not our own policy ideas.

It will be for a future election in an independent Scotland to decide on the specific policies to be pursued. What we want to prove with the White Paper Project is that on day one of independence the country can be well placed to pursue its own path in the world. From our perspective, that means creating the sort of All of Us First economy and society Common Weal advocate.

“What we want to prove with the White Paper Project is that on day one of independence the country can be well placed to pursue its own path in the world.”

We are not so foolhardy to believe that a small organisation like Common Weal can come up with all the answers. In some areas, we will simply be aiming to create a methodology that can be built upon in the future.

But we think we’ve already proven with our reports on Scottish Currency Options post-Brexit and Claiming Scotland’s Assets that we can look at the historical precedents and come up with answers that can be important strategically in renewing the structural case for Scottish independence.

Our plan is to publish more papers throughout the rest of the year on issues such as an independent Scotland’s fiscal position, tax system, defence and borders. The findings will then be brought together in one White Paper early in 2017.

You can help us: if you have policy expertise in any of the structural areas facing an independent Scotland and would like to volunteer your thoughts or time, get in touch by e-mailing If you are just very keen to see the White Paper Project be the best it can be then help us improve our limited research capacity by becoming a regular donor to Common Weal.

We can’t wait on high for the case for Scottish independence to be renewed – let’s get on with it ourselves.



Mon, 09/12/2016 - 13:46

The case is not in need of renewal. It is in need of reconsideration. The question that should be asked is: what is in the best interest of the average Scot? Instead, you are proposing "taking Independence as given, what seems a plausible policy in the areas of X, Y and Z?" It is classic think tank behaviour: you start with the "answer" then work backwards from it.

Jay Evans

Mon, 09/12/2016 - 15:56

I do not and never will believe in averages. No two people are of the same mind no matter what the question is. If it requires just a simple "Yes" or "No" then that is different as it then becomes a percentage, but if its more than just a quick one word response then each and every person will be different.

Jay Evans

Mon, 09/12/2016 - 16:15

We have to make sure we get it right this time but in the meantime we are being overruled by Westminster on practically everything.
Our foods are being labelled as UK goods therefore removing our Saltire and it's really getting to a lot of people, me included.
Why is this being done now? Why didn't it get done years ago?
There is something going on and it's like Westminster is sticking two fingers up to us Scots as if to goad us into a new referendum that we would lose at the moment.
I believe there is a chance of our own Parliament being ignored, as well as the Welsh and Irish parliaments, and losing our devolved parliaments to be ruled by England once again. This tory government will take away a lot of our powers and due to the fact that the people in the UK, and that includes us at the moment, are so apathetic and can only think of themselves, they will get away with it.
We have to get the referendum, or a UDI right this time, its crucial that we do!


Mon, 09/12/2016 - 16:41

Tesco is not Westminster.


Tue, 09/13/2016 - 10:59

So by your logic Maurice, what is in the best interests of Scots is having our budget cut constantly by the Tories? I think we need to deal with realities here. Labour is in no state to take power again as evidenced by this coup attempt. I suspect they will not be able to get into power in 2020. It would make sense therefore to consider all of our options and prepare for all of them.


Tue, 09/13/2016 - 13:30

Centurious, if the budget cut constantly by the Tories is STILL larger than the one that an independent Scottish Government would be able to command, then yes. It is incumbent upon the independence movement to put together a credible case for why we and our children would be better off. At present, the economic case is very weak. The taxes raised in Scotland per capita are roughly comparable to the UK as a whole; however, the services provided in Scotland cost more per capita, because of the large proportion of Scots who live in rural/remote communities. Given that state of affairs, how do we avoid the conclusion that independence will result in a lower standard of living? If that conclusion is unavoidable, what is the upside of that pain? Where is the presentation of a plausible cost-benefit analysis?

Mike Fenwick

Tue, 09/13/2016 - 14:50

Might it not be even more helpful to receive a plausible cost-benefit analysis for the UK - post Brexit?

Tony Perridge

Tue, 09/13/2016 - 16:04

You can ask one hundred economists for a cost benefit assessment for an independent Scotland and you will receive one hundred different scenarios. The public is looking for a black and white, clear-cut description of the future of either Scotland as part of the UK or as a separate nation. This simply cannot be done. One has only to look at all forecasts in the last decades of how the UK was going to perform and almost all of them are wrong. Excuses for this are always attributed to events outside of the control of the government, but forecasts are merely guesses and ideologically biased ones at that.

So, since nobody knows what's going to happen, either staying with the UK, the EU or going it alone is simply a leap of faith. That isn't to say that we shouldn't subject the question to serious debate, but at the end of the day it is a Heart decision rather than a Head decision. However, when you see the mess that Westminster has got the country into - £1.6 trillion of debt that is still rising, a no-plan Brexit, the annihilation of the benefits programme, the lack of investment in roads and infrastructure (unless you consider London), etc., - then it is hard to see how a Scottish government could do a worse job.

With a Constitutional Currency, valid only in Scotland and with mandatory full reserve banking to emasculate the all-powerful banking sector as a solid fiscal basis, I feel confident that the Scottish nation will fare well enough.

Mike Fenwick

Tue, 09/13/2016 - 16:42

The Fraser of Allander have just published a detailed assessment of what they believe lies ahead in the immediate future for the Scottish Budget - whilst Scotland remains part of the UK, available for download here:

Whether one agrees with their views or not it is a document that is worth downloading and assessing.


Thu, 09/15/2016 - 13:39

Mike, I thought you wanted to talk about Scottish independence.

Mike Fenwick

Thu, 09/15/2016 - 17:08

Maurice ...I could just say, "you know what thought did", but I have this gut feelng we will meet again on these pages, so whilst it is a guess on my part, I believe it is one which is fairly accurate, namely that the one thing we are guaranteed to agree on, is that when analysing anything it is best to do so having cast aside any rose tinted glasses.

Whether however we will have success in agreeing anything further is perhaps anyone's guess! We shall see. (Insert smiley)


Sat, 09/17/2016 - 14:38

I agree: analyse the case for independence without rose tinted glasses. Also, don't try to say that no cost-benefit analysis is needed because you are unimpressed by the lack of planning for Brexit.

Peter Winfield

Tue, 10/04/2016 - 11:24

If what you say is true what does that mean? We are too poor? We can never succeed? Dependency is our salvation?

We cannot have a guarantee of a more prosperous country with Independence. We can only have an opportunity to create one.

Your view that independence will result in a lower standard of living or that the economic case is weak is contested. According to some economists, the opposite is true. Many have said the data is too sparse to draw definitive conclusions. Who should we believe?

If what you say is true, how do we respond? Passively? With fatalism? Or do we treat it as an exciting challenge?

Forecasts are just that. Plausible forecasts merely chime with our outlook. They never describe with accuracy our future. However, they can usefully provide a vision or visions where, before, we had none. They also provide opportunity to formally sift and present the data and a case for us to consider. They can help us imagine possible futures. Crucially, they can challenge our preconceptions and have the potential to shift us from one state of interpretation to another.

It could also be true that pain is unavoidable whatever we do, even if it is nothing.

What is the upside of pain?

Alisdair McKay

Mon, 10/10/2016 - 22:45

Projections and forecast what a distraction, a country will only ever be what people make of it and the people living in it will certainly make a better job of it than anyone from outside it ever can. Lets take all that Scotland has going for it and offer it to any other similarly sized independent nation to see who would still be considering giving up their independence. We need to look at Scotland compared to a wide spectrum of similar nations depending on the aspect we want to examine then ask ourselves why we are dithering.


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