The White Paper Project: Renewing the case for Scottish Independence

Ben Wray

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.