What’s going to be in the Common Weal white paper on independence?

Nathanael Williams

We take a closer look at the areas that the new white paper due for release in 2017 will cover

THE COMMON WEAL thinktank has announced a new White Paper Project that will look at the systems, structures and finances for establishing an independent Scotland. CommonSpace looks at key aspects that they expect to cover throughout the project.


A paper on post-Brexit currency options was published last month by Common Weal advocating a Scottish currency pegged initially to sterling.

After Common Weal's report on currency, the Nobel Prize winning US economist Joseph Stiglitz spoke out, saying the idea for a currency union proposed by the Scottish Government during the 2014 referendum "might have been in hindsight, a mistake."


The thinktank has already published a paper titled Claiming Scotland’s Assets, written by researcher Dr Craig Dalzell earlier in the month and which will inform part of the final White Paper Project.

The assets paper looks at the different strategies that could be taken when dividing the assets and liabilities of the UK which, if executed properly, could potentially see billions in savings for an independent Scotland.

Fiscal position:

Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) 2016 was published last month and the figures, showing a theoretical Scottish deficit of £14.8bn after a collapse in revenue from North Sea oil, were used by pro-union politicians to argue that an independent Scotland would not be financially viable.

Common Weal is working on a paper using a different methodology to evaluate the potential fiscal position of an independent Scotland.

Instead of basing its calculations on a Scottish population share of the revenue and spending of what the UK Government spends (the GERS model), Common Weal advocates basing the data on what an independent Scottish Government would want to spend.

They expect to identify savings using this methdology in areas like defence and special projects, while increasing revenue in areas like tax avoidance and loopholes.


An independent Scotland in the EU with the rest of UK out of the EU would create a new challenge in terms of the border between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Common Weal will look at the issue of the border in terms of the easy movement of capital and people, proposing a more humane immigration and asylum system and a more effective customs sytem for clamping down on the smuggling of illegal goods.

Other areas:

Other areas likely to be taken up in the White Paper include creating a Scottish tax code that is less vulnerable to avoidance than the current UK system and treats all citizens as equal; a simplified welfare system; the international treaties that an independent Scottish Government would sign up to (including the question of the EU), the regulation of the financial services sector; and what sort of defence force an independent Scotland would need.

“When you scratch the surface of the UK state you can see systems and structures that have been added to and taken away over the decades in ways that make no coherent sense and clearly benefit special vested interests, such as the City of London,” Ben Wray, Common Weal’s head of policy and research said.

“The benefit of setting up new systems is that we can do away with all of that and build coherent and fair systems of governance, rather than replicating past errors. But to do that we need to put the work and research in – that’s what the White Paper Project intends to do.”

Picture courtesy of Toshiyuki IMAI

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