Nicola Sturgeon lays out economics plan for independence - but questions remain

Peter Smith reports on the First Minister's economic blueprint for an independent Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon knows better than anyone the importance of winning the economic case if she’s to have a chance of winning a future independence referendum.

It is widely believed this is where the case was lost in 2014 with confusion over fundamental issues, like what currency an independent Scotland would use.

Today’s long anticipated economic paper was an attempt to fix the mistakes of eight years ago and offer clarity.

We now know clearly it is the Scottish government’s stated position to eventually set up a new Scottish pound, but in the mean time continue using the UK pound during a “transitionary period.”

An obvious question: how long will this take?

Well, we still don’t know because Nicola Sturgeon can’t say.

This timeline is important and it is a potential problem for the First Minister.

While using the UK pound, an independent Scotland would have no control over interest rates. Even more crucially, an independent Scotland could not join the EU as long as it was using the currency of a non-member state.

The Scottish government wants to hold a referendum next October. Credit: PA

Joining the EU is a big part of Nicola Sturgeon’s economic case, though.

So surely she can at least tell us, approximately, how long it would take to establish a new currency so Scotland could join the EU and reap the benefits of membership?

“I’m not going to put a number of years on it,” she said.

This would mean that on day one of an independent Scotland, the country would be be outside the UK and the EU, with no control over monetary policy and particularly vulnerable to turbulent economic times.

For example, if Scotland went into recession and needed to adjust interest rates, there would be no means to do that. Not without the Bank of England adjusting interest rates, and it might not be in the interests of the remaining nations of the UK to do it.

Nicola Sturgeon accepts going independent is not without risk.

And yet her case is somehow strengthened by an unlikely ally in Prime Minister Liz Truss.

No longer can Unionists argue that the status quo offers strength and stability, as demonstrated by the chaos of the last month which has resulted in the pound crashing and mortgage rates soaring.

The question now is about which path offers the least risk, as well as the brightest future.