Leader comment: Respectful debate in interest of all Scots

Whether pro or anti-independence, we need to give report on independent Scotland's economy a hearing

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon plans to restart the debate about Scottish independence. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

News that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon plans, this week, to restart the debate about Scottish independence may come as a surprise to some who were unaware it had ever stopped.

Since the 2014 referendum, the constitution has remained central to our political debate and its impact on election results is evident: an SNP surge in the aftermath of referendum defeat saw the party return 56 MPs in 2015; two years later, anti-independence sentiment saw the nationalists lose 21 of those members, including former First Minister Alex Salmond.

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But although independence has remained the focus of debate, Ms Sturgeon has not always seemed sure-footed on the issue. A hoped-for pro-independence bounce after the UK voted – contrary to the wishes of most Scots – to leave the EU simply did not materialise.

Nor has the election, since 2015, of two successive Tory governments at Westminster done anything to advance the First Minister’s cause.

The First Minister has, for the past four years, struggled to describe a new offer from the SNP which might win over those who voted No in 2014. Instead, she has placed her faith – incorrectly it transpires – in people becoming pro-independence as an act of rebellion rather than because they believe in the merits of a new constitutional settlement. With the publication, later this week, of a report on how an independent Scotland’s economy might look, Ms Sturgeon will hope to begin to add much needed detail to her case.

The Growth Commission – chaired by former SNP MSP turned public relations executive Andrew Wilson – is expected, in its frequently delayed report, to offer solutions to the controversial issue of an independent Scotland’s currency and to suggest ways -we might overcome sluggish growth that has left the economy lagging behind the rest of the UK.

Some opponents of the First Minister’s political mission will, as a matter of political course, dismiss the contents of the report as soon as it is published but we hope others will engage on the substance within.

It is in the interests of all Scots – whether pro or anti-independence – for this matter to be discussed calmly, with participants acting in good faith.

Unionists demanded details from the First Minister. This week she will attempt to provide some.

Nicola Sturgeon deserves a hearing.