Analysis: Nicola Sturgeon's new independence paper leaves key questions unanswered

Nicola Sturgeon said her new paper setting out the updated economic case for independence would address people’s questions “openly and frankly”.

But those looking for detailed answers will probably be disappointed. From currency to border checks to the wider public finances, the 108-page document leaves much to the imagination.

The First Minister’s blueprint advocates moving to a new Scottish currency when the time is right. But at a press conference in Bute House, her official residence in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon would not put a timescale on this shift.

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The paper says an independent Scotland would apply to rejoin the EU, opening up the prospect of customs checks between Scotland and England. It references the use of technology to help with these processes, which will ring alarm bells for anyone who remembers the Brexit debate.

Nicola Sturgeon holds a press conference to launch the third paper in the Building a New Scotland series. Picture: David Cheskin-Pool/Getty Images
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"Any actual physical checks would likely only be undertaken on the two main trunk routes between England and Scotland or at rail freight terminals,” the document says. Asked for more detail on this, such as how queues will be managed, Ms Sturgeon said it will be provided in a future paper.

Elsewhere, the First Minister said “clear fiscal rules” would “put and keep public finances on a sustainable path”, insisting: “We reject austerity as both morally wrong and economically counterproductive.”

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Experts noted the paper does not discuss what this would mean for taxes or public spending.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said it is “highly likely an independent Scotland would need to make bigger cuts to public spending or bigger increases to taxes in the first decade following independence than the rest of the UK would need to”.

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The Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde said the “substantive issue – of how we would transition from current levels of revenue and spending to something more sustainable, in line with the desired fiscal rules – is not addressed”. It said the paper “leaves some of the most difficult questions unanswered”.

Speaking in Bute House, Ms Sturgeon said it is “glaringly obvious now that the UK does not offer economic strength and stability or financial security”.

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Many will think she has a point. But will the First Minister’s new economic prospectus convince anyone who wasn’t already sold? I have my doubts.

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