THE Social Justice and Fairness Commission, established by Nicola Sturgeon, publishes the first in a series of new discussion papers this week. Their paper, A Secure Income for All, will also form the basis of the SNP’s online National Assembly next week. I’m really looking forward to welcoming SNP members to that event, and to the undoubtedly lively debate that will ensue.

Under the stewardship of Shona Robison MSP and Neil Gray MP, the commission has sought to discuss proposals that will deliver a route map to the real prize of independence. That prize is a fairer Scotland that values and cares for everyone who lives here, from baby box to grave, and in which everyone can fully participate and have the opportunities they need to flourish.

The commission has established a number of working groups to consider policies that are key to delivering social justice and fairness and they will be publishing further papers soon.

Although the commission is an SNP initiative, its purpose is not simply to develop policies for the SNP. Along with the membership of the commission itself, its work also extends beyond party politics. The commission has been focussing on principles and policy areas on which we can build consensus, with the potential to transform Scotland for the better.

Independence will provide an opportunity to think afresh about the kinds of policies we could pursue, and how we make decisions at every level in Scotland. Empowering our Scottish Parliament is just the start of the process. It is then up to each and every one of us to ensure that independence generates a democratic renewal, at every level of decision-making, to build a society with wellbeing at its heart.

The commission’s discussion paper focuses on a key pillar of a socially just and fair society and that’s how to ensure our citizens have a secure income on which to live. It takes a more in-depth look at proposals for a Universal Basic Income (UBI), and seeks views on the principle of the state providing a universal payment and also some of the technical issues around delivering a secure minimum income.

There will be a great deal of interest in this topic within the SNP but the commission’s consultation is open to the wider public to engage with too. The work of the commission has an important role to play in making the case for independence, by setting out how much more we could achieve with the full powers of an independent country. Plus, the very act of asking people to imagine what we could do with those powers perfectly illustrates why we need them.

READ MORE: SNP Social Justice Commission UBI papers published

In the UK, poverty has become a permanent blight on our society. It’s become so sustained, you could almost be forgiven for thinking it’s a natural and permanent reality. It’s not, and it doesn’t have to be this way. In the words of Nelson Mandela, poverty is “man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings”.

The Scottish Government has introduced countless policies to alleviate poverty and mitigate against the punitive welfare policies of successive UK governments. But with the limited powers of devolution, there is only so much you can do. In order to eliminate, not just alleviate, poverty we need to be able to make our decisions on tax and welfare – not just aspects of it.

That’s why we need to rigorously debate and build consensus around how we can use the powers of independence to eradicate poverty and ensure that no-one is left behind in our new Scotland. And, by taking that debate out to the wider public, we are asking our fellow citizens not just to imagine a better future but to vote for it too.