A REFERENDUM could be held in Scotland as early as next year, although leaving the UK would be “hard work”, the author of a major report on the economics of independence has said.

Andrew Wilson, who chaired the sustainable growth commission for Nicola Sturgeon, said he believed having a vote in either the autumn of 2022 or at some point in 2023 would be “ideal”.

The Scottish First Minister has recently confirmed her intention to hold a second independence vote by the end of 2023 although UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson seems unlikely to agree to such a ballot.

Meanwhile Wilson, a former SNP MSP, accepted that leaving the UK “will be hard work, it will be an effort”.

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But he insisted that independence could allow Scotland to emulate small, successful nations, such as New Zealand or Finland, while remaining as part of the UK poses “a clear and present danger to the wellbeing of the economy”.

Speaking about the possible timetable for a second independence vote, Wilson told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show: “I am not in a rapid hurry to do it tomorrow.”

But asked if he wanted such a ballot to take place by the end of 2023, as proposed by the First Minister, he said: “That would be ideal.

“I think the ideal time to have a referendum would be in the autumn of next year or the year after.

“That would be my private, personal view.”

His comments came as SNP members at the party’s national conference overwhelmingly backed a motion calling for another vote “as soon as it is safe to hold a proper, detailed, serious national debate on independence”.

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Meanwhile Sturgeon has recently confirmed that the Scottish Government is to restart work on developing a “detailed prospectus” for independence, something which had been paused during the Covid crisis.

Wilson stated: “I said a while back I though Scotland would be independent by the end of this term of the Parliament, I still believe that that is in our interests.

“It will take time to get the case together, but the case is largely constructed, one or two points need to be ironed out which I am sure the Government will do so that people get a prospectus, didn’t get one for Brexit, which is honest and lives in truth.

“It is really important we set out a clear transition plan that everyone can see the trade offs.”

He insisted that independence would be “hard work, an effort, challenging, but ultimately worth it”.

He said: “If we think of the United Kingdom, with plummeting exports, isolation from the world, a government which wants to be hostile to immigrants, is uncertain over its commitment to climate change.

“If that’s the best we can hope for, independence isn’t for you.

“But if you believe countries like Denmark, Ireland, Finland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, all show that a different way is possible, then it is worth considering.”

While he added that “the transition will be challenging”, Wilson argued: “The risks of doing nothing right now have never been greater.

“What was different in 2014 was the risks of the status quo did not seem high.

“Right now they are a clear and present danger to the wellbeing of the economy, to the coherence of society, and frankly I am afraid to say to democratic values too.”