INDEPENDENCE is a tug on the heartstrings. A bit like what we feel about setting up our own home. Pride. Excitement. Hope. A sense of freedom.

But taking that step means leaving our past behind. Maybe feeling a bit regretful. Anxious. Certainly with a lot of questions. Because we can’t deny that independence has something to do with becoming smaller. We’re leaving a family home and setting out on our own.

But independence gives us a chance to become something bigger as well. For us to grow as a nation. We talked about these things just a few years ago. A lot. So what’s changed?

Let’s be honest and recognise something right away. The last independence referendum may have been the first time we started a proper discussion about the real issues. But it wasn’t all wonderful, was it? Remember Project Fear? Or the Vow? The stuff about Europe? And on the other side, the fantasy projections about oil? The head in the sand on the currency? Avoiding the hard questions.

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We can do better than that. We can focus on what an independent Scotland can achieve. If independence is to work, then it must make life better for people living in Scotland. How?

By playing to our strengths. We need to build on what we used to do very well – Scottish education, Scottish engineering, our reputation in finance, our creative talent. Making better use of our fantastic natural resources.

I don’t mean going back to the past. Because we lost a lot of what we used to have. Devolution has not helped Scotland escape the general decline in British education. The industries that gave us a good name – ships, steel, textiles, coal – were brutally wiped out in the 1980s and we never recovered from that. The British finance industry changed character through reckless deregulation pushed by a City of London ideology that dragged Scottish finance with it and brought us financial ruin. Being part of Britain helped us develop in the past, there’s no doubt about that. But for many years now, it’s held us back. The state governed by Westminster may work for London and Southern England. It’s not designed to work for Scotland.

Independence opens up new opportunities. A chance to build on our strengths. With new ideas. And where we need it, with new people.

The new engineers and the new manufacturers are in the renewable energies – wind, water, solar, hydrogen, energy storage – where Scotland is strong and moving ahead. The new scientists are in healthcare and biotechnology, where we have an honourable tradition, and in information science and artificial intelligence.

Rebuilding an honest and reliable finance system can take the best from the traditions which made Scotland’s reputation in banking and insurance.

Broadcasting, art and music create opportunities in a growing sector where Scottish talent is strong.

And the amazing natural resources of our country attract visitors and provide our clean energies. But the way our land is owned and run keeps much of the Highlands an unnatural wilderness which it never was in the past. We have a chance to change the course of steady depopulation and decline through a fairer use of land, improving the environment and helping people create new businesses and jobs. All of these are areas where Scotland has a strong tradition.

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They have not flourished under Westminster rule. Devolution only allows us to make little steps. Our neighbours have done these things successfully – Denmark, Ireland, Iceland, Holland – and we can too.

A chance to attract investment and people to help an exciting new country grow and prosper. One where young people don’t need to leave to make a better life. One where we can bring back some of the huge diaspora of Scottish descent to build a new country.

Is this not just rosy picture- painting? What about the risks?

Because there are plenty of risks in independence, there’s no doubt about it. But let’s get one thing clear. Since the referendum, the main risk to our future prosperity comes from staying in the UK. Why?

First of all, attitudes have changed. The UK is now a much less welcoming place for Scots. Less than half the population of England wants us to stay in the UK. The rest basically don’t care – or even worse, one in five people in England is now hostile towards Scotland and want us to leave the UK.

Against that background, there’s no way for Scotland to be a priority for any UK government.

The seeds were sown with Project Fear. The whole British establishment decided that threats and fear were good ideas to help Scotland think about its future. It’s not a “family of equals” that threatens one of their own.

But there’s no point in complaining about the laws of mathematics. English interests naturally drive the Union. In the past, it didn’t matter too much, because there was a sense that the British establishment felt the need to look after the whole of the UK in a balanced way.

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The problem is that since the referendum, balance is out the window. England has turned inwards, and the whole UK system has followed. Electing a series of governments which have made the economy worse, increased corruption and sought to divide people against each other using culture as a weapon.

No-one who promoted Brexit has been able to name a single benefit from it, or give a single example of a problem it has solved. It has only brought problems which will get worse and which affect Scotland in particular.

Raising barriers with our nearest neighbours in Europe. Destroying jobs in industries like food, fisheries and drink, or music and culture, where Scotland is strong. Making trade deals which will wipe out a lot of our agriculture. Taking away our freedom of movement and opportunities for young people.

Maybe a UK run by the Westminster system isn’t good for England either. English people deserve better than that. England needs to find its own path. Hopefully to a much better future. Because an independent Scotland needs England to flourish and do well.

What about the other risks to independence? The ones that were never really sorted out in the referendum?

The currency? An independent country needs its own central bank and its own currency. A currency which suits its economy. Otherwise, it’s not independent. Growing new industries in Scotland and increasing trade with the rest of the world requires an economic policy which can use all the available tools – and that includes monetary policy and the currency.

At the same time, a Scottish government needs to show that it is credible to the world. That means managing finances and the economy in a way which promotes growth in a responsible way. To create confidence in the Scottish pound.

That may mean following the UK pound for a while. It may mean following a basket of currencies of our main trading partners. But that should be a decision of the Scottish government in the interests of the Scottish people. We don’t need to be tributary of decisions made in London for a different purpose.

If we need to show sound finances, what about the deficit?

The UK has been a deficit economy for decades and Scotland is part of that. We can only change it slowly over time. The best way is by growing the economy, which will get the deficit down in parallel. But first, we need to show the rest of the world that we can manage a sustainable path for the deficit by switching it towards investment and not consumption.

That will mean sacrifices in the short term – delaying some spending, paying higher taxes. It’s an investment in credibility, where we pay more up front to get greater returns in the future.

Credibility is not just an economic thing. Small countries like Scotland have a real strength – people know each other and can make things happen quickly. But that’s also a risk. We see the corruption and cronyism in Westminster, which gets worse every year. Part of that comes from the Westminster tradition of “winner takes all” at election time, where the ruling party has no checks and balances. And fosters a culture of secrecy.

Scotland is not immune to these risks. A smaller country is even at greater risk of corruption. We may have a better system of government with a Parliament which really reflects what the people voted for. That’s a very good start.

But we also need a strong constitution which protects our freedoms and our rights – not as British subjects, but as Scottish citizens. A constitution which guarantees checks and balances – an independent judiciary, a free press rather than a billionaire one, proper scrutiny of government through total freedom of information and a strong Parliament. Shining a light is the best way to prevent corruption. We can build that new constitution together.

We have another special challenge as Scots – our own divisions. How can we set up an independent country if our own people are divided?

We can try to bring people together by embracing all the identities people in Scotland have. The last referendum tried to divide us – British or Scottish? One or the other? We have to recognise that many of us are uncomfortable about that. We have, whatever our feelings, a British identity and a Scottish one.

None of that changes with independence. We keep our own identity, because the choice is about the state, not the individual. We’re still British because we live in the British Isles. But with independence, we won’t be British subjects any more.

How best to manage this after independence? Well, we don’t need to accept Project Fear’s attempt to say we would all become foreigners to each other. We can take inspiration from the Nordic Union and set up a Union of the British Isles where we all have rights to freedom of movement. No barriers between the citizens of these islands. Just as happens now between the UK and Ireland.

A Union of the British Isles can bring together independent countries where those of us who feel British will not lose that part of our identity.

A European identity was a big factor for many in their vote in the referendum. For others, it was not. But whatever people think about the EU, the point about independence is this – it’s your decision. Whether you want Scotland to be part of the EU, the EEA, something else or nothing else, you don’t need to wait for others to decide for you. We become free to choose.

For many reluctant to contemplate the idea of independence, two important parts of Britishness undoubtedly played a role – the monarchy and the armed services.

Serving as part of the British Armed Forces means something important. But the Scottish regiments have not been well treated by the British establishment – many were disbanded, and all were dragged through the disaster of the Iraq War by the Westminster Parliament.

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Independence means we can reclaim our military heritage and fashion it to the needs of Scotland’s defence – with proper sea and air defences that we really need, rather than the US-controlled nuclear weapons that even Conservative defence ministers have said are expensive and useless.

The monarchy is a special issue. In the first instance after independence, the monarch continues to be the queen or king of Scotland. But independence gives us the power to choose what kind of head of state we want, whether in the royal family or not. For the first time in our history, this will be for the people to decide.

These issues are affairs of the heart and soul. Identity, dignity, freedom.

But also of the head and the pocket. Prosperity, wellbeing, security.

Many of those voting in the last referendum said that they voted with their head and not their heart.

They accept that freedom and dignity point to independence. But they are worried about the consequences for our prosperity and wellbeing.

Since then, things have changed. It is becoming clearer that the big risk is staying in the UK. A risk to our economy and our future prosperity.

Our heads and hearts are beginning to point in the same direction. Towards a new country, Scotland, free and ready to join the world.