WHEN Alex Salmond announced last year that the Alba Party were working with Stuart Campbell and Robin McAlpine to produce a new book, the obvious division of labour was to have Campbell editing, and repeatedly sending back marked-up copy to McAlpine, with brief notes about how drafts were too long, too complicated and simply inconclusive, until they produced a terse, yet ebullient, argument for independence.

The final version lists another 12 contributors. Its 48 pages are indeed a cogent, but accessible case for independence. Entirely correctly, the Wee Alba Book is not aimed at voters who are certain to vote for independence.

We know the next referendum will be settled by one-third of the population that could easily be swayed into voting one way or the other. It is, of course, difficult for me to judge how effective this book will be in persuading those people to support independence.

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The target audience do not want independence to make them worse off. They will be the targets for a new Project Fear, insinuating that it will be just too hard to make independence work. The Yes campaign is likely to need sensible arguments about how these voters and their families will be better off, and assurances that there are plans for everything, so the process of becoming independent will be smooth.

That need for robust plans makes me suspect that we are still a few years away from a second independence referendum. Alba no doubt wanted to have their ideas in circulation well before the Scottish Government, because so many of its members are long-standing supporters of independence who bemoan the lack of progress from the SNP and who want to inject a sense of urgency into campaigning.

While Alba continue to register very little support in opinion polling, this new book is the clearest statement to date that they do not intend to go away, even if they perform poorly in next month’s council elections. They intend to be a fixture in the political landscape until independence.

Rather, as they claim, countries benefit from being small, Alba might even claim that small political parties can benefit from having a strong identity and a focused purpose.

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Salmond, the Alba Party leader, first built his political reputation in the SNP’s 79 Group. Jim Sillars (above) and Alex Neil, both veterans of the Scottish Labour Party, are among the contributors to this new book. Alba may consider their role to be the leaven in the lump – insignificant compared to some of the larger political parties, but vital in the push for independence.

The lump in this case is the SNP, who almost certainly must be in government and adorning the green benches of the House of Commons for Scotland to achieve independence. Their energies are directed to the mundane politics of service delivery.

Into that gap, Alba’s team of natural dissenters has delivered a “minority report”, which leans very clearly to the left of centre. Without imagining Scotland, after independence, as a socialist nirvana, it contains a very clear repudiation of London as the dark star of the British state which absorbs the energy of rest of the country and pacifies it through subsidies.

The book begins with a short summary. Its authors, knowing that many people have not yet started to engage with the case for independence, have stated all their main arguments briefly, pausing on page 12 to suggest that the rest of the book contains “more detail”.

The second part has a very large amount of economics and I found myself wondering about the extent to which it had been drafted by Richard Murphy (also credited as a contributor). The arguments for a separate Scottish currency, as soon as practicable after independence, seem to draw on his thinking and that of the Scottish Currency Group.

That is an important matter but it relates to the practical steps needed to win the referendum and for independence to work effectively. The book’s broader economic – and indeed more generally political – argument is that independence would deliver Scotland from being a region and instead allow it to become a nation. The disordered British state’s manifold failings mean independence is necessary if Scotland is to prosper.

Such a claim is essentially utilitarian, with independence a means to an end, and not an end in itself. It leaves open the possibility that in a different United Kingdom, Scottish independence would be unnecessary.

The National:

Of course, this would be a United Kingdom in which New Labour, at the height of its powers, might have delivered its plans for regional assemblies across England, allowing Gordon Brown (above) rather more credibility in proposing a federal state.

It would also be an England where David Cameron would not have responded to the Scottish independence referendum by declaring that it was time to think about what England needed, and where English voters would not have voted to leave the European Union. There could easily have been a tinge of regret that the Union, which Scotland needs, simply cannot exist.

The book deserves to be widely read. Government ministers should be marking up their copies of the Wee Alba Book in the same way as I did, recognising that Alba have already made the argument which they need. With this credible case for independence already there, they just need to fill in some details.