WHEN we talk about economic policy, it is very easy for us to concentrate on managing resources which we already have. Like a good government, a just economy should be “of the people, by the people, for the people”.

Yet, for many years, full employment has been a frustratingly elusive goal. Governments, in setting their economic policies, have often found it prudent to tolerate unemployment, perhaps seeming to defer to the interests of capital. We seem to fall short of using existing resources wisely.

For very different reasons, advocates of a “post-growth” society, may even believe that the management of existing resources is really all that is possible. While they might have other laudable aims, such as reducing social inequalities, and accelerating the green transition, they wish to take the resources which we have and use them differently. In some ways, they believe that in their imagined, better society, people would be less acquisitive, and no longer associate wealth, or wellbeing, with consumption.

This is all noble, but it perhaps does not recognise fully what it means to be human. People, naturally, are problem solvers. Crosswords, sudoku, electric cars, a fully sustainable economy – they are all problems and people are drawn to solve them. That characteristic is essential to understand what economics has to say about growth.

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For economic growth, the first type of problem-solving is innovation, the discovery of new ways of using resources, so that organisations can meet people’s needs, and wants more efficiently. As Michael Fry reminded us in his article on Monday, James Watt was a consummate innovator, over his lifetime turning the existing, inefficient steam engines into the driving force of the Industrial Revolution.

As well as innovation, there is invention, which involves finding entirely new ways of meeting needs. Watt’s innovations enabled inventions such as the steam locomotive, which transformed the world in the 19th century. We continue to rely on invention and innovation. “Post growth” advocates will need continued problem solving if they are to transform the world. Instead of being opposed to growth, or development, or progress, they argue against the forms which they currently take.

This discussion is about much more than business and profit. There is plenty of innovation, and invention in the health service. Across my time as a student, and a teacher, there have been substantial changes in what is possible in higher education. It seems that since Russia’s initial invasion in 2014, the Ukrainian armed forces have thought very carefully about how to engage in a defensive war.

So, to politics and Scottish independence. Always remember that the critics of independence are thinking about a static society, in which the impact of independence is bound to be negative. They have the mindset of managing resources.

That is fine and we should accept that there will be costs to achieving independence, but we should also be very clear they are looking only at the first part of the process by which independence will work.

In proposing independence, we are actively engaged in problem solving on a grand scale. We believe that Scotland, independent of the rest of the UK, will be better able to solve the problems of achieving social wellbeing than as a devolved nation in the UK. Independence might enable greater social justice; or environmental sustainability; or more widespread happiness.

Independence cannot be enough by itself. It needs to be used wisely, so that government becomes a more efficient problem solving, with plenty of innovation and invention in policy making. Achieving independence will then be a starting point, providing Scotland’s people with the means to unleash their full problem-solving potential. Harness those capabilities to achieving greater social well-being, and Scotland, after independence, will be an attractive place for people to live.

In developing a National Strategy for Economic Transformation, the Scottish Government has given clear indications that it wishes to create an economic system, in which problem solving will predominate.

Since the time of Adam Smith, economists have typically recognised three types of elementary resources: land, labour, and capital.

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Scotland has abundant land. It has plenty of skilled labour. Some critics of the government strategy believe that it accepts rather too readily that there should be inflows of capital – either through foreign direct investment, in which organisations will set up subsidiary companies in Scotland, or else through a variety of financial investments.

Small countries often find that they benefit from pooling much of its sovereignty with its neighbours. If Scotland wishes to align its economy with the European Economic Area, it will accept the four freedoms, in which people, goods, services, and capital can flow freely within the EEA. Capital will only flow to Scotland if investors believe there is the potential for it to be used wisely, and generate profits.

There is some debate among economists whether entrepreneurship is a fourth class of elementary resource, which is essentially the capacity to coordinate the other resources. The problem solving, which leads to innovation and invention, does not occur spontaneously. It requires effort, and skill, but also a willingness to act boldly when facing uncertainty.

At the heart of the government’s economic strategy is the belief that Scotland could benefit from more entrepreneurship, so that more Scottish organisations might excel at problem solving. That will be the foundation of a bold, resilient society, confident in its own abilities, and which will choose independence.