EACH week, economics expert Professor Richard Murphy sits down to answer some of YOUR questions about some of the most important questions facing the Yes movement. Pensions, currency, debt. Professor Murphy is here to help you get a firm grasp of these pivotal issues, which will be crucial to convince Scotland to vote Yes for independence. To submit your own question, click here.

First up this week is Joseph McCormack, who asked:

Will the old-age pension be brought in line with current European countries?

When I first saw this question, I wondered why I might be the right person to ask about this, given that I have no political affiliation in Scotland, and no intention of standing for political office. However, on reflection, I realise that there is a profound economic question underpinning the request.

That is because the level of payments made by a country to its pensioners (and others on low income) has a significant impact upon the overall level of well-being within that country.

This is because (to use technical jargon) those on low incomes have what is called a very high marginal propensity to consume. In plain Scottish, this means that they spend the vast majority of their income when they receive it.

READ MORE: We want to hear YOUR questions about the economy in an independent Scotland

This means that the behaviour of pensioners and others on low-income is in stark contrast to those with wealth. The wealthy are characterised by the fact that they almost invariably spend less than all their income, which is precisely how they came to accumulate their wealth.

What this means is that any pound paid to the wealthy provides a smaller overall return to the economy as a whole than a pound paid to a person with lower income. That is because the wealthy person saves some or all of that pound, whilst the person on lower-income almost invariably spends it.

As a consequence, any government that wants to increase the overall level of economic activity in its country should actively seek to redistribute income from those with wealth to those with low incomes. Overall, this will increase the level of demand for goods and services within it, and therefore increase overall wealth (including the wealth of those who might pay additional tax as a result).

The National: The Department of Work and Pensions.

In that case, it makes complete sense for a Scottish Government in office after independence to establish a policy of increasing those old-age pensions and other benefit payments to levels more commonly found in other countries similar in size of wealth to Scotland. They should do this through a programme of progressive taxation, knowing that this is very likely to pay for itself by doing so.

In that case, whilst most Scottish politicians would probably react to this question in the way that I first did, they should reframe it. The question suggests a very wise economic policy for any parties seeking to govern Scotland to adopt.

The second question is from Ed Docherty who asked:

To what extent might the Westminster government make post-independence negotiations challenging?

There is, of course, no guarantee as to how the government of the rest of the UK will react to a decision by the people of Scotland to leave the Union, however it is achieved. The precedent of Irish independence does not provide a useful comparison, although recent agonies over the Northern Ireland Protocol do provide some indication of the self-interest that London is willing to pursue when delicate questions of this potential nature arise.

I think that we should expect that the government in London at the time of independence, whoever it represents by then, will play hardball with Scotland in any negotiations. There are, however, significant constraints upon it doing so if it wishes to retain both international and national – as well as Scottish – goodwill after the inevitable separation takes place.

Some of these constraints are internationally imposed. For example, there is international law that applies when two states separate. If one of them wishes to take the status of the previous country, and the other does not object, then it is called the successor state.

In 2014, the Westminster government indicated that it would wish to claim this status. By doing so, it would secure its position on the United Nations Security Council, in the G7 group of nations, at the OECD, and in other international organisations such as NATO, none of which it will wish to give up.

Granting London all these advantages might seem like a downside to Scotland, but the reality is that the United Nations and NATO, at least, would likely as warmly welcome Scotland as the EU will – and even the OECD might include it in membership, so the situation is not as significant as it would seem.

READ MORE: Calls for a de facto referendum are understandable - but there is a better way

What is more, there are significant downsides to being the successor state. In particular, this means that the Westminster government will have the entire responsibility for the national debt of the UK up until the time that Scotland leaves the Union. I discussed the consequences of this in my column last week, and so will not repeat them here, but this alone gives Scotland a strong negotiating hand, in my opinion.

On top of that, English companies will still want to trade in Scotland. They will not want the Westminster Government to put further unnecessary impediments to trade in their path.

And we should not forget that if Scotland plays upon its natural strengths, the UK Government will be aware that it might be heavily dependent upon Scotland for both energy and water in the future, both of which are going to become increasingly scarce resources in England. These facts play to Scotland’s advantage.

The National: File photo dated 09/04/18 of Scottish bank notes. Stubbornly high inflation and the looming threat of recession saw activity slump at Scottish firms last month with a warning that worse is to come. Issue date: Monday November 14, 2022. PA Photo. The Bank

There is, though, one way in which Scotland can definitely simplify the negotiations. If Scotland were to try to use the pound when the Westminster government and the Bank of England did not wish it to do so then this would be a massive impediment to negotiating a successful independence agreement.

By far the most useful thing Scotland can do now to ensure that independence will be as simple as possible is to commit to using an independent Scottish currency as soon as possible after independence day. In my opinion, that means within a matter of weeks of that event happening.

If these approaches are taken, I think it is entirely possible that an independence agreement between England and Scotland could be agreed well within the three-year time horizon that any sensible person expects to be required for the creation of the new Scotland following an independence referendum.