THE idea that Scotland might become an independent country does seem to me a little more remote than usual as I write this.

I am, of course, aware that there is much more to the independence movement than the SNP. I am also aware that Humza Yousaf is committed to independence. I suspect, however, that I am not alone in feeling that the last few weeks have not helped take matters forward.

I console myself with the thought that this is the moment for those who want independence to stand back and make the fundamental case for why it is the right thing to do. And that is because this case stands or falls independent of the SNP.

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In my opinion it is also true that the SNP has never succeeded in making that case. Whether the issue is the currency, mortgages, pensions, prices, or anything else, there has been prevarication. This is the time for those who believe in independence to get off the fence.

That happens to bring me to the question from an anonymous reader of The National who asked in response to last week’s column:

What will the state pension look like in an independent Scotland?

I am aware that this is a source of great concern to people.

I stress that in this comment, I am only answering the question that was posed. That was on state pensions, and nothing else.

The reassurance that I can give is that the state pension in an independent Scotland would be at least as good as the state pension in the UK now. In fact, it is my belief that it could be a lot better.

Saying so, let’s be clear about three things. The first is that there is no automatic entitlement to a state pension. It is provided by law, and law can change. As we have seen in the UK, this ability to change the law has significantly changed the state retirement age for women and has increased it for everyone (which I know as a very recent 65-year-old, now waiting for another year for my state pension).

The National: Pension protest

So, the first question to ask about a state pension in an independent Scotland is whether it would be reasonable to put more trust in an independent Scottish government to care about pensions for Scottish people than a government in Westminster might? That seems to be an especially important question when the bias of every Westminster government appears to be towards big business, bankers, and the financial services industry.

It is my belief that the people of Scotland are more egalitarian than the people of England and Wales. I think Scottish political parties have to reflect that fact. As a result, I think that the legal protections for pensions are likely to be stronger in an independent Scotland than they currently are in the UK. In other words, I think the chance of actually getting a pension in Scotland at a reasonable age are higher in an independent Scotland than they are by staying in the UK.

The second thing to be aware of is that there is no pension savings pot that pays the state pension. State pensions are simply paid out of current taxation income. A person’s entitlement to a state pension may be based upon their past national insurance record, and I cannot see that changing in an independent Scotland for some time to come. But national insurance does not as such pay the pension, general taxation does.

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In that case, the question to ask is whether it is likely that an independent Scotland will be more willing and able to raise the tax to pay pensions in the future than the UK is now? I think I have addressed the issue about willingness already, so let me address ability now.

It is my belief that an independent Scotland will be financially stronger than England and Wales will be after Scotland leaves the Union. The reason is fairly straightforward. It is that Scotland will have a fundamental economic strength to underpin its economy after independence. That strength will be derived from renewable energy, whether it be from wind, sun, hydro or the tides.

In contrast, England, in particular, appears to be losing its ability to do anything but financial speculation – and Brexit is making it fairly clear that even that is a declining market.

The National:

As a result, I am very confident that an independent Scotland will have a greater ability to pay pensions to the reduced number of pensioners that there will be in Scotland in proportion to this income than would be the case if that income from renewable energy had to be spread across the pensioners of the UK as a whole. As a consequence, an independent Scotland should, almost inevitably, be able to pay better state pensions than England and Wales might be able to do once Scotland has left the Union.

Thirdly, it is my hope that an independent Scotland will have a government that understands the importance of redistributing wealth from those who have a great deal of it to those who do not have very much. Most pensioners are in the second category.

The reason for this redistribution is not, as those on the right wing would say, because of a politics of envy. It is instead economically required because those who have wealth save it. When, in the modern economy, there is no relationship between saving and investment, this means that saved money is taken out of active use in the economy, and is at best used for financial speculation. If, however, it is re-distributed to pensioners, then most of them will spend it into the economy.

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In itself, this spending by pensioners will provide an immediate economic boost to Scotland. This would, in turn, lead to more tax paid. But more importantly, that boost will stimulate new employment, new businesses and innovation. Those new activities will also increase tax paid.

In other words, a government that understands this realises that paying a better pension actually pays for itself. My hope is that there will be a government that understands this in an independent Scotland, but I am not expecting any similar enlightened thinking from Westminster.

Add these three factors together and in my opinion it is very likely that the pension in an independent Scotland will be much better than that which will be available to people if Scotland remains in Union with England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.