AMID all the division arising from the SNP’s leadership election and the ongoing investigation into the party’s finances, it is time to step back and look at the wider picture.

How stands Scotland today? What must be done – strategically, not tactically – to get things right?

The Scottish Parliament has now existed for nearly a quarter of a century. There have been six Scottish Parliament elections and six first ministers. Elections have been free, fair and peaceful. Governments have been stable. ­Policies have been developed and implemented.

In comparative global terms, that is no mean feat – new institutions often fail. Demands for self-government often outstrip the capacity to make self-government work. For Scotland to have built institutions which have lasted, ­taken root, and shown resilience even at times of ­economic crisis, is a testament to the country’s high level of political, legal, administrative and technical capacity.

READ MORE: Making up for the lost years of Scotland’s independence movement

If Scotland had been a Crown Colony, it would have long since have proven its ­readiness and fitness for independence, and the UK Government would not place any obstacles to hinder an otherwise seamless transition to statehood.

But independent statehood is one thing we do not have. In consequence, we do not have the mindset of responsible national ­development that is needed to make an independent ­country flourish. Instead of the “politics of ­development”, the halfway house of ­devolution has encouraged what might be termed “the ­politics of mitigation”.

Devolution has made Scotland somewhat less poor and dysfunctional than might otherwise have been the case. Certainly, if one compares Scotland to northern England – which has not had the benefit of any devolution worthy of the name – we are doing not so badly.

Many disastrous and often downright ­cruel policies of the British state – driven by a ­poisonous combination of neoliberal dogma, treasury mismanagement, high-level ­corruption, and tabloid populism – have been dodged, ­mitigated, or ameliorated in Scotland.

The record of the SNP in office since 2007 ­provides many examples of such softening-of-the-edges of British rule – abolition of ­prescription charges, restoration of free ­university tuition, Scottish Child Payments, Best Start Grants and free school meals. It is an impressive set of achievements.

Yet, without the powers and ­responsibilities of independence, the mindset of mitigation ­remains. The logic of devolution – which gives the Scottish Parliament control over most spending, but not much over revenue-raising – has encouraged our politicians and people alike to make do with what we have, and maybe tinker at the edges of how we spend public money, rather than to deal with the problem at its core.

The core of the problem is that Scotland is an underdeveloped country. It is not undeveloped – we have clean drinking water and working ­traffic lights. But it is underdeveloped in the sense that it is nowhere near close to ­performing at its full potential. Our great ­natural and ­human resources are under-used, misapplied, extracted and left to waste.

One need only look at land use and settlement patterns to see the long legacy of the ­Clearances, still leaving visible scars on the landscape.

Scotland today reminds me of my first youthful visits to central and eastern Europe in the 1990s. I went to see nascent democracy. I saw potholes in the roads; public ­institutions ­struggling with outdated facilities; rotten ­buildings full of mould and damp; graffiti and litter, and above all – once away from the thin glitter of the touristed areas – a lack of ­opportunity.

Today, much of that part of the world has undergone quite a transformation. Poland and Romania, for example, have had staggeringly impressive rates of sustained economic growth. Scotland has not. For many in Scotland today, to “get on” still means to “get out”.

Scotland’s tax base is too small. We do not have enough senior-level opportunities. In many cases, you might be able to get to ­middle ­management in Scotland, but if you want to climb any higher, you need to go to London. There is a lack of Scottish-owned medium-sized enterprises. There is insufficient capital ­investment in new and emerging industries.

As this column is coming out on Easter ­Sunday, when the cry of “He is risen!” resounds around the world, it is worth thinking about what it would take for Scotland to rise again.

The British economy since the 1980s, outside of the City of London, has been on the low road. Low-wage, low-skill, low-prospect jobs, mainly in retail, food services and call centres, set the tone for the whole economy. It provides only a small tax base for public services.

Scotland will never prosper if it clings to that economic model. We need to take the high road: high-wage, high-skill, high-prospect jobs, that create a broad tax base from which to fund high-quality public services. We need the ­high-quality growth that only independence can deliver.

Former Labour MP John Denham and Glyndwr Jones are guests on the TNT show, this Wednesday at 7pm