BEFORE Brexit, the UK economy was faltering badly. It was becoming characterised by low productivity and high inequality.

The decision to leave the European Union – against Scotland’s clear will – seems to have cemented those damaging trends.

The Brexit hit to the economy has made it much harder to cope with the Westminster cost of living crisis. And Brexit itself has been a major contributor to higher food prices.

With Labour now just as pro-Brexit as the Tories, things are not going to get any better. Indeed, the UK’s official independent fiscal watchdog forecasts that Brexit will reduce GDP by 4% in the long term, compared with EU membership.

READ MORE: Scottish Government to launch next independence white paper on EU

That might not sound much but it means a completely unnecessary hit to living standards and will wipe billions of pounds from the UK and Scottish economies, making it more difficult to fund public services like the NHS.

So when, as seems likely, Keir Starmer enters Downing Street after the next election, he will be inflicting on Scotland, from day one, the same old Brexit economic damage as the Tories.

Neither Labour nor the Tories want to talk about this. Like a cosy Westminster gentlemen’s agreement, they’re engaged in a campaign of deafening silence over the damage they both know is being done to the Scottish and UK economies.

The SNP will always stand up for Scotland rather than sit back and watch while Westminster causes yet more harm. So, this week the Scottish Government is going to challenge that cosy consensus.

We’ve already been stepping up the pace on the Building a New Scotland series, which updates the independence prospectus from 2014, with proposals on a new constitution, citizenship and migration in an independent Scotland.

And on Friday, we’ll set out an alternative future for Scotland – a future where we’re back in the EU, but crucially for the very first time as a state in our own right.

READ MORE: Brexit ‘falling apart’ says co-founder of EU star project

I understand, of course, that there is much to weigh up and work through. Those of us who believe in independence should never stop listening to what people are saying. We need to address concerns, not dismiss them.

But let’s also be clear – the UK economic model has failed Scotland.

When we look at the EU, independent member states that are like Scotland are both wealthier, and crucially fairer, than the UK. It’s worth considering the case of Ireland in particular because their success highlights the powerful combination of independence and EU membership.

When Ireland joined the EU it had a heavy trade reliance on the UK and was considerably poorer. Today, it has diversified its trade and become richer.

If EU states such Ireland, Denmark and Sweden can be fairer and wealthier than the UK, then with all our unique industries, vast resources and world-renowned talents, why not Scotland?

Rather than accept our fate as part of a Brexit-based stagnating UK economy, it has never been more important to bring evidence-based optimism and hope to the essential debate on Scotland’s future.