THE election of a new First Minister is an exciting time. As a part of the independence movement, we at the Scottish Currency Group want to do much more than congratulate John Swinney.

As he settles down to business in Bute House, we want to explain why it has not been possible for the Scottish Currency Group to be more than a critical friend of the Scottish Government under his immediate predecessors – and why we are cautiously optimistic about what he might now achieve.

As the political strategist James Carville famously told Bill Clinton (below), “It’s the economy, stupid.” Clinton was a superbly empathetic, charismatic candidate, but that meant he spent so much time emoting that he frequently failed to get to the part of his message where he promised people that they would have good jobs and so be better off if he was in the White House.

The National: Former US president Bill Clinton (Alex Brandon/AP)

Successful politicians talk with the people who vote with their wallets. That makes economic competence an essential political virtue – one which the Scottish Government has often failed to practise.

With his experience of the ceaseless negotiations necessary for a minority government to secure support for many years, Mr Swinney should be able to work out carefully where the votes to secure the new administration’s priorities might lie.

As a successful former finance minister, he has demonstrated the virtues of prudence and pragmatism as well as economic competence.

All these virtues are important for good government – and the return to the Cabinet Kate Forbes as deputy First Minister is the best possible indication that their pursuit will be an important objective for the new administration.

For almost a decade, the SNP have been in the happy position of being able to dominate domestic politics easily. It has also been in the unhappy position of making little progress towards its primary objective of turning Scotland into an independent country. During that decade, its preferred route to independence has relied on the British Government conceding that it has no strategic interest in Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom and permitting a second referendum.

Six years ago, the idea of a Scottish Currency Group emerged as one response to the report of the Sustainable Growth Commission. Much of the Growth Commission’s work was hampered by what some independence-supporting economists, notably David Simpson, the founder of the Fraser of Allander Institute, call a “dependence mindset”.

A sophisticated version of “too wee, too poor, too stupid”, this assumes Scotland will need to co-operate with British institutions, long after independence, because setting up purely Scottish institutions will be too challenging.

Especially when it comes to thinking about monetary and financial matters, Scotland certainly sits in London’s shadow. Even in the run-up to the financial crisis, when it seemed Scotland’s banks were world beaters, they were transferring many important functions to the City.

The National: The new computer generated images capture all major developments which have been resolved to approve by the City Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee

Creating a distinct Scottish financial services sector will come with many challenges. That explains why the Growth Commission kicked the establishment of a Scottish currency as far down the road as it could. Perhaps its report could have argued that setting up the economic institutions of an independent state will be challenging but that it would be wise to start that work immediately as part of the process of persuading the undecided of an entirely credible case for independence.

It would then have been natural to develop ideas about how the Government of Scotland might best acquire the ability to choose when to launch its own currency. The Scottish Currency Group has been ploughing that lonely furrow for the last six years.

We understand very well that currency is not an issue which comes up regularly in canvassing or in focus groups. But that does not make it unimportant.

We believe the SNP leadership has treated “currency” as little more than a question of ordering some notes and coins, rather than being at the heart of the government’s economic competence.

The eventual position on “currency” will say much about the willingness of the independence movement to do the hard work needed for ultimate success.

In his “reset’, Mr Swinney can embrace the hard work and the hard choices which it will take. Following the path of political virtue, he might trust his party members to be partners in that process.