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Common Weal offers vision to Yes camp

IT is too early to say if the Common Weal is an idea whose time has come, but barely two months since its launch by the Jimmy Reid Foundation its progress has surely been remarkable.

In a short while it has moved from the margin to the mainstream of the referendum debate, and been embraced by growing numbers in the SNP.

As we report today, it is now being discussed at the apex of the party, with Alex Salmond and his 64 MSPs to be briefed on the concept at their final away day before the 2014 ballot.

The Foundation has demonstrated an ability to shape the agenda by weaving a coherent vision of a wealthier, fairer, more equal Scotland where previously there were disparate threads.

This is because, while its trajectory may be giddy, Common Weal's feet are on the ground.

It does not advocate a Scottish Year Zero, with the country remade from scratch after a Yes vote.

Instead, it suggests importing economic and social policies which already work in the Nordic countries, but which have been ignored by the UK's market-mad political class.

It is realistic about the higher overall tax take needed for better public services.

As we also show today, the idea is attracting growing interest overseas, with US economic professors Robin Hahnel and Gar Alperovitz writing for the Sunday Herald on its potential.

But its success begs a question: if Common Weal did not exist, what, if anything, would be inspirational about the Yes campaign?

More than a year since its launch, it has not yet had one good week of its own making.

It only comes alive when the No camp blunders – accepting £500,000 from Vitol boss Ian Taylor, calling itself Project Fear, or issuing scare stories.

But that is reacting, not leading.

And Better Together cannot be relied upon to continue making mistakes indefinitely.

The SNP's recognition of Common Weal is a tacit acknowledgement that a shift is needed if the Yes side is to confound the polls.

The First Minister's big picture speech on Friday about independence as an antidote to Westminster's austerity fetish and egregious policies such as the bedroom tax was another.

His call for Scots to "fundamentally change the political and economic union as a matter of urgency" was Common Weal in all but name.

Handily for him, Common Weal also speaks to the Labour voters he needs to convert to a Yes vote.

But the main thing is that change is happening.

The Jimmy Reid Foundation was established in memory of the late Clydeside union leader, who used Common Weal to mean collective endeavour and a shared stake in society.

He would be proud of its status today.

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