Let's call it the Drew Smith question.

Last Wednesday, during an otherwise inconsequential Holyrood debate on the Scottish Government's White Paper, the Glasgow Labour MSP intervened on John Swinney, who'd been lambasting the opposition for enabling the re-election of a Conservative Government via its support for the United Kingdom.

"To say that this is a debate about this Government is completely untrue," observed Smith. "Mr Swinney believed in independence before the First Minister made his announcement about childcare yesterday, he believed in independence when there was a Labour Government, and the SNP believed in independence when the Labour Government of 1945 was creating the welfare state."

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Okay, it was more of an observation than a question, but it was a good one, so good the Finance Secretary completely ducked it. If, as the Scottish Government regularly tells us, independence is necessary to protect Scotland against Conservative governments, democratic deficits and welfare cuts, what was the argument for independence between 1945-51 when a Labour administration with a majority of Scottish seats was building the New Jerusalem?

Unless the SNP, which marks its eightieth birthday in April, wants to repudiate its backstory, it would be interesting to hear Mr Swinney's response. The same question could be asked of the future. If Labour won the 2015 general election (with a Scottish majority) and set about reversing current welfare cuts, would the case for independence evaporate?

There are, of course, other arguments for independence, but the SNP is deliberately losing sight of first principles, chiefly a desire for independence that has nothing to do with unpopular Tory governments and their ill-conceived policies. The recent White Paper, which I've now read (I feel I deserve a medal), is couched in a similar way.

Most of its arguments date from the year of my birth, 1977. Until then Scottish voting patterns generally reflected those in the rest of the UK, while both Labour and the Conservatives supported the post-war consensus (welfare state, NHS, full employment, etc). On that basis, Scotland's Future is an intriguing product of the Thatcher and post-Thatcher era.

The White Paper is imbued with a related belief that also dates from the 1980s that Scotland somehow possesses a (by implication superior) set of "values" which informs its policy goals. Speaking at an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)conference at Edinburgh University on Saturday, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop alluded to the value system that would accompany independence. "Fairness and justice lies at the heart of the country we are," she said, "and the country we can be."

This went down well with sections of the audience, many from the voluntary sector, a slice of Civic Scotland that's never needed convincing of its superiority in this regard. That "Scottish values" are poorly defined and not necessarily matched by public opinion doesn't matter; the rhetoric is an ever-present feature of the Scottish political landscape, even more so as we approach September 2014.

Which makes the welfare and economic sections of the White Paper all the more baffling. At every turn the "Westminster system" of welfare is dismissed as unfair and punitive, yet the alternative is both incomplete (a Scottish Government expert group is yet to report) and lacking in imagination. The "bedroom tax" will be scrapped and the Universal Credit rollout halted. At least initially, the Scottish welfare state would be a throwback to 2010, warts and all.

The same applies to the economic vision. The "Westminster system" is lambasted at every turn, yet what's on offer is, essentially, more of the same with a tweak here and there. As Neal Ascherson observed a few days ago, the proposition resembles that of New Labour in 1997: a moderate social democracy; a nicer version of Majorism with accompanying rhetoric about its "radicalism".

Salmonomics is largely responsible. Keynes put it best when he observed that "practical men" were "usually the slaves of some defunct economist". Although the First Minister doesn't name-check any single practitioner of the dismal science, he is in thrall to a particular idea, chiefly orthodox neoliberalism. "The ideas of economists and political philosophers," wrote Keynes, "both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood."

So powerful even the official case for independence cannot conceive of life beyond its strictures. It also buys into the notion monetary policy is a) completely separate from fiscal policy and b) a mere formality. Thus Scotland's Future repeatedly claims an independent Scotland would have control of all economic levers when that's demonstrably untrue. The arguments for currency union (close ties, trade and so on), meanwhile, are all conspicuously Unionist in tenor.

Fiona Hyslop also quoted Charles Stuart Parnell's maxim: "No man has the right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation." But isn't that exactly what the Scottish Parnell has done with a series of qualifications to his independence vision? A currency union and membership of the EU would act as boundaries on the march of the Scottish nation. Sure, the "sovereign" Scottish people would be free to remove them at a future date, but doing so would hardly be straightforward.

As Professor James Mitchell observed at the ESRC event, having accepted that "the Scottish people" (not, surely, homogenous in their views) will decide future policy in an independent Scotland, one then has to identify what the Scottish people want. That, contrary to the general thrust of the White Paper, isn't necessarily in line with the SNP's "Scottish values". An independent Scotland is no more likely to become a republic as it is a "progressive" beacon with a generous welfare state and liberal immigration policy.

But all that is for after a "yes" vote, indeed it's predicated - as was Saturday's conference - upon Scotltish independence come March 2016. A poll yesterday revealed no post-White Paper bounce, and why would there be? It did little more than consolidate existing debating points and flesh out policy detail. And as responses last week demonstrated - Rajoy on the EU, Sir John Major on currency and Ed Davey on energy - rather than drawing a line under issues, as ministers surely hoped, the White Paper has simply kept them alive.

Usefully, pre-1970s Scottish Nationalism did not have to concern itself with such complexities, but then the case for independence then did not rest on opposition to Conservative governments or welfare reforms. Indeed, last week's White Paper presents independence as an option that has only become necessary within the past 35 years. Yet ironically, it is as much a creature of that time-frame as the "system" from which it seeks to escape.