THE referendum is over, and now the focus is on what further devolved powers will be offered to Scotland following the work being led by Lord Smith of Kelvin; and how much further change (possibly including change to the public finance funding formula) will follow in the wake of proposals for wider constitutional change across the UK, to emerge from the commission established under William Haig.

I would suggest that there are two sets of issues which merit careful consideration in looking forward for Scotland and our economy; and that careful consideration of these issues should help us to determine the priorities for further devolved powers for Scotland. Clearly we need to consider how Scotland can be a more powerful economy, growing faster and opening up the potential for opportunities for all. But also, given the broad-based sentiments which have become increasingly apparent over the past two years, we need to consider what Scotland we all wish to see going forward. What are Scotland's priorities? To what extent does Scotland favour a more egalitarian economy than the status quo?

If Scotland does favour a society within which greater equity is prioritised, then that will have implications both for what further powers should be devolved and for re-consideration of a range of existing policies involving powers which are already within the hands of the Holyrood Parliament.

Two depressing results from analysis have recently come to my attention. The first relates to how inequality feeds through the economy. For most of my adult life I had assumed (rightly I believe) that the extent of inequality in incomes across society was greater than the extent of inequality in consumption. In other words relative 'standards of living' across society were less skewed than relative gross incomes. Progressive taxes of different types, along with welfare policies and pricing factors, achieved this outcome. This was hugely important as it is the standard of living which matters most in determining quality of life.

Now research at the UK level suggests that this relationship has changed. The degree of inequality in consumption may now be greater than the degree of inequality in incomes. That has deeply disturbing implications. Professor David Bell at Stirling University is undertaking research for the David Hume Institute to see whether this disturbing result also applies in Scotland. I would be delighted, but distinctly surprised, if it does not. The results will be out this autumn. I very much hope that when announcing the results, or subsequently, David Bell and the DHI will also explore why this dramatic shift has taken place and what the implications are for UK and Scottish policies.

The second cause for depression comes from data for educational attainment, and may be well known to some readers. I am told that comparisons have been made, broken down by socio-economic group, of cognitive ability when entering and leaving school. Those from the higher socio-economic groups who start school in the top decile of ability generally stay there; those from these same groups who start in the lowest decile of cognitive ability tend to move upwards and leave school in the top decile. However, those from the lowest socio-economic groups who start school among the most able tend to drop relatively by the end of school years, while those from these groups who start with relatively low cognitive ability tend to stay just there. Is it just me or are these results deeply depressing?

Scotland may wish to give greater priority to achieving a reduced level of inequality in our society, and may therefore wish to consider both the impact of a wide variety of existing policies and the scope for adjusting some policies which might be devolved following the Smith Review. At the very least we need to think carefully in the run up to the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary election as to what Scotland we seek for the future and what this implies for priorities and policies.

Whatever the outcome of any debate regarding the Scotland to which we aspire, achieving that outcome will be more feasible if we transform our economy into one which is more productive, more innovative, more competitive, more outward-looking and more ambitious. Last week saw the publication of the latest UK national accounts data - substantially revised as results were introduced from a new statistical system. These data show some further signs of improvement in growth, but also re-emphasise the old failings of low productivity and weak business investment. These failings apply (at least) equally to Scotland. The real key sign of disappointing performance is that productivity is weak. In the second quarter of 2014 UK labour productivity was lower than the same quarter in 2013 and over 2% lower than before the last recession struck. Indeed the Office for National Statistics has estimated that 'in Q2 2014 output per hour was some 16% lower than would have been the case had the pre-downturn trend continued'. That amounts to massive under-performance. Given that the Scottish productivity data of late have been even less positive than those for the UK - partially perhaps due to difference in economic structure - we can expect nothing better for the position north of the border. Hence, in considering the way forward for our home-based policies, the emphasis should not be on chasing for new powers for their own sake but rather what new powers could be deployed to help increase productivity and efficiency; and indeed what could we do better with the powers already at our disposal.

Without a marked change in productivity performance a move towards a more egalitarian and successful economy will remain an aspiration rather than an expectation.

Jeremy Peat is visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde International Public Policy Institute