ALEX Salmond has been favoured with the worst possible timing in taking his prospectus for independence to the people in 2014, according to Professor David Bell, of Stirling University.

The economist was addressing a conference on the independence debate organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland, which also heard from legal and constitutional experts, as well as Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the leader of Better Together, Alistair Darling.

Professor Bell pointed to five areas where the timing of the referendum was far worse than it would have been in 1979, when the first devolution referendum stalled short of the 40% threshold imposed.

He pointed out that we were now in a period of record peacetime national debt in the UK; a crisis in the single European currency; an ageing population; falling oil revenues; and a time when the larger national economies were "increasingly irritated" by tax competition from smaller jurisdictions and tax avoidance by large corporations.

In contrast, he said, 1979 was a period when little of this would have applied and oil revenues were starting to come on stream, resulting in a windfall of £177 billion to the Treasury since then. "Scotland might have had an opportunity to set up an oil fund like Norway and might have achieved a different direction for the country from that of Margaret Thatcher, but that opportunity was lost," he said.

Now, he said, it would be ­politically impossible for Scotland to agree to join the Euro, although a Swedish-style long promise might have to be entered into. The Scottish Government favour a Sterling zone, but any uncertainty over that could wreck it at the outset. "It would be difficult to commit in advance to policies that would sustain a currency union," he said.

The currency union between the Czech and Slovak republics fell apart instantly, while no one really knows why, pre-Euro, that between Belgium and Luxembourg sustained. It required confidence, transparency, clarity and symmetry, he said.

Meanwhile, Professor Alan Page, of Dundee University, said constitutional lawyers would be looking for the section in the White Paper next week on the "constitutional platform", which was, in effect, the interim written constitution for an independent Scotland.