THE debate over Scotland’s constitution is “stuck in a rut” and needs to be more respectful and sophisticated if it is advance, according to one of Scotland’s leading political scientists.

Professor James Mitchell said myth, misunderstanding and loaded language were creating a narrow and stunted view of the options available.

He said the “binary choice between union and independence” should be replaced by a broader and more fruitful look at the kind of society and economy people wanted.

Mitchell also said Scotland’s constitutional status would never be cast in stone but continue to evolve “regardless of the outcome of any referendum”.

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The Professor of Public Policy at Edinburgh University and the author of several books on the SNP, Mitchell makes his comments in a new pamphlet for the Jimmy Reid Foundation, “The Scottish Question revisited”.

He also sets out some of his argument in an essay for today’s Herald on Sunday.

In it, Professor Mitchell says a key issue in the constitutional debate is the “unexamined orthodoxy” in England that the UK is a single, indivisible state, whereas devolution has produced very different experiences and perspectives on the Union in the other three nations.

“The tensions in the UK largely arise from competing and incompatible understandings of these different unions,” he writes.

“This has never been resolved and lies at the heart of much debate today.”

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Professor Gregor Gall, the director of the Jimmy Reid Foundation, added: “James Mitchell has taken on a big and challenging task and approached it in a thoughtful and critical but non-partisan way.

“He makes it clear that, rather being a single ‘Scottish Question’, there are many Scottish questions.

“There is a complexity that needs to be comprehended and then responded to.

“For those supporting independence, for example, the key question must be asked and answered, namely, what kind of independence? 

“Independence from what and from whom, and independence for what and for whom?”

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Gall continued: “The danger with a superficial debate is that if constitutional change is instituted, then it ends up being much less effective in achieving the desired economic and social goals than was hoped for and expected – essentially because ‘due diligence’ was not carried on it.

“The argument of ‘let’s just get independence first and then sort things out after’ that can be heard from some left-of-centre supporters of independence is one such superficial fallacy.

“This is because it does not take into account that the very political forces that can or could help bring about independence will also play a large role in shaping what form that independence subsequently takes.”