SCOTLAND will be independent by 2026, according to the Yes movement’s leading intellectual.

Andrew Wilson, the key architect of the SNP’s vision of an independent Scotland, told The Herald on Sunday in an exclusive and wide-ranging interview that if the SNP won a majority at Holyrood at next year’s election: “We’re looking at the bulk of the process completed in the term of the next Scottish Parliament, by which I mean getting a vote, winning a vote, and securing the negotiations.”

His comments come at the end of a week in which polls put support for Scottish independence at 58 per cent. The figures have been taken as game-changing when it comes to Scotland’s constitutional future.

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Wilson, an economist by profession and former SNP MSP, also called for leading unionist figures, including former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown and chancellor Alistair Darling, to be brought on board in the wake of a Yes vote to help lead treaty negotiations on behalf of Scotland with the Westminster Government.

In a call for national unity in Scotland following a win for the independence movement, Wilson said: “We must remember that even our most bitter opponents will be citizens of an independent Scotland the day after [a successful Yes vote] … The minute we win, our opponents have to become our allies.”

After a Yes vote “we’d seek to bring the most experienced talents of Scotland to bear on what happens next” – namely negotiations with Westminster. “I’d love people like Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown, and others to play a role in making good the decision of independence.” 

Prominent No figures should sit on a “council of the country which pulls together our best and most experienced states-people”. Wilson has done much of the hard thinking for the Yes movement. 

He was the brain behind the Sustainable Growth Commission, which built the economic case for independence. His recommendations shaped SNP policy on currency in a post-independence Scotland – retaining the pound until the nation’s finances allow for the creation of a new Scottish currency.

He also warned against complacency and division, saying that the Yes movement must be honest in its messaging and promises: “If we’re striving to be as good as a society as somewhere like Denmark, it could take a generation – 20 or 25 years. 

“To not say this, would be to not tell the truth … The message needs to be ‘this will take time and hard work, but it’ll be worth it’.”

Wilson believes Yes can now win big: “If the vote comes in the aftermath of next year’s election – let’s say in a year or two – I think if properly articulated on an honest case then [the margin] could be into the late 50s or early 60s.”

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However, he remains cautious of the polls. “What we’re hearing from polls is that independence isn’t yet the settled will, but it’s settling.”

"Goodwill must also be shown to the rest of the UK after a successful Yes vote. Wilson wants to see an “annual solidarity payment going from Scotland to the UK to make good our inherited obligations”.

"England needs to know that “we’d contribute a share of the national debt interest ongoing”. Scotland should continue to contribute to UK international aid “as we wouldn’t yet have programmes available for a couple of years”.

While reiterating the desire for no border with England, Wilson said he was confident Scotland would rejoin the EU.