SCOTLAND get ready. Project Fear is about to be reborn but this time it will have a benign twin: Project Love.

Amid all the heated talk in recent months over respecting democracy and focusing on recovery, one tiny little matter has been seldom mentioned let alone debated by politicians: the pros and cons of Scottish independence.

AS the blight of the pandemic - hopefully - slowly dissipates and constitutional battle lines are drawn over Indyref2, the pro and anti-independence arguments will percolate to the top of the political agenda.

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This week, Nicola Sturgeon, sworn in as First Minister, declared she would exercise the “clear mandate” for Indyref2 with “responsibility” and “humility” but only when the pandemic had passed; which almost certainly rules out any campaigning this year.

So, 2022 looks likely to be the year when the constitutional wrangle is unleashed.

Thus far, Ms Sturgeon has shied away from giving any detail about what Scotland under independence would look like, saying the disruption of the pandemic has thrown all the economic numbers up in the air.

However, once coronavirus subsides, then voters will increasingly demand a full prospectus; from both sides.

Yet the vicissitudes of the pandemic have not stopped some analysts from already predicting what life outwith the UK would be like for Scotland. It does not make happy reading and will, no doubt, for the Union strategists of Whitehall form the basis of a reinvigorated Project Fear.

Earlier this month, the respected economic think-tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, argued an independent Scotland would start life with a large budget deficit "substantially higher than the rest of the UK" and would face difficult choices to reduce it.

It noted how three years ago the SNP's Growth Commission recognised this and set out a plan to reduce the deficit by suppressing growth in spending. "They didn't want to call it austerity but it was effectively austerity," the IFS explained.

In February, the London School of Economics suggested the cost of independence to the Scottish economy would “likely to be two or three times larger than the costs of Brexit and rejoining the EU following independence would do little to mitigate these costs”.

It added: "From a trade perspective, independence would leave Scotland considerably poorer than staying in the United Kingdom."

The SNP’s currency plan is for an independent Scotland to keep using the pound until economic conditions enabled a switch to a new Scottish currency.

But Tony Mackay, an economic adviser to the World Bank, claimed a new Scottish currency would initially be worth around 20% less than the pound while independence would cut exports to England by 15% because joining the EU would create a border.

In defence of independence, Scottish Government ministers have argued forcefully that none of these points take into account how, following a Yes vote, Edinburgh would have the levers of power to boost Scotland’s economy.

EU membership would mean Scotland would be free from the ongoing damage of Brexit and be part of the world’s largest single market.

So, there is no reason, the SNP argues, why Scotland could not emulate the success of independent countries of a similar size which are far wealthier per head than the UK; take Denmark and Norway with respective GDPs per head around 20% and 40% higher than the UK's.

No one seriously argues Scotland could not become an independent state and a successful one at that. But it would take time.

Apart from the 18 months or so it would take to finalise a divorce settlement, establishing all the necessary structures of government and a successful economic policy could take years.

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Challenges would include coping with a massive post-pandemic deficit and debt, using a foreign currency, sterlingisation, would place an independent Scotland at the mercy of the markets and, when it joined the EU, a border would be created with the rest of the UK - which would still by then be its biggest market - raising trade costs; as borders do.

During the recent Commons debate on the Queen’s Speech, Tory veteran Sir Edward Leigh argued the fight for the Union was now the “single most important issue we have to deal with”.

The Lincolnshire MP insisted the UK Government should not emulate the Remainers’ mistake from the EU referendum and approach a constitutional issue from a purely economic perspective.

“We mustn’t play Project Fear,” declared Sir Edward. “We must say we love being together with Scotland. We love the Scottish people. We love the Union. We’ve achieved so much together. Let’s keep it going.”

The SNP MP Alan Brown warned his Conservative colleague “love-bombing” Scotland would not be enough to save the Union.

Yet, then again, it might help.

The UK Government will be using the Internal Market Bill to funnel money directly to projects in Scotland, deliberately bypassing Holyrood. There will also be cash from the £5 billion Levelling Up Fund and proposed road and rail schemes from the Union Connectivity report due in the summer.

Expect more ministerial visits to Scotland, speeches and a Cabinet away-day or three north of the border. Celebrities might even be brought in to underline those cherished cross-border cultural ties.

Mr Johnson told MPs how the UK was “joined together by blood and family, tradition and history into the most successful political economic and social union the world has ever known”.

Last week, even Michael Gove, who chairs a Cabinet committee on implementing Whitehall’s Union strategy, referred to the “spirit of love” as he was quizzed by MPs, noting how England thought its long marriage with Scotland “fantastic”.

In the coming months officials in the UK Government’s Union Unit and Union Directorate will be busy drawing up not only that raft of Project Fear warnings but also a string of Project Love schemes to show voters how staying in the 300-year-old marriage, is, in such uncertain times, a much safer bet than a messy divorce.

The key question is: will love and fear prove a winning combination.