WHO could have predicted that it would be left to the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, to ride to the rescue of the Scottish Government last week over the Independence White Paper, after its lambasting from the Scottish and UK press?

The governor calmly said he would welcome discussions about Scotland remaining in the sterling zone after independence. As well he might. Threadneedle Street doesn't want to lose around £40 billion from the UK balance of payments, nor does it want to damage UK business by erecting costly barriers to the free movement of goods between Scotland and England.

However, it is a sad day when Scotland's First Minister has to look to support from England's central banker. The Nationalists were kicked royally across the front pages last week by everyone from the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, to the former Conservative PM, John Major. Alex Salmond was left at First Minister's Questions apparently defending his case for continued membership of the European Union with a letter downloaded from the internet.

Really, it won't do. This was the same John Major who in 1992 said that "Scottish devolution is the most dangerous proposition ever put to the British people". As for the Spanish PM, he has refused even to grant the Catalan people a referendum. Yet their discredited commentary was solemnly recorded as yet more "damage" to the independence case.

The Scottish Government claimed to be satisfied with the reception for the White Paper. I can't imagine why. The consensus, even in the sympathetic corners of the Scottish press, was that it was a missed opportunity - possibly the last - for the independence campaign to achieve lift-off.

I fear most Scots have been left believing a) that an independent Scotland might not be allowed to use the pound, and b) that there is a risk of Scotland being thrown out of the EU. Neither scenario is remotely credible and only the most intellectually incontinent Unionists suggest it is. Scotland fulfils all the Copenhagen criteria for membership of the EU and has been under the jurisdiction of European law since 1992. Why would Brussels allow a country riven by xenophobia and corruption like Bulgaria join and not Scotland?

The real uncertainty about Europe arises not from the Scottish referendum but from the forthcoming UK referendum on withdrawal, which really could take Scotland out of Europe. But try explaining that on Good Morning Scotland, as I have, against the received media wisdom that an independent Scotland will be expelled from the EU, like an errant child, for having the temerity to exercise its natural right to self-determination.

The Scottish Government consoles itself that these are intellectually bogus issues, just part of Project Fear. True. But the inconvenient truth is that many people in Scotland - and I have spent the last six months speaking to large gatherings of Scots at events from Orkney to Wigtown - believe the fears to be genuine. The White Paper and its media aftermath has failed to budge Scottish politics from the scare agenda. For all its detail and clarity, it has not convinced sceptical Scots that the independence policy of the Scottish Government is a sound one.

The White Paper tried to move the debate on to a different plane by delivering a radical promise to slash childcare costs, a truly game-changing initiative that will be welcomed by people across Scotland. It is more imaginative than anything Labour has come up with in the UK or Scotland for years. But childcare is not an independence issue. As was immediately pointed out by Unionists, the Scottish Government could introduce its childcare policies tomorrow if it wanted to. It would mean altered priorities in the Scottish budget, since the policy would cost £700 million. But it could be done within the existing powers of the Scottish Parliament.

Alex Salmond insisted that only with independence could sufficient taxation be raised to pay for the policy. But the Scottish Parliament already has tax-raising powers: 3p on the basic rate, and it is getting the power to vary income tax by 10p next year. Nicola Sturgeon, the architect of the policy, said that the tax revenues would be raised, not from increased rates, but from 100,000 women newly drawn into the jobs market in future.

Hang on, though: to get all those women into work - assuming they want it - the Government would still have to spend much of that £700m up front to set up the childcare policy that would attract them into the labour market. They aren't all going to start paying tax overnight.

But the central problem is that, admirable though it may be, this policy does not constitute a claim of right. Neither the Declaration of Arbroath nor the American Declaration of Independence mentioned childcare, or anything like it, for the very obvious reason that it was seeking a new country, not a new social policy. Childcare is a cuddly argument for fiscal devolution, if it is anything.

True independence means addressing scary things like currency, treaties, assets, borders, citizenship, relations with Europe, relations with the rest of the UK. Unless you defuse these as negatives, Scottish voters will continue to listen to their fears rather than their hopes.

Back in the day, devolution was attacked for many of the same reasons independence is now. It was said that the Scottish Parliament would create uncertainty, division, loss of citizenship, loss of business confidence; even that it would be incompatible with membership of Europe. But the broad coalition of support behind home rule ensured that the fears were dispelled and the essential democratic case shone through.

There has been no comparable civic movement behind independence. Yes Scotland was intended to fulfil this role but it has not been able to escape from the box marked Project Fear. The Radical Independence Conference last week made a promising start, though it speaks with the intimidating voice of the old far left. Scottish voters are engaged, I can testify to that, and open-minded, but they lack confidence in the independence project.

So, the White Paper did not allay fears and nor did it widen support. The SNP blamed the hostile press, but I fear the party also failed on elementary news management.

In the 1980s, Labour was attacked relentlessly by a hostile press - remember "Labour's Tax Bombshell"? They defused it by setting up a rebuttal unit, which in the 1990s was run by the future energy minister, Brian Wilson, using the Excalibur computer database. I was working in the Westminster parliamentary lobby during those years and I recall how effective it was. On issues including the minimum wage, the windfall tax on the utilities and bank independence, no story was allowed to run through a 24-hour news cycle without being authoritatively challenged by expert witnesses armed with a mass of statistics and quotations.

It was a highly effective method and overcame a deep-seated suspicion of Labour among English voters. The SNP today has all the resources of the civil service at its disposal. Yet it allows the same canards to be repeated day after day, week after week.

Why had the Scottish Government not lined up international economists such as Professor Andrew Hughes Hallett or Joseph Stiglitz to take issue with the claim that Scotland would suffer an "independence tax bombshell"? Why didn't the Scottish Government itself commission a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, or a comparable body, on public spending and independence? What happened to all those Scottish business people who were supposed to be supporting the cause?

Where were the Scottish historians, to point out that the pound, like the UK, is the joint property of Scotland and England? Where were the cultural commentators, former Labour councillors, legal experts, church people, trades unionists, charity and community leaders? The Scottish Government was right not to line up an array of media luvvies to drone on about their love of Scotland. But they owed it to those who are genuinely uncertain about independence to have a rank of expert witnesses to articulate the case for independence and challenge the scare agenda.

Assertions from politicians, even those as fluent as Alex Salmond, are not enough. The reality of modern politics is that politicians - like journalists - are held in great suspicion by the general public. To build support for independence, the Scottish Government needs to build civic engagement. It needs to mobilise the kind of coalition of intent that underpinned the drive to set up the Scottish Parliament in the 1990s. This cannot be done, top-down, by Government ministers who have stopped listening, aided by civil servants who tell them what they want to hear.