The evidence of the damaging economic impact of Brexit mounted rapidly in 2022. At the same time, public opinion swung increasingly against it too. It was much more than just a “we told you so” moment for Scotland. The damage is real and has hit Scotland as much as England and Wales.

Yet Conservatives and Labour nonetheless continue embracing Brexit, ignoring the ‘emperor has no clothes’ moment of 2022. And so the contrast of the SNP’s independence in the European Union goal remains a major, potential motivation for change.

Yet the European debate in Scotland is remarkably shallow, whether viewed from unionist or pro-independence sides. Soundbites are traded on the euro, borders, trade and migration with a lack of depth or interest in the genuine complexity and uncertainty of many of these issues.

The Scottish Government has promised a policy paper on independence in the EU. That gives it a chance, in 2023, to show the SNP is really energised by, and arguing for, all the benefits that EU membership will bring. It cannot afford for its EU paper to fall rapidly into the ‘is that it?’ pile, as its earlier papers did.

Read more: Independence still offers a way back into the EU for Scotland

An enthusiastic pro-EU argument does not look hard. Scottish voters rejected Brexit and still do. Young voters who are the most enthusiastic proponents of independence are also strongly pro-EU. And, while Brussels will be highly wary for years to come should the UK ever ask to return, the prospects for a positive response to an accession request, from a consistently pro-European, independent Scotland, are much better.

Politically, EU membership, as smaller EU member states from Ireland to Finland to Portugal show, brings many benefits. That seat and vote at the EU’s top tables gives real voice and engagement in key issues from climate change to sanctions on Russia, future accessions, and trade deals.

Yet too often, the Scottish debate presents the EU’s single market as the core attraction. Certainly, it’s important. But it’s only one part of the dynamic, social, political, economic and security arguments for EU membership. Even on the single market, the Scottish government has been dilatory, almost completely failing to keep up, as promised, with new EU laws in devolved areas. Is that lack of confidence or commitment or both?

Opponents of independence, most of them once firmly pro-EU, welcome a low key and narrow European debate. It saves their blushes as they embrace Brexit. Yet their positions are contradictory, hypocritical even.

Labour politicians, in particular, are stuck with arguing that Brexit will be fine once Starmer tweaks the current EU-UK trade deal, easing border pressures, while underlining the border damage that independence will bring. And there’s to be no single market nor even a customs union option under Labour, neither for the UK nor Scotland. Despite Labour’s claims for radical constitutional reform, EU policy is made in London.

Meanwhile, the SNP faces its own contradictions, downplaying border challenges from independence while pointing up the damage from Brexit’s harder borders. Still, the SNP are right that if an independent Scotland joins the UK-Ireland Common Travel Area, it will benefit from free movement both in the rest of the UK and in the EU – a win-win. But this skates away from one crucial question of whether photo-id, even if not passports, will need to be shown at the England-Scotland border – quite likely so, and a highly sensitive topic.

The unionist side point repeatedly to the fact that Scotland’s current trade with the rest of the UK is three times that with the EU. There are a range of potential answers: the dynamic benefits of free movement, increased foreign direct investment, re-orienting away from the self-destructing Brexit economy.

Read more: Is Scotland lacking a serious debate on independence?

Still, wider benefits of the larger EU market will take time to come through. And transition questions abound.

How long will it take to re-join the EU? What trading relationship will an independent Scotland have with the EU and rest of UK until then? What are the likely economic costs and benefits during the transition to the EU? Perhaps, the Scottish government’s Europe paper will answer all this.

Meanwhile, we are left with a shallow, unhelpful debate of the sort seen last autumn on the euro. More a spat than debate, it was an attempt by Tory leader Douglas Ross to reinforce media headlines that an independent Scotland must join the euro, and Nicola Sturgeon’s counter-efforts to dismiss those headlines.

There is, fair enough, a lot of ink spilled on whether an independent Scotland should rapidly launch its own currency or follow a sterlingisation policy of keeping the UK pound. But there is little serious debate on the costs and benefits of joining the euro, on how slowly or quickly that might happen, or even on the politics of saying, as Nicola Sturgeon did in the autumn, that she didn’t think the euro was right for Scotland.

In fact, if the government of an independent Scotland were to say it didn’t think the euro was right for it, instead of committing genuinely to eventually join it, it would find itself pointed clearly in the direction of Norway and the European Economic Area (EEA).

Some would welcome that: Alex Salmond’s Alba calls for a transition via the European Free Trade Area. It’s a point of view. But it suggests there’s a magically rapid way of joining the EU’s single market through the EEA. In fact, as countless EU accession negotiations have shown, joining the single market and its associated policies, is a serious, time-consuming process. It would leave Scotland outside the EU’s customs union, with a regulatory border to England and Wales, and a customs border to the EU. And with no seat at the EU table.

Heading into 2023, the debate around independence will doubtless focus intensely on the SNP’s upcoming choice on which election to treat as a de facto referendum. But substantive debate is needed too. And on European questions, it is past time that debate moved out of the shallows.