It may not have been handed down in tablets of stone, but the White Paper on Independence is of biblical length at 670 pages.

It even has its own catechism in the form of 650 questions and answers.

Alex Salmond, the leader of the faith, took to speaking in numbers yesterday: "I refer you to page 221 paragraph 3 on article 48 of the EU". Amen.

Many answers are reassuring: Will my driving licence still work? Yes. Will cross-border rail services work? Yes, after a fashion. Will I need a Scottish passport? No. Will I be able to watch Strictly? Yes assuming the BBC agrees a joint venture with the SBS.

Some answers are risible: it says the cost of setting up an independent Scottish Revenue and tax service would be only £16m. Some are laudable, such as annually raising the minimum wage at least by inflation. Some are extra-terrestrial. Did we really need a section on "Regulation of Outer Space Activity in an Independent Scotland"?

"Salmond has answered all the questions except the most important ones", tweeted one commentator. Except of course, that most of the Unionists' questions about currency and Europe cannot be answered, definitively, because they would be subject to negotiation between Scotland and the UK. Independence inevitably involves a degree of faith, faith that Scotland and England would not go to war over the currency, with either the residual UK denying Scotland use of the pound or a provisional Scottish government repudiating our share of UK national debt.

It's not impossible that Westminster would react in a vindictive manner to a Yes vote, but it seems very unlikely. It would be in neither side's economic interest to cause unnecessary disruption to trade and financial relations.

It seems most unlikely, again, that the rest of the UK (rUK) would unilaterally impose border controls at Carlisle to keep out immigrants.

But who knows. Nigel Farage may one day be Prime Minister of England. Similarly with regard to the European Union, it is all but inconceivable that Scotland would be denied early membership, since we have been subject to European law since 1973. But you never know. Brussels might develop an irrational hatred of tartan and tell Scotland to go to the end of the queue.

The biggest act of faith is that the Scottish economy could withstand what is being called the "Independence Tax Bombshell".

This is based on the Instsitute for Fiscal Studies forecast that, because of an ageing population and declining revenues from North Sea Oil, a Scottish government might, over the next 30 years or so, have to increase taxes by 8%.

Like Labour in 1992, after they suffered devastation from a similar tabloid tax bombshell, the SNP is now promising no increases in income tax in the lifetime of the first government under independence.

That doesn't, of course, answer the "problem" of the ageing population (as if living longer is a bad thing). The SNP solution to that is two fold: first, the party in government would invite young workers to come to this country through an open-door immigration policy; and secondly, it would draft 100,000 women into the workforce by slashing the cost of child care. Mothers of Scotland, you have been warned.

Making child care the centrepiece of a document on independence was an audacious step. Partly it is symbolic: young country, female friendly.

But cradle-to-primary care would genuinely transform the job prospects for many women, and men, since they would no longer have to meet the exorbitant costs of having their children looked after while they were at work.

This policy would not be cheap at £600m and, of course, it will be criticised as another "something for nothing" giveaway. However, this is a giveaway that is intended to pay for itself, as it has in countries like Finland and Denmark.

The increased tax revenues from all those working women would help pay for the measure, according to Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, as would scrapping Trident.

But this policy doesn't have to wait for independence. The Scottish Parliament could, at least in theory, introduce free child care tomorrow, though it would not be able to raise the taxes to pay for it.

Nicola Sturgeon's argument is that only if the Scottish Parliament has full income tax powers would the benefits of this policy accrue to Holyrood.

Mind you, you could say that about any policy that boosted employment. Does having more men at work only benefit London?

But here is a challenge to the Unionists. It is to come up with a scheme whereby Scotland does raise in tax what it spends, and devolution max could be a done deal.

Public spending is higher currently in Scotland than tax revenues, and there would be readjustments to be make even if the Scottish Parliament had access to oil revenues. But this is surely an opportunity for Better Together to show that they can match the aspirations of the Nationalists.

Better Together called the child care pledge a "bribe" . But I wouldn't underestimate the appeal of this policy.

Here is a concrete example of the kind of measure that might be pursued by an independent Scottish government. I say "might", of course, because there is no guarantee that the SNP, or the SNP alone, would be running Holyrood come 2016.

It could be a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, if Scots were to tire of Alex Salmond The main criticism of the White Paper is that it didn't really deal with independence as such and instead presented an SNP election manifesto for the next Holyrood elections.

And maybe this is the sub-text to the White Paper. It is simultaneously a bid for independence and a platform for re-electing Alex Salmond.

The SNP's vision of independence is, anyway, a rather Unionist one. The White Paper celebrates continuity: the BBC, the monarchy, a common defence, the pound, the Bank of England. British passport? That'll do nicely.

There will be free movement of people and pensions across a borderless continuing UK, where everything that's good about Britain is retained, and everything nasty, such as the bedroom tax, Trident, immigration controls, privatisation of the health service and high energy prices is kept out. But whatever you think about the strength of argument in the White Paper it is all expressed in admirably clear language.

This is a weighty document in every sense of the word, but it is a readable one. It does provide responses to many technical questions, and though it is unlikely to become a best seller, it will be read very widely.

People ask me if this is a milestone, and I usually say: to where?

I don't believe this document will convert many people to the independence cause. But it has begun an important debate about how we want Scotland to look in the future, and the Scottish Government should be applauded for stating its vision in such a forthright and unapologetic manner.

This White Paper presents a blueprint for a Scottish Parliament with powers over welfare, income tax, employment taxes, broadcasting.

Many of its aspirations could be achieved short of full independence, and it therefore presents an eloquent challenge to the Unionist parties.

The SNP has shown its cards. It is time for the other side to show theirs too.