IT IS time for the great reveal. Nicola Sturgeon has promised to publish an updated prospectus on the “opportunities and the challenges” of independence. And about time. The last prospectus, the Independence White Paper, Scotland's Future, of 2013 is hopelessly out of date.

That 670-page document covered everything from agricultural support to the regulation of Outer Space. It promised what was essentially a borderless new United Kingdom, keeping the Queen as head of state and retaining key institutions like the pound, the BBC, the National Grid.

There would be no hard border between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK because both countries would, the White Paper assumed, remain in the European single market. No border controls, customs checks, regulatory issues, or money changing. Absolutely not. Nada.

The Bank of England would continue to set interest rates and would be “lender of last resort” in any banking crisis. There would be “continuity” of pension arrangements. Corporation tax would be cut by 3% and Air Passenger Duty phased out.

The 2013 White Paper said that Scotland's then deficit of 6.4% would be balanced by around £8bn a year in revenues from North Sea oil and gas which would make “a substantial contribution to tax revenues for decades to come”.

The document also said the 2014 independence referendum would be “once-in-a-generation opportunity”. If Yes, there would be an 18-month transition period to negotiate: “an independence settlement ensuring the continuity of those public services currently managed at UK level”.

Clearly, a generation has not passed since the 2014 referendum, though Nicola Sturgeon will argue that there has been a “material change in circumstances” since the 2016 Brexit referendum. She insisted in 2018 that the Brexit deal, negotiated with Brussels, should be put to a second, “Peoples Referendum”. She will argue that the Scexit deal does not need a confirmatory referendum because – well, just because.

Brexit has placed a massive spanner in the independence project. The new prospectus must accept the reality of a hard border with England and explain how all those new regulatory and customs checks will be managed. The EU has made clear that Scotland cannot rejoin the single market and remain in the UK. They have only allowed this in Northern Ireland because of the Good Friday Agreement which requires no border in Ireland. There can be no “read across” to Scotland – essentially because we never had a civil war.

The other lacuna is currency. The 2013 White Paper had Scotland keeping the pound after independence. This was contentious at the time, but is now academic. An independent Scotland cannot, post-Brexit, remain in a currency union with England. It would have to set up its own central bank and plan for its own currency or to join the euro.

In the meantime, for at least a decade, according to the 2018 Sustainable Growth Commission Report, Scotland would peg its currency to the pound in what is called sterlingisation. This has been criticised by many on the left of the SNP since it appears to leave Scotland's economy and interest rates controlled by the Bank of England without having access to the Bank's vast monetary resources and QE.

Economically-literate nationalists, like the former SNP MP George Kerevan, say Scotland must set up its own independent currency on day one. The alternative is to be forever held in the invisible chains of “global neo-liberalism”. What they really mean is that Scotland could not freely increase public spending after independence.

The Sustainable Growth Commission called for financial constraint for at least a decade after independence to demonstrate Scotland could be prudent with the nation's finances. Public spending would be kept to 1% below growth rate. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said that this amounted to “austerity” because it would mean cutting public spending on services and benefits by around 4% over a decade.

SNP left-wingers believe that governments can and should spend without limit. So long as they control their own currency, governments can never go bankrupt because they can print money. This is called Modern Monetary Theory.

It seems highly unlikely that Nicola Sturgeon will endorse this expansionist policy in the middle of a global inflationary crisis. After independence, a Scottish Government will have to seek monetary stability, not least because the European Union requires member countries to show they're capable of debt no larger than 60% of GDP and a deficit no higher than 3%. Brussels doesn't want another Greece.

More pressingly, an independent Scotland will have to borrow on the international money markets. They are likely to charge high interest on Scottish debt. Not just because of the disruption caused by independence, and the loss of Bank of England liquidity, but because Scotland's economic fundamentals are weak.

In 2013 Scotland was still a hydrocarbon economy with “24 billion barrels” of oil and gas assets in the North Sea. Unionists jeered when the price of Brent Crude collapsed shortly after the referendum. Now it is back over $100 dollars a barrel, but the Scottish Government says it wants to “keep it in the ground” to meet Net Zero, so forget that.

The Scottish economy has a sluggish growth rate, high taxation, little manufacturing and a financial sector which may well abandon Scotland given the intense hostility to financial capitalism amongst the SNP intelligentsia. Scotland will be charged high interest rates when it borrows from abroad to finance public spending and to service its share of national debt carried over from the UK.

So the independence prospectus has big questions to answer. Money, borders, Brexit, borrowing and debt. Oil is gone, and the green industries never materialised. With a war in Ukraine and Nato rearmament Scotland can no longer assume there will be an “independence peace dividend” or that it can get rid of Trident in the short term.

We live in a different world. The longer Ms Sturgeon pretends nothing has changed the harder it will be to persuade Scottish voters, already facing an unprecedented cost of living crisis, that independence offers a secure future.

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