The Herald tomorrow launches a far-reaching new series called Scotland’s Future.

Appearing monthly throughout the year, it will look at key issues of the constitutional debate, as well as the challenges and opportunities around devolved public services.

The aim is not to push a political angle, but to stimulate debate about the country’s options by providing a platform for expert knowledge and lively opinion.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to hold a second independence referendum by the end of 2023, Covid permitting.

If she has a vote on that timetable, it will be a decade after the Scottish Government first set out a prospectus for leaving the United Kingdom.

The First Minister has promised an update of the 650-page White Paper of 2013 in good time for Indyref2, but so far there had been little concrete detail.

Last week’s furore over which government would pay for state pensions after independence was an example of the way the debate still harks back to the first referendum in the absence of anything fresh.

Scotland’s Future will help fill the vacuum with articles from academics and other authorities on issues and debates as they are today, not as they were.

It starts with an examination of one of the greatest changes in the independence debate – Brexit, and its implications for borders and trade if Scotland were to rejoin the EU while the rest of the UK remained outside it.

The UK’s departure from the EU has both buoyed support for independence and complicated its execution, upending many of the expectations in the original White Paper.

Eight years ago, the Scottish Government tried to stress the continuity of arrangements before and after independence.


That is no longer so simple, as Brexit has made independence a more disruptive event, given the different trade and customs regimes in prospect for Scotland and England.

The First Minister has acknowledged there would be “practical difficulties” along the Border to the south, but says they could be smoothed over through talks with London.

The first instalment of Scotland’s Future will examine this and other aspects of Brexit, including the SNP policy on returning to Brussels without a second EU referendum.

It will also look at what Brussels would expect of an independent Scotland as it applied to rejoin as a new accession state, rather than as a continuing part of the EU.

The prospects for exports, services, workers’ rights, immigration, farming and fishing are also part of this week’s package.

Our contributors include Philip Rycroft, the former permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the EU and the leading Cabinet expert on devolution, and Kirsty Hughes, the founder and former director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations.

Dr Thomas Sampson of the LSE and Fraser of Allander Institute director Mairi Spowage write about trade, Professor Nicola McEwen of the Centre on Constitutional Change looks at Scotland’s potential relationship with the EU, and Professor David Bell of Stirling University looks at immigration.

The Herald:

Meanwhile, former SNP minister Alex Neil has his say on how to run Indyref2.

The debate continues next week with a virtual roundtable discussion for subscribers hosted by former BBC Scotland political editor with Brian Taylor.

It will be your chance to put questions to the experts.

As the COP26 summit showed last year, the debate over Scotland’s oil and gas has also moved on enormously since 2014.

Then, the Scottish Government’s aim was to extract every last barrel to maximise profit from the North Sea, secure jobs, pay for better public services and invest the nation’s wealth in an oil fund for future generations.

Now, the debate is over how much fossil fuel we should leave untouched in order to avoid worsening the climate crisis, and whether green jobs replace those set to be lost.


Runaway energy prices are also contributing to the biggest squeeze on living standards in decades. The second part of Scotland’s future will therefore look at oil, gas and energy supply, and how they intersect with the independence debate.

As the row over pensions reminded us, the economy and public finances are central to that same debate, and they too will be examined.

Although it shares its name with the independence White Paper given to voters before the 2014 referendum, Scotland’s Future is not solely about the constitution.

In future instalments it will also look at a range of devolved issues, such as transport, health, eduction and social care.

Scotland’s Future is waiting for you.