Humza Yousaf’s speech on the economy this week, while perhaps at times veering into the Panglossian, was thought-provoking.

And there seemed a great deal more substance and reasoning in it than what you generally hear from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.

Furthermore, even the elements that might have been considered Panglossian had the right aims at their heart, crucially the ambition of lifting living standards for all.

The other thing which the Scottish First Minister’s speech brought to mind is the fact that there are big potential gains from simply not doing the wrong things.

This is something the UK Government would do well to learn, although there are absolutely no signs that it will as it continues to pursue foolish and damaging policies, including but certainly not limited to its hard Brexit. Much of its poor policymaking relates to the inequality that it seems quite happy to foster. As well as obviously being lamentable from a societal perspective, a failure to tackle inequality also damages the economy greatly.

On Brexit, Mr Yousaf noted in his speech at the University of Glasgow on Monday that “independent estimates show that billions of pounds have already been wiped from the UK economy, compared with EU membership”.

And he rightly observed “that feeds through into the amount of money available to spend on public services like the NHS”.

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This is quite a different tale from that fiction on the Brexit bus - and from the nonsense we continue to hear from the ruling Conservatives - and it is right on the money.

The thing which commanded many of the headlines over the weekend in the trails of Mr Yousaf’s speech was his calculation of how much better off people could be in an independent Scotland.

Mr Yousaf pointed to the “real-life shining example for Scotland that we can aspire to: independent countries that are significantly fairer and wealthier than the UK”.

He said: “Countries like Ireland, Norway and Denmark have both higher productivity and lower inequality than the UK.

“In other words they combine economic dynamism with social solidarity. So with all our strengths, the key question is this: why not Scotland?”

And then he got to the big numbers.

Mr Yousaf said: “In a recent well-publicised report the Resolution Foundation said that if the United Kingdom had the average income and inequality of similar countries then the typical household would be £8,300 better off.

“If we use the same analysis for countries that are similar to Scotland, the prize for the typical Scottish household would be even greater. They would be £10,200 better off. That then is the huge prize of independence.”

Surely even opponents of Mr Yousaf would not argue that the successes of the likes of Denmark, Norway and Ireland are not things to which other countries should aspire.

The big piece of the puzzle that needs to be filled in is how you might get to that higher productivity and lower inequality from where we are now.

To be fair to Mr Yousaf, he did emphasise such progression would take time.

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He said: “Not to match the performance of those independent countries overnight, no one is saying that, but to start catching up - so that Scotland becomes more normal for nations that are like us.”

And he at least endeavoured to come up with some serious answers to his self-posed question: “How do we achieve that more normal economic performance?”

Moreover, while it is important to recognise the speech clearly dealt with the possibilities more than the undoubted challenges of independence, the solutions flagged by Mr Yousaf around boosting investment and reducing inequality make absolute economic sense. So too does his determination to rejoin the European Union.

While going back into the EU might not be that straightforward for an independent Scotland, rejoining the single market and re-establishing frictionless trade and free movement of people with the bloc would be simpler.

That said, Brexit might prove to be akin to a poison pill in this regard, having introduced major complications that were not there before. Such complications would of course disappear if the UK were to rejoin the single market but there seems precious little prospect of that in the foreseeable future.

One of the answers provided by Mr Yousaf on investment was very similar to a suggestion put forward by leading global fund manager James Anderson in an interview with The Herald back in 2022.

This is the idea of a multi-billion-pound fund for investment in key sectors of the future for Scotland.

Mr Anderson, who co-managed Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust and retired from Edinburgh funds house Baillie Gifford in 2022, last year took up another full-time post in the sector, in a link-up with Italy’s Agnelli industrial dynasty.

He is a managing partner of Lingotto, an investment management group owned by Exor, the diversified holding company controlled by the Agnelli family.

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Mr Anderson’s comments about a major investment fund for Scotland were made at a time of much lower interest rates (although Mr Yousaf has talked about using oil revenues to finance such a project, as well as borrowing if needed).

And the fund manager’s comments were not made in the context of independence, although Mr Anderson noted that what he was proposing would be “a difficult thing to do in the current state of devolution”.

Mr Anderson told The Herald in the spring of 2022: “I would be an advocate of [Scotland] borrowing £10bn at 1% [per annum interest] or whatever.”

Highlighting a need to take a long-term view of such investment, Mr Anderson added: “Look at it at the end of 10 years to see if that had worked. That would be something that would have a reasonable chance of success - £10 billion geared up to £20 billion with private finance backing it.”

In his speech on Monday, Mr Yousaf put his proposal for a major fund in the context of the Resolution Foundation’s finding that, in the 40 years to 2022, total fixed investment in the UK was the lowest among the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations.

The First Minister said: “To kick-start investment in newly independent Scotland, we would set up a special fund.

“Our initial estimate is that we would use the fund to undertake capital spending of up to £20 billion over the first decade of independence. It would be financed through oil revenues and if needed borrowing.”

He added: “Scottish Government modelling has demonstrated that investment spending leads to an increase in GDP (gross domestic product), long-term productive capacity and provides a sustained boost to the economy.”

Like Mr Anderson, Mr Yousaf flagged renewable energy as one of the industries of the future that could benefit from large-scale investment.

Whatever view people take on independence, there was plenty of food for thought in Mr Yousaf’s speech on the economy.

It clearly did not have all the answers and was on the optimistic side.

However, there was a fair amount of economic substance in there along with the politics, and also some laudable aims from a societal perspective, albeit there would be significant challenges in achieving them.

Whatever people’s view on the constitution, they should recognise such substance is something that has been sadly lacking in what has emanated from the ruling Conservatives.