THE National will have a provocative new voice on board from tomorrow when the eminent historian and journalist Michael Fry joins the team as a regular columnist.

He will chiefly write on politics and economics and believes the case for independence needs to appeal more strongly to voters from the centre right.

It is his view Scotland will one day become an independent country, however he believes that for that to happen it is vital for its economy to grow and prosper.

His opinions on the way ahead for the independence movement will be in sharp contrast to those of some of the papers’ other columnists who take a left of centre approach.

“I don’t think we can have a socialist paradise in an independent Scotland because they don’t and can’t exist,” he said.

“If Scottish independence cannot produce a better growth rate and make us all richer then there’s really no point to it.”

Fry believes that when Scotland does become independent it will look like “a progressive western country” similar in outlook to our Scandinavian neighbours.

“I think an independent Scotland would be a normal western country, quite progressive in its outlook, like Denmark and Sweden and other such countries.

“These countries, while having generous social security, are still capitalist and we have to be clear it is the capitalist system that produces the goods that gives us the money that we can then spend on supporting our welfare system. In my view capitalism and wealth creation have to come first. In Scotland we are in danger of getting things the wrong way around, with redistribution coming first and the economy being left to take care of itself.”

He added: “I have no doubts about it. I believe Scotland will become independent, but it may take a longer rather than a shorter time.”

But getting more people on board from the right is key, he says, and believes increasing support should be given to small businesses along with a reduction in planning regulations to boost development. He also favours lower income taxes and smaller public expenditure.

“I think there are plenty of people [on the centre right] who support Scottish independence. The aim is independence and then it’s up to the people of Scotland whether left wing or right wing policies will be pursued.”

A former Scottish Conservative parliamentary candidate, Fry left the Tories in 2005 over what he says were his frustrations with the party over its constitutional stance and failure to embrace more powers for Holyrood.

Born in London, he moved to Edinburgh in 1970 to take up a position as a trainee reporter on The Scotsman.

He has subsequently written for a wide variety of newspapers including The Herald and The Sunday Times.

Alongside his career in journalism he is one of Scotland’s most prolific historians. His books include a biography of Henry Dundas, who consolidated the Union in the 18th century, an examination of Scotland’s influence abroad in The Scottish Empire, and a history of the Highlands in Wild Scots. His new columns will analyse the political and economic issues of the day.

At times he has been a controversial figure and caused outrage a decade ago with his revisionist ideas about the Highland Clearances. He argued that they were an inevitable product of economic and agricultural change and attacked those who would romanticise a culture in which Scots were portrayed as victims.

He also infuriated the Gaelic community several years ago when called for state funding for Gaelic to be withdrawn and the language left to wither on the vine.

He accused ministers of pandering to the powerful Gaelic lobby and condemned millions of pounds of public money spent on the language each year as a “futile resuscitation attempt”.