AFTER 18 months of hard work by dozens of people, the Common Weal’s White Paper Project is drawing to a close with the book How to Start a New Country (and its shorter summary version A Short Guide To Starting a New Country).

It’s worth beginning with what this book isn’t. It’s not another argument for Scottish independence. It’s not a vision for what an independent Scotland could be. And it’s not a discussion of how we can win a vote for Scottish independence.

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Everyone who has worked on all the individual bits of policy areas was asked to answer the same question – if Scotland voted for independence, in your area of expertise how prepared are we to become an independent country and what would we need to do to be prepared?

Taking all this work, filling in some bits and pieces of technical detail and process and shaping it into a coherent programme of work certainly took some effort, but the conclusions seem clear. If we try and rush the independence process, if we dive into it underprepared, we’ll simply end up less independent than if we are properly prepared and work our way through the process of state-building systematically.

We believe that this would take three years (ideally with about 18 months of preparation before a vote is held). But if this more methodical approach is taken it brings real benefits – because it makes us much more self-reliant, much less in need of the benevolence and good-will of the British state.

EXTRACT: How To Start a New Country ... the timeline for an independent Scotland

The more we can do for ourself, the less we need to ask for. The less we need to ask for, the stronger our position in negotiations. If we approach that negotiating table utterly dependant on the other side agreeing to currency unions (for example), we go in as the supplicant.

But there is no need for Scotland to be a supplicant. We are a wealthy nation with strong national infrastructure and filling in the nation-state-sized gaps in that infrastructure is not beyond us. If we can do that – without anyone else having to give permission – we are in a very strong position. This book is adamant that we can.

However, another part of the brief was never to dodge or seek to hide problems we’ll face on the way. There is an enormous amount of hard work ahead, a lot of investment is needed and there are questions we simply can’t answer just now because of the turmoil in the UK’s international relations.

READ MORE: Blueprint for how to set up an independent Scotland is published

While I believe the public is perceptive enough to see the opportunities contained in the work ahead, some believe we can’t afford to be honest or direct about the volume of work or the scale of the investment, that it will put people off or be taken out of context.

I fully recognise those people’s faith that all we need is “one more push”; just hold a referendum, polish up our slogans and we’ll get there. It just seems like an awfully risky strategy – and not a brilliant plan for what we do next if we win.

We simply cannot ignore the fact that the wavering voters who are our best chance of achieving victory are saying that they lacked the confidence to vote Yes in 2014 because they didn’t believe we could answer enough of their questions.

And, if we’re entirely truthful with ourselves, we couldn’t. I believe we have to try. I believe that if we can treat the people of Scotland with enough respect to be honest that starting a new country is hard work with hard decisions to be made, they will reward us for our honesty.

But for me its more than that. I want an independent Scotland to be a success – making it up as we go along is not the way to become a success. And I want undecided voters to be able to close their eyes, think about what they’re being offered, and see a picture of a Scotland that they can understand, that they can believe in, that they can want.

We need to make that picture real, understandable, believable – and telling them “don’t you worry, it’ll be fine” is not the way to do it. So this is our contribution. It’s probably the most detailed plan for starting a new country which has ever been published.

I hope you find reading it as enlightening as I have found writing it. It has strengthened my conviction that this is what Scotland must choose. I’m tired of being told what an independent Scotland would be allowed to do, what we’ll not be allowed to do.

I want to be able to say to the people of Scotland: “This is what we’re GOING to do.”

I believe they’ll back us.