ECONOMY Secretary Keith Brown has underlined the importance of demonstrating to voters “that Scotland can make a success of independence” as he set out his pitch to become Nicola Sturgeon’s right-hand man.

He underlined his successful delivery of the £1.35 billion Queensferry Crossing, which for many has become a symbol for a new confidence in Scotland’s future, as he presented himself as the best-placed candidate to become the new SNP depute leader.

The MSP announced his decision through The National earlier this week to stand in the contest to succeed Angus Robertson, who resigned from the position last month.

READ MORE: My day job is the economy – and that will be key to #ScotRef

He was the third contender to enter the race, joining Glasgow Cathcart MSP James Dornan and well-known activist Julie Hepburn.

Writing in The National today, Brown said economic arguments would be vital in winning a new referendum and that presenting voters with a long-term plan to build a prosperous and fair Scotland would be crucial.

“We have to make sure our platform is ready for the voters and robust enough to stand scrutiny and show that Scotland can make a success of independence.

“It’s not enough to show how badly we’re doing in the UK, we have to lay out a long-term plan for the future; how we’ll build Scotland’s economy and make sure that everyone gets their fair share,” he said.

“Small and medium-sized businesses will be drivers of growth and we need to build on what we’ve already done to encourage them and help them survive and then thrive.

“If someone wants to start their own company or be self-employed I want to make sure that they get all possible help from Scotland’s government. Independence will need a Scotland where enterprise is rewarded and hard work pays off. Improving Scotland’s economy and shrugging off the sluggishness that the UK has created in it is the key to our future. It’s my day job and it’s going to be an important part of the case for independence.”

In what has become a key theme in the contest – which has yet to officially begin – Brown also underlined the need to get the party, its members and activists ready for any new election and to win a referendum.

“We have to be ready – ready to fight any election and win any referendum. We have to be action-ready now. That means training members as activists and organisers, connecting members to the policy-making process, and making sure that party HQ is at full campaigning readiness,” he added.

The party’s national executive committee was due to meet last week to set out the timetable for the race, but the meeting was postponed because of the heavy snow and it is understood to be taking place today.

Several high-profile figures have already ruled themselves out from throwing their hats into the ring, including Edinburgh MPs Tommy Sheppard and Joanna Cherry, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, and Perthshire MP Pete Wishart.

Wishart was considering standing, but his suggestion of a cautious approach towards the timing of new referendum – potentially postponing it until after 2021 – was not popular among members.

Read the full piece by Keith Brown here.