A MAJOR report was published last week that is pivotal to how we approach the next independence referendum. No, not Andrew Wilson’s conservative Growth Commission report. I’m talking about the findings of a Joseph Rowntree Foundation study into the voting intentions of Scottish low-income households.

Working-class folk, especially those who are unemployed, unskilled and dependent on benefits, are the most likely to vote SNP. They provided the bedrock of support in 2014 that nearly won us independence. The Rowntree report argues forcibly that unless the SNP directly address the needs and aspirations of this core demographic, they will lose support to Labour and the Tories.

It is through these glasses that we should read Andrew Wilson’s Growth Report. For it is precisely these working-class voters whose support haemorrhaged from the national cause at last year’s General Election – when the SNP lost a quarter of its vote share and 21 seats to boot.

Some of these lost voters simply stayed at home. Turnout in 2017 was 66%, massively down on the fantastic 85% for the 2014 referendum. Ominously, voter turnout last year in Scotland was lower than in the UK as a whole. This suggests we have a fight on our hands to mobilise Yes supporters next time round.

Some of the SNP’s missing voters have drifted into the Labour camp, encouraged by the left turn represented by Jeremy Corbyn and his strident anti-austerity rhetoric. True, the Nats remain by far the biggest working-class party – some 40% of working-class electors voted SNP last year, compared to 26% for Labour. But at the next General Election – which could come soon – Labour need only a one percentage point swing to take another 21 seats in the UK. A third of these are in Scotland and all held by the SNP. And there are another 16 SNP seats that Labour need only a five-point swing to capture.

By producing a comprehensive, well-documented and closely-argued case for independence, Andrew Wilson hopes to draw the teeth of the opposition ahead of time. Nothing wrong with getting in your retaliation early. In particular, the report confronts the possible fiscal deficit indy Scotland might have to deal with. This deficit – the gap between what we spend and what we raise in taxes – results from an under-performing Scottish economy deformed by exploitative City banks, the domination of London in controlling investment flows, and successive, incompetent Westminster governments addicted to short-termism.

Andrew frets that opponents of independence will say Scotland couldn’t pay its way (which they will say anyway). So he has drawn up a blueprint which proposes a classic budget-tightening approach, restricting public spending growth to less than (cash terms) economic growth.

This means that if we can’t improve real productivity in Scotland radically, improvements in real public spending will came at a glacial pace. But I’m damned if I can see how we can up productivity without radically increasing capital investment, and that can only come from the public sector. Besides, who is Wilson really trying to convince? Project Fear didn’t seem to worry working-class voters at the 2014 referendum or 2015 General Election.

Why? Because if you are already poor, you vote for the party that gives you hope. Or you don’t vote at all. By trying to allay middle-class and media worries regarding how indy Scotland could manage its borrowing and spending, Wilson is in danger of robbing the next independence referendum of being a rallying cry of hope for working-class voters.

Here we come to the all-important currency question. A major reason we lost the indy referendum was down saying we would keep sterling, so as not to frighten the business community. The Growth Commission began in 2016 as a mechanism to retreat from this disastrous policy. But after a two-year gestation what do we get? Wilson has cleverly offered the possibility in the medium term (a decade plus) of a new Scottish currency, but only when the deficit “problem” is fixed and only when the financial markets are satisfied we can run our affairs “responsibly”.

Meanwhile, Scottish interest rates would be set in London, geared to London’s needs.

For starters, why have a Scottish currency if you can “fix” the economy without it (which you can’t)? And giving the City a veto over creating a Scottish economy is like asking a burglar’s permission to lock your door at night. To comfort the City, Wilson proposes that indy Scotland adopt wholesale the current UK bank supervision rules. These are the much watered-down – useless – version of regulations against which I and other SNP MPs fought tooth and nail for two years at Westminster. Meanwhile, the Growth Commission devotes only a few scant paragraphs to the Scottish Government’s new National Investment Bank, which is the cornerstone of any genuine domestic regeneration strategy.

The hairshirt approach of the Growth Report might satisfy the Presbyterian souls of some of the Scottish commentariat and intelligentsia. Andrew Wilson’s conservative economics might win dubious praise from the professorial superstars of a failed bourgeois economics. And it might win the (temporary) approval of the financial markets by prostrating an indy Scottish government before the City of London banks.

But there are those who will not be enraptured by this document – the poor, the unskilled, and the working-class voters who want hope in their lives and might be persuaded that an independent Scotland will give it to them. These are the very voters Jeremy Corbyn is also appealing to.

The policy failure in 2014 had nothing to do with Alex Salmond presenting a vision that was too rosy or too easy to attain. Offering hope is not the same thing as offering voters a dubious cash bung.

I’ve never been one to dismiss the difficult fiscal choices faced by a small independent nation in a world dominated by rapacious investment banks, trade and exchange-rate wars, and the pendulum of oil prices. On the other hand, independence is all about taking democratic control of our physical resources, capital flows, technology and labour and using them for the common good of all Scots.

Tough decisions will be required. There might even be sacrifices required in the short run to build a better, more equitable nation. But the sine qua non of inspiring those sacrifices is that they are shared equally and that they are dedicated to an outcome that betters the lives of ordinary Scots – not the bonuses of London bankers.

The Joseph Rowntree report is correct – and more political than Andrew Wilson’s. The Yes movement needs to win over and mobilise the power and aspirations of working-class voters, or we lose. We can’t please everybody, so let’s please the folk who have had nothing out of the system. Pandering to the status quo won’t change things. It’s a hope thing, really.