Andrew Wilson’s Growth Report has been praised by some, criticised by others, but few would deny that it has reinvigorated the independence debate. In part two of his first major newspaper interview since it was published, he talks to Kathleen Nutt about Brexit, Salmond and indyref2.

You can read the first part of our interview by clicking here.

Q: Why did the report take so long to come out?

AW: Chiefly because all the people on the Commission, except for the economic team which we employed on a part-time basis, were doing this pro bono for a cause we care about. Secondly, we had to get it right rather than get it out quickly, and thirdly we wanted to launch it at an appropriate point.

READ MORE: Growth Report author says independence case is 'far more credible' than others

Q: Why is now is the right time?

AW: Because I think people are looking to the endgame of the Brexit negotiations between the UK and Europe, and Scotland needs to be clever, have its eyes open and make choices about what’s in its interests. And I think as Scotland sees what unfurls, it will want to make choices on the basis of thought-through plans.

Q: When was the report finished?

AW: It wasn’t concluded in detail until a few weeks ago.

The National:

Q: Did the First Minister suggest any changes when you handed it to her on the Monday before publication?

AW: No. I have to say we engaged with the party itself and no recommendations of substance were ever put to us ... The substance was very much made by the Commission itself.

Q: The journalist Kenny Farquharson said the report “is a devastating takedown of Alex Salmond”. What would you say to that?

AW: People are always keen to personalise politics. For me, I only got involved in the SNP because of the mentoring and support of Alex Salmond. I have the highest personal regard for Alex Salmond ... this is emphatically not a takedown of Alex Salmond. What it is is a development of a lot of his thinking. Many of the things put in the report were discussed recently and over the years with him. I would say it is the opposite of a takedown of him.

People in the media sometimes want a fight. One of our other core messages is that Scotland has to get over this. We have to get over all the noise on the margins. Personality fights. Really? Is that important to what we are discussing here? History will forget whether or not one individual fell out with another individual, which in this case they did not. What history will remember is the choice Scotland made, did it succeed and why.

Q: Did you discuss the work of the Commission with Alex Salmond?

AW: I’ve been discussing the economics of independence with Alex Salmond for 25 years. Many of the things we thought about – how do we deal with debt, debt interest sharing and what is the correct solution for currency, post-currency union, how do we get ambition for the country to be among the 12 best in the world – that is all rooted in the thinking of Alex Salmond over many years.

Q: Did he feed into the report, say on the currency?

AW: We didn’t take evidence from him but he fed in his views when we showed him the report well in advance.

The National:

Q: How can you have a frictionless trade with the UK and EU?

AW: It’s not a conclusion, it’s a recommendation that that is what government policy should seek. If we were advising the UK Government just now, we would be urging them to fight for as soft a Brexit as possible to keep us in the customs and single market. For the Scottish Government, the prize is to get as soft a position with Europe, the UK and Ireland as possible.

Q: Lots of think tanks were invited to the launch. Why was Common Weal not invited?

AW: It wasn’t the launch, but that event was to report back to the people who took part in the engagement process. All the think tanks were invited, Chris Deerin [director of Reform Scotland] was a panellist because we wanted to have critics there. And the process was to speak to those we need to convert, not speak to ourselves. In terms of Common Weal, I say again that we read everything it produced with great interest and great respect. We also met with Robin McAlpine a few months ago to brief him and I have to say with the greatest of respect to Robin, he respected the privacy of that discussion. Robin is a highly intelligent individual who is on his own political journey and I have the greatest respect for him. His mother taught in my university department when I was growing up. I had the highest regard for her. She was always a very pragmatic, centrist nationalist with a radical edge.

Q: People are saying this is an economic case for independence which will please bankers and the establishment.

AW: Well, if we are to become independent we need to please enough people that we can win the case for it to happen and then to make it work. This almost risked name-calling rather than being content-focused. What do we mean by the establishment? The people who employ people? Do we need to have independence in opposition to the people who run the country, or do we need to persuade those people who currently run the country that this can be done?

The National:

Q: Do you think it has the potential to persuade Chris Deerin to back independence?

AW: I don’t want to name names – and this does not mean Chris Deerin – but there are lots of people opposed to independence in 2014 who say the report and Brexit is giving them pause for thought.

Q: Who is the target audience for the report?

AW: It’s everyone. We need to speak to all of the country and indeed the international community that needs to think that Scotland is ready. If you look at the sort of comments it has had from critics who examine this, the sort of people who influence the people who fund governments’ debt, you’ll find its getting a much more favourable and creditable response. People on the left may say: “Who cares about the City?”. Well if you don’t care about investors and the people who fund you and create jobs, then you don’t win, you don’t succeed. We exist in a world where we need to get other people to put their pensions into buying our debt so that we can fund public services.

But ultimately the honest answer to your question, what was really front of mind when drafting, was those people who just voted No in 2014 but who know themselves to be open-minded and persuadable. There is a tranche of Scottish life that is completely unpersuadable, at least in the short term. But I think there is at least 15% to 20% who voted No who might be persuadable given all the things that are happening in the world, not least when you look at the status quo – which is chaotic, which is uncertain, which is damaging – and into a UK economy which is by a mile the most unequal in the industrialised world.

The National:

Q: Do you sincerely believe your report can help make Scotland independent?

AW: I would never overclaim. The only people who can make Scotland independent are the people in Scotland who vote for it and the politicians who can take the argument to them and win. I humbly hope that this report provides the framework and underpinning so a new case can be built that’s built on the truth, certainty, honesty and credibility, that doesn’t pretend that on day one everything falls into our lap, we can print money and print our way to success. That is not the truth, it’s not real and people won’t believe it. What we’ve set out is an honest exposition of how we can make Scotland as good as the best small countries in the world over a generation. And knowing what I know about the average person in Scotland, they want to be spoken to like an adult who is intelligent rather than be sold a pup.

Q: So the focus is very much on those voters who may be open to persuasion to back a Yes vote?

AW: From right across the spectrum on the independence side who want to win, we need to have in our minds that we are persuading the centre ground and those who are currently unpersuaded. We must, of course, take none of the votes of the 45% who voted Yes for granted but we must be focused on building the settled will that is big enough to get Scotland sustainably to where we want it to be.

Q: In terms of the 45%, do you think there is a danger with all these critics, such as Colin Fox, Robin McAlpine and Ben Wray, that all this criticism could actually damage the cause of independence?

AW: This is a debate we have started and people are entitled to contribute to the debate where they see fit. I’ve noticed in the past Robin McAlpine calling for respectful, inclusive, positive debate and I would encourage him back in that direction.

Q: Do you believe the Unionist side is worried?

AW: They ought to be, but they should be much more worried that there is no prospectus for Scotland in the Union that is positive. If I was an entrenched Unionist, I would be working on one.

Q: The 2014 prospectus was full of hope, this one is, as you say yourself, realistic. But maybe it’s tipped the balance too much to become too challenging?

AW: No, quite the opposite. Hope only matters if it’s real. And this is as hopeful and optimistic as anything. The very title is designed to communicate just that. What could be more hopeful than becoming as successful as the best societies in the world of our scale, and what could be more hopeless than suggesting we can get there overnight?