MAYBE it’s being out of Scotland for a few days, but the chattering classes really do seem to have taken leave of their senses. We had space being cleared in this newspaper for the Scottish Socialist Party’s announcement that if the Sustainable Growth Commission report is the basis for the Yes prospectus, it won’t take part in a cross-party campaign next time around. Then we have Ruth Davidson giving a lecture in which she harangues the UK Government over policy. Apparently this is setting out her stall to be First Minister, even though she’ll do nothing to follow up her warm words.

And in the meantime, the BBC reports the First Minister as having to “defend” the commission’s work because she’s tweeted saying that she’s looking forward to the ongoing debate. Never mind fake news. We’ve gone straight through the looking glass so that words mean exactly what people want them to mean.

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The truth is that last weekend’s SNP conference was given a real lift by the publication of the Growth Commission report. What could have been another happy-clappy rally for the faithful instead took the battle to the Tories in their own backyard.

But let’s remember that the Growth Commission is just a group of people who have spent two years thinking about how the Scottish economy might function after independence. This is not the Scottish Government’s update of the prospectus for independence. It’s not even SNP policy.

The commissioners were given a narrow remit and, from what I can see, they have kept to that. They’ve produced a highly technical report. I’ll just point out in passing that the report certainly reads like it’s been written by a large committee. It keeps on circling the subject, but never really gets to the point. Instead, it is careful to set out general possibilities, often based on the experience of other small countries that have been very successful in managing their economies over the past 30 years.

It rules out very little, and while it sketches out some illustrative examples, it contains very few commitments. It finishes by saying that it’s now up to the SNP to decide how it wants to use the report. In a world where people are used to cut-and-dried solutions, that’s frustrating in many ways, but strategically, it’s exactly what’s needed.

Andrew Wilson, who chaired the commission, reminds me a little of John Smith – the bank manager next door. Easy to underestimate. For younger readers, this is the John Smith who nearly delivered devolution for Scotland in 1979 and who, as leader of the Labour Party, eviscerated the Conservative Party over its divisions on Europe in the 1990s.

He also realised that the only way the Labour Party could win a UK General Election was by being fiscally conservative and downplaying radical ideas. Before his premature death, he opened up a 20-point polling lead over the Conservatives, so that his successor, Tony Blair, only had to avoid making mistakes to win a landslide. Too bad that he had so few ideas about using it.

The SNP leadership turned to Wilson knowing that he would unleash his inner Smith. Just read his interview with Kathleen Nutt in these pages last weekend. It is carefully practised moderation.

His report has a clear message for all those solid chaps who work in the private sector: an assurance the Scottish Government will happily work with them in the same way that other governments of small, successful countries work with their private sectors. Scotland, on becoming independent, will take advantage of its size – so that when it needs to make decisions, it will be possible to get the best people around a table and thrash out ideas. It will exploit its small size to be nimble, and responsive to the needs of businesses and the economy.

The commission’s report invites these readers to think about London as a black hole, sucking energy in from its surroundings and then radiating it out. It argues that this happens to Scottish businesses all the time just now because the UK needs London to be successful. The UK model – for regions outside London and the south-east – doesn’t so much embrace creative destruction as carpet bombing.

So, the commission proposes that in an independent Scotland there would be new institutions which would ensure the independence and stability of the Scottish economy and, by extension, the prosperity of all of the people of Scotland. Not a Scotland which would measure independence by the fig leaf of an independent currency before building credibility in capital markets, but one which is open to the world rather than having London – both the city and the UK Government – preventing it from being as successful as it could be.

To those decrying this as “neo-liberalism”, sorry, but that’s rubbish. I’ll admit the report is designed to capture the dangerous thrill of radicalism at a dinner party in Edinburgh’s New Town. So, we have “sustainable growth”, we have “inclusive growth” and, given the structure of the report, I’m surprised there is no mention of “managed growth”.

The report is choked with recognition of the importance of businesses being responsible to the broader community, and recognising that society should be able to shape business activity. All of that is designed to ensure that over time, economic development will improve wellbeing for a large majority of the population. This is no more a prospectus for the 1% than the Communist Manifesto.

Let’s not get too carried away with this piece of work. It’s narrow, it’s technical, but Wilson claims that it’s full of hope. And in the arid world of professional economics, yes, it is. It also anticipates what might be challenges in the next referendum.

Back in 2014, Alex Salmond was supposed to be strong on the economy, and to understand business. The White Paper, Scotland’s Future, set out several possible currency arrangements after independence, but favoured a sterling union, partly because of the advice in the Fiscal Commission report of 2013. Salmond set out to sell that arrangement, and only that one, to the electorate.

Now, Salmond likes to show the electorate the big picture, and encourage people to place their confidence in him. It worked very well for him in the 2011 Scottish election. It nearly worked in the referendum campaign. But placing so much emphasis on a single policy was perhaps the wrong choice when the Scottish Government could not deliver it on its own.

In contrast, Sturgeon’s strength, and passion, is social policy. Her style of debate, rattling out facts, remorselessly wearing down opponents, is also quite different from Salmond’s. The Wilson report is vital groundwork for enabling her to set out how the Scottish economy might work in the context of debates with Davidson ahead of the next referendum.

Remember, Davidson has just conceded the need for increased spending on the NHS and higher migration. Her thinking seems closer to Wilson’s than to the Prime Minister’s. Her talent has been to obstruct progress, without ever putting herself in the position where she needs to define a positive alternative. As we have seen with Brexit, when her party’s needs change, she pivots through 180 degrees beautifully. This makes her a very dangerous opponent. The First Minister will need to exude confidence in all elements of policy.

That’s why it was essential for the Growth Commission not to shoehorn the independence movement into a specific policy framework, but at the same time allow Sturgeon to appeal to the sensibilities of natural conservatives who feel little attachment to the Union.

Now that the Growth Commission has put together a positive case for independence, based on Scotland’s economic capacity and its growth potential, members of the SNP will decide how they want to embed that within the party’s broader position. That’s where the debate now needs to be focused. Not on the question of whether it’s better to offer growth or justice, but how to balance those desirable objectives.