DEREK Mackay has said Scotland needs to “win” its independence as he stepped up his argument for the new state to gradually move to a separate currency.

Ahead of what is expected to be key debate on the policy at the party’s conference this month, the Finance Secretary said the SNP needed to make a “sensible and popular” case which could persuade a majority of voters to back the establishment of a new state and assure Scots about the future.

His intervention comes a week after it emerged six party branches are backing proposals for a new currency to be set up within the first term of an independent Scottish Parliament.

But Mackay, who has tabled a resolution to conference with the party’s depute leader Keith Brown, supports keeping the pound – though not in a currency union with the UK – until six economic tests are met.

“The case for independence is simple. Decisions about Scotland should be made by the people of Scotland. Independence empowers us, gives us choices and allows us to tailor economic policy to suit Scotland’s needs,” he said, writing in The National today.

“But to actually win independence, we need to put forward a plan that persuades a majority of voters that an independent Scotland can flourish.”

He added: “In believing an independent Scotland should ultimately have our own currency, just as other countries have ... preparations should be complete for the first independent Parliament to be able to adopt a new currency, if they determine that the timing is right.

“But that is the key point – timing that suits the Scottish economy, and the ability to have choices only comes with independence. Decisions being made for our interests in Scotland, not against our interests by governments we didn’t vote for.

“Keeping the pound in the meantime is sensible, popular and allows us to choose the optimal point of change. Independence offers hope, and positive change, but our fellow Scots also want reassurance, and anyone who knocked doors in the 2014 referendum will know that.”

“I have confidence that a future independent Parliament would make the right call on timing for an independent currency. There’s no need to set out an arbitrary timetable. We believe in a fairer, more equal country. The economic plan for independence shows we can do it, and sets out how. We can match the success of our independent neighbours, some have their own currencies, some don’t. The only thing other small advanced economies have that we don’t is independence, that’s why we need to win.”

Based on results published last week, keeping the pound is likely to persuade more voters to back independence than moving quickly to a new currency. Polling for Progress Scotland by Survation of 2000 people – many undecided – found 47% expressed a preference to keep the pound in the long term; 23% backed a new currency in the longer term when economic tests are met; 14% were in favour of a switch to the euro, while just 6% supported a switch to a Scottish currency in the short term.