OUR FM and her cohorts are clearly outperforming the band of Unionists set against them, both in this last election and endless succession of TV fechts. It may be that the opposition is rubbish, but clearly our campaigners are what is known as “seasoned” and up for anything thrown at them.

But we do know that many questions offered up in this game are unanswerable if we are being honest; foretelling the future in particular can easily be rubbished – exam results, crime decline, how many immigrants in, whether we stop/reduce/continue oil and gas extraction, what about our currency and the deficit? So we all fudge, and this is I suggest, for the politically savvy Scots, is a fudge that is none too tasty to any of us.

We talk “sustainable energy” yet subsidise the loaded oil conglomerates to extract fossil fuels from our North Sea and Atlantic Ocean (the fiscal regime and regulation of this is a Westminster responsibility now, but an explanation as to why a Norway-like oil fund is difficult to arrange when we become independent would be interesting, probably seen as unpalatable at this time, but surely we can handle that). We talk of “open immigration” but do not know how many and who we want in. (Singapore, with the same 5.6 million population, has plans now for nine million – have we the spunk? The answer for our nation is somewhere there).

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But in fact there are answers to all these questions ... if Holyrood only had plans, and put up resources enough to back them. For instance, it walks into problems if they give target NHS waiting times and school exam results without a long-term plan to provide adequate and trained staffing; and we know that there are infrastructural deficiencies in place that at best make the setting out of targets risky and seen as defensive guesstimates at best.

Is the problem the five-year parliamentary term? Some of the nation’s planning is over longer periods, but, whatever, our political parties promote their “manifestos” designing intrinsically around what it proposes to do in the next term of government. Nobody, I believe, disagrees with the concept of setting, in these manifestos, for instance, aspirational NHS waiting-time limits.

But have we any idea what Scotland is going to be like for our children and their children – not by 2025 but by the mid-century and beyond when they are paying taxes, sorting out their mortgages, making their way in the world?

Does this matter? We know what is happening in Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, Norway, Finland, even the Faroes. None of their achievements, I suggest, were made over five-year parliamentary terms. Infrastructure at a national scale takes decades to conceive. And all have to be integrated – roads with railways, bridging and tunnelling, cycle tracks, new means of mobility, location of social facilities, community connectivity, population growth, the sustainability of our environment, numbers of immigrants (vs number of emigrants) ... plus the creation of new jobs. From such, and more, is our nation’s economy going to be built.

With 25- and 50-year plans for the nation we can have a “management strategy”, which, whilst being aspirational, will make it easier to direct  development, with objectives clearly set out, create careers, reduce implementation times and thus wastage costs.

With a long-term master plan, Scotland can connect most of our islands such as Arran, Jura, Islay, Mull, Outer Hebrides and the Orkney Isles – yes, and Ireland. (Tunnelling to the Shetland Isles may take a while). Japan, Denmark, Norway and even the Faroe Islands have done or are in the process of doing exactly that in the interests of their economy and national “connectivity”. Scotland would create a “Northern Singapore” in its deep-water port Scapa Flow bringing Europe over the Arctic to the world’s greatest markets in Asia and West Coast America. And then there is the other deep-water potential of Hunterston coupled with a free-trade zone (FTZ) around Prestwick Airport.

Scotland can then seriously plan for repopulation and “rewilding” of up our game in education and health, reduce the various addictions to which our nation is so sadly afflicted. Help

remove homelessness by industrialisation of the building industry, add a “well-being” agenda to the governance of our nation, set out exactly where we are going and what we mean to do about climate change and our precious but now damaged biome.

Very little, I suggest of the dreams of any independent country can be implemented in five-year tranches. Do we Scots dare to dream? Time to plan for our kids; let’s go!
Gordon Benton
Newburgh, Aberdeenshire