AN independent Scotland would “undoubtedly” be financially viable – although it would face challenges in the early years.

That is one of the conclusions of a new book from Edinburgh University’s Centre on Constitutional Change (CCC), which sets out impartial analysis from leading academics on what independence would mean for Scotland after Brexit and Covid-19.

Other views include that there would be no legal obstacles to fulfilling independence after a referendum, defence challenges will not be “insurmountable” and joining the EU would be open to an independent Scotland.

However, it also includes warnings over the need to consider issues such as stabilising the economy, the potential impact on international trade and currency options.

Dr Eve Hepburn, co-editor of Scotland’s New Choice: Independence After Brexit, said the book built on similar work before the 2014 referendum.

She said: “Then, as now, we do not take a stand on Scottish independence. Instead, we invited academics to examine and explore the issues at stake.

“We hope their impartial analysis can support citizens to participate in the debate and help them make up their mind about Scotland’s future.”

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Here we look at some the analysis in the book on key independence issues:

Public revenues and spending

Professor Graeme Roy and David Eiser from the Fraser of Allander Institute assessed the debate over the impact of choices over tax and public spending in an independent Scotland following Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

They concluded: “Brexit may strengthen the political case for independence but in some areas, it makes the short-term economic and fiscal case – particularly during any transition – more rather than less challenging.

“Covid-19 invites a conclusion that deficits do not matter, which might be true in the short-term, but is clearly a false prospectus in the long-run.

“Neither Brexit nor Covid-19 substantially alter the fundamental issues discussed in 2014. An independent Scotland would undoubtedly be financially viable, but would likely face a period of challenging fiscal consolidation – as noted by the SGC (Sustainable Growth Commission) – in its early years.

“The extent of this consolidation is uncertain and will be debated.

“Once these transitionary challenges are overcome, an independent Scotland would have greater autonomy to address the longer-term fiscal challenges that both it and the remaining UK will need to tackle over the coming decades.

“Debates over growth, tax increases and tough prioritisation of spending will be needed.”

The constitutional road to independence

Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, of Queen Mary University of London, examined the issue of negotiations with the UK which would be required after a Yes vote.

She said these would take time, but added: “It should be stressed that, if under a lawful process, Scotland elects independence, then there are no subsequent explicit legal barriers to Scottish independence.”

However, she cautioned there may be some “political hurdles” to clear.

She added: “Moreover, the 1707 Act of Union (between Scotland and England) should be repealed, and perhaps it should be born in mind that the orthodox doctrine of UK parliamentary sovereignty holds it is always possible for Westminster to pass legislation (up to the point of independence) overriding any previous legal outcome, including a Scottish independence referendum.”

She concluded: “While the constitutional path to securing a legally valid referendum is as yet unclear ... following a Yes vote, a constitutional path to fulfilling independence can be followed.

“The negotiations might not be simple, but there would be no insurmountable legal obstacles.”

Defence and security

Dr Colin Fleming, an associate fellow at the CCC, said Scotland would face a range of potential challenges around security issues, such as the development of a Scottish Defence Force, joining Nato and nuclear disarmament.

But he said none of these appeared “insurmountable” and that Scotland was unlikely to face a “direct state-on-state” threat to its security.

He said: “Just as Brexit has changed the context in which an independent Scotland may pursue its ambitions, equally the UK Government must examine the implications of Brexit for its existing defence plans.

“The UK will remain a significant military power and will continue to exert influence, but it has lost its authority in Europe and will sit outside many of the discussions relating to EU defence and security.”

He concluded: “Just as the Yes-supporting Scottish Government will be required to demonstrate its competency in defence matters in any second independence referendum, so will the No-supporting UK Government have to demonstrate that Scotland’s defence and security is still best served in the Union after Brexit.”

EU Membership

Dr Kirsty Hughes, founder and director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, said there is “no obvious reason” why an independent Scotland would face bigger challenges than the 22 countries that joined the EU since its founding.

However, she cautioned that Brexit means its border with the rest of the UK would be an external border of the EU – a very different situation to 2014.

She said: “One way to open this discussion up a bit would be to ask the question: what sort of EU member state would Scotland be?

“Would it aspire to be like Ireland – a pro-active, pro-European country situated in the core of the EU, having adopted the euro? Or would it aspire to be like a smaller Sweden – outside the euro (however informally) and aiming at influence in other priority areas such as the environment, gender equality and human rights?

“There is much to debate – and there would be some serious work to do to join the European Union.

“But the EU route is one that would be open to an independent Scotland.”