OUR ambition does not end with winning independence. That is just the start. It simply offers us the opportunity to create the country we want to live in.

The debate around independence is really about competing visions of our country’s future. As we emerge from the Covid pandemic we must seize the opportunity to rebuild our economy so that it better serves the needs of our people rather than simply replicate the old, failing system that created a society riven by inequalities and social divisions.

To do that we need a clear idea of what that country looks like and the actions needed to create it. We already know the kind of country the UK Government wants to recreate. We know, for example, that the scale of economic inequality in the UK has been substantially higher than in other developed countries. Research in 2018 showed most households in the UK had disposable incomes below the then mean of £34,200.

That mean income had been rising by 2.2% on average for the previous five years. But most of that rise was accounted for by a 4.7% rise in the average income of the richest fifth in the country. The poorest fifth saw a fall in income of 1.6%. The richest fifth had an income more than 12 times higher than the income earned by the poorest fifth.

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We certainly know Boris Johnson is perfectly happy – indeed prefers – to preside over a society driven by greed. Delivering the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture in 2013 he declared that inequality is essential to fostering what he described as the “spirit of envy” and said greed was a “valuable spur to economic activity”.

He added: “No-one can ignore the harshness of that competition or the inequality that it inevitably accentuates, and I am afraid that violent economic centrifuge is operating on human beings who are already very far from equal in raw ability, if not spiritual worth.”

He was at it again only last month when he told a committee of backbench Tory MSPs that the reason Britain had developed a Covid vaccine was “because of capitalism, because of greed”. He later tried to pass the remark off as a joke but you can see how it echoes the philosophy he outlined in 2013.

The manifesto unveiled this week by Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, included around £0.5 billion worth of tax cuts over the next parliament. That cut would not benefit the poor but high earners.

The Scottish Parliament has only limited tax raising powers but in 2017 it introduced a system that reduced the tax burden on the less well-off and increased it for those earning more. Last year that new system raised an extra £456 million.

The Conservatives, of course, have the interests of the well-paid close to their hearts. The UK Government is in the middle of controversies over suspect PPE deals, tax breaks for businesspeople close to ministers and a Health Secretary who owns shares in a company delivering services to the NHS.

Johnson is under fire for agreeing to a request from James Dyson that he “fix” a problem with the businessman’s tax status and a hastily put-together Brexit deal that has had a catastrophic effect on British exports. The Scottish fishing industry has been particularly badly hit. Do we really want to let the responsibility for the Covid recovery remain with a government mired in sleaze, promoting a greed is good philosophy and demonstrating such incompetence with our former European partners?

Independence provides us with the opportunity to rebuild Scotland with wellbeing at the very heart of its economy. Nicola Sturgeon recently urged us to follow the words popularised by the late Scottish writer and artist Alasdair Gray: “Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.”

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That would surely involve designing a new economic system that would work for most people living in Scotland rather than just the wealthy few. The cornerstones of our neoliberal economy – financialisation, consumerism, small government and globalisation – are all crumbling. They don’t need to be propped up but completely replaced by a radical new approach to economics fit for the modern world.

The world has done this before. Back in 1944 we had a managed economic system transition, when the Bretton Woods Conference abandoned the gold standard, opened up international markets with free trade agreements (namely the Commonwealth to the USA), and founded the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (now the World Bank) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

BRETTON Woods included 730 delegates from 44 nations and aimed to kickstart the world economy after the Second World War and generate prosperity through global trade. But it was overtaken by neoliberalism, a move thought up by bankers and right-wing think tanks which aimed to establish a system favouring the worship of money creation, one that assumed GDP growth was a cure for all economic and societal ills.

The recovery from the pandemic offers the biggest opportunity since then to transform our economy into one that puts people’s health and wellbeing over profits. We can’t tweak what we’ve got when what we’ve got is so inadequate. We need another Bretton Woods style intervention; a managed and smooth transition, an evolution not a revolution.

This is why our push to have another independence referendum and thereafter to become an independent country is not, as many Union-supporters claim, a distraction from the Covid recovery, but an essential component that will allow Scotland to play a full part in that economic transformation and to properly benefit from it.

This recovery will take hard work, big ambition and brave ideas. It must surely start with an acceptance that the creation of money is not a panacea and that the notion that wealth trickles down has been proven to be untrue. We need instead to create an economic system with a higher purpose: the creation of a new system of trade that leads to the betterment of society. It has to be based on the values of fairness and equality and to include protections against greed.

That doesn’t mean you can’t start a company and get rich, or that big companies are intrinsically evil. It does mean that big companies can’t be allowed to legally avoid paying tax and to force smaller companies out of business by delaying payments and through unfair competition.

It doesn’t mean we should abandon measuring the progress of and strength of our economy. We must, however, accept that our present focus on measuring GDP is too narrow. We need to take account of the wellbeing of the nation.

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The issues we should prioritise include healthy life expectancy, enhancing feelings of personal security, tackling the poverty which afflicts pensioners, low-wage workers and children, and ensuring our young people enjoy positive opportunities to forge fulfilling careers and happy lives.

Our economy should have strong international links. We should help countries in need and encourage immigration to build a strong, successful and diverse Scotland. And it should be built on the natural resources which will establish Scotland as a world leader in sustainable and renewable energy.

To build this new country where the benefits of real growth and prosperity will be more equally shared and where no one is left behind is a significantly challenging task. We might not, of course, get everything perfect first time on the way to our destination. We may make mistakes.

But one thing is certain.

If we don’t take the step into independence none of these ambitions will be achieved.

We will have missed a historic opportunity.