THE predictions by “doomsayers” of a decade of economic pain for Scotland after independence are wrong, the head of the SNP’s Sustainable Growth Commission has said.

Andrew Wilson said benefits of leaving the UK can be secured “very quickly” and improvements made to living standards early on.

The former SNP MSP, who chaired the body examining Scotland’s future economic prospects, has also called for an “oil fund” to be set up now with the proceeds invested in accelerating the transition to net zero.

Writing in the Sunday National ahead of the fourth anniversary of the publication of the Commission’s report, he said the analysis and recommendations remain relevant, despite the turmoil in the years since. Wilson said if Scotland votes to become independent, it will be the richest country ever to do so – from day one.

“We ought not to pretend we can become like Denmark overnight – that will be the work of a generation,” he said.

“But we can secure benefits very quickly and with the best policy choices we can manage the risks well and bring improvements to living standards purposefully and early.”

He added: “I think the process will be challenging but I also think the benefits will begin to accrue quickly. Doomsayers who talk of a decade of economic pain are wrong.

“They also seem to forget the UK has been in economic pain for more than a decade and the prospects are now deteriorating.”

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Commissioned in the wake of the 2016 Brexit vote, the Growth Commission’s report in May 2018 set out 50 recommendations on a range of fiscal subjects.

Wilson said he had heard nothing in arguments from “numerous energetic campaign groups” that have altered the Commission’s thinking, and that part of the reason for the work was to “draw fire” and solidify the prospectus for a future vote. But he said he was surprised by the debate triggered by the report’s recommendation for currency, which said the pound should be used in the immediate years and an independent Scottish currency introduced once six key tests were met.

SNP members later voted for a new currency to replace the pound “as soon as practicable” after independence.

Wilson said the Commission had initially expected to recommend the approach for a Scottish currency as an “immediate day one priority”.

He wrote: “But when we subjected that to scrutiny and criticism the risks associated with doing that loomed large in our mind.”

He also argued some measures should be adopted ahead of independence, including setting up an equivalent in Scotland of the Treasury office which borrows on behalf of the government.

Another recommendation on creating a “Fund for Future Generations” to invest any future oil proceeds in the net zero transition should also happen now.

Wilson said the Commission did not examine the impact of Brexit, which still remains “unclear” – but implications for trade and borders will form part of the Scottish Government’s new prospectus for independence.

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GRAEME Blackett, of Biggar Economics, one of the expert advisers to the Growth Commission, said the recommendations of the report had “stood the test of time” and the analysis of how to improve the performance of the Scottish economy should be given more attention in the wake of covid.

He said: “However, as the Commission members said when the report was launched, it was not intended as the last word, rather it was a framework to be built on. There have been changes and challenges such as Brexit and the covid-19 pandemic which have highlighted other issues that now need to be addressed.

“The climate change emergency has also become much more prominent, thanks to the campaigning efforts of young people in particular.

“Some practical issues will need to be revisited, not least how Brexit has impacted on access to markets for Scottish exporters and how this can be addressed by an independent Scotland. It would also be great to see a public debate on the country that we seek, to build a consensus of ambition.”

David Skilling, director of Landfall Strategy Group, another adviser to the Growth Commission, said the “dramatic changes” in the world over the last few years in ways that brought both challenge and opportunities for Scotland.

He said there was a case for updating the Commission’s work to take into account challenges such as the global economy and greater competitive pressure.

He added: “There are some opportunities around climate and zero transition and also potentially some upside opportunities around changing economic geography, post-Covid we see a lot more people working remotely or in hybrid ways.”

He said: “Overall [it is]probably net positive for Scotland, but it does also demand a degree of seriousness – these other issues are not trivial by any means. They do bring costs with them and Scotland has to work out how we contend with and cope with these costs.

“The world never stands still and the case for Scottish independence never stands still as well.”

MARK Blyth, professor of international economics at the Watson Institute of Economics at Brown University at Rhode Island, said independence would be unravelling 300 years of history and would require a “leap of faith” – but that doesn’t mean it should not be done.

He said: “Given the fact that we can’t probably estimate with any degree of precision what would actually happen, why not bet on the good side? It is equiprobable.

“There has been a huge democratic deficit for almost 30 years in terms of the way Scotland votes vis-a-vis everybody else.”

The Scots-born academic, who was appointed to the Scottish Government’s new economic commission last year, said he backed independence from a “pragmatic” view. He argued focus on issues such as Scotland’s deficit were overblown, with bigger challenges likely to arise from “structural” matters such as the country’s ageing population, for example, which could be overcome.

“I think this part of this land mass on its own could probably do as well if not better on its own,” he said.

“Given the alternative, which I see massive diminishing return to over time, it’s probably a good idea to do it.”

He added: “To me if the alternative is a generation of Boris with ever more stuff going to the top of the chumocracy – then really, try anything else.”