THE Scottish Government has published its opening documents in support of independence.

The 72-page book was published on the Government's website on Tuesday morning, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon prepared to speak at its official launch at Bute House.

Scottish Green co-leader and active travel minister Patrick Harvie joined the SNP leader at the launch.

Titled Independence in the Modern World: Wealthier, Happier, Fairer: Why Not Scotland?, the document seeks to "define the UK model and explain its enduring structural problems".

READ MORE: Here are the key points from the 'scene-setter' for an independent Scotland

The paper, which is meant to act as a "scene setter" for independence, is the first of a series of documents due to be published before the final day of the current Holyrood session on July 1.

The “Building a New Scotland” series will form the prospectus for an independent Scotland, addressing the huge potential an independent Scotland will have and the challenges that will be faced after a Yes vote.

The First Minister said that future papers, which are already in development, would address issues such as international trade, defence, and currency.

In the opening paper of the series which was published on Tuesday, examples are drawn from 10 countries of a similar size to Scotland to demonstrate what could happen after an independence vote.

The paper says that these "comparator countries" – Ireland, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Iceland, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, and Finland – are all wealthier than the UK.

It adds: "These are relatively small nations in close geographic proximity to Scotland and they provide relevant examples for an independent Scotland to learn from and possibly emulate."

Sturgeon said: "Why are neighbouring independent countries of Scotland’s size wealthier, happier and fairer than the UK?

"Why do they, and indeed other countries in north-west Europe regardless of size, frequently out-perform the UK across a range of key measures that determine well-being?

"And, fundamentally, if these countries can be successful, why not an independent Scotland, given the abundance of talent, resources and natural advantages we possess?"

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The First Minister (above at the launch) added that the documents presented "key evidence to support the informed, inclusive debate that people in Scotland deserve".

The paper says that the debate around independence tends to focus on "the estimated fiscal position of Scotland within the United Kingdom".

"That tells us nothing about how Scotland would perform as an independent country and is, in any case, an argument for change, not against it," it adds.

"This paper shows that the UK is already performing poorly relative to a group of such countries and there is a broad consensus that Brexit will lead to a further deterioration in the UK’s relative economic performance. Improving the Scottish economy will therefore become even harder if Scotland stays tied to the under-performing UK model."

The paper uses analysis from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), European Commission, and IMF (International Monetary Fund) to draw comparisons between the UK and the 10 countries highlighted.

It shows that the UK has relatively high poverty rates combined with lower social mobility rates and lower life expectancies than the comparator nations.

The paper also argues that, despite the UK having relatively strong employment figures, these are undermined by comparatively low average wages. 

The figures consistently show a UK which is lagging behind on social measures due to what the Scottish Government calls “an increasingly outmoded economic and social model”.

Critics, such as chair of the pro-Union think tank These Islands Kevin Hague, have claimed that the independence paper represents “statistical gerrymandering presented as analysis”.

Hague added: “The comparator countries have been selected because they have higher GDP capita than UK – that’s why (for example) Portugal, Greece, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic are not included.”

He went on: “Why not ask; what does Scotland have that these countries do not? Answer: an SNP government focused on grievance and division.

“(I guess this is why they don’t include data for Scotland on their graphs.)”

It says in the second paragraph of the document’s introduction that the focus is on the UK’s performance because estimates of Scotland’s economy post-independence are based on its current position in the Union.

READ MORE: BBC Scotland criticised over 'appalling' coverage of independence paper launch

Published alongside the "Why Not Scotland?" paper was an "easy read" version of the core arguments in the document

This summarises the same arguments, stating that the comparator countries which Scotland could follow in independence "are wealthier, happier and fairer" than the UK.

It warns that independence would not change Scotland "overnight", but argues that Scots could "build" such a country will the full powers a Yes vote would bring.

This easy-read paper has also been published in a variety of languages, including Gaelic, Spanish, Ukrainian, Arabic, Mandarin, Polish, and Hindi.

Asked about the paper, Downing Street released its standard statement claiming "now is not the time" for an independence vote.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: “The UK Government’s position is that now is not the time to be talking about another referendum.

“We are confident that the people of Scotland want and expect their governments to be working together to focus on issues like the global cost-of-living challenges, like war in Europe and the issues that matter to their families and their communities."