THE first real tangible document ahead of indyref2 should give Yes campaigners faith that the preparation work is being done and that the big issues aren’t going to be waved away.

During the 2014 referendum I was a college student in Glasgow covering the mass Yes gatherings in George Square - eight years later I found myself in the front row of the First Minister’s press conference in Bute House, rapidly firing through the new white paper with the few minutes given to us before it kicked off.

We were given a one-minute warning but after what felt like 10 seconds the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie came through the door of the light-green drawing room.

I was only alerted by the sound of the camera flashes behind me. It’s not uncommon for journalists to be given 70-page documents with minutes to digest the contents, but it is undoubtedly frustrating.

It feels like a lifetime since the last referendum, and so many things have changed - Brexit, Covid-19, Boris Johnson to name a few.

READ MORE: Paper 'setting the scene for Scottish independence' published

The First Minister was keen to say that she would be “frank” with the Scottish people about the challenges of independence that lie ahead, a welcome change in tone that the big issues like currency and the Border will not be passed off as problems to be dealt with after the campaign.

However, they are clearly going to be front and centre of the debate from the questions my lobby colleagues directed at Sturgeon and Harvie.

The Border between an independent Scotland and England is going to be one of, if not the, big ones - it was brought up on multiple occasions during the 50-minute Q&A.

Yet this time round we have Northern Ireland looming in the distance, as the First Minister rightly pointed out, where the economy is doing better than any part of the UK due to the economic benefits of being part of the EU single market.

The FM was also at pains to say that this wouldn’t impact the movement of people across the Scotland-England border, but simply goods, admitting there may be checks.

It’s important that these issues are faced head on - Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders are both Tory dominated areas which voted No in 2014 (66% and 67%). These are some of the voters that the documents need to be targeted at, to bring them on side and to do so, be realistic about the challenges we face but the benefits that struggle could provide in the long run.

The FM reiterated the point a few times, but the journalists were more content with asking about the “lawful” route to indyref2 without a Section 30 order, something that Prime Minister Johnson has point-blank refused to engage over.

For the BBC’s James Cook - who later ended up in a tete-a-tete with the FM as he shouted over her when the press conference had ended - he had almost backed himself into a corner with his query.

READ MORE: The key points from Nicola Sturgeon's 'scene setter' independence white paper

He asked why, if leaving the EU had been “disastrous” for Scotland and its economy, would the effect of leaving a “deeply embedded 300-year-old Union” not be worse?

The fact that none of the 10 comparator countries are in a similar position to us should have answered the question - the Union of Great Britain is not normal, independence is. 

The whole point of the white paper is to show how independent countries thrive compared to the UK and that the status-quo isn't working for Scotland.

The First Minister pointed out that Brexit didn’t have any planning or prospectus and could have gone in a different direction, and that the Scottish Government will be upfront, unlike Johnson and the Vote Leave campaign, which the FM described simply as a “lie”.

She also revealed the different topics which will be covered in subsequent white papers; rejoining the EU, trade, currency, fiscal position, social security and pensions, and defence, among the headlines.

The National: The FM launched the first whitepaper ahead of indyref2 in Edinburgh on TuesdayThe FM launched the first whitepaper ahead of indyref2 in Edinburgh on Tuesday

With the cost of living crisis and rocketing energy prices, I asked the FM and Harvie why energy policy wasn’t getting its own document, with renewables set to be one of the big draws for a green, independent Scotland. The gender pay gap also comes up in the first blueprint, so I asked if we were likely to see more of this, and the case being made for how independence can benefit women and marginalised communities across Scotland.

It turns out there isn’t a hard and fast list of these documents, their titles or when they’re going to be released, so the work is still ongoing. Sturgeon said she would make a statement to parliament in due course over the lawful route to holding a referendum.

The FM said that the topics she had listed were the most asked about, adding: “You know how important I consider issues of gender equality so of course these will be issues that we cover.”

READ MORE: Boris Johnson responds to new indyref2 campaign launch

We can expect to see these prospectuses drip fed over the next few months until the end of the year, but one point that Harvie made stuck with me - this is just the Scottish Government’s vision for an independent Scotland, it won’t be everyone’s.

There is a big debate to be had, and everyone needs to be a part of it. The Scottish Government have learned their lesson from last time round and are clearly putting the work in to make sure they have the answers to these questions.

Unionist commentators and the like may have been in denial about indyref2 until now, but they better get their skates on, because there's no doubt that it's coming now - Section 30 order or not.