MATTERS economic are high on the global, UK and Scottish political agendas. It’s not just Brexit, or the fact that the boom in stock market prices has turned into a bubble that will soon go pop. Artificial intelligence is causing major disruptions to industrial systems, with Europe being left far behind the US and China. Which means we need a long-term economic plan for Scotland, especially if there is a second independence referendum any time soon.

In September last year, the First Minister commissioned Andrew Wilson and a bunch of MPs, MSPs, academic economists and assorted business folk to produce such a Scottish Growth Report. Officially, the Growth Commission’s remit was “to boost growth”; come up with a plan to tackle any short-term budget deficit after leaving the UK; and — top of the list, really — “consider the most appropriate monetary policy arrangements to underpin a programme for sustainable growth in an independent Scotland”. The latter is political gobbledygook for deciding what currency an independent Scotland should use.

Originally, the commission was being pushed to produce an interim report by early 2017. This timetable was premised on their being a second indyref before the UK left the EU. But then the General Election intervened and everything changed. Nicola suspended the timetable for a second independence referendum, pending the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. The Growth Report and talk of a new Scottish currency went on to the back burner.

However, the commission has continued to work away. It has now completed the bulk of its deliberations and delivered to the First Minister a fat, 400-page report – plus, I’m told, three chunky appendices. Will the report be published? Will it be revised? The answers are unclear, though I suspect the FM prefers to get the Holyrood budget out of the way, and let Theresa May and the Tory non-government continue its death spiral, before rushing to publication.

This hiatus is quite useful. It allows more public debate before irrevocable choices are made. It also allows us to sort out who owns the proposals. The Growth Report was commissioned directly by Nicola in her capacity as SNP leader. So it’s not a Scottish Government document. Nor, as far as I understand, has it been commissioned by any official SNP party body. Fair enough – I’ve no problem with the FM taking a policy initiative. But given the vital issues covered by the Growth Report, it could and should be used as a tool for a wider public debate, both inside the party and in the wider Yes movement. Suggestion: publish it now (even in a precis) and without any endorsement, and let’s have a debate.

For we are at an important juncture in the independence struggle. It is now clear there is no majority for a hard Brexit in the UK Parliament. As a result, the Tories are in the grip of a civil war that could bring down the government. But Corbyn’s Labour Party is no more united on what to do about Brexit than the Conservatives. As a result we are headed for constitutional and economic meltdown. In this existential crisis of the British state, Scottish independence is not just a medium-term option but an immediate necessity.

Convincing polling data shows that many No votes from 2014 are soft and can be won over in these circumstances. But there is one thing we have to give them: reassurance there is a plan in place to take Scotland forward. It is not a case of guaranteeing instant prosperity. Rather, it is showing the Scottish nation we have more of a clue about how to handle the situation than does the bag of ferrets that constitutes the Tory Cabinet.

This makes the Growth Report key. Get the economic case wrong, or present it in the wrong way, and we will blow a wonderful chance to give wavering voters the evidence they need to vote Yes in the next independence referendum. Which is why I am getting just a little bit nervous about the secrecy surrounding the Growth Report and the opaqueness surrounding its status and publication date.

To be clear: I’ve not seen the report. But birds do chirp in the autumn trees. Let’s just suppose the Growth Report is going to suggest a shift on the currency question. Last time round, the SNP leadership proposed keeping the pound sterling as our post-independence currency, with the Bank of England remaining in charge of interest rates and the exchange rate. There was some merit in this compromise: it limited the potential economic disruption caused in the short-term by leaving the UK and it gave transparency on pension values for those still with UK pensions or investments.

However, it was precisely this currency compromise that fatally wounded the Yes case. For starters, the Unionists were too dumb to see the benefits to themselves of keeping an indy Scotland in the sterling zone and thus subsidising (with our whisky and oil exports) their humongous current-account deficit in trade with the rest of the world. So they point-blank refused to agree on Scotland using sterling or sharing the Bank of England (even though it is a “British” institution). This bust-up just confused referendum voters. Others were unconvinced by what was to be gained by seeking political independence and then letting the City of London determine our interest rates – effectively giving up a vital tool to grow the Scottish economy.

SO let us say it loud and clear: in arguing the case for independence in the next referendum, a basic red line is that Scotland has its own currency, sets its own interest and exchange rate, and regulates its own banks. To do that we need our own central bank, regulatory authorities and financial markets. If the Growth Report spells that out, well and good. But if it suggests some new compromise, then Andrew Wilson and the others will have been wasting their time.

The Growth Report, according to some little birds, might be proposing a separate Scottish currency but keeping our exchange rate tied to sterling as an interim measure. In other words, a Scots pound would equal one English pound. Reason: that would keep Scottish exports competitive south of the Border. I’m not convinced. The London markets would immediately test the will of the Scottish Central Bank to keep the Scots and English pounds equal by flogging off ours, thus draining our reserves. Why give them a hostage to fortune? Besides, saying you want a Scottish currency but keeping sterling in disguise will only confuse the voters once again.

Next month (November 4) sees the second Scottish Independence Convention, aimed at building bridges between the SNP and the wider Yes movement, and between those who already support indy and those still to be convinced. The Convention will be looking at the sort of policy issues we need to get clear if we are to win over sceptics. The convention does not make economic policy but it is a good place to educate folk about the issues — starting with the need to get the currency right. There is a political vacuum on the currency question. It needs to be filled. And soon.