THIS book isn’t a plea for Scottish independence. There have been plenty of those, and there will be plenty more. Neither is it a vision of “what sort of Scotland do we want?” Since the 2014 campaign, that has become reasonably clear; an internationalist country with a social-democratic outlook and a European-style welfare state. The importance of Common Weal’s How To Start a New Country is that it takes the discussion a whole stage further. It assumes that this new country is coming – and lays out the work we have to do to launch it.

It’s written with lucid, practical common sense. Where there are real difficulties and unknowns, it says so. Establishing Scotland as an independent country will be hard work – but none of the individual tasks it needs is hard to achieve in itself.

EXTRACT: How To Start a New Country ... the timeline for an independent Scotland

The focus seems original, but is deeply sensible. It’s about what needs done in the “transition” period, in the three or so years between a Yes vote in a referendum and the full declaration of independence. Most striking of all, the book argues that preparations for the transition should start well before the referendum itself. A “National Commission for the Creation of a Scottish State” should be able to give the voters an outline of what they are voting for. Not some party’s political programme – but a grown-up survey of the choices to be made in constructing this new country.

It’s crucial that this Scotland doesn’t lurch into full independence unprepared for the negotiations with the rest of the UK that must follow. (The chaotic blunders of Westminster’s Brexit team stand as a ghastly warning). Common Weal’s book looks closely at each task – currency, the civil service, defence, taxation, energy, the border and so on – critically examining current arrangements and offering smart, jargon-free ideas for change where needed. Wisely, Common Weal designs these changes to be “as self-reliant as possible”. The book warns that “the more Scotland wants, the weaker its position” in negotiating with the rest of the UK.

READ MORE: Robin McAlpine on how Scotland's transition to independence will be a success

The quiet, steady optimism of this book, as well as its factual strength, is very impressive. Robin McAlpine writes: “Scotland is not in an inherently weak position, should not behave as if it is, and should be clear that it does not view itself as a supplicant.”

With hard work and imagination, this new country can be built – and should be.