LISTENING to Lesley Riddoch, Kevin McKenna, and David Pratt during the National Roadshow at the start of the month, sharing concerns that there is no sign of the Scottish Government preparing for the next referendum, I thought of Tolstoy’s descriptions of battle in War And Peace.

Plenty is happening; some people think they control events; but the reality is that no-one does.

At last week’s Roadshow, Mike Russell was irascible, worldly and utterly uninterested in rushing to a referendum. His focus was on winning one, sometime, maybe quite soon. There is a process, which the Scottish Government thinks it can control.

The new campaign for a “Referendum for Recovery” is part of that. Noting that other European countries can provide their citizens with a higher standard of living, the SNP are suggesting Scotland could be different. Release the people of Scotland from the clammy grip of UK institutions, and they could become more typically European: happier, wiser and wealthier.

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This is the familiar argument that Scotland has all the resources it needs to prosper, but that without independence, it will lack the ability to use them effectively.

Nothing in that helps to lift the fog of war. “Recovery” is transitory. Among economists, the current consensus is that it will be complete by 2023/24. That’s barely enough time for the Scottish Parliament to pass a Referendum Act, for the courts to settle disputes over the Act’s validity and for voters to cast their ballots.

Independence will not be about recovery. In framing its economic strategy, the Scottish Government has already shifted its focus to concentrating on social and economic transformation, as if beginning the transition to independence.

In some ways, this is a response to the Higgins Review, which over a year ago set out a coherent economic plan for long-term transformation. At its core is the concept of the “wellbeing economy”, seemingly much loved by the SNP’s leadership.

Our usual measures of economic wellbeing are based on income and consumption. The Higgins Review argued instead that economic wellbeing relies on four pillars: environment, people, society and business. Following a broadly economic approach, it explained how each pillar could be represented as a stock of capital which we can build up, or which we can use up.

Economic activity naturally affects the underlying stocks of these four capitals. The review implies that we need to adjust our concept of national income, treating depletion of stocks as creating a liability. The Scottish Government simply does not record enough information to do that immediately.

If this seems narrow and technical, remember that natural capital consists of all the resources of the natural environment on land, in the air and in the sea. With national income as the measure of economic activity, we simply ignore the impacts of economic activity on the planet.

If we are at all serious about a “code red for humanity”, and effecting economic transformation, that needs to change now. What we measure is what we value. Systematically measure how natural capital stocks are changing and we will focus our attention on the costs of missing climate change targets and the value of decarbonising the economy.

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Given that advice, and the First Minister’s rhetoric, it was disappointing to read the Scottish Government’s initial response to the Higgins Review, which was essentially that we are doing all this already. The focus of the proposals of the Scottish Government for its new economic transformation strategy is also rather limited.

IN setting out the arguments for a wellbeing economy, it argues for the importance of high productivity, “good” jobs

and increased business creation and growth. It is very conventional, and lacks the sense of urgency which might be expected of a strategy which is set to be launched just before COP26, when the eyes of the world will be on Scotland.

Then, to make sure that there is no ambiguity about its intentions, the Scottish Government excluded discussion of use of wider wellbeing measures from the co-operation agreement with the Scottish Greens.

All of this means that the Scottish Government is determinedly taking a “business as usual” approach.

If you haven’t read Gerry Hassan’s article in Wednesday’s National, go and understand why he thinks that it is critical that the SNP’s leadership regains the ability to project hope.

A “Referendum for Recovery” would make sense if the challenge was simply to offer re-assurance, as far as possible, that change will be minimal, and painless for everyone.

Independence should mean that everything can change – and much will change.

The referendum should energise the country. People will need to hear messages which cut through the clamour and confusion of the campaign. During the Roadshow, Mike Russell’s closing aphorism, “Independence is normal”, demolished his cautious argument and let that hope spring free.

If independence is normal, then it is an end in itself, and not just a means to an end.

The offer of independence should give people hope and good reason to turn up and cast their ballots, because this transformed country will be a better one. And not just a richer one.

In the confusion of these fast-moving events, it seems that it’s not the Yes movement which needs to take up Mike Russell’s suggestion of becoming better ambassadors for independence.

Instead, it’s the Scottish Government, and the leadership of the party which he has served so long, and so well.