I WROTE last week about research based on the idea of markets having minds, with changeable moods. That seeks to explain and predict market behaviour better than we can just now.

Picking up from where I left off, we might think of countries in much the same way. A national mind would involve the people living in it, but it would be more than just the aggregation of brain power.

Treading on Stuart Cosgrove’s territory, the national mind would surely be seen at work in major football championships. For Scotland, perhaps because of moments of mania, there is also an understandable tendency to depression, rather than elation.

Such a mind should also be seen in politics, animating, and shaping debate.

Differences in their states of mind would certainly be a way of explaining the increasing divergence between Scotland and England. Scotland could never just be an extension of its neighbour because its mind engages with the world in different ways from England’s. Perhaps it always has, if only because Scotland, the smaller partner in the Union, has tended to define itself through contrasts with England.

We know that Scotland feels much more positively about European integration than England. When the red wall crumbled in England, it led to a populist Tory government but in Scotland it brought the mildly social democratic SNP to power. Ruth Davidson, the one undeniably successful Scottish Conservative politician of recent years, could not reconcile herself with what the English Conservatives have become.

On independence, though, Scotland seem genuinely to be in two minds, expressing a degree of ambivalence about the possibility. The almost equal division of voting intentions when polling companies use the standard question is a clear sign of that.

In some ways, that is exactly as it should be. Independence will bring many changes. In a world of constant uncertainty, no-one can say with certainty just how well – or indeed, how badly – it will work out.

Scotland seems likely to approach the next referendum with a degree of concern and to seek re-assurance about the choice which it is being asked to make. For campaigners to deliver that re-assurance, the case for independence will need to seem reasonable. It could fail if it is seen to rely on empty promises, which few people can imagine being kept.

But it could also fail if it becomes overly prescriptive.

In this uncertain world, we do not know what will have happened by the time Scotland becomes independent. The right policy today might then seem to be entirely outdated. We should therefore not campaign as if we are certain on matters of detail, but leave as much of policy as possible to be decided democratically, and then implemented by the elected government of Scotland.

The prospectus for independence might bring that measure of welcome reassurance if it explains how Scotland will have the resilience to absorb shocks, the stability to form an inclusive society, and the confidence to engage imaginatively with the future. It will paint an attractive portrait of a young country with the capacity to build the institutions needed for it to mature quickly.

“Building institutional capacity” will never be a good slogan for the independence campaign. But it is perhaps the most important task for government after Scotland decides to reclaim its independence. We are all used to election campaigns being fought on promises to increase taxation or else to reduce it. There is much less focus on the system which will generate taxes.

Living in an advanced economy, we have probably become used to the idea that when governments want to raise funding through taxation, they have the authority to do that. We just need to remember the response to the introduction of the poll tax to understand that the authority to levy taxation in a democracy is fundamentally based upon consent. For Scotland after independence, the ability to generate tax revenue will determine what the government can do, and how it might go about it.

Much more ink has been spilled on the matter of the currency which Scotland will use than has really been needed – with supporters of independence demonstrating they have the traditional Scottish flair for intellectual invective. The passion and the intensity are good but too often they come from the defence of fixed positions.

It might well be technically possible for Scotland to launch its own currency as soon as the country becomes independent. That does not justify the policy. It may be wise to stipulate conditions which must first be satisfied. That does not justify reliance on six tests developed before Covid, before Brexit, and before the war in Ukraine. As Keynes didn’t say (but the American economist, Paul Samuelson probably did): “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?”

We can be certain that if Scotland does not establish a central bank, or even if the government of Scotland withholds the authorisation for the central bank to begin preparations for launching a currency, then it would not be possible for Scotland to respond quickly to a changing economic environment, where an independent currency would be a useful tool.

Promises of rapid action to set up our own currency need not be in the independence prospectus. A promise to be prepared for action, if needed, should. We can then campaign hopefully, while being ready to address any challenges.