THE first paper from the Scottish Government in a series framing its view of the next stage of the Scottish independence campaign is described as a “scene setter” and a description of the world as it is now rather than what it could be under independence.

As such, it probably raised more questions from than delivered answers to the journalists at the press conference. It does nothing to answer or advance arguments around currency, borders or pensions or any of the other topics that I and other independence activists have been immersed in for a decade now but it wasn’t ever supposed to. All this paper has done is take several economic metrics such as GDP and inequality and compared the UK to several other countries in Europe.

We’ve seen this approach before – this paper is essentially an abbreviated and updated version of the first third of the 2018 report by Andrew Wilson’s Sustainable Growth Commission and the ideology that informed that report is woven throughout this new one.

READ MORE: Rwanda flight protest gathers in Glasgow to condemn 'grubby' deportation policy

There are differences in the detail of course. In 2018, the Growth Commission compared various countries to data for Scotland. This new report compares data with the UK.

It’s a curious change of style, I wonder if it has as much to do with trying to avoid anyone aiming blame at the Scottish Government for a poorly performing economic metric as it does with casting the UK itself in as negative a light as possible.

The choice of comparator countries is similar to 2018, though non-European countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand have been dropped off the comparator list and Iceland added in.

I’m sure there are already debates about the validity of comparing the UK, a country with a population of 67 million, with countries much more similar in size to Scotland (the largest is the Netherlands with 17 million while Iceland has a population of less than 400,000).

What we’re comparing with each other also matters.

Despite Sturgeon and Harvie holding their Government up as trying to move away from traditional economic metrics and towards measures such as wellbeing and equality, the metrics involved in this report are overwhelmingly GDP-based.

This is probably the thing that worries me most about this first paper. The Government is “setting the scene” for independence based on metrics that not only don’t tell us much about the future for Scotland – they are widely acknowledged even by the Scottish Government to not tell us enough about the “status quo” of the present.

It would have been more encouraging to see this paper set the scene by describing not just the “status quo” of GDP figures but the imminent challenges facing Scotland that will require independence to solve.

It is frankly disturbing that the word “climate” doesn’t appear once in this document and “net zero” appears only once and with the disclaimer that it is “no longer seen as [a] barrier to sustainable economic growth”.

The National: National Extra Scottish politics newsletter banner

Future papers must do more to answer the questions we know will be levelled at them but they also must do more than present independence as an opportunity for even more of the kind of hypercapitalism that is killing the planet.

The lesson of the past few years is that the “status quo” is no longer sufficient.

All countries, including our current “comparators”, must undergo drastic transition if we are to survive the climate emergency.

The question is whether Scotland can make that transition more effectively as an independent country or while shackled to a Union that is actively preventing such change. That is the scene I wish had been set yesterday.

Craig Dalzell is head of policy and research at the Common Weal think tank.