TODAY, I am breaking away from answering questions which readers have posed to turn to the splendid news that David Simpson, Roger Mullin, and Graeme Blackett have launched their “Bottom Line” project. (Judith Duffy covered this in last week’s Sunday National.) Our Unionist friends – when they are not telling us that the Scottish Government is spending all its budget on separating Scotland from England – are quick to assure us that Scotland would struggle to succeed economically after independence. Once again, everybody: “Too wee, too poor, too stupid.”

A different version of Unionist thought admits that Scotland could succeed as an independent country, but simply doubts that the cost would be worthwhile. In the very long run, of course Scotland could be wealthier than England. But in the very long run, we’re all dead. Independence will be wonderful for our great grandchildren.

Supporters of the UK want to frame the discussion so that the Union seems natural, and inevitable. When that doesn’t work, they move on to claim that change is impossible.

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For the Bottom Line team, this is a Panglossian counsel. Disagreeing that everything in the Union is for the best, they are going to pick apart the costs of Scottish dependence.

That’s not a typo. Talking about dependence is a smart rhetorical move. Scotland is not part of a voluntary union. It’s a region of Great Britain which is dependent, not on England, but on London.

London and Paris are the quintessential imperial capitals in Europe. Now shorn of their empires, they dominate their countries’ political and economic structures. In London’s case, this is linked to the financialisation of the UK economy, and dependence on investment banking (tied to the UK running many of the world’s leading tax havens, as Richard Murphy would point out).

That alone damages Scotland’s economy enough to justify independence. But this is just a recent twist to the argument.

London has been central to the economic development of the UK for centuries. The road system and later the railway system in England developed to allow the king’s messengers to take instructions from London. It takes only an hour longer to travel by train from Edinburgh or Glasgow to London, rather than to Manchester.

As a result, the UK has emerged largely as a hub-and-spoke network of communications, with London the hub, and everything needing to be routed through it. Not the London region but that area of approximately two square miles to the North of the Thames, bounded on the river by Westminster and the Tower of London, where political and financial power are concentrated.

In the UK, it makes sense for organisations to be close to power. Drawing again on one of Richard Murphy’s observations, when organisations place their head offices in this national nerve centre, business which is carried out in Perth might be invoiced in Pimlico. For the economy, the value added is in Scotland – but for tax purposes it has taken place in London.

The Bottom Line team will be very critical of the effects of this ongoing process, seen in the loss of substantial head office functions in Scotland over the last 20 years.

Perhaps that is one reason why, during the last referendum campaign, Better Together was so keen to put out the message that Royal Bank of Scotland would move its head office to England if Scotland voted for independence. There are scarcely any large companies with Scottish headquarters. The Union has hollowed out the Scottish economy.

And so, Scotland has become – and will remain – dependent on London. No-one planned it. Successive governments have perhaps decided to tolerate it. But on the one occasion when there was some opportunity to address it, under Tony Blair’s first government, people in the north of England voted against bringing government closer to them. Then they voted for Brexit.

Forget the talk of levelling up. That is just government offering a few sweeties to the children, with no coherent strategy, while allowing the bloated centre to swallow up more of the economy. About the most effective part of levelling up has been showing the uppity Jocks that London is still in charge. Or so the Daily Express assures its reader.

Levelling up seems to be solely about London showing uppity Scots that it is still in charge

At present, the UK barely has a government. The civil service may be doing a better job of government just now than the Conservative Party led by Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, or (please, no!) Liz Truss.

In contrast, over the last 15 years, the Scottish Government has gradually developed its economic strategy. Although it was designed to function within the current limits of devolved powers, the National Strategy for Economic Transformation could easily be a blueprint for the economic policy of an independent Scotland.

It recognises some of the deep-seated difficulties which face the Scottish economy. It is very clear that the economy must work for everyone. And it acknowledges the need for concerted efforts to tackle climate change, placing Scotland at the heart of Europe’s sustainable energy industry.

When GERS day comes this year, we should resist the temptation to shoot the messenger. A better message to give our Unionist friends will be that we have had to endure another year of failure in their country, and in their preferred system of government.

As the Bottom Line team will argue, Scotland, the small independent country, will be better than Scotland shackled to London.