‘WE are the independence generation” – it was a good line for Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to the SNP’s National Conference, but she was almost certainly wrong. Like me, she is part of the devolution generation. I expect Ms Sturgeon to do no more than lead Scotland to the point of independence. It will be for her successors to make it work.

There are substantial practical obstacles on the route to independence. The Supreme Court might just decide that the Scottish Parliament can competently enact legislation for a referendum. Let us say that when the judges reach their decision, they decide in favour of the Lord Advocate. Assuming there will be a referendum in October 2023, it is by no means certain to deliver independence.

There is evidence from the Scottish Social Attitudes survey that a small majority of people consider independence to be the best constitutional arrangement for Scotland. That brings us to the large political challenges of winning a referendum.

While campaigning, both sides will target the 30% of the population who could be persuaded to vote either way. The Yes side probably needs to win the support of about two-thirds of those voters to be confident of victory. For example, it will be important not to alienate the asset management industry in Scotland. Managing that relationship badly would mean much more than some companies moving a registered office from Edinburgh to London.

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It would be easy to construct a campaign centred around the danger of losing expertise which has developed over 150 years, as firms flee to London and Scotland falls headlong into recession as soon as it becomes independent. This risk should be manageable. Business owners are interested in stability and will not want to see Scotland after independence making it harder for them to trade profitably.

Rushing to align with Europe might then make it more difficult to guarantee that residue-UK regulators will allow Scottish firms to manage investments for UK residents.

Keeping Scotland’s investment management sector intact will involve negotiation, goodwill, and mutual respect. This is another version of the currency problem, requiring the careful unwinding of familiar arrangements.

Then there is the possibility that the Scottish Government will need to raise more taxes for its policy to be credible. For any readers who are convinced that governments have much greater freedom simply to extend the money supply than they currently use, remember Scotland is likely to face a Trussonomic deficit.

The Kwarteng fiscal statement involved £60 billion of tax cuts and expenditure commitments and led to the Bank of England buying £60bn of government bonds to restore stability in financial markets. It will probably be reversed with tax increases and spending cuts in the Autumn Statement next week as we return to grim austerity.

The question “How will Scotland pay its way?” could easily resonate among the centre-ground voters both sides want to reach. Answering this question should be easy. Scotland has an abundance of one asset which is often used for taxation – land.

For taxation, land has several advantages. It won’t go anywhere.

It should be hard to conceal ownership – that would be much easier with compulsory titling and stipulating that only beneficial owners can own land rather than anonymous offshore companies.

With land holdings in Scotland so heavily concentrated, raising substantial revenue should also be possible without too many people seeing large increases in their tax bills. Land-based taxation could have an important role to play in reviving local democracy. There are plenty of people who can tell this story better than I can – Lesley Riddoch, Andy Wightman, Craig Dalzell of Common Weal and my former colleague Mike Danson spring to mind.

Imagine Scotland, before independence, having many more small local authorities. Indeed, imagine going back to the situation in the 19th century, where the first tier of government in much of the country was the parish.

We have perhaps forgotten that because so much of the work of parishes was overseen by the churches. The historian Callum Brown has written about the Scottish parish state in which the parish education board would consist of the ministers and session clerks of the Presbyterian churches, and its clerk would be the local schoolmaster appointed by the board.

The average civil parish population is only about 600, but rather higher in towns than in rural areas. In other countries (Lesley Riddoch would point to Scandinavia), communities of this size still entrust elected representatives with managing resources and delivering services.

Both local governments and local taxation are devolved. Local authorities in Scotland work with very limited taxation powers. Just as the Scottish Government is still dependent on a block grant provided by the UK Treasury, so councils depend on the Scottish Government.

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Starting to change that could be important in demonstrating how the post-independence Scottish state will be different from the UK.

Done well, it could address concerns that centralisation in Edinburgh will replace centralisation in London.

There is much more – borders, and integration with Europe will be important elements in the pre-referendum debate. A “worst of all worlds” campaign could still defeat independence.

Addressing these challenges will take time. The Government’s Independence In The Modern World papers are clearing the path for a referendum slowly and cautiously. Not for one in October 2023.