THE unanticipated resignation of Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the SNP leaves a void at the heart of the SNP.

Whatever Sturgeon might have said during the announcement of her resignation, such has been the scale of her authoritarian control of the party that those with talent – let alone an original thought – have been kept as far from power as she could manage.

The National: Rally for Europe, Augustine United Church, Edinburgh. Pictured is Joanna Cherry MP (SNP) who was speaking at the event...   Photograph by Colin Mearns.26 January 2019..

Just look at the enormous efforts made to keep Joanna Cherry (above) at Westminster to find evidence of that.

When it comes to economics this void is even more apparent than it is on most issues. Sturgeon’s own beliefs on the subject always appeared to be deeply conventional if, that was, she had any.

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By far the most notable economic announcement of Sturgeon’s leadership period was that which came from the Growth Commission that she appointed and which reported in 2018.

The opinion that it had to offer, written by its chair Andrew Wilson, was profoundly right-wing. It supported the neoliberal hegemony that has delivered austerity, low growth and limited government to the UK as a whole, and offered more of the same for Scotland post-independence as a result of its proposal that a newly independent Scotland should make use of the pound for an indefinite period.

The National: Tim Rideout.

The SNP’s memberships rejected this desperate outlook for Scotland at a conference in 2019 as a result of a resolution tabled by Dr Tim Rideout (above), in the drafting of which I played a small role. Sturgeon’s response was consistent. She simply ignored the party’s resolution as if it had never happened.

As for other economic issues, Sturgeon rarely if ever rose to the challenges she faced.

For example, she inexplicably permitted the continued publication of the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) statement as if it was a useful source of data on the economic position of government in Scotland when it was anything but that.

Worse, Sturgeon was hardly ever heard criticising the economic settlement provided for Scotland by devolution. Nor did she, as I would have expected of any leader committed to independence, critique it whenever she could so that she could highlight how she and her party could offer something very much better if only Scotland were independent.

Instead, she resigned herself, and her ministers, to managing the inadequate funding provided to them within the rigged framework of devolved taxation that was always designed to make it very hard for the Scottish Government to deliver the services that it should have wanted to supply to the people of the country and which they deserved.

Now the SNP will have to choose a new leader from amongst those minsters who have worked within this system, assuming that no one holding office as an MP will have much chance of taking the top job.

In that case what are the issues that I would expect a candidate hoping to win should address? Let me offer five.

The first would be a promise that the Growth Commission will be consigned to history and that any party that they lead will show its confidence in the future of Scotland by promising that it will use its own new currency within weeks or months at most of the day when independence is achieved.

Then, secondly, they should set out a radical economic plan for Scotland as an independent country following independence based not on what conventional market economics says but on what the people of Scotland need. If they need a blueprint look no further than the plan published recently by Common Weal called Sorted.

THIRD, the person wanting to be the new leader must commit to life beyond GERS. In other words, they must reject the view of Scotland imposed upon them by Westminster, stop making excuses for it and instead begin to develop a distinctly Scottish approach to economic reporting that is internally consistent (which GERS is not), is based on proper accounting principles (which GERS is not) and which uses Scottish data, which should now be collected where it is presently unavailable (almost certainly deliberately).

Scotland must have decent economic data. Nothing less will do.

Fourth, the new First Minister must make it their job to improve the devolution settlement as well as fight for independence. Whatever happens on independence, we can hope that devolution is here to stay, and right now that deal is hopelessly inadequate. To make a Scottish tax system work, the Holyrood government needs control of many more taxes, including corporation tax, national insurance, capital gains tax, inheritance taxes and other wealth taxes.

Taxes never work in isolation. They are designed as a system as a whole if they are to work properly and Scotland has to have control of the system if devolved taxes are ever to work properly.

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Finally, the new First Minister has to have a vision of not only what can be done but also what should be done. In support of this they should never stop reminding Scotland of what it cannot have because Westminster will not permit it.

This, of course, does not apply to economics alone, but unless the economic argument is made relentlessly the idea that there is a better alternative to what exists now and that the current failings are the result of the desperate thinking of the Westminster focused parties will never be created.

Is all that possible? Of course it is, although the new First Minister might need some good advisers to make it possible.

But perhaps it is more realistic to ask if any of this is likely? That depends on SNP members making the right noises now. They have the chance. It is the time to do so.