Scotland’s population is similar to that of Norway and Denmark, both countries in the International Monetary Fund’s list of the top 10 richest in the world. So when Nicola Sturgeon says there is no reason why an independent Scotland could not make it on its own after independence she is absolutely right.
All the evidence suggests that size really doesn’t matter when it comes to economic success. What does matter is having strong institutions, the right mix of human and physical capital, and sound management of the economy. In their different ways, Singapore, Switzerland and Sweden all have these, which is why they score highly on living standards, educational attainment and longevity.
If the polls are right, there are plenty of Scots who think that if the Danes and the Swedes can make a decent fist of running their own affairs then so can they. This makes Thursday’s election for the Scottish parliament fascinating. The mayoral elections in London and the West Midlands matter: the test of public opinion in Scotland really matters.
Sturgeon is a cautious politician and will be in no hurry to have a referendum any time soon even if the SNP has the votes in the Holyrood parliament to press for one. In Quebec, independence remained a live issue even though a referendum in 1980 delivered a 60-40 vote for the status quo. A second plebiscite in 1995 delivered a much smaller vote in favour of Quebec remaining part of Canada but settled the matter. There has been no third chance for the separatist movement subsequently: a fact that is not lost on Sturgeon.
The experience of Quebec is not the only reason Sturgeon needs to be careful. As things stand, the economic case for independence has not really been fleshed out in any more detail than it was in the paragraphs above, namely that Scotland has bags of potential (true), can surf the wave of renewable energy (true) and could be even more prosperous in the long term than it is know (also true).
These points – reasonable though they undoubtedly are – will run up against some powerful counter