Nicola Sturgeon heralded a “milestone” in the debate over Scotland’s future as she unveiled a new economic blueprint for independence.
The SNP leader contrasted the “optimistic” vision she claimed to be setting out to the economic chaos that has engulfed the Westminster government in recent weeks.
With concerns about the economy proving a decisive factor in the defeat for the Yes campaign at the 2014 referendum, the new paper aims tackle some of the most pressing issues in the battle over the nation’s constitutional future.
Alongside questions on currency, EU membership and border controls, the 110-page report also set out some key policies on North Sea energy.
At the recent SNP conference in Aberdeen, Ms Sturgeon announced plans to use “remaining” North Sea oil revenue to set up a £20 billion investment fund.
The cash would be invested in infrastructure over the first decade of independence.
The new report says: “The Scottish Government believes that in normal times revenues generated from oil and gas taxation, together with other windfall income, should be separated from day-to-day resource spending, and used to invest for the long-term benefit of the Scottish people.”
The aims of the “Building a New Scotland Fund” would be to enable the transition to net zero emissions and environmental sustainability, while driving inclusive economic growth, and “building resilient and sustainable places”.
This could include “significant investment in affordable housing, including in rural areas”, as well as “increasing support for communities to own assets”.
The fund would reinvest oil and gas revenues, which have averaged £1.5 billion a year over the last five years, alongside other windfall income.
It would also mobilise public and private investment to help secure “low carbon, lower price energy” by facilitating development of pumped hydro storage projects in Scotland, which the paper suggests would increase security of supply and replace reliance on gas with lower price energy over the long term.
These projects would improve energy self-reliance, balance intermittency in renewables and reduce the need for electricity imports to meet peak demand, the paper says.
In addition, it vows to use the Fund to accelerate development of hydrogen production, transportation and storage, which would provide both domestic energy and the potential for export markets.
Ultimately, it states that choices over the use of oil revenues following the creation of the Fund “would be for the government of the day,” but the Scottish Government would retain the option of diverting revenues into a Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Given the “volatility and uncertainty” surrounding North Sea revenue, the paper suggests there could sometimes be a need to borrow to meet investment needs.
Ross Greer MSP, Scottish Greens finance spokesman, said: “By investing in new renewable technologies as we phase out oil and gas, and refocusing on an economy which works for everyone rather than just those at the very top, we can transform Scotland for the better.”