An independent Scotland’s ability to be an influential nation on the global stage will not be determined by its size but by the scale of its ambition and the strength of its ideas.
That was the message First Minister Alex Salmond delivered to an audience of influential business leaders and decision makers as part of his continuing trade mission to Chicago.
The First Minister was speaking at the invitation of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, one of the oldest and most prominent international affairs organisations in the US.
Mr Salmond told the assembled audience that while Scotland has been a major contributor to the world through the ages, the nation has presently fewer economic powers than the state of Illinois.
He said: “In order to fully realise our potential, we need the powers of an independent nation, rather than the limited powers that are currently available to us.
“Without independence, we are promoting recovery with one hand tied behind our backs. We currently have fewer economic powers than Illinois.
“The simplest encapsulation of the case for independence is this – that the people best placed to make decisions about a nation’s future are those who choose to live and work there. They will always be the people who care most. That was true of the USA in the 18th century and today – it is also true of Scotland.
“That argument is a civic and inclusive one. It does not emphasise where people have come from; it emphasises where we want to go together as a nation.
The First Minister spelt out the vision for Scotland’s future highlighting the immense natural resources which, he said, would ensure the nation would be one of the most prosperous in the world.
He added: “As an independent nation, partly due to our oil and gas reserves, Scotland would have the sixth highest per capita GDP in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. That’s still behind the USA in fourth place, but ahead of the UK, which currently ranks 15th.
“Scotland is still ranked number one in the world in terms of the impact of our life sciences research relative to GDP, and our researchers have a strong tradition of working collaboratively with industry.
“These economic strengths are supported in Scotland by a public sector which is absolutely committed to meeting business needs, and works together in a co-ordinated way to help companies.
“They help to explain why international businesses are coming to Scotland in ever increasing numbers.
“We are at ease with the fact that nations are both independent and interdependent. And it also follows that an independent Scotland would play a full part on the world stage.
“During the first half of the last century, smaller nations faced two major disadvantages in the global system. One was guaranteeing their security. The other was gaining access to markets. However over time, global markets have opened to countries large and small. And threats to international security now do not come, by and large, from territorial acquisition – but from international terrorism and network-based crime.
“In this environment, the disadvantages of smaller nations have disappeared. They can now have a big impact, not because of the size of their population, but through the scale of their ambition and the strength of their ideas.”
The First Minister told the audience that an independent Scotland will be an active member of the international community and that relations between the US and Scotland would flourish under independence.
“Of course we will remain close friends of nations, such as the USA, with which we share such long-lasting ties of trade, family and friendship. The US will remain our biggest trading partner, biggest foreign investor and biggest tourism market outside of the current United Kingdom.
“Smaller independent nations are now benefiting from their natural economic strengths – flexibility, speed of decision-making and the ability to clearly define national interests and strategies. Scotland’s current constitutional status – as part of an incorporating union where one nation is always likely to prevail on the basis of its size – seems more and more like an anachronism.
“With greater powers, we will do even more to improve the prosperity and well-being of our people. We will fulfil our duties as a good global citizen. And we will re-enter the community of nations on a basis of equality, responsibility and friendship.”
Following his speech the First Minister also met with the Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel and discussed the strong links between Scotland and Chicago and the economic challenges both face.
“It was clear in my meeting with Mayor Emanuel that the challenges the economy is presenting us with bear many similarities and there may be opportunities for Scotland and Chicago to work together for mutual benefit. I look forward to further contact with him in the very near future.” said the First Minister, who also made clear his delight at having the opportunity to attend the Ryder Cup which is due to be held at Gleneagles in 2014.
The First Minister will play a major role in the handover ceremony at the close of play on Sunday, September 30, when he will receive the Silver Putter which denotes Scotland taking over the tournament.
Mr Salmond also unveiled a painting to celebrate the 2014 Ryder Cup. The work by Scottish golf artist Graeme Baxter depicts the second hole at Gleneagles, with Glendevon and the Ochil Hills in the background.
One of the largest sporting events on the planet, the Ryder Cup is expected to inject £100m into the local and wider Scottish economy during the week of the tournament alone. In all, more than 250,000 spectators from all over the globe are expected to visit Gleneagles to watch the event, with millions more able to watch the action on television in more than 180 countries.
“I am delighted to be in Chicago to participate in the handover of the Ryder Cup, to support the cultural initiatives which link us, such as Celtic Connections in Chicago and the theatrical links between us, and also to support the trade mission which is currently in town to find ways to expand into the US market.” said Mr Salmond.
Also visiting the Council on Global Affairs was the First Minister’s wife Moira, who has accompanied the First Minister to Chicago.
In addition to joining the First Minister at events, she has also had her own programme of engagements as part of the overall efforts to promote Scotland.
While in the city Mrs Salmond has met the President of the St Andrew’s Society of Illinois, undertaken engagements at the Robert Burns statue within Garfield Park and toured the Garfield Park Conservatory. She is also expected to visit the city’s Art Institute.