By Alex Salmond
Scotland’s referendum this September is a defining moment for our nation. Polling day itself will be a time when Scotland is sovereign for the first time in more than three centuries – and the decision the people make that day will determine whether we hand that sovereignty back to Westminster or move forward in a new 21st century partnership of equals.
Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world – richer per head than Japan, France, the UK and the majority of developed countries. But for far too many people living in Scotland today it doesn’t feel that way.
The case for independence is fundamentally a democratic one, meaning that decisions affecting Scotland will be taken in Scotland by the people who live and work here.
Two reports last week demonstrate in stark terms how Westminster’s priorities are not Scotland’s priorities. One showed that more than 100,000 new victims have fallen into poverty in Scotland in a single year – the other, from a panel of Westminster grandees, recommended spending billions on a new generation of Trident nuclear missiles.
That means a No vote would continue to see weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde at a cost of £4 billion a year, despite a majority of MSPs at Holyrood being opposed to Trident, and a majority of Scottish MPs having voted against its renewal.
A Yes vote will mean investment in priorities like childcare, and substantial savings by not spending money on Westminster priorities like Trident and not paying for sending MPs and peers to the Commons and House of Lords.
A Yes vote will also secure a seat and a voice at the top table internationally for Scotland, protecting and promoting our vital national interests in Europe and beyond.
And, contrary to the claims of many of our opponents, Scotland’s independence is something that runs very much with the tide of history rather than against it. When the UN was formed at the end of the Second World War, there were fewer than 50 independent members – today there are more than 190.
And of the 10 countries which joined the European Union in 2004, more than half became independent since 1990 and seven are smaller or around the same size as Scotland in population terms.
It was Churchill who, in 1946, observed that European co-operation would mean that “small nations will count as much as large ones and gain their honour by their contribution to the common cause.” Recent years have demonstrated the truth of that claim.
And a quick glance at the modern EU shows just what influence its smaller members can wield, including the appointment of a Luxembourger, Jean-Claude Juncker, to the post of European Commission President.
But the outcome of the recent summit which saw Mr Juncker anointed was an utter fiasco for David Cameron. For all the talk of deal-making, it showed how isolated the UK has become in Europe – and it fatally undermines the Prime Minister’s proposal to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with Brussels ahead of his proposed in-out referendum.
The handling of the whole affair now puts the UK on the fast-track out of Europe, with the danger for us in Scotland that we are dragged to the exit door too unless we take our destiny in our own hands this September.
Cameron is playing a game of European roulette with Scotland’s future, and with the jobs of many thousands of people in Scotland whose livelihoods depend on our links with the EU.
The Prime Minister has started a process over which he now has no control. You normally have a referendum over a proposal which you are trying to gain popular assent for, but he has instigated a chain of events which he no longer dictates and which he is steadily becoming the prisoner of.
Cameron is a three-way prisoner – firstly, of counterpart EU leaders who have been alienated by his stance, secondly of his own backbench Eurosceptic rebels, and finally of UKIP, to whose tune he and much of Westminster is now dancing merrily. Just as Margaret Thatcher’s policies laid waste to huge swathes of post-war industrial Scotland, David Cameron’s dance to that UKIP tune is a clear and present danger to countless thousands of jobs in the Scotland of today.
Recent figures show that Scotland is one of the top destinations in the whole of the UK for inward investment, which is now booming at a 16-year high, completely demolishing the claims from the likes of George Osborne that the independence referendum is having any negative effect in this respect.
But much of that investment depends on Scotland’s place in Europe, which is now deeply imperilled by David Cameron’s continental miscalculations. Only a Yes vote on September 18th will restore Scotland’s ancient status as an independent European nation, and help secure our future prosperity.