Decisions made in Scotland will unlock gains of independence

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  Independence is the best route to a more prosperous and just society because decisions about Scotland will be taken by the people who care most about Scotland – those who live and work here, First Minister Alex Salmond has said.
 
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament with exactly one year to go until the historic referendum, the First Minister said Scotland was a wealthy country, with an abundance of natural resources and skilled and inventive population, which would flourish under independence.

In his opening statement in the “Scotland’s Future” debate, Mr Salmond said the key to harnessing this prosperity and resourcefulness was for decisions on key issues such as the economy, welfare, taxation and international relations to be taken at Holyrood alongside the decisions already taken in areas such as education, health care and law and order.

And the First Minister concluded that independence was also the best route for Scotland to become a fairer society, as he maintained that in 365 days, the people would “claim the opportunity with both hands” and make Scotland as good as it can be.

The First Minister said:

“In exactly a year’s time, the people of Scotland will choose whether to become an independent country.  It is a precious thing for any nation to be able to decide its own future through a democratic vote, following a free debate.

“The record of this chamber has proven that the best people to take decisions on Scotland’s future are the people who live and work in Scotland- they are and always will be the people who care most about the future of Scotland.

He continued: “Nobody now seriously doubts that Scotland can be a successful independent country.

“For each of the last 32 years – every single one of the last 32 years – Scotland has paid more tax per head of population than the rest of the UK.

“Excluding oil, our national income is on a par with the UK. Including oil, our GDP per head is 18 per cent higher than for the UK.  In fact, it’s among the ten highest in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

“Why should it be otherwise? We are a country rich in natural resources, with world class universities, an outstanding visitor industry, expertise in engineering and life sciences, an astounding cultural heritage and a skilled and inventive people.

“Independence lets us build on that. We gain the chance to make Scotland fairer, unhindered by a Westminster system which has created one of the largest gaps between rich and poor in the developed world.

“We gain the ability to create our own welfare policies – which make work pay while respecting our commitment to fairness and solidarity.

“We gain control over capital borrowing, economic regulation and taxes, competition policy and energy policy the very levers we need to make Scotland more competitive and more prosperous.

“We gain our own voice in the United Nations, Nato and the European Union.  But like 25 out of 28 Nato countries, we won’t need to host nuclear weapons – and like 27 out of 28 EU countries, we won’t hold an in-out referendum on membership.”

Mr Salmond said that independence would give Scotland control over taxation and welfare which would he insisted allow a strengthening of areas like childcare.

He added: “The support we provide for parents and young people can match the very best in Europe.

“Independence is about giving ourselves the power to make our country as good as it can be; it’s about the right to decide, the ability to make choices.  And this Government’s argument – our most important contention – is that the people who live and work in Scotland are the people who are most likely to make the right choices for Scotland.

“It is not an argument that is subject to statistical manipulation, it is not an argument for a day’s headlines, it is not an argument born of fear. It is a common sense position based on experience.

“We have been on a constitutional journey in Scotland for more than a century. It has taken many forms as progressively we have moved forward as a country.

“Twice before the matter has been put to a referendum and twice the people have voted in favour – once narrowly and once decisively. The essence of that assent has been based on people expressing confidence in the ability of this ancient nation to take decisions for itself.

“That is why independence is the best route to becoming a more prosperous country but also a more just society. And that is why – exactly a year from today – the people of Scotland will claim that opportunity with both hands.”

Responding, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: “The truth is this – regardless of the economic circumstances, on high days and holidays, in good times and bad, the SNP hold on to their belief in independence.

“It’s not a response to the banking crisis, not a response to foreign wars, not a response to a Tory government – it is the politics of nationalism looking for a justification for a belief held when all else changes, regardless of what the evidence says.”

She added: “The SNP say they speak for Scottish values, but the values of community, of co-operation, of being a good neighbour, of solidarity, are embodied in the United Kingdom, not repudiated by it.”

Liberal Democrats MSP Tavish Scott said: “The one certainty is uncertainty.” and added:

“On every area of policy, independence is a walk in the dark. It is opening a door into a pitch black room and trying to find the door on the other side.  We may never come out.

“But the one certainty is, the door marked UK will be locked forever there is no way back – on that, I entirely agree with Mr Salmond.”

 

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