First Minister: “Scotland must become a fully participating nation in the world”

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In the heart of London, First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday set out his vision for a nuclear-free Scotland which is “a good neighbour and sovereign citizen” of the world.

Addressing the Foreign Press Association in London,  Mr Salmond issued a ringing declaration: “To achieve its potential, Scotland must become a fully participating nation in the world.”

The SNP’s election mandate first of all gives the Scottish Government legitimate claim to call for improvements in the Scotland Bill presently going through Westminster.

Mr Salmond said: “I am First Minister of a nation, Scotland, with a substantial contribution to make. On May 5 this year, Scotland re-elected a Scottish National Party government that has an overwhelming mandate to change Scotland’s status.

The SNP governed successfully as a minority between 2007 and 2011. Now we have been re-elected as the first ever majority government in the Scottish parliament – something considered impossible under our system of proportional representation.

“People vote twice in Scottish elections, once for a constituency and again for a list vote. On May 5 the SNP increased its share of the constituency vote by 12.5 per cent, more than doubling our number of seats. All the other parties lost ground. On the list, we took the majority of votes in 70 out of 73 seats.

“Legislation to transfer some new responsibilities to Scotland is currently progressing through the Westminster Parliament. The Scotland Bill was drawn up by the unionist parties who were defeated on May 5.

“It must be revisited and improved in the light of the election result.”

“It is a flawed bill that does not meet the aspirations of Scotland’s people.”

“During the election campaign, the SNP pledged to improve this bill in order to speed up recovery from recession. We are prioritising job-creating measures such as gaining borrowing powers and control of corporation tax.

“A crucial power we must also gain is responsibility for the Crown Estate which means we can benefit from the riches of our own waters.

“In particular we can licence marine renewable energy projects, both to stimulate green industry and to ensure that local communities benefit from natural resources.

“Control of exise would have major social and health benefits in relation to alcohol minimum pricing. In addition, we believe it is only fair that Scotland has more say in European policy, as key Scottish industries such as fishing are regulated from Brussels. And we think it is wrong and unbalanced that broadcasting is regulated from London.

“These are our immediate priorities. But our ambition for Scotland does not end there. To achieve its potential, Scotland must become a fully participating nation in the world.

“An independent Scotland will be able to take forward initiatives with benefit far beyond our own borders.

“Scotland has introduced world-leading Climate Change legislation, that commits us to an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050, and sets a gold standard internationally.

“Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe’s tidal power and 10 per cent of its wave power. We intend to lead in marine energy and offshore wind technology – in the last year three of the world’s main turbine manufacturers, Gamesa, Mitsubishi and Doosan, have announced plans to site research facilities in Scotland.

“A sovereign Scotland will have no nuclear weapons, because we cannot have Europe’s largest concentration of weapons of mass destruction in Scottish waters.

“And we can be a beacon for upholding the standards of international law. An independent Scotland would not be dragged into an illegal, immoral conflict such as Iraq, which only today the UK has finally extricated itself from.

“Will it happen? I am an optimist, and we have history on our side. In 1945, the UN was founded with just 51 member countries. Today there are nearly 200.

“So I repeat – no man, no country, is truly isolated or separate. We are all part of a whole. My desire is simply for Scotland to co- operate with others on an equal basis, to be a good neighbour and a sovereign citizen of the world. Scotland will soon be in a position to bring all its gifts to the world, of that I am certain.

“If I can end with a quote from our national poet: It’s coming yet for a’ that.”

Mr Salmond’s speech was well received by the members of the FPA and the issue of Scottish independence will surely now be reported and discussed around the world.