The Scottish Government has offered to open up discussions between its officials and UK Government officials within the spirit of the Edinburgh Agreement as part of the preparations for independence, Finance Secretary John Swinney has said.
Speaking at the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee Mr Swinney said that the Scottish Government was willing to hold discussions with a range of organisations, including the UK Government in preparation for a potential Yes vote in 2014, within the spirit of the Edinburgh Agreement.
Mr Swinney also took the opportunity to set out to the House of Lords the reasons why the Scottish Government believe independence is the right way forward for Scotland.
Addressing the House of Lords, John Swinney said:
“The Scottish Government has taken steps to ensure this is an orderly process that gives the people of Scotland the opportunity to fully debate the issues and to cast their ballot in the referendum with confidence.
“The Edinburgh Agreement, signed in October, creates a clear and understandable process and commits both governments to fully respect and implement the outcome.
“To ensure voters can have confidence in the information we give them about financial arrangements we established the Fiscal Commission Working Group. Chaired by Crawford Beveridge and including respected economists Professor Sir James Mirlees, Joseph Stiglitz, Frances Ruane and Andrew Hughes Hallet – the group is advising on the macro-economic framework and on securing economic growth and stability.
“The Deputy First Minister last week set out our intention to produce a series of papers that will establish the organisational structure of an independent Scotland and this government’s view on why we believe independence to be the right road for Scotland.
“As part of that process we will discuss with organisations and stakeholders the routemap we propose for Scotland. At a wider level we are willing to engage in discussion with organisations, about the preparations for independence. We hope the UK Government will participate and allow discussions at official level, in line with the Edinburgh Agreement, to ensure that in the event of a Yes vote both Governments are ready to take forward the will of the public. That is the common sense way forward.”
Discussing the opportunity of independence Mr Swinney said:
“Devolution has allowed Scotland to act in areas such as health, education and justice in a way that suits Scottish circumstances and delivers results for Scotland whether through free education, care for the elderly or the action we are seeking to take on alcohol pricing. We believe this reinforces the principle that it is the people of Scotland, who are the right people to make decisions about what happens in Scotland.
“Last week’s autumn statement created a very clear choice between continued austerity within the UK and unlocking the opportunities of independence.
“Scotland is in a stronger financial position than the UK, we contribute 9.6% of revenues with only 8.4% of the population. Whether Scotland can be independent is no longer disputed. What matters are the opportunities independence would open up to invest in growth, to provide support to key industries and to tackle social issues by connecting education, welfare, employment and the economy in a way that can only be done with the full levers of responsibility.
“It is a decision for people across Scotland in 2014 whether to unlock the opportunities I believe will come from independence and build our future based on the achievements of Scottish self government.”