By Bob Duncan
On this day, the fifteenth anniversary of the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon will mark the occasion by saying: “Scotland can be well governed in all areas by completing the home-rule journey.”
The SNP’s Depute Leader and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will today [Tuesday] mark the fifteenth anniversary of the Scottish Parliament referendum on 11 September 1997 by outlining what has been achieved in the years since the Parliament was reconvened in 1999 – and by describing what more Scotland can achieve by completing the home rule journey to independence in the 2014 referendum.
One week ago, First Minister Alex Salmond announced that Ms Sturgeon, who had served as Health Minister for over 5 years, was to be given a new role as cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital spending. This is seen as a key government role in the lead up to the referendum on independence in 2014, as it allows real distinctions to be made between the administrations in Holyrood and Westminster.
Additionally, Nicola was given “lead responsibility for government strategy and the constitution, including preparations for the referendum”. In this new constitutional role, she has today issued the following statement as her first public pronouncement since taking up the post:
“Fifteen years ago today, the people of Scotland made the historic decision to reconvene the Scottish Parliament, meaning that some key decisions affecting our daily lives would be made in Scotland for the first time in three hundred years.
“With this degree of independence, Scotland has achieved so much that we can all be proud of – right across the parliament and across the country.
“Scotland has led the way in the UK by introducing the smoking ban, we passed world-leading climate change legislation, we reintroduced free higher education in Scotland and have a record number of Scottish students at Scottish universities for the coming year, we have delivered 1,000 additional police officers, and our National Health Service is being protected and promoted.
“If Scotland had voted No in 1997, none of these things would have been achieved.
“When we look at what is happening south of the Border, where tuition fees are the highest in the EU, with a decline of 25,000 in English students able to go to English universities, police numbers are plummeting and the NHS is being steadily dismantled by a Tory Government, we can see just how much better Scotland is as a result of that Yes vote.
“Scotland is governed well in devolved areas thanks to the Yes vote 15 years ago – and we can only make sure that we are governed well in all areas by completing our home rule journey and voting Yes to independence in autumn 2014.
“Only an independent Parliament will have the economic powers to pursue a different policy from George Osborne’s failed austerity programme, which has delivered a disastrous double-dip recession; only an independent Scotland can get rid of Trident nuclear weapons from Scottish waters; only with independence can we tailor a welfare policy suited to Scottish circumstances; and only independence can ensure that never again does Scotland get dragged into illegal wars such as Iraq.
“The alternative is to continue with the wrong economic policies for Scotland, a new generation of Trident missiles on the Clyde, the removal of Disability Living Allowance from some of our most vulnerable citizens, and no say for Scotland’s Parliament over whether or when our service men and women are put in harm’s way.
“Given the positive record of the Scottish Parliament in the areas currently devolved – compared to the policy disarray at Westminster – it’s no wonder that the most recent Social Attitudes Survey shows that 71 per cent of people trust the Scottish Government to act in Scotland’s best interests, compared to just 18 per cent who trust the UK Government.
“Fifteen years on from the Scottish Parliament referendum, there is no doubt that we can achieve so much more if we take all of the decisions here in Scotland – because the people best placed take the right decisions are the people who live here.”
In her new constitutional role, Nicola Sturgeon has already met with Scotland Office minister David Mundel, the sole Conservative MP in Scotland, in a summit on the referendum which she described as having been “constructive” and “productive”.
Ms Sturgeon will now meet with LibDem Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, over the coming weeks, to continue those discussions and has said that she hopes further progress will be made in this meeting. She said that she wanted key principles agreed so the debate on Scotland’s future could properly begin.
Ms Sturgeon told BBC Scotland’s Newsnight Scotland: “The principles of the Scottish government are that we want to make progress, we want to resolve the issues, but we must ensure that the Scottish referendum is built here in Scotland and that is the key principle.
“If we agree that, then we can move on and agree the other issues in fairly short order as well, and then we can have that debate, that very exciting debate, about why it would be better for Scotland and for people in Scotland if we were independent with all the powers that come with that.”