We are Scotland’s Independence Generation … and our time is now

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  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has revealed the Scottish Government’s Independence White Paper is to be published on November 26th and that an independent Scotland will provide a minimum wage that will rise in line with inflation.
 
In a speech to a packed conference hall in Perthshire the First Minister told delegates that Scotland’s time was now and described today’s Scotland as the independence generation.

“In less than one year’s time the people of Scotland will have the opportunity of a generation.” He said.

The SNP leader, keen to challenge media portrayal of a yes vote as a vote for the SNP, reminded those listening that a vote for Yes on September 18th 2014 was not a vote for him, the SNP or even the Yes campaign, but a vote of confidence in Scotland itself.

“It will be, above all, an act of national self-confidence and self-belief.” He said.

Mr Salmond labelled the No campaign’s arguments as “can’t do dirge” and said the arguments in favour os Yes were compelling.  He highlighted a recent series of debates which pitched Yes against No in which the initially sceptical audiences then opted for Yes.

“Last month broadcast debates were held to mark a year to go to the referendum.

“The audience was balanced between those in favour of independence, those against and those undecided.

“The significant thing is this – at the end of a couple of the debates, having heard the arguments, people were then asked how they would vote.

“The result on both occasions – a majority for independence.”

On the economics of independence Mr Salmond highlighted the many senior figures in the No campaign who had already conceded Scotland could indeed succeed as an independent country.

And they were correct said Mr Salmond.  Scotland is a country rich and fortunate in both human talent and natural resources, he told delegates as he listed the many areas in which the nation excelled.

“We have more top universities per head than any other country in the world.

“Our food and drink industry is entering a golden era.

“Scotland has been declared the world’s top travel destination

“Foreign investment is at a 15 year high.

“Wind, wave and tidal energy can make Scotland the green powerhouse of Europe for decades to come.

“We are a hotbed of life science innovation.”

The speech was noticeable for its lack of attack on his political opponents in Scotland, with no time spent on Mr Salmond’s political adversaries in Holyrood.

However there was an acknowledgement of the importance of opponents of independence south of the border.  On the need for a debate with UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Salmond repeated his challenge to the head of the UK Government that he should put his claims to the test in a televised debate between the two.

“He wants to dictate the terms of the debate without of course debating himself.  He wants the power without the democratic responsibility and that is simply not on.

“So here’s the deal Prime Minister.  We’ll publish the White Paper then you and I must debate.  First Minister to Prime Minister.

“The choice is yours.  Step up to the plate – or step out of the debate.”

Mr Salmond indicated that after a debate with Mr Cameron that he would then be prepared to debate with any other figures from the No side.

The First Minister then challenged claims that Scotland’s economy could not survive without oil revenue – pointing out that even with the resource stripped out, Scottish GDP was still roughly equal to that of the rest of the UK.

“For every one of the last 30 years Scotland has generated more tax per head than the UK as a whole.

“And without a single penny from the North Sea our national income, per head, is virtually the same as the UK’s.

“With oil, our economy is almost one-fifth bigger.  And we produce six times as much oil as we need.”

The SNP leader claimed UK politicians should be embarrassed by their mishandling of Scotland’s oil, pointing out that of all the nations who discovered oil, only Scotland and Iraq were the only two countries still without a fund.

He ridiculed many of the claims levelled by the No campaign’s Project Fear advocates – a name he pointed out that those in Better Together had given themselves – listing claims on mobile phone charges, the annexation of Faslane and embassies refusing to hold whisky receptions as examples.

On the independence debate, the First Minister said that the central question of the coming referendum campaign would be who should be taking decisions about Scotland – those who live and work here or Westminster politicians.

The evidence, he said, was clear in the record of Scotland’s Parliament that had delivered many socially beneficial programmes including Free Personal Care, protecting the NHS, free access to education and the council tax freeze.

“Friends, where we have the power we have chosen a different path.

“A path that reflects Scotland’s social democratic consensus, our shared progressive values – our priorities as a society.”

He railed against those in the Labour party and Conservative party who had described universal benefits as “something for nothing” luxuries, saying:

“Now Labour and Tory dismiss these gains as the luxuries of a something for nothing country – really? Personal care for older people, free tuition for young people, to be cast aside as something for nothing?

“This is not a something for nothing country but a something for something society and this party shall defend that social progress made by our parliament.”

Mr Salmond told delegates that Scotland had proven it was capable of making better decisions when given control, and that independence would allow other areas to benefit.

“So let us consider what we can achieve by extending our powers over the things we don’t currently control.

“Over our welfare system, our economy, our energy supplies and our international security.

“Because there is no doubt we are paying a heavy price for Westminster decisions.”

He drew attention to the funding of the London Olympics, a great event he said, but one which had taken money from many Scottish good causes – money which they were still waiting to be paid back.

“More than a year after the Olympics, Scottish good causes are still waiting for the promised return of £114 million of lottery funding which was diverted to fund the London Games.” He said.

By contrast, Glasgow’s Commonwealth games will take not one penny from the vulnerable.

“In contrast every penny piece of funding for the Commonwealth Games and its legacy is being delivered by the Scottish Government, the City of Glasgow and commercial sponsorship – and it will be the greatest sporting event that Scotland has ever seen.”

The First Minister then turned his attention to the Bedroom Tax he said was “unforgivably targeted at some of the most vulnerable in our society.”

“Delegates let me be clear.  One of the first acts of the SNP in a government of an independent Scotland will be to scrap the Bedroom tax.”

There was mention of the recent sell-off by the UK coalition of the Royal Mail and a reminder that the previous Labour government had proposed to do the same.

In a reminder of Scotland’s lack of influence at Westminster, he said: “The plans were fiercely resisted in Scotland and rightly so, but this month we were reminded of a painful lesson.

“Regardless of what people in Scotland think or believe if Westminster is determined to sell off Scotland’s public assets then it will find a way.”

To rousing applause Mr Salmond added: “If elected in an independent Scotland I give this pledge.

“An SNP government will bring our Royal Mail back into public hands.”

The SNP leader also commented on the dispute that had closed down the Grangemouth oil refinery.  He told delegates that Scotland wanted to see the plant working again and issued a call to the INEOS management
 
“FIRE UP THE PLANT AND DO IT NOW.”

There was also a surprise announcement from the First Minister in the shape of a pledge for a minimum wage.

“With independence we should have the aspiration to achieve a living wage for all workers – not just those under the responsibility of government.  Yesterday Nicola explained how we intend to encourage the private sector to move towards the living wage.” He said.

“If elected, on independence – this Scottish Government will establish a Fair Work Commission.

“The central pillar of that commission will be to set a minimum wage guarantee.

“I can announce that this guarantee will ensure a minimum wage that rises – at the very least – in line with inflation.”

The SNP leader also revealed the date for the long awaited Independence White Paper – the 26th of November.

He said it would do two things, and added:

“First, it will spell out the platform that we will establish for Scotland between the referendum next year and the first elections for an independent Scottish Parliament in the spring of 2016.

“It will therefore be clear that independence is not at its heart about this party or this administration or this First Minister but about fundamental democratic choice for Scotland – the peoples’ right to choose a Government of our own.    

“And secondly the White Paper will set out the why of independence, our vision of Scotland – the Scotland that we seek.

“We seek a country with a written constitution protecting not just the liberties for the people but enunciating the rights of the citizen.

“We seek a country where we make work pay not by humiliating those with disabilities but by strengthening the minimum wage.

“We seek a country where key public services remain in public hands.

“We seek a country where business prospers but where the public are protected against the abuse of monopoly power.

“We seek a country where the right to health and education are based on human need and ability not on the size of your wallet.

“We seek a country which understands its contribution to culture and creativity as part of an international framework.

“And we seek a country which judges its contribution on how useful it can be to the rest of humanity not on how many warheads in can balance on a Trident submarine.”

He ended his speech by asking people to imagine how future generations of Scots would view this generation if next year’s referendum produced a Yes vote.

“And when the pages of books yet unwritten speak to generations yet unborn of this time and this place, of our Scotland today, what is the story they will tell?

“They can say that we who lived at this special time recognised a priceless moment for what it was, that those who saw this chance did not baulk at it.  That those who were given this moment did not let it pass by.

“And that we, Scotland’s independence generation, reached out and grasped the opportunity of a lifetime when it came our way.

“We will NOT wake up on the morning of 19 September next year and think to ourselves what might have been.

“We WILL wake up on that morning filled with hope and expectation – ready to build a new nation both prosperous and just.

“After almost a century of Scotland moving forward to this very moment – let us ask ourselves these simple questions:

“If not us – then who?

“If not now – then when?

“Friends – we ARE Scotland’s independence generation.

“And our time is now.”

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