Alex Salmond sets out case for independence

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond has today set the scene for the next step on Scotland's journey toward independence. 

In an article for Mr Salmond sets out the SNP's vision for Scotland's future and as he prepares to launch the white paper on a referendum the First Minister says it is vital that this St Andrews Day "we let the people have their say."

An opinion poll today showed 75% of Scots want a referendum on Scotland's future with two thirds wanting to move on from the current devolution settlement to more powers and Independence.

Read the full article below:

Alex Salmond, First Minister and SNP leader.

THE road to home rule for Scotland was a long and winding one.  The path wasn’t always smooth and there were more than a few false starts along the way.  But when the people were given the chance to have their say in a free and fair referendum, they grasped that opportunity and chose to have their own Parliament once again.

So when Winnie Ewing opened proceedings on the Mound in Edinburgh 10 years ago, it was the culmination of a process which had begun many years before. And her observation that the Parliament was simply being “reconvened” – after an over-lengthy recess which began in March 1707 – was more than just a colourful way of capturing the historic significance of that day.  It was also an acknowledgement of the fact that there is a continuum in Scottish public life, and a process of independence underway, which has seen responsibilities returned to Scotland in our times.

While our national Parliament has enacted real change for the better, that process of democratic renewal and constitutional progress continues.

That is why tomorrow – St Andrew’s Day – I will unveil the Scottish Government’s vision of an independent Scotland, paving the way for the referendum bill we will bring forward early in the New Year.

The White Paper we will launch distils the results of the National Conversation we have held with the people of Scotland since we came to office in 2007.  And as such it is a historic and detailed document, which lays out the case for independence in unparalleled depth and clarity.

The White paper draws on the contributions of the National Conversation, which has seen thousands of members of the public attend meetings with Cabinet Ministers all across Scotland, and which has attracted more than half a million hits on its web pages.

We have set the direction for tomorrow’s launch by publishing a series of National Conversation documents in recent months, all of which set out the constitutional options for Scotland as we move into the second decade of restored home rule.

Those options are, basically, the status quo, the limited change offered by the Calman Commission, maximum devolution with substantial news powers such as fiscal autonomy, and independence.

We firmly believe that only independence gives Scotland the freedom to achieve its full potential as an equal member of the international community, with the same rights and responsibilities other countries take for granted. It would put us on an even footing with others by giving us a seat at the top table in Europe and other international forums when the major issues are being thrashed out.  A powerful example is climate change, which will be debated in Copenhagen next month but without direct Scottish Government representation – despite Holyrood passing the most ambitious climate change legislation anywhere on the planet.

Independence would also stop Scotland ever again being dragged into illegal wars such as Iraq – illegality for which the evidence is mounting by the day from witnesses at the Chilcot inquiry.

The debate in Scottish politics used to be for or against constitutional change.  Ten years after the reconvening of the Parliament, now the debate is about the kind of change we seek.  And, just as before, we believe it is only right and proper that the people are given the chance to have their say in a referendum.

Not everyone accepts our vision of an independent Scotland, but an overwhelming majority of people believe that the status quo is no longer a viable option.  And that makes it all the more disappointing that both Labour and the Tories now appear to be outdoing each other by seeing who can kick even the modest Calman proposals deepest into the long grass.

Calman’s recommendations on transferring responsibility for policies over areas such as air weapons, and drink-drive and speed limits are very welcome, and could be implemented by next February if the UK Government matched our commitment to progress.

Some of the other proposals, such as those on tax, are at best half-baked and could well make things worse rather than better.  Indeed, on borrowing powers, Jim Murphy managed to water down even the meagre Calman proposals so as to make them virtually unusable – no doubt following the Treasury’s diktat.

Labour’s announcement on Calman last week was a flop.  By refusing to act now and delaying any positive change until after a UK election, Jim Murphy has shown that his party cannot be trusted to deliver for Scotland.  The Tories have similarly reverted to type by making it abundantly clear that Scotland features nowhere near the top of their agenda should David Cameron ever make it to Downing Street.  Indeed, the Tories actually want to dilute Labour’s proposals, which would leave nothing strong or substantial left in the glass.  The Liberal Democrats, to their credit, want to get on with the job of transferring these powers now in order to make Scotland safer and stronger.

The Calman consensus between the London parties has completely collapsed.  But there is a clear way forward for Scotland, and our White Paper encompasses and galvanises all those strands of opinion that want Scotland to progress – and they represent the vast majority of the people.

Tomorrow is another historic step on Scotland’s democratic journey.  We want to complete that journey with the referendum we plan for next year, giving people their say over an independent future for Scotland.  On Scotland’s National Day, we say ‘let the people speak’.