Only by restoring full political sovereignty to Edinburgh from Westminster can Scotland fulfil its true potential, First Minister Alex Salmond said in a keynote speech today.
He said only through the powers of independence we can:
- Stop the bedroom tax
- Prevent tens of thousands of children being thrown into poverty by the UK Government’s war on welfare
- Create a childcare system which ranks with the best in the world
- Use our tax powers to encourage innovation, investment and job creation across all parts of the country
- Have a modern constitution which enshrines the rights of the people of Scotland
- Create a fairer and more prosperous society
In the first in a series of speeches the First Minister will deliver over the summer, he highlighted six unions that impact on Scotland today.
Mr Salmond set out how, following a vote for independence in next year’s referendum, Scotland will continue to participate fully in five unions – the European Union, a defence union through NATO, a currency union, the Union of the Crowns and the social union between the people of these isles – embracing them and using the powers of independence to renew and improve them.
But he will also highlight that the current powers of the Scottish Parliament can only go so far in mitigating the negative impact of UK Government decisions and it is only through independence and a change to the political and economic union that we can build a more prosperous and just society.
Addressing the assembled workforce of Global Energy Group at Nigg Energy Park, the First Minister said:
"We must address and fundamentally change the political and economic union as a matter of urgency. This political union is only one of six unions that govern our lives today in Scotland – and the case for independence is fundamentally a democratic one.
“A vote for independence next year will address the democratic deficit which sees policies like the punitive Bedroom Tax, the renewal of Trident or Royal Mail privatisation imposed on Scotland against the wishes of Scotland’s democratically elected representatives.
“But that will still leave five other unions intact. We will embrace those other unions while using the powers of independence to renew and improve them.
"We will remain members of the European Union – but with a seat of our own at the top table, and without the uncertainty of a referendum on membership, as proposed at Westminster.
"We will still be members of Nato – co-operating with our neighbours and friends in collective security. But we can still decide not to be a nuclear power – like 25 out of 28 current members of NATO.
"We will be part of a currency union with the rest of the UK – but we will finally have the full taxation powers we need to promote jobs and investment.
"And we will retain the monarchy – making the Queen the Head of State of 17 independent countries, rather than 16. However, we will adopt a new constitution, written and endorsed by the people, asserting rights as well as promoting liberties and enshrining the ancient Scottish principle that ultimate sovereignty rests with the people.
“The final union does not rely on the choices made by politicians and parliaments – the social union unites all the peoples of these islands.
"People in England will still cheer Andy Murray, and people in Scotland will still support the Lions at rugby. People will still change jobs and move from Dundee to Dublin, or from Manchester to Glasgow. With independence, we will continue to share ties of language, culture, trade, family and friendship. The idea that these ties are dependent on a Parliament in London are and have always been totally nonsensical.”
Mr Salmond continued:
"Using the powers of the Scottish Parliament we have cushioned 500,000 Scots against London cuts to council tax benefit, but we cannot stop more than 82,000 households, including over 15,000 families with children, from having the bedroom tax inflicted upon them.
"In recent years, in the face of Westminster’s austerity agenda, we have led the rest of the UK on attracting inward investment, done all we can to protect capital spending, and prioritised youth employment so that we have the 6th best rates in Europe.
"But we lack the key economic tools that could be used to boost Scotland’s economy further, create more jobs and help build a more equal and more prosperous society.
"We have up to a quarter of the European Union’s offshore renewable energy potential, but no control over the electricity market reform process which has spread such uncertainty over renewables. We have the major share of the European Union’s oil production. But we had to watch when a number of UK tax changes in the last decade delayed investment in our offshore fields.
"We can’t clear the country of nuclear weapons – we can’t even prevent fuel poverty in energy-rich Scotland.
"With devolution, we can mitigate the impact of some Westminster decisions. But it is mitigation, and no more. Only with independence can we build the Scotland we want to see."
Mr Salmond concluded:
"The political union does not work for Scotland any more, it holds Scotland back and imperils our future. It will not bend, and it will not change of its own accord. So we will - we must change it."