Alex Salmond: A rare moment for any nation

Alex Salmond says more and more business people are backing independence

Alex Salmond says more and more business people are backing independence

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First Minister Alex Salmond says we can vote for independence with our hearts and heads

SCOTLAND’S opportunity of a lifetime arrives in four days’ time. Thursday is a date with destiny. It is a day when Scotland will be sovereign for the first time in more than three centuries.

It is a precious and historic opportunity, and a moment which is rare in the life of any nation. A Yes vote is our only guaranteed chance to get the full powers we need to build a better country.

Scotland is a rich nation – in fact, we are one of the most prosperous nations on earth, wealthier per head than France, Japan and the UK itself.

But for far too many people living in Scotland today it doesn’t feel that way.

Just pause for a moment to consider our huge advantages – things which other countries would give their eye teeth for.

With just 1 per cent of the European Union’s population, we have around 20 per cent of its fishing stocks, around a quarter of its offshore green energy potential and around 60 per cent of the EU’s oil reserves.

In addition, we have a booming multi-billion pound food and drink industry, a thriving tourism sector, more top universities per head than any other country, top creative industries and a cutting-edge life sciences sector.

And we have generated more tax, per head, than the UK for every one of the past 33 years. But despite that huge wealth, we have huge disparities as, under Westminster rule, the UK has become one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.

A Yes vote is a chance to change that.

With independence we can make our huge resources work for the many and not then few.

Only a Yes vote gives us the job-creating powers we need, as more and more of Scotland’s job creators recognise.

That will deliver more and better job opportunities, especially for our young people who, far too often, have to look beyond Scotland, leaving family and friends behind.

Only a Yes vote will give us full control of our own finances, meaning we have the ability to protect funding for our key public services like the NHS, care for the elderly and access to university education for the young.

Independence will mean a better deal on pensions, which are 100 per cent guaranteed, and a minimum wage which rises at the very least in line with inflation.

And only a Yes vote will guarantee that we always get the governments we vote for as a nation.

That means we will never again have deeply unpopular Tory governments imposing deeply unpopular policies, like the poll tax, the bedroom tax and Trident.

A No vote would see the continuation of weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde at a cost of £4 billion a year, despite a majority of MSPs at Holyrood being opposed to Trident, and a majority of Scottish MPs having voted against its renewal.

Instead, we can stop wasting money on unnecessary, immoral nuclear missiles and spend it instead on things that matter, such as better childcare.

We will also save around £50 million a year by no longer paying the salaries and expenses of MPs and unelected peers at Westminster.

Independence won’t be a magic wand. We will still face challenges and have to make tough choices – but they will be our choices to make. Contrary to the claims of many of our opponents, Scotland’s independence is something that runs very much with the tide of history rather than against it. When the UN was formed at the end of the Second World War, there were fewer than 50 independent members – today there are more than 190.

And of the ten countries which joined the European Union in 2004, more than half became independent since 1990 and seven are smaller or around the same size as Scotland in population terms.

The UK is on the fast-track out of Europe, as Westminster dances to Ukip’s tune, with the danger for us in Scotland that we are dragged to the exit door too unless we take our destiny in our own hands.

Thursday’s vote is the culmination of a campaign which has reinvigorated the democratic process right across Scotland, with people engaging with politics in a way they have never done before, and registering to vote in record numbers.

But only a Yes vote will ensure that that fantastic reawakening of democracy is taken forward. A vote for independence will see a Team Scotland approach to negotiations with Westminster, and the involvement of the whole of civic society in drafting a written constitution and building the new Scotland which will emerge once again as an independent country in March 2016.

People have seen right through the last-minute panic pledges from Westminster, which are too little, too late – just as they are seeing through the equally panicked attempts, orchestrated by Downing Street, to whip up business voices against independence.

I believe in independence not because I think we are better than any other country but because I know we are just as good as any other.

A whole 307 years on from the Treaty of Union, we don’t need to rise and be a nation again – we just need to believe in ourselves.

If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

Vote Yes on Thursday, with your head and your heart – and put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.

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