SCOTLAND’S younger generation will make the country a “roaring success” if it becomes independent, Nicola Sturgeon told an audience of thousands of school pupils who will vote for the first time in the referendum.
But the youngsters heard warnings from the No side that an independent Scotland would be a colony like “Panama or Gibraltar” because it may end up sharing the pound under London control.
The claims came during a BBC debate at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow last night, the final TV showpiece before the vote. It focused on 16- and 17-year-olds from 219 schools across Scotland who questioned a panel including Deputy First Minister Ms Sturgeon and Green co-leader Patrick Harvie on the Yes side, with Respect MP George Galloway and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson on the No side.
The event had been at the centre of controversy before it even started. Mr Galloway claimed the BBC attempted to cancel his appearance after booking him. But No campaign chiefs demanded he be allowed on. Mr Galloway appeared in the “Rat Pack style” hat he has been wearing during a tour of town halls.
The politicians heard concerns about the prospect of Scottish banks moving their registered offices south after independence, university tuition fees, oil revenues and the NHS.
Ms Sturgeon told the audience she wants independence to create job opportunities for young people. “There’s nothing wrong with young people wanting to leave Scotland for a while, to spread their wings,” she said. “But right now something like 40,000 of our young people leave Scotland every single year – many of them because they can’t find the opportunity, the job, a career or profession here.
“If we got control over our economic levers we could create more opportunities and encourage more companies to set up in Scotland, to expand in Scotland, to create jobs for all of you across this country.”
But Mr Galloway said that the Scottish Government’s case for independence was based on “fantasy economics.”
He added: “You’re the only people in history to be asked to create a separate country that doesn’t have a currency – doesn’t have money.”
The Scottish Tory leader said the package of extra powers coming to Scotland will give the country greater controls.
But she added: “For 15 years the Scottish Parliament has been in entire control of the health service, of education, of policing – all of the services that we have today in Scotland.”
Mr Harvie said gains from Scotland’s oil reserves should be invested in renewables for the future.