Scotland will stand at a “historic crossroads” when MSPs return to Holyrood this week, the Deputy First Minister has said.
The Scottish Government is ready to “hit the ground running” after the summer recess with the launch of its new legislative programme, Nicola Sturgeon said.
The programme for government will be the next step towards delivering a Yes vote in next year’s referendum, she argued.
“Scotland stands at a historic crossroads this autumn,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“With a little over a year to go until the biggest and most exciting opportunity our country has had for three centuries, we face a choice of two futures.
“A Yes vote in next year’s referendum will deliver the powers we need to create a more prosperous and fairer society - a No vote risks uncertainty and the erosion of the progress the Scottish Parliament has made since devolution.”
The programme for the coming parliamentary year will demonstrate why decisions should be taken in Scotland, she said.
“The people of Scotland overwhelmingly agree that decisions affecting Scotland should be taken here, and not at Westminster.
“And we have proof that when decisions are taken in Scotland we get positive outcomes and policies that people strongly support, such as free higher education and personal care for the elderly.
“In contrast, Westminster all too often delivers policies that are deeply unpopular, such as the Bedroom Tax, which have a detrimental impact on the people of Scotland.
“With these concrete examples of how decision-making is better when decisions are taken in Scotland, more and more people will come to the conclusion that decisions on the economy, welfare and who should speak for Scotland internationally should also be made by Holyrood and not by Westminster governments they did not elect.
“A Yes vote for independence in next year’s referendum is the only option on the table for positive change and progress for Scotland, and this week sees the next important step towards delivering that positive result.”
Meanwhile business leaders urged MSPs to test all policies in the new legislative programme for their impact on economic growth.
Iain McMillan, CBI Scotland’s director, said the past year had been tough for business and for the economy but there were some encouraging signs of recovery.
“As we face the coming year, our political leaders need to channel their collective energies into aiding the recovery and ensuring the delivery of policies that help. All MSPs have a role to play,” he said.
“If we are to see a meaningful resumption of growth take root then there are key issues that must be addressed within the legislative and governing agenda over the coming months. Important reforms and investment in infrastructure, business support, planning, procurement, and regulation need to be advanced.
“This remains a difficult time for Scotland’s economy. The overriding challenge to our politicians is straightforward - test all policies against a single benchmark: will it make Scotland a better place to create jobs and wealth as the economic recovery takes hold?”