NICOLA Sturgeon will warn Scottish voters tomorrow that a “no” to independence next year is a “gamble” that will pave the way to a “bleak” future of poorer children, longer working hours and a broken welfare state, as she turns her fire back on those supporting the UK.
The deputy First Minister will use a speech in Glasgow to declare that the country has a choice of “two futures” ahead of the independence referendum in 2014.
SNP ministers have been on the back foot in recent weeks amid questions over the currency and pension arrangements that a new independent country would adopt.
But she will seek to turn the tables on the pro-UK side, arguing that far from being a safe option, a vote to stick with the UK would pave the way to an uncertain future.
With UK ministers preparing to usher in fresh spending cuts as they deal with the deficit and predictions of low growth, she will argue that a “no” vote would usher in “ever greater cuts in public spending, a welfare state dismantled beyond recognition, people working longer for less, higher levels of child poverty, a growing gap between rich and poor, billions more wasted on nuclear weapons, and no real prospect of any more powers for our parliament”.
Despite polls which last week showed support for independence falling back compared to February, she will also claim that there is a “natural majority” in favour of a separate country, with most people ready to back it so long as they are convinced it can make the country wealthier and fairer.
It comes after an SNP-commissioned poll asked voters last week whether they would be more or less likely to vote “yes” if they were persuaded independence would create a fairer and wealthier society.
A total of 35 per cent of people said it would make them more likely to vote for independence. However the largest proportion – 43 per cent – were those who opposed independence and said that even if they were persuaded of the case, they would still vote no.
Sturgeon’s speech appears designed to seize back the initiative from the pro-UK side after a torrid few weeks for the pro-independence campaign which has faced internal criticism that it is failing to set the agenda.
It comes with the UK Government expected to publish another paper on the impact of independence on mortgages and pensions next week.
SNP figures said that they would now begin to highlight specific policies – such as welfare and benefits – with a view to showing the possibilities of independence.
In her speech, extracts of which have been released, Sturgeon will add: “I am convinced – from talking to people across the country – that there is a natural majority in Scotland for independence. What do I mean by that? I mean that people will vote yes if we can persuade them that it opens the door to a wealthier and fairer country.”
She will set out four “hallmarks” of the campaign: that Scotland should be governed from Holyrood, not Westminster; that all powers should be in “our own hands” to deliver fairness and prosperity; that “we should have no-one else to blame if we fail to do so”; and that there should be a new “relationship of equals” between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
The UK side, she added, had its own questions to answer – such as whether it would remain in the European Union come the end of this decade. David Cameron is promising a referendum on EU membership in 2017.
A spokesperson for Better Together last night claimed that Sturgeon’s speech amounted to “another SNP campaign relaunch”.
He added: “Now we are to believe that there is a majority of people who are yes voters. Even for a campaign that enjoys a baseless assertion or two, this is quite something. The truth is that the majority of Scots have seen through the nationalist bluster. They know that they have no idea what separation would mean for our pensions, our jobs and our public services.”