Today is a momentous day in Scotland’s history and a defining moment for Scotland’s future. Today, as people go to the polls to cast their ballots, the future of our country is in their hands.
With a Yes vote, we can choose to retain that power over our country’s future – and use it to make Scotland a better place to live for all of us – or we can hand it back to Westminster, possibly for ever.
The politicians stopped arguing long ago over whether or not we have what it takes to be independent – even David Cameron agrees that we do. Scotland is among the top 20 wealthiest countries in the world, according to the Financial Times, and we are wealthier per head than the UK, France and even Japan.
Our many and varied strengths – from engineering to life sciences, food and drink to tourism – provide strong economic foundations for independence, while the extraordinary bonus of North Sea oil and gas pales perhaps in comparison to the overwhelming potential of our renewable energy resources.
We have the most highly educated population in Europe, according to the UK government’s ONS. We will be the wealthiest nation ever to have gained its independence. A country as well-equipped as Scotland can, beyond any doubt, succeed as an independent nation.
But we can only build a fairer and more prosperous society if we have the tools to do so – the powers that independence brings to improve our economy and society. A Yes vote opens the door to a range of new opportunities that become available with full control of Scotland’s wealth and finances.
With independence, we can choose to spend our money on what matters to us, saving £600 million from no longer paying for things like Trident, investing in childcare instead.
By making these sorts of different choices, and building on our firm financial foundations, we can protect our NHS from the damaging knock-on effects of English health privatisation, we can end austerity to invest in other public services like education and choose to pay older Scots a fair and decent pension in old age. And, with a Yes vote, we will have an economic policy designed for the first time ever to suit Scotland’s needs, with new job-creating powers to help grow businesses and deliver more and better employment opportunities.
Today is the culmination of a process that has seen us debate and consider our country’s future for over two years now. Regardless of the result, we should be immensely proud of a national conversation which has seen record levels of enthusiasm and engagement.
Many in Scotland are switched on to politics for the first time in their lives – not just tuning in to the debate, but arming themselves with the facts and figures, and considering the visions of our national future which we might work towards.
Our nation is alive with energy and excitement about the future. And the collective democratic awakening in Scotland goes further and deeper than the independence movement alone. For all of this, Scotland is richer. It is this popular energy which gives confidence for Scotland’s future. Together, we can harness the passion, drive and vision that abounds in Scotland today and use it to build a better society.
We have already shown, through the success of devolution, that making our own choices here in Scotland is best for us – and with a Yes we will see a real explosion of energy and confidence with which we can pursue yet bolder ideas for Scotland’s future.
Nobody pretends that independence will be a land of milk and honey. We will make mistakes, but they will be ours to make and we will learn from them. We will face challenges, but with the full powers of independence we will be better equipped to meet them.
Tomorrow, with a Yes vote, Scotland’s problems will not have disappeared. But unlike yesterday, we will have a newfound sense of resolve and responsibility – and the knowledge that the power to change Scotland for the better rests in our hands alone. It will be for us to seize the many opportunities that arise from independence.
Nobody knows our country better, and nobody will do a better job of making Scotland a success, than the people who live and work here.
We can no longer wait around for Scotland to be improved by distant, unrepresentative and out-of-touch Westminster governments, crossing our fingers and hoping that this time, unlike all others, they might just get it right.
We must take our country’s future into our hands with independence, and create a better Scotland for ourselves, our children and grandchildren. That is the best way forward for our future.