Independent Scotland ‘an equal society’ - Sturgeon

INDEPENDENCE is the only way Scotland can escape from inequality and poverty, the Deputy First Minister claimed in a flagship speech last night.

Nicola Sturgeon insisted that Scots would only be protected from controversial policies such as the UK government’s bedroom tax if there is a Yes vote in next year’s referendum.

She said that the “choice to do things differently would lie with us” in an independent Scotland, as she used a speech at Edinburgh University to set out the SNP’s case for Scotland leaving the UK.

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Ms Sturgeon said that the UK was one of the developed world’s most unequal societies, which she claimed was forcing Scots to live in poverty. She insisted that Scotland would become a more equal society along the lines of Nordic nations.

She also talked about how Scotland and the rest of the UK could be the “closest of allies and the best of neighbours” after Scottish independence as she highlighted the existing British Irish Council as a template for co-operation.

Her speech came after she confirmed that law officers’ advice on Scotland’s future in the European Union if it becomes independent now exists, but will not be published.

Meanwhile, the deputy SNP leader suggested that Scotland within the UK would remain vulnerable to policies such as the bedroom tax, that forces social-housing tenants with spare bedrooms to move to a smaller home or lose up to 25 per cent of housing benefit.

Ms Sturgeon claimed the tax was being driven by rental and benefit costs in London and that the Scottish Parliament would never have imposed the policy.

She said: “The bedroom tax is a very good case in point, not just because it is unjust – although it is – but because it is legislation which would never have been passed by a parliament with Scotland’s problems and priorities at its heart. It is a policy driven primarily by rising rental and housing-benefit costs in London and south-east England.

“And yet in Scotland, 100,000 people will be penalized unless they move to single–room accommodation – despite the fact that we only have a supply of 20,000 single-roomed socially rented houses.”

Ms Sturgeon went on to say an independent Scotland “wouldn’t have to become a more unequal society” if Scotland had control over its own resources such as North Sea oil revenues.

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“One in five Scottish children now lives in poverty and 800,000 Scots live in fuel poverty. My argument is not that no future independent Scottish Government would ever make mistakes or get things wrong.

“It is that the evidence suggests we would have taken – and would take in future – a different direction as a country. The choice to do things differently would lie with us.”