Alex Salmond made the claim ahead of a special “youth cabinet” event in Glasgow today, where more than 100 young people from across the country will get the chance to quiz leading ministers about their plans for an independent Scotland.
The referendum will be the first time that 16 and 17-year-olds across Scotland have been given the vote.
With today’s event targeted at 16 to 21-year-olds, Mr Salmond stressed the importance of engaging with young people in the run up to the September ballot.
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The SNP leader said young people would benefit from a Yes vote, arguing plans to re-industrialise Scotland would lead to more opportunities for training under modern apprenticeships.
He also said independence would allow Scotland to implement the European Youth Guarantee, allowing unemployed youngsters to get help sooner so they could be offered a job, education or training within four months.
Mr Salmond said: “For young people the prospect of an independent Scotland really is the opportunity of a lifetime.
“The case for independence rests on the talent and ability of our people. It will be better for all our futures if decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland - the people who live and work here.
“No-one else will do a better job and no-one else has a bigger stake in our success. That fundamental truth applies to young people more than anyone else.”
He continued: “For the first time we have secured a vote for thousands of 16 and 17-year-olds across the country. Young people will be at the heart of the debate and by voting can help to build a better country.
“Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. With independence young people will have the chance to reach the top of their career ladder and we can work to tackle youth employment more effectively.
“Whether we’re attracting more private investors or building on the success of the modern apprenticeship scheme, with independence we can improve the lives of people across the country.
“I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for our young people to engage in the referendum debate. With their help we can make history, and build that better, fairer and more prosperous Scotland we all know is possible.”