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Independence can transform Scotland
Opponents must answer ‘inconvenient truths’.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday marked the start of 2014, the year in which Scotland will decide its future in a referendum on independence, with a keynote speech at St Andrews University.
Ms Sturgeon said the campaign had now moved into the ‘two futures’ phase where people across Scotland should be able to consider the vision set out in Scotland’s Future and contrast it with the position Scotland would be in without independence.
Setting out the transformational opportunities of independence for Scotland’s economy, for women and children and for our relationship with Europe, Ms Sturgeon said the independence issue should transcend party politics as Scotland makes a decision about how it is to be governed.
In her speech, the DFM also set out a series of detailed questions to be answered by opponents of independence who need, she said, to publish their alternative to Scotland’s Future.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I am challenging our opponents today to publish their equivalent of Scotland’s Future.
“Doing so will involve them admitting to some grim possibilities - which no doubt explains their reluctance. It is estimated, for example, that up to 100,000 more children in Scotland will be living in poverty by 2020 if we follow the policy path Westminster is on.
“What will the implications be for Scottish families of the £25 billion of additional cuts in public spending being announced by the chancellor today?
“The inconvenient truths facing our opponents simply can't be allowed to stand in the way of the people of Scotland making a genuinely informed choice.
“Scotland’s Future your guide to an independent Scotland is now out there for people to read, scrutinise and judge. We need the same clarity and depth of detail from the other side, so that this debate can be taken out of the hands of politicians and put firmly where it belongs - into the hands of the Scottish people."
Urging voters to consider the long term economic future for families and future generations the DFM also highlighted the benefits independence could deliver for women and the economy, saying that it would create a Scotland ‘where we don’t wait for things to happen to us but one where we decide to shape our own future’.
The DFM also highlighted the need for a different approach to the Westminster parties on issues of immigration and Europe saying with independence: “We can ensure we have an approach to Europe and to immigration that meets our needs.”
Ms Sturgeon said:
“The choice we face in the referendum is about the future. We need to decide what outcome will best equip us to face that future and the challenges it presents.
“Like other countries, we face some big challenges - constrained public finances, a legacy of debt and a shrinking working population relative to our pensioner population. But these are not arguments against independence. They are products of the status quo. They are reasons, not to keep things as they are, but to do things differently.
“Firstly, we could choose to transform childcare, building on the improvements we have been able to deliver with the limited powers of devolution. In Scotland’s Future, the Scottish Government set out a long-term plan for the provision of free universal childcare for all children aged 1-5.
“At present childcare costs in Scotland are among the highest in Europe. They are a real barrier to women in particular pursuing fulfilling careers. And yet we know that if we can raise female participation in the labour market to levels achieved in, for example, Sweden then - as well as the boost to general economic performance - we would also generate an extra £700 million per year in tax revenue.
“Money that, in an independent Scotland, would stay in Scotland to help fund the policy for the long term. Within a fixed budget that doesn't automatically benefit from increased tax revenues, no devolved Scottish Government could make such a commitment without making big cuts elsewhere.
“So this is a social and economic transformation that is only possible in an independent Scotland. Giving women greater job opportunities is a key aim. But fairness, equality and the achievement of individual ambition are as important as participation.
“In Scotland at present women don't have the same career opportunities as men. That's not just bad for women - it's bad for the economy. We need to change that.
“One of the steps we could take is to ensure public and private institutions improve the gender balance of their governance. If the current Scottish Government was the first government of an independent Scotland we would, for example, introduce a target for women’s representation on company boards. The power to do this is not currently available to the Scottish Parliament.
“So like childcare this is a benefit that will only come with independence.
“Independence isn’t just about using policy levers in a slightly different way from Westminster. It is about a fundamentally different view of the sort of country Scotland should be.
“A Scotland where we don’t wait for things to happen to us but one where we decide to shape our own future. That is the kind of transformation we should be seeking in an independent Scotland.“