By NICOLA STURGEON
Published on Sunday 27 January 2013
Next year, Scots have a chance to chart a new and exciting course.
Nicola Sturgeon explains why Yes has to be the way forward.
AS SCOTLAND looks forward to a hard-fought referendum campaign that will
shape our nation’s future, it is inevitable that the disagreements
between those who advocate independence and those who favour government
from Westminster will be amplified and exaggerated. We should embrace
vigorous debate because come referendum day it will be important for
every citizen to be aware of the arguments being put forward by both
campaigns – and understand what each choice means for the direction and
wellbeing of our country. However, between now and the referendum, it
is also important that we take some time to reflect on what unites us in
There are many aspects of modern Scotland that we agree need urgent
attention – first among them in my view is the fact that one in five
Scottish children live in poverty and 800,000 people in Scotland live in
fuel poverty. The Yes campaign argues that decisions on tax and welfare
would be better taken at Holyrood rather than Westminster so that we
have in our own hands the powers to eradicate these statistics – a
position supported by nearly two-thirds of Scots in the latest Social
We will have these and many other debates on the fairer society and
stronger economy we can build with independence, and I look forward to
However, it is worth considering for a moment that while we have not yet
reached a consensus about how Scotland should be governed in
constitutional terms (such a consensus will, I hope, emerge with a Yes
vote next year), there is widespread agreement that we should all work
within the system as it is at any given time to improve life in
Scotland. That may seem a straightforward point, but it underlines the
essential unity and cohesiveness of our nation and that is something to
Committed home rulers in the Liberal and Labour parties, and then in the
emergent SNP, did everything they could for their communities and
country at a time when Scotland was governed only by Westminster.
Previously, anti-devolution Tories have played their part in opposition
in a Scottish Parliament they did not want. The SNP worked from 1999 as
the main opposition, and since 2007 as – by general consensus – an
effective administration in a devolved parliament that doesn’t reflect
the full measure of our aspirations. And we have always supported more
powers for Scotland while campaigning for independence.
So while there is profound disagreement about our constitutional
arrangements, we all work within them to improve the lot of Scotland and
to achieve our wider ambitions with the consent of the people.
That is the spirit in which the Yes campaign approaches the referendum –
and I am confident that we will emerge with the same national unity of
purpose in the new, broader and I believe better context of an
There is huge international interest in Scotland’s referendum. The
process of a nation achieving independence by debate – in the most
transparent and participative way possible – is a positive lesson for
the wider world, particularly for those places which do not yet have the
freedoms we enjoy.
We shouldn’t underestimate the fact that the Scottish experience is
regarded as an exemplar of democratic change – and in that regard I was
delighted to hear former Irish President Mary McAleese describe our
referendum as a “remarkable and wonderful phenomenon”. We should all
take pride in this – and bring forward quality campaigns to match.
So let me set out my positive reasons for wanting Scotland to vote Yes.
Growing up in a working-class family in Ayrshire in the 1970s, and then
working as a lawyer in Drumchapel, my first and enduring political
beliefs were not so very different from those of my contemporaries who
supported Labour – a left-of-centre commitment to fairness and social
justice, and passionate opposition to nuclear weapons.
But I joined the SNP and supported independence because I thought then,
and believe now, that an independent Scotland is the best route to a
socially just Scotland. For me, an independent Scotland has never been
the goal in itself, but rather the means to deliver the vital objectives
of a fair society and dynamic economy.
The range of identities in modern Scotland – Scottish, British,
Pakistani, Irish, Polish and many more – will be encompassed in an
independent country, but they are not dependent on it. In the
since the 1707 Union, Scottish identity has endured, evolved and
strengthened. In a similar manner, British identity will continue in an
In other words, the case for independence does not rest on identity or
nationality, but rather on values of social justice, enterprise and
democracy. My concerns are not just about the nation of Scotland – they
are principally about the welfare of the people of Scotland.
The shocking poverty statistics cited above cannot be divorced from the
fact that the UK is the fourth most unequal country in the developed
world – a situation that will only worsen as a result of the cuts
imposed on working families and vulnerable citizens by the Westminster
Inequality in Britain actually grew over the period of the last Labour
government at Westminster, and my contention is that the UK has failed
Scotland over the long term and under successive governments of all
Despite our rich human and material resources, Scotland’s average
economic growth rate has been 40 per cent lower than equivalent,
independent countries over the past 50 years.
In the Economist Intelligence Unit’s ‘where to be born’ index for 2013 –
which analyses a range of quality-of-life measures – the UK ranked 27th.
Norway, Sweden and Denmark – countries with many similarities to
Scotland – were in the top five.
So on any scale, Scotland could and should be doing better. But in order
to chart a different course from the prevailing winds of Westminster,
our government has to have the vital policy levers in the areas of the
economy, social welfare, the environment, Europe and international
affairs that our neighbours in Scandinavia and elsewhere enjoy.
A prerequisite to fair policy in Scotland has to be representative
policy – and a debilitating feature of our national life for too long
has been the imposition of policies that do not carry our consent. Iain
Duncan Smith’s unfair cuts to the welfare system will hit a million
working age households in Scotland, weakening consumer demand as well as
harming families. But 80 per cent of Scottish MPs opposed them – and to
add insult to injury Iain Duncan Smith refuses even to appear before
Holyrood’s welfare reform committee to explain them.
Last Monday, in response to a substantial increase in requests for help
as a result of these cuts, I announced a £5.4 million package to support
front-line advice and assistance for people worst
affected. It is a
good package, widely welcomed. But our national politics should not be
focused on the amelioration of damaging measures that as a nation we
didn’t support in the first place.
The damaging uncertainty about our place in the European Union created
by David Cameron’s speech last week is another example – a process
driven entirely by Tory electoral fears about Ukip south of the Border.
In Dublin on Friday, I set out a distinctively Scottish case for
Europe’s importance to Scotland and our importance to Europe.
This concern about Westminster governments’ lack of a democratic mandate
in Scotland is not just a problem now, and has never been confined to
the SNP. For more than half of my life, Scotland has had a Tory
government from Westminster that we didn’t vote for. And it was Jim
Wallace – ironically enough now the Lib Dem Advocate General in a
Tory-led government – who said in the House of Commons on this very day
25 years ago: “The Conservative Party in Scotland has no mandate, and it
is no use pretending that it has.” I agree with the former Jim!
The overarching benefit of an independent Scotland is that we will
always get the governments we vote for. Therefore, our politics and
policy can be focused on a proactive agenda – rather than being obliged
to react to measures from Westminster that we have no control over and
don’t support. Independence will be to the betterment of our national
life – as well as to the betterment of relations between Holyrood and
Independence means we can look to the future with clear eyes and a fresh
start. We have had many constitutional proposals over the years – and
all contributions about how, with more powers, we can improve the
quality of life for people in Scotland and build a more dynamic economy
But next year is the only guaranteed and certain opportunity to achieve
these powers – and more – with a Yes vote. A No vote is literally a vote
for nothing – other than the continuation of a Westminster austerity
agenda we didn’t vote for, uncertainty about our place in Europe, and
complete certainty that Scotland would have a new generation of Trident
nuclear weapons dumped on the Clyde for another 50 years.
A No vote would relegate Scotland to the bottom of the Westminster
agenda – the idea that Holyrood would gain new powers in these
circumstances is fanciful. Scotland cannot afford the risk of a No vote
– or the loss of opportunity for renewal and revival that a Yes vote
It falls to few countries and few generations to choose their future in
the impeccably democratic way that we are doing – in that sense we are a
lucky country and a very lucky generation of Scots. After all, we don’t
know if, as individuals or as a country, we will pass this way again.
Like most nations, Scotland’s history is littered with fascinating “what
ifs”. What if the Darien scheme hadn’t happened – would the Union have
ever come about? What if the narrow Yes to devolution vote in 1979 had
been respected – would we already be independent? We cannot know for
sure. But what we do know is that next year we have the chance to set
our country on a new course.
At this exciting time, I believe that Scotland’s interests are best
served by looking forwards and outwards with a Yes vote – not looking
backwards by wondering “what if” and lamenting a No vote, as I’m sure
many people would quickly come to do. Rather than years of
introspection, Scotland needs the ambition which is at the heart of the
case for Yes.
The Yes campaign will do all we can to persuade our fellow citizens to
make the positive choice of an independent Scotland, and embrace this
unrivalled opportunity. That is our responsibility – we will discharge
it with passion, commitment and integrity. And I hope and believe that
we, the people of Scotland, will say Yes
Reply from Am Beachdair
Ms Sturgeon claims she is devoted to the independence of Scotland. Why
then does she support the SNP doctrine of independent Scotland being a
member of the European Union?
She does not take into account the fact that an increasing number of
Scots believe membership of the EU would be as deleterious to the
interests of independent Scotland as Scotland's membership through the
UK is now.
Independent Scotland should become a member of the European Economic
Area (EEA) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The EEA
provides open access to the Single European Market as well as the
European research and development facilities, allows participation in
drafting EU legislation, leaves Scotland its own fishing and agriculture
policies and more, and provides all the economic benefits Scotland
But most important, independent Scotland would be truly independent in
EEA/EFTA. If Scotland chooses the EU it would only be exchanging its
present vassalage to Westminster for vassalage to Brussels.
How can a patriot such as Ms Sturgeon support continuing vassalage?