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Scotland’s Future

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 18th September 2013.

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Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Whatever way we cut the figures, Scotland’s public finances are in better shape than the UK’s public finances, but the benefit of independence is having the powers to grow our economy faster and create more wealth so that we can challenge some of the issues that we face. You know what? Being one of the wealthiest countries in the world while having some of the highest levels of child poverty cannot be an argument for staying the same. It is an argument for doing things differently and better. It is an argument for being independent. I say to Tavish Scott that I will take a more prosperous and socially just Scotland with a decent welfare state over nuclear weapons and a seat on the UN Security Council any day of the week.

My second argument is that it is better that we take decisions here in Scotland. Johann Lamont accepts that principle but cannot bring herself to take it to its logical conclusion, so she has tied herself in knots. Apparently, that principle means coming out of the EU, although she forgets that it is the UK that wants to take us out of the EU. However, she misses the point that being independent means that we choose when we share sovereignty and when we do not. Under the current system, Westminster decides what powers this Parliament has and what powers it does not have. No one can explain to me why it can be right—as it is—for us to have the power to protect our NHS from privatisation but to have to stand by while our welfare state is destroyed.

Labour says that that is about pooling resources. The giants of the Labour movement must spin in their graves when they hear that, because the reality of welfare cuts is not the pooling of resources but the pulling of the rug from under the feet of the poor and vulnerable in our society. I say to Malcolm Chisholm that I believe in social solidarity as much and as passionately as he does, but I believe that we display more solidarity with the poor and vulnerable in England if we take the powers to lead by example and abolish the bedroom tax than we do if we say that everybody has to suffer under it.

My third and final argument is that this debate is not about the SNP. People can think, as I do, that the SNP is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or they can think, as Neil Findlay does, that we are the devil incarnate, but that is not the point. Independence is about having the power to decide and choose. It is about where power and decision making lie. It is about whether we always get the Governments that we vote for or whether we have to put up with Governments that we do not vote for—such as Tories propped up by Liberals—as we have had for more than half my life.

This debate will happen once in a lifetime, and I believe that we all have to do it justice. I really believe that, a year from today, people will reject the fears and smears and will opt for hope, optimism and the human instinct to strive to build a better world, starting with building a better country—the better country that we know Scotland can be. I look forward to the debate and to making the argument. I believe that, just as the BBC audience in Berwick did last night, the Scottish population will come to the yes side and vote for independence for our country.