The Scottish National Party on Tuesday made its strongest case for an independent Scotland in a white paper titled ‘Scotland’s Future: Your guide to an independent Scotland,’ that it released in Glasgow.
Addressing a press conference with Deputy Minister Nicola Surgeon, First Minister Alex Salmond said: “This white paper is the most detailed blueprint that any people have been offered anywhere in the world as the basis of becoming an independent country.”
He argued that if Scotland became independent it would be in a strong starting position with the 8th highest economic output and the 10th highest national income per capita in the entire developed world. He also cautioned that Scotland would have to “tackle a legacy of debt, low growth and social inequality bequeathed to us by Westminster’s control over the economy.”
The white paper, Mr. Salmond said, answers 650 “real questions asked by real people” and will give the people of Scotland the opportunity to have a reasoned debate before the September 2014 referendum in which the Scottish electorate will vote yes or no to the question “Should Scotland become an independent country.”
In the white paper, the SNP lays out in election-manifesto style, the policies it will implement if the party is elected to power in the event of Scotland winning independence.
The government will put child care at the centre of their social programme, offering “a transformational change in childcare so that, over time, every child from age one to starting school is guaranteed 30 hours of provision for 38 weeks of the year.” This will create conditions for more women to enter the workforce, Ms. Sturgeon said.
On the economic front, the SNP says that its reorganisation of the taxation system – that will see the abolition of the ‘bedroom tax’ — will save the country £ 250 million. A Fair Work Commission will ensure that the minimum wage rises at least in line with inflation. It will retain the pound with the Bank of England as “lender of last resort”.
An independent Scotland will not spend “billions of pounds in weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Salmond said, and will therefore get rid of the Trident nuclear weapons, currently based on the Clyde. It will also apply to join NATO.
On immigration, the white paper proposes considerable loosening up of the present controls, and in respect of overseas students, it has offered a post-study work visa, the removal of which in the U.K. has negatively impacted overseas student enrolment.
According to the white paper, there are over 30,000 international students from more than 150 countries in Scotland; over 11 per cent of all students studying in Scotland are drawn from elsewhere in the EU and about 10 per cent are from the rest of the world.
A promise that will find much support amongst immigrant communities is that of introducing post-study work visas. “This visa will encourage more talented people from around the world to further their education in Scotland, providing income for Scotland’s education institutions and contributing to the local economy and community diversity,” the report states.