Scotland has unveiled its blueprint for independence, ahead of next September’s referendum.
The 670-page document promises to “build a more democratic, more prosperous, fairer society”.
On September 18, Scots voters will be asked the yes/no question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
The document, launched by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, pledged to tailor economic policy to Scottish businesses and industry.
Alex Salmond said independence would allow Scotland to harness its vast potential as a country.
The first minister went on: “Ultimately at the heart of this debate there’s only one question – do we, the people who live and work in Scotland, believe that we are the best people to take the big decisions about our future?”
The white paper also pledged to extend child care and scrap controversial UK government housing welfare changes, described by critics as the “bedroom tax”, should the Scottish National Party (SNP) be elected as the first government of an independent Scotland in the event of a “Yes” vote.
The document, Scotland’s future: Your guide to an independent Scotland, also said it would be in Scotland’s interest to keep the pound, but that would also benefit the rest of the UK, while the Bank of England would continue to be the “lender of last resort”.
The SNP document pledges included:
- 30 hours of childcare per week in term time for all 3 and 4-year-olds, as well as vulnerable 2-year-olds.
- Trident nuclear weapons, currently based on the Clyde, removed within the first parliament.
- Housing benefit reforms, described by critics as the “bedroom tax” to be abolished in first year of an independent Scottish parliament.
- No rise in basic rate of tax.
The Scottish government described the white paper as a “landmark document”, with the case for economic growth and fairness at its heart.
The SNP has argued Scotland’s finances are healthier than those of the UK, providing a strong foundation to put the focus of the referendum campaign on Scotland’s future.
The Scottish government’s critics said the white paper would be judged on whether it tackled concerns over issues like financial challenges.
For the UK government, Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said there were huge question marks over some of the policies already revealed by the SNP.
Alistair Carmichael said it was “highly unlikely” the Scottish government’s plan to keep the pound and retain the services of the Bank of England as part of a “currency union” with the rest of the UK would work, and said the SNP must set out a “Plan B”.
The Scottish government’s critics have also questioned its plan to get rid of Trident nuclear weapons – currently based on the Clyde – while being a member of NATO.
And they have said other SNP promises, on issues like pensions and welfare, are uncosted.
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