18th September 2014 presents the biggest opportunity the people of Scotland have ever had. It is the chance to transform our country for the better and chart a new, brighter course for ourselves as an equal member of the global family of nations.
There is no reason why Scotland cannot be a successful independent country – something that even David Cameron agrees with. We have the people, the talent and the resources to run our own affairs, and to run them well. What we lack is the complete set of political and economic tools for the job.
People in Scotland overwhelmingly agree that decisions about Scotland are best taken by the people who live and work in Scotland. Since its restoration 14 years ago, our national Parliament has proved time and time again that when decisions are taken here in Scotland we get positive outcomes.
Scotland’s Parliament has ensured that we have university education based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay. It has allowed us to protect the founding ethos of our NHS – care free at the point of need – and has given us free personal care for the elderly.
Holyrood has proven itself effective in all areas for which it has responsibility.
This contrasts sharply with Westminster’s dismal record of decision-making for Scotland. A generation ago, Westminster gave Scotland the poll tax. This generation of Tory-led government has given us the Bedroom Tax, which we will scrap with independence. The Bedroom Tax is only one element of the punitive welfare cuts that are affecting people the length and breadth of Scotland, including cuts to child tax and working credits that are hitting families hard.
Now plans are afoot at Westminster to privatise Royal Mail – a deeply flawed decision with the potential to devastate Scotland’s rural economies and communities.
It should be Scotland’s choice what we do with our share of that great national asset. Privatisation is a very real concern across the whole country, but especially in the rural and remote areas which depend upon a universal service that a service in public ownership can guarantee.
Delivering mail and parcels to all of Scotland’s communities inevitably costs more than delivering in built-up urban areas only. Any private sector successor to Royal Mail will seek to cut costs to maximise profit, creating pressure on being allowed to achieve this through abandoning universal service.
The Royal Mail is an essential public service for those living and working in my constituency. The same is true of many of Scotland’s communities, which may not have access to alternative carriers.
Westminster cannot treat Royal Mail as “just another business”. Affordable, universal mail delivery is a part of our essential infrastructure. It is a driver of economic growth in rural Scotland; not a drain on public resources as George Osborne would like us to think.
These sorts of decisions are negatively impacting Scotland, and come at a time when the UK Government plans to spend countless billions on a new generation of Trident nuclear missiles on the Clyde.
Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries per head in the world. Discounting our oil revenues, our national output is on a par with the rest of the UK – oil is a bonus rather than basis for the economy of an independent Scotland.
A Yes vote next year is not about any one politician or any one party, it is about completing the powers of our nation’s Parliament and will be the culmination of a Home Rule journey that began more than a century ago.
We know that the more informed people feel about next year’s vote, the more likely they are to vote Yes. Once people have the facts at hand, they begin to recognise not just that Scotland could be independent but why we should be.
That is why more and more people will move towards a Yes vote in the weeks and months ahead as we enter the next stage of the campaign, including the publication of the White Paper.
More than 300 years ago Scotland lost its political and economic independence as the result of decisions made by unelected politicians, when the people had no say. In a little over 300 days from now, it will be the people, not the politicians, who decide their own future.
When the day comes, one year from now, I believe the people will say ‘Yes’.