The latest from MSP and First Minister, Alex Salmond
2012 – A year of jobs and innovation
This last year, the Scottish people have shown a hunger for more powers in order to secure a fairer and more prosperous future. I believe optimism has been chosen over pessimism, and it is with that optimism that I welcome in 2012.
My priority as First Minister, and local MSP, is to ensure all Scots have the security and fulfilment that comes from the opportunity to work. That’s why we are investing in a range of capital projects to create jobs, guaranteeing an education or training place for every 16-19 year old and delivering 25,000 modern apprenticeships each year.
We’re doing all this within the confines of devolution, but with greater powers we could do so much more.
These are choices we will have to face over the next few years. Next year will mark a further shift in the debate on Scotland’s future as we move towards a referendum on independence in the second half of the parliament. I am confident that Scotland will decide to take full control of our own destiny, and join the international community in our own right. We can then work together to make the most of the incredible strengths that our country possesses, strengths evident here in the North East. Utilising the skills of our people, the richness of our heritage, the beauty of our landscape and the wealth of our resources, we can ensure a bright future to match our illustrious past.
Our universities, colleges and scientific institutions are working on cures for the illnesses that beset humankind, as well as the renewable energy machines that will power the country for decades to come. Here in Aberdeenshire, I’m proud to support our innovators - our research and development firms pushing the boundaries in oil and gas, and in our renewables revolution. Scotland once again can be the land that shapes the world, and the North East will continue to be the power house that drives that progress.
When China’s Vice Premier Li visited us in 2011, he started his speech in Edinburgh Castle’s Great Hall with the words ‘It’s great to be in Scotland, Land of Invention’. We had a similar message from former Vice President Gore of the United States when he described Scotland as leading the world in marine energy, and from Kofi Annan in Glasgow who said our medical research could help millions.
The image of Scotland as a land of innovation is shared and validated by international observers - we must now live up to that. If we are going to shape the future we must make some changes to the present - and that means taking control of our destiny.
Cameron interferes with democracy
This week has seen the UK Government make a “cack-handed” attempt to interfere in Scotland’s referendum and impose unacceptable strings. In an attempt to take control of Scotland’s referendum, the Tory/Lib Dem Government indicated that it may dictate strict parameters for a vote. It then spent the rest of the week backpedalling, as it felt a backlash from the Scottish public.
The Tory Prime Minister tried to introduce an 18 month sunset clause to any transfer of powers over the referendum, and he indicated he wanted to write our referendum question.
During the 2011 election, the Scottish public endorsed our timetable for a referendum by delivering a majority SNP Government. We said very clearly in the election that our immediate priority, if elected, would be to seek to strengthen the Scotland Bill to give the Scottish Parliament important job-creating powers. I also promised to hold a referendum on independence in the second half of this parliamentary term. I promised it, Scotland voted for it, so I will keep my promise.
This timeline allows every Scot to take stock and examine where we are as a nation, and where we want to go. It provides enough time for an in-depth and informed debate from all sides: a debate you deserve as voters. Cameron’s latest intervention was a blatant attempt to interfere in a decision that is really one for the Scottish Government in terms of the timing of the referendum, and for the Scottish people in terms of the outcome.
Soon after this attempt to meddle in Scottish democracy, the Coalition must have realised that they had made a grave mistake. Almost overnight, Cameron’s 18-month sunset clause had disappeared into the sunset; the Coalition is riven with tensions; and Westminster is backtracking in the face of the massive thumbs down from opinion in Scotland to Tory interference in the Scottish democratic process.
The message from the Scottish electorate is as loud and clear as it was last May – let Scotland decide our own future.
More green progress
Next week, I will travel to the Middle East to sign a historic deal to boost our renewable energy sector. When I arrive, I will sign Scotland up to a landmark agreement to develop tangible green energy products with the world’s leading innovator, Masdar, based in Abu Dhabi.
The deal to be signed next Tuesday comes only six weeks after I first met with the company’s CEO Dr Sultan Al Jaber and toured its ‘city in the desert’ – a world class energy hub - to witness the world leading work taking place there.
It is clear that the work Masdar is taking forward on leading us to a low carbon society is in perfect synchronisation with the work we are doing here in Scotland. This is the first agreement of its kind between Masdar and an individual nation and will work towards developing further university research into renewable energy.
This landmark deal rightly puts Scotland firmly at the forefront of the green energy revolution and I look forward to this relationship between Scotland and Masdar growing and delivering for all our global futures.