Today, for the first time since the beginning of the political union, the elected representatives of the Scottish people, gathered here today in this Scottish Parliament, will be asked by a Scottish Government to agree that Scotland should become an independent country.
An independent country, that stands alongside the other nations of these isles, as allies, neighbours and friends.
This Scottish Parliament has achieved much in its short life span – the smoking ban, our world leading climate change act and new legislation to help tackle Scotland’s relationship with alcohol – these are just a few of many advances.
But this Parliament is not yet able to make many of the key decisions affecting the lives of every man, woman and child in Scotland.
Since devolution we, as a Parliament and as a people, have shown we can make a success of running our own health service, schools, local government, police and courts and much else besides. Indeed, Dennis Canavan has made this very point - drawing upon 26 years as a member of Parliament at Westminster and a further 8 years as a member of this Parliament, his vast experience has led him to the conclusion that Scotland’s future lies as an independent nation.
The point is, if we are capable of doing all these things successfully for ourselves, why shouldn’t we have responsibility for running our economy, our pensions and representing ourselves on the world stage?
And why shouldn’t we be able to take the decision to rid Scotland of the obscenity of nuclear weapons?
I trust the people of Scotland with these decisions. I know they will make better choices for Scotland than a Westminster government any given time and any given day.
Last week, the SNP and Labour, representing nearly three quarters of the electorate, voted together to mitigate the consequences of Westminster’s misguided and damaging welfare reform programme.
The key word, presiding officer, is mitigate. But why should we be limited to a mere lessening of the impact of these Westminster policies on thousands of families across our nation? The opposition today would have us stand back and say that very little is enough. I say, far better if this Parliament had the real power to stop the Tory dismantling of Scotland’s welfare state.
The message and vision is clear - Westminster continues to spend on weapons which could destroy the world, Scotland should spend on social provision which could be the envy of the world.
Last Friday, the co-convener of the Scottish Green Party, Patrick Harvie, and I took part in the launch of YES Scotland - the largest community-led campaign ever mobilised in this country involving ordinary folk, grassroots activists and independence ambassadors. Already we have 15,000 people backing the Yes Declaration and well over 3,000 volunteers signed up to support the campaign. And this is just the start.
We have welcomed people from all backgrounds, and from all political persuasions.
What unites all these people from the breadth of society in Scotland is a common cause and a shared purpose. We believe that the people who care most about Scotland, that is the people of Scotland, should be in charge of our nation’s future. No one will do as good a job for our country than the people of Scotland themselves. And that is why being independent will enable our country to make the progress it needs to, so we can realise our potential and build a nation that is fairer, greener and more successful than Scotland today.
In 2013 the Scottish Government will publish a white paper setting out the detail of the independence prospectus. It will present the Government’s case for independence and the starting point for our nation - how we will be governed. It will be the prospectus that is put before the people of Scotland in 2014.
And that starting point will be a single chamber parliament, with a First Minister and Cabinet selected by parliament as it is today. Elections using the same system of proportional representation. Local government with the same powers and responsibilities. A High Court and Court of Session that resume their historic roles as the supreme courts in Scotland. It will set out a Scotland that is a member of the EU, that has the Queen as our Head of State and sterling as our currency. On our first day as an independent country, this is how Scotland will be.
I remember campaigning alongside members from the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats in 1997 for a Scottish Parliament. We agreed, in the words of the Scotland Act itself, that there shall be a Scottish Parliament, but we differed in our vision of what our Parliament would do and what it could become.
For the SNP and the Liberal Democrats, devolution was only one step on Scotland’s constitutional journey. I argued for an independent Scotland then and now. The Liberals argued for a more powerful parliament, at least they did then.
On economic policy, social policy, our approach to the environment – we each offered different visions of how we might use the new Parliament’s powers to make Scotland better.
Of course, these issues were not decided by the referendum in 1997, but in the first Scottish election in 1999, and, I am pleased to say, revisited in subsequent elections!
And so too with an independent Parliament. Our campaign is for a Parliament with the full powers of an independent nation. It is a campaign which has at its heart a self-evident truth – it will be fundamentally better for us all, if decisions about Scotland’s future, about our well-being and success, are taken by the people who care most about Scotland, that is by the people who live here.
Together, we are the ones with the greatest stake in our nation’s future. And that is why Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands.
With independence we can put our vast resources to work for the benefit of Scotland, creating a competitive economy and in doing so creating new opportunities and new jobs.
Saving and investing our offshore wealth as the guarantee of a safer, more secure future. Scotland, not just a nation of promise, but of potential fulfilled.
As an independent Scotland we will speak with our own voice, choose our own direction and contribute in our own distinct way. We will do so by negotiating a new, more modern partnership on these isles, a partnership fit for this 21st century – a social union, United Kingdoms, replacing a political union that is long past its sell by date. Stronger as equals.
Presiding officer, I want Scotland to be independent not because I think that we are better than any other country, but because I know that we are just as good as any other country.
So lets build a Scotland that's greener, that's fairer and more prosperous. Scotland is ready.
These are extracts from Alex Salmond's speech in the Scottish Parliament today. If you agree that Scotland should be independent, sign the Yes Declaration today.