Scotland’s deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, told students and residents of St Andrews on Monday that “no country, anywhere, has been better equipped to become an independent nation than Scotland.”
The speech, held in the Buchanan lecture theatre, was the first in a series of speeches, debates and lectures to be held by the University with the aim of airing some of the major issues raised by the impending independence referendum.
Ms Sturgeon began by saying that Scotland “has got what it takes to be independent”. She then argued that the country should be independent because of its “transformational potential” and that the decision “transcends party politics” because “you don’t need to support the SNP to support independence”. Finally, she spoke in favour of a debate over the next nine months that would “empower people to make an informed choice.”
She said: “Our argument is that the best way of building a successful Scotland is to take our future into our own hands – to be in the driving seat of our own destiny.
“We believe that it will be better for all of us if decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most: those of us who live and work here. Decision-making power really matters.
“With devolution it has benefited those in need of personal care, students who would struggle to pay tuition fees and those who want to keep the NHS in public hands.
“With independence it would equip future Scottish governments of any party with the means to ensure greater long-term economic security, more job opportunities and a fairer society.
“And it would mean the power to protect against the damaging consequences of Westminster governments determined to pursue a fundamentally different course from that supported by a majority of people living in Scotland.”
The deputy first minister also hit out at the “narrow-minded approach” of other parties, such as UKIP and the Conservatives, on the issues of membership of the EU and immigration. She argued that Scotland should “remain [an] enthusiastic member of the EU because it is in our national interest to do so.”
The SNP, Ms Sturgeon’s party, actively support the Yes campaign and she argued that the No campaign, known as Better Together and headed by Alistair Darling, “haven’t told us why they think continued government by Westminster is good” and that they have left “unanswered questions” about what will happen in the event of a No vote. She challenged them to publish their equivalent of the White Paper – the document released by the Yes campaign detailing their plan for an independent Scotland.
A spokesperson for Better Together said: “The SNP’s White Paper manifesto for breaking up the UK was nothing more than a wish list without a price list.
“Rather than facing up to the consequences of breaking up the UK, the nationalists promise us the sun would shine brighter every day if only we were independent. The idea that the White Paper was compelling is, frankly, laughable.”
He added: “The SNP are the ones saying that we should take the risky step of leaving the UK, but they cannot even answer the most basic questions like what currency we would use if we go it alone.
“People understand that devolution inside the UK works for Scotland. We have the best of both worlds. Our Scottish Parliament allows us to make decisions on the areas that matter most like health, education and childcare and we get the strength and security of being part of one of the world’s biggest economies.
“Why should we trade the success of devolution for the risk and uncertainty of independence?”