The Scottish Government’s long-awaited White Paper on independence was launched in Glasgow this morning. Scotland’s Future, a 670-page document, lays out the ruling SNP’s view on how and why Scotland should become an independent country following next September’s historic referendum.
The paper was revealed by First Minister Alex Salmond and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Glasgow Science Centre, and later discussed by MSPs in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
Sturgeon told MSPs it is “the most detailed prospectus for the independence of a country that has ever been published” and it explains “the opportunities of independence, the benefits for individuals, families, communities and the nation as a whole and the practicalities of how we move from a Yes vote in September next year to becoming an independent country in March 2016”.
After the referendum on 18 September 2014, the Scottish Government hopes to begin “negotiations, agreements and preparations”, so that independence day can take place on 24 March 2016.
The document also lays out policies the SNP wants to enact in the first parliament after independence, assuming it can secure enough support after the election in May 2016. These policies include the removal of the UK’s nuclear weapons cache from the Clyde, the abolition of the controversial “bedroom tax”, and what Salmond calls “a transformational change in childcare”.
Salmond said his party’s policies were “nothing less than a revolution in employment and social policy for Scotland”.
And some of those policies have been well-received by other parts of the independence movement: the Scottish Green co-convenor Patrick Harvie welcomed the concept of a country that funded childcare instead of WMDs, and Radical Independence Conference co-founder Jonathon Shafi confirmed in an interview with RT his support for the SNP’s commitment to bring the recently privatised Royal Mail back into the public sector.
But Alastair Darling, who chairs Better Together, the cross-party campaign against independence, said the document was “a work of fiction” and “a wish-list of political promises”.
He indicated that the UK Government may refuse to co-operate in the formation of a currency union or the division of assets and liabilities, and so the Scottish Government’s pledges could not be guaranteed.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also styled it as “a compendium of existing assertions and a glossary of uncosted policies”.
Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland, the cross-party campaign for independence, insisted however that the paper is “a very informative and easy-to-understand guide” which will “open a new dimension in the debate about Scotland’s future and the choice we face next September”.
And at the Radical Independence Conference on Saturday, which drew over 1,000 delegates, Yes Scotland chair Dennis Canavan called for pro-independence activists of all political persuasions to rally behind the White Paper. He said: “Do not be sidetracked. Keep your eye on the ball. Concentrate on winning the prize because that prize is within our grasp.”
The Scottish Government is making hard copies of Scotland’s Future available to anyone in Scotland who requests one by email or telephone, and digital copies can be downloaded from the Scottish Government’s website. You can find out more about that here.