The Independence Blueprint to Be Revealed
The long-awaited blueprint for Scottish independence is published today with the promise it will answer hundreds of questions about the country's future.
The Scottish Government's official white paper will contain a comprehensive Q&A section and explain the ``opportunities'' of independence, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.
``The guide and the answers it provides will show clearly and simply the difference that we can make in Scotland if decisions on Scotland's future are taken by those who care most about Scotland - that is the people of Scotland,'' she said on the eve of the launch.
``Our message to the people of Scotland is simple: read this guide, compare it with any alternative future for Scotland and make up your own mind.
``This guide to an independent Scotland will set out a vision for Scotland's future, the ways in which we can use the powers of independence to build a wealthier and fairer Scotland and ensure that everyone benefits from our natural wealth and talent.
``This guide to independence will move the debate forward from how Scotland can become an independent country to the kind of country we can be.''
Ms Sturgeon will be with First Minister Alex Salmond to unveil the document, called Scotland's Future - Your Guide to an Independent Scotland, at the Glasgow Science Centre this morning.
The blueprint runs to more than 200 pages and provides answers to 650 questions on independence, the Scottish Government said.
The answers, along with downloadable copies, will be available at www.scotreferendum.com and live coverage of the launch will be streamed online.
People in Scotland will be asked on September 18 next year whether the country should be independent, ending three centuries of political union with England.
An opinion poll published on Sunday suggested 38% support a Yes vote and 47% back a No vote, meaning a swing of just 5% could lead to Scotland leaving the UK.
The Scottish Government has already set March 24, 2016, as ``independence day''.
Pro-union campaigners have long argued that the Scottish National Party (SNP) has no firm answers to the toughest questions - including on issues such as how Scotland would keep the pound sterling as its currency and get through technical negotiations in just 18 months.
Better Together chairman Alistair Darling, the former Labour chancellor, said: ``The white paper will try to force Scots into a risky choice that we don't need to make. We can have the best things about being a successful country and the best things about being part of something bigger.
``We simply don't have to choose between having a strong Scottish Parliament and the strength and security of being part of the United Kingdom. We can have both.''
The white paper must be a credible and costed plan, he said.
``If they ignore the cost of independence or claim that a vote by Scotland can force other countries into doing what Alex Salmond wants, it will be a work of fiction,'' he argued. The day could be historic, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said.
``For nearly two years, I have been asking Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon basic questions about what a Yes vote would mean for the people of Scotland,'' she said.
``On currency, on pensions and on the finances of an independent Scotland, we have been left with bluster and assertion.
``This week offers an opportunity to open a new phase in this debate where the questions that the people of Scotland are asking are answered. Unless the white paper does this, the SNP will have failed the credibility test.''
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: ``It doesn't matter how many pages the white paper has, it must contain hard facts so people can make an informed decision on September 18.
``Anything less than this and Alex Salmond and the SNP will have failed voters desperately looking for answers on how they and their families will be affected by the break-up of the UK.
``Only by renewing our place in the UK in 2014 can Scotland thrive and not merely survive.''
Meanwhile, the UK Government stepped in with claims people in Scotland will face higher taxes in the event of independence, basing the calculation on recent research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.
Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander, a Liberal Democrat MP in Scotland, said the average basic rate taxpayer could face a £1,000 a year tax increase by the end of the decade.
Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, said: ``The independence referendum is an opportunity to reaffirm our vows with the UK partnership of nations. A No vote can be a positive vote.''
Scotland is likely to be the focus of worldwide interest tomorrow, with more than 200 journalists from as far afield as Japan, Australia and Russia registered to attend the launch of the paper.
There will be a formal meeting of the First Minister's Cabinet at the science centre before the launch and ministers will later return to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh for a statement to MSPs.