2014-09-11 - Alex Salmond
I want to start by welcoming each of you here this morning.
It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to an international media audience representing countries from all around the world.
Since 1945, 142 countries have chosen independence.
Not one has ever asked to give it up.
It is therefore a great pleasure to meet so many journalists who instinctively understand the logic of independence.
Scotland is on the cusp of making history. The eyes of the world are upon us.
And what the world is seeing is an energized, articulate and peaceful debate.
Scotland will vote Yes.
Last minute, cobbled together promises from the No campaign which unravel on the slightest scrutiny won’t fool anyone- and neither will the blatant bullying and intimidation of Westminster government.
A No campaign is in decline.
In contrast, a Yes vote is the opportunity of a lifetime, an opportunity to build a fairer and more prosperous country.
Today marks a moment in Scotland’s Home Rule journey.
Today is exactly the 17th anniversary of Scotland voting Yes to restoring a Scottish Parliament in 1997.
You have just heard from Canon Kenyon Wright – a man known to many as the ‘architect of devolution’ and hugely respected across the political divide.
He was central in reclaiming a measure of home rule for Scotland in 1997. We all called him the Grand Canon.
He, like so many others, is now convinced of the urgent need for Scotland to complete its journey to independence by voting ‘Yes’.
In the last 17 years, Scotland has become a better country – removing tuition fees, abolishing care costs for the elderly, making prescriptions free, creating jobs and opportunities and defending the National Health Service.
In creating a celebration of democracy it is Scotland’s people, Scotland’s communities - not the politicians – who are re-invigorating and transforming the entire political process.
The participation, the enthusiasm, the meetings, the discussions, the debate has been remarkable.
It has been a process of national empowerment.
As a country we have re-discovered national self-confidence.
As a nation, we are finding our voice.
Our message to the people of Scotland is this – for the first time in Scottish history, on the 18th September we, the people, hold our destiny in our own hands.
We shall not wake up on the 19th of September having given it away.
We shall wake up knowing that we did the right thing.
Wake up to a lifetime of feeling confident in ourselves and in our country.
We have no intention of allowing the Westminster elite tell us we are not capable of making a success of this wealthy country.
A country with a higher GDP per head than the UK, France and Japan.
With the strongest of foundations on which to build a better, fairer society.
More top universities per head than any other country.
A world-class food and drink industry, advanced manufacturing, creative industries and extraordinary energy reserves and potential.
That is an extraordinary starting point for any new nation.
But what matters most is what we do with that wealth – how we share it, how we invest it, how we use it.
The issue as we enter the last week of this campaign is not therefore whether Scotland is wealthy enough to be an independent country.
The great issue is why so many people don’t benefit from that wealth.
And the most fundamental point of all is this:
A Yes vote next Thursday is not the end of something. It is the beginning of something special.
We will succeed not only because of our wealth of natural resources – as important they are.
We will succeed only if we maintain and build on the energy, the participation and the involvement we have seen in this campaign.
I want to use the energy and the confidence we feel to carry Scotland to greater heights in the months and years beyond September 18.
The sense of purpose coursing through Scottish life is unmistakable.
For the first time ever, Scots believe that this can happen and will happen.
With that sense of belief, of confidence, of opportunity – we can get to work making our lives and those of our families immeasurably better.
We shall not go back to accepting a country where a million live in poverty.
To a country where people feel their views don’t count and they get a Government they didn’t elect.
Where we spend billions on Trident but say we don’t have enough for childcare.
Where the massive potential and talent of so many Scots is wasted.
Where decisions are made remotely and against the settled will of the Scottish people.
We’re not going back to all that.
For many people, the answer to the question of whether Scotland should be an independent country has often been “Yes, but.”
Now that we have the opportunity of a lifetime to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands, more and more people are no longer saying “Yes, but”.
They’re saying, “Yes because.”
Yes because we will have the job-creating powers we need to build a more prosperous country.
Yes because we will have control over our budget to protect our NHS.
Yes because we must use all the talents of the people of Scotland.
A Yes vote is about building something better.
It is the growing acceptance across every community in Scotland that no-one – absolutely no-one – is better placed to govern Scotland than the people who live and work here.
No one cares more.
No one understands the needs and aspirations of the people more.
No-one will ever do a better job.
And once that central proposition is accepted, a Yes vote becomes irresistible.
Not because we will inherit the day after independence a land of milk and honey.
Not because Scotland has a special or privileged position in the world.
And not because we are better than anyone else – but because we are no worse.
Because there will be big challenges.
What we win on the 18th September is the chance to do better, to take control, to make our own mistakes and mould our own successes.
The reason Scotland will vote Yes is because the majority of Scots look around and know that we can do better.
The first thing Scots will gain is a guarantee that the UKIP/Tory referendum which threatens to take us out of the EU – the greatest single risk to Scottish jobs and prosperity – will be off the table.
I believe – unlike Mr Cameron – in the rights of citizens to enjoy the protection of things like the European Convention of Human Rights. That is guaranteed in an independent Scotland.
I believe in the rights and protections given to workers across Scotland by the European Union, in the need for collective action on climate change and in the solidarity of nations standing together in the face of conflict.
I believe - unlike Mr Cameron – in positive engagement with the rest of the Europe rather than public schoolboy politics and island isolationism.
With independence the EU therefore gains a positive force for international co-operation.
Because this referendum is simply the start of a new chapter for Scotland in the world.
A nation of 5 million Scots doesn’t need the largest and most expensive arsenal of nuclear weapons in Europe in order to be influential – but it does need a government more committed to our global partners, to the United Nations, to fighting poverty and disease abroad with the same passion we will fight it at home.
Scotland is ready to join the family of independent nations on equal terms.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This campaign isn’t about the SNP, the Tory Party, me, David Cameron or any individual – it’s about who we trust must to govern our country.
The last two weeks have been the most momentous in Scottish political history.
The Yes vote has multiplied, momentum on the ground has crystallised into commitment from undecided voters and many of those who previously were No, have realized the historic opportunity before us and have changed.
The story of the last weeks - as Anum Qaisar explained earlier - has been of many thousands of traditional Labour supporters realizing that a Yes vote is their best prospect of building a socially just Scotland
Of families deciding that the future of their children is best secured in an independent country where we can make our own choices for childcare, jobs and welfare.
Of pensioners recognizing their pensions are totally secure with independence and knowing they are free to gift to their grandchildren the greatest legacy of all – opportunity.
And when the No campaign was asked for a vision of a future for Scotland what did they offer?
No more than a rehash of policies announced months ago, ignored by the voters then and now as meaningless and incoherent.
No guarantee of any specific powers to be devolved – simply a timetable to have a consultation.
The truth is we have been here before. In 1979 Scotland was told ‘Vote No’ and more powers would be devolved.
Instead we got Margaret Thatcher, deindustrialisation and the Poll Tax – the most unfair taxation system of all time.
Scotland will not be conned again- this time we all know that only a Yes vote delivers real opportunity.
I am convinced that the vision of a positive future for Scotland which has been taken to all parts of the country in energising conversation by the most impressive grassroots campaign this country has ever seen, it is winning the hearts and minds of the people.
We have approached this campaign with humility and by respecting the will of the people.
The will of the people a week from today will be to restore to this rich, ancient nation the opportunity once again to take its responsible place in the community of nations.
This is it – the moment to believe, the moment to win.