Scotland lays out blueprint for independence from Britain

Scottish separatist party says independence 'wealthier and fairer' for Scotland, but polls show many oppose separation

Scottish Government's First Minister Alex Salmond (left) and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, launch the white paper on Scottish Independence, at the Science Center, on Tuesday in Glasgow, Scotland.
Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty

Scotland’s government on Tuesday unveiled a long-awaited blueprint for Scottish independence, which would still use the British pound sterling as its currency and keep Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch, but would create its own defense force and foreign ministry.

In the first detailed outline of Scotland's political future as an independent country, First Minister Alex Salmond's administration set out the ways it said the nation would prosper if it left the United Kingdom. In a referendum on Sept. 18, 2014, Scots will be asked whether they want Scotland to become independent.

"It will be a decision by the people of Scotland, Scotland's future is in Scotland's hands," Salmond said at the launch of the 670-page document setting out the terms of separation.

Salmond said he could build a "wealthier and fairer nation" if Scots vote next September to end the 300-year-old union with London.

"We'd become independent in more promising circumstances than virtually any other nation in history," he told a packed news conference in Scotland's biggest city Glasgow.

Salmond called for the historic referendum in 2011 after his Scottish National Party (SNP) won a one-seat majority in the Scottish Parliament, the devolved assembly in Edinburgh that has powers over health, education and law.

"Ultimately at the heart of this debate, there is only one question and one choice: Do we, the people who live and work in Scotland, believe that we are the best people to take decisions about Scotland's future?"

But the opposition Labor and Conservative parties both oppose independence, and with just 10 months to go until the vote, the SNP is struggling to win over Scots. Some 38 percent are currently planning to vote for independence, according to a Panelbase survey for the Sunday Times, while 47 would vote against.

British opposition

Salmond on Tuesday reiterated there was a strong economic case for independence and that Scotland's "immense" natural resources would guarantee a prosperous future.

An independent Scottish government would create a sovereign wealth fund using revenue from exploiting oil and gas reserves worth around $2.4 trillion, the Scottish government said on Tuesday.

"This government will make the creation of a Scottish Energy Fund an early priority," the Scottish government said in its report, adding that it would also put in place a more stable tax regime for oil and gas exploration.

Britain has long opposed the creation of a sovereign wealth fund using oil and gas money, making it one of the only oil-producing nations not to channel energy revenue into a separate fund.

Oil and gas production contributed around $35 billion to Scotland's GDP last year and nearly all Britain's offshore oil production is expected to come from Scottish waters over the coming 30 years, the Scottish government said.

The independence movement is strongly opposed by British Prime Minister David Cameron. The British government argues that people living in Scotland would pay an extra $1,600 a year in tax.

Britain's former finance minister Alistair Darling, who is leading the anti-separation Better Together campaign, said it was "complete fantasy to believe that we can leave the UK but keep all the benefits of UK membership."

"With so much uncertainty and unanswered questions about the cost of independence, leaving the UK would be a huge leap in the dark — especially when we know that devolution works for Scotland," he said in a statement obtained by Al Jazeera.

"We can have the best of both worlds — a strong Scottish Parliament with the strength and opportunity of being part of a bigger United Kingdom.”

The vote is open to all residents of Scotland.

Wire services

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