POLITICS

Scottish Independence Will 'Create Opportunities' Says Alex Salmond

08/06/2014 10:04 BST | Updated 08/06/2014 10:59 BST

Scottish independence will create an opportunity for the rest of the UK "to address the economic and social challenges it faces", the First Minister has said as the 100-day countdown to the referendum approaches.

Alex Salmond is confident of a Yes vote on September 18 as both sides of the debate prepare to step up their campaigns when the latest milestone is passed on Monday.

The First Minister said the "eyes of the world" are on Scotland and that international interest and opportunities will continue under independence.

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"Tomorrow marks the start of that countdown to what will be one of the most exciting and historic days this nation has ever seen," Salmond said.

"It will be a decision on whether we are to be an independent country once again, joining the international community as an equal partner after an absence of more than 300 years.

"The referendum on September 18 is the biggest opportunity Scotland has had in those three centuries and it is one I firmly believe we will grasp with both hands.

"The eyes of the world are on Scotland and we should be proud of the example we are setting in terms of the profoundly democratic and peaceful nature of the debate on our future - not something that is always the case elsewhere.

"But that huge international focus, and all the opportunities it will bring, will only stay on Scotland with a Yes vote."

The pro-union parties have been outlining plans for further devolution under a No vote in the referendum but Salmond believes independence is the only guarantee of further powers for Scotland.

He said: "There now appears to be consensus among all the main parties that Scotland needs substantially more powers.

"But a Yes vote is the only option on the ballot paper which offers those powers.

"Scotland is a hugely wealthy country. Official figures show that, as an independent nation, we would be the 14th most prosperous per head in the developed world, ahead of France, Japan and the UK itself."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie is calling on party activists and pro-union campaigners to make a positive case for a "stronger Scottish parliament which stays in the UK family" over the summer.

In a message to activists, he said: "With 100 days until the referendum, Liberal Democrats have a golden opportunity to loudly state our case for home rule for Scotland in a federal United Kingdom.

"We know that the majority of people in our communities, in our colleges and workplaces believe Scotland has the best of both worlds as part of the UK family.

"They agree with our liberal message that Scotland benefits from a strong Scottish parliament which shapes its own domestic agenda on matters like health and education whilst working across the UK family to boost jobs and growth.

"But we need to make sure that that majority of people hear our message over the summer months.

"I need you to get out and make our positive, sunshine case for a stronger Scotland which works together as part of the UK."

A recent poll showed that the majority of English and Welsh people want Scotland to remain part of the UK, with 55% of those surveyed for the Financial Times expressing a strong preference for Scotland remaining with the union.

Salmond said independence would present "opportunities" to the rest of the UK.

"Independence will mean Scotland is no longer subject to Westminster policies imposed against the wishes of our democratic representatives," the First Minister said.

"A quarter of a century ago it was Margaret Thatcher's poll tax - today it is the bedroom tax and the ongoing obscenity of Trident weapons of mass destruction located just a short distance from Scotland's largest city.

"An independent Scotland will also help to rebalance the economy across these islands, to everyone's benefit, and present an opportunity for the rest of the UK to address the economic and social challenges it faces."