Scotland would be the wealthiest country in the world to become independent if there is a Yes vote in four weeks' time, Alex Salmond has said. The First Minister made his comments as MSPs gathered at the Scottish Parliament for the final time before the referendum. Voters in Scotland go to the polls on September 18 to decide if the country should remain part of the UK or not.
Mr Salmond said: "With four weeks to go, people across Scotland are waking up to the wealth of opportunity offered by independence. The referendum has inspired an outpouring of ideas about the sort of Scotland we seek, the Scotland we want to see. As the debate has progressed, some points have become clear. We all agree Scotland's got what it takes to be a successful, independent country.
"We're one of the world's wealthiest countries - our gross domestic product per head is higher than the UK, France and Japan. Indeed, if Scotland votes Yes, we'd be the wealthiest country in the world ever to declare its independence."
He said that while Scotland was already one of the world's richest countries, "for far too many people it doesn't feel that way". Mr Salmond added: "The gap between rich and poor is far too wide - and far, far too many Scots don't have the chance to fulfil their potential. At its heart, the case for independence is a simple one.
"It is better for all our futures if decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland - the people who live and work here. Nobody is more likely to create the fair and prosperous country we seek. As the referendum debate heats up, millions of Scots are debating their country's future with friends, family and colleagues - and this can only be a good thing.
"It just shows how much people value having real power over their country's future. In four weeks' time, only a Yes vote will ensure that Scotland's future remains in Scotland's hands."
A Better Together spokesperson said: "This is embarrassing timing for Alex Salmond. Coming after one of the world's leading oil and gas experts exposed the risks to funding for our schools and hospitals in an independent Scotland, nobody believes Alex Salmond's claim that there is a land of milk and honey waiting for us if we vote Yes.
"People in Scotland want the facts, not more misleading claims from the nationalists. The facts from the experts are clear - if we leave the UK we would need to make extra cuts worth £6 billion to our public services in Scotland, like our schools and hospitals. That's a risk we just don't have to take.
"We can have what most people in Scotland want. That means more powers for Scotland guaranteed without taking on all the risks that come with separation. It's the best of both worlds. We should say No Thanks to separation on 18 September."