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The Yes Side Has a Vision of a Better Future for the People of Scotland

03/06/2014 09:44 BST | Updated 30/12/2014 10:59 GMT
Lesley Martin/PA Wire

Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the developed world with extraordinary natural resources and huge advantages other countries can only dream about.

We have more top universities, per head, than any other nation on earth, we are a hotbed of life sciences, we have a world-class food and drink industry and we have strengths in key growth sectors like creative industries, renewable energy and tourism.

But the greatest source of our wealth is our people.

Indeed it is the people of this country who drive the case for independence. We will be better off if decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland - those who live and work here - and not by Westminster politicians whose focus lies inevitably elsewhere.

In recent years we have seen Scotland's population move from stagnation to growth with people from Europe, from further afield but mostly from elsewhere in the UK - adding to the economic wealth and social vibrancy of our country.

It marks the reversal of what has been the greatest indictment of the failure of Westminster economic governance of Scotland - the historic relative decline in our population.

In the 100 years to 2001 the number of people living in Scotland increased by just over 10%. In England over that same period time the population rose by over 60%.

Between 1971 and 2001 Scotland's population actually fell by 171,000 so that, even with the renewed growth of recent years, our share of the total UK population today is much less than it was forty years ago.

Since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament the situation has changed for the better. Indeed it has been transformed. But there is no guarantee that this progress will be maintained.

Indeed those campaigning against independence actually cite forecasts that predict that, if we stay within the Westminster system, the working population of Scotland is going to fall once again. This almost unbelievably, is presented as if it were an argument against independence as opposed to an argument for change.

The No campaign wants our future to be in the hands of a Westminster establishment that foresees more and more jobs and opportunities crowded into one corner of these islands. Far from "pooling risk" they have embarked upon a process of dismantling the post-war welfare state and privatising public services.

The Yes side in this debate has a vision of a better future for the people of Scotland.

Our vision is of a Scotland in which we use the vast wealth of our country to work much better for the people who live here.

By transferring political power from Westminster to Scotland we can tailor economic policy so that it is aimed 100% at creating jobs here in Scotland.

Each year around 70,000 people leave Scotland, including more than 30,000 young people. Of course some will always want to travel and in the 21st Century it is inevitable that people will move from one country to another to work and live. That is great but no-one should be denied economic opportunity at home.

And with the powers of independence we can do much more to help people find work in Scotland and to reach the top of their chosen career in their own country.

We can do that my designing tax and economic policy to attract and maintain HQ functions to Scotland; by implementing an industrial strategy for modern Scotland, by working together in a social partnership to improve wages and by tailoring policy to make the most of the huge comparative advantages we have in key growth industries and services.

By contrast, the main Westminster parties have decided to deploy immigration as a weapon in their increasingly tawdry self-styled "Project Fear" campaign.

The UK Government and indeed the Labour Party is using an estimate that net annual migration to Scotland needs to rise to 24,000 to match or exceed the same ratio of working people to pensioners in the UK as if it were something to be frightened of - a reason to vote No.

But in the ten years to 2011/12 net migration to Scotland averaged around 22,000 a year.

That means that to meet that 24,000 target, we need just 2,000 more people a year to stay in Scotland or an extra 2,000 more to move here from the rest of the UK or from overseas, or indeed a similar number of expats to come home.

For many Scots who have moved abroad independence will offer the opportunity of a lifetime - the chance to return to be directly involved in building a better country.

We can implement practical policies such as restoring the post-study work visa - abolished by Westminster - to retain talented individuals who want to stay on in Scotland to work here and contribute.

Within the Common Travel Area of the British Isles we can also introduce a points-based immigration system suitable for our needs.

But as well as practical policies we can jettison the aggressive language of the mainstream Westminster parties, who instead of standing up to the likes of UKIP have decided to pander to them, and in this independence referendum now to copy their tactics of engendering fear of "immigration".

The historian Tom Devine reminds us that in medieval times "the nation that became Scotland" evolved from a mix of ethnic groups. The greatest of all Scottish heroes Robert de Brus and William Wallace (the Welshman) themselves came from immigrant families.

In modern Scotland we should aspire to be a beacon of hope, diversity and humanity.

And in less than four months' time all of us fortunate enough to live in this country, wherever we have come from, can start to build a better, fairer and more prosperous country by taking Scotland's future into Scotland's hands.