Belfast Telegraph

Tax, childcare and pay at core of independent Scotland vision

By James Cusick

The Scottish First Minister has set out his blueprint for independence as he unveiled his vision for a separate Scotland.

Presenting the 670-page document, titled Scotland's Future, Alex Salmond said it showed "what we could be" if next year's referendum results in a 'yes' vote. He warned that Scotland would "stand still" if it remained part of the UK.

Despite warnings from Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael that an independent state would require its own currency, a defiant Mr Salmond said that he had been assured by Westminster that Scotland would become part of a new sterling zone.

He added that independence would come with guaranteed "continuing" membership of the EU – and would be welcomed by Nato.

Mr Salmond urged Scotland's four million voters to seize a "once-in-a-generation" chance to create a fairer, more prosperous country by voting to leave the UK and taking control of their own destiny.

He promised to cut corporation tax, to honour current pensions, to extend free childcare to 30 hours per week for all three and four-year-olds and to increase the minimum wage.

A free Scotland would take 90% of North Sea oil revenue, and Trident nuclear weapons would vanish from Scottish territory while the assets and staff of the BBC would shift to a new state broadcaster, the Scottish Broadcasting Service.

Mr Salmond said the bedroom tax would also go. The mail service would be re-nationalised. The minimum wage would rise; air passenger duty would be reduced.

And in advance of independence day, the UK government would be asked to cancel the rollout of universal credit in Scotland.

In his preface, the First Minister said: "It will no longer be possible for governments to be elected and pursue policies against the wishes of the Scottish people. Independence will put [us] in charge of our destiny."

But opponents of the manifesto disputed Mr Salmond's claims. Mr Carmichael said the document fell short of its billing, while saying Mr Salmond's plan to keep sterling and retain the services of the Bank of England was "unlikely" to be fulfilled.

Attacking the White Paper's scattered assumptions and assertions, the former Chancellor, Alistair Darling (left), who is in charge of the pro-union Better Together campaign, said: "We waited months for this. And it has failed to give credible answers on fundamentally important questions."

He called the White Paper "a fantasy", adding that Scotland could not leave the UK while keeping all the benefits of membership.

Political correspondent Noel McAdam looks at the Scottish referendum's implications for Northern Ireland

Q Do Scots living in Northern Ireland have a vote?

A No. You have to be living in Scotland, and be over the the age of 16, to take part in the referendum on September 18 next year. It means the 800,000 Scots who live in other parts of the UK don't get a vote, while the 400,000 people from elsewhere in Britain who live in Scotland do.

Q What are the implications of the referendum for unionists ?

A While the results of most opinion polls suggest a 'No' vote is most likely, unionists will remain uneasy until such a result is secure. The fact that the break-up of the United Kingdom could be initiated from the Scots side of the Ulster-Scots tradition is packed full of irony.

Q What about the non-unionist parties ?

A Sinn Fein would hope that the Scottish vote will add momentum to their ongoing campaign for a new Irish border poll.

Q Would a Scottish 'yes' vote raise the prospects of a united Ireland?

A Support for a 32-county Ireland is low and, according to some surveys, shrinking. The most recent Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey revealed that 73% of voters here want to remain part of the UK, with 52% of Catholic voters content to maintain the union with Britain.

Q Could Scotland end up with lower corporation tax before Northern Ireland?

A The Scottish government wants to reduce corporation tax in an independent Scotland by up to three percentage points below the prevailing UK rate. But the UK Treasury says it will not make any decision on devolving tax powers until after the independence referendum.

Q What happens in the event of a 'Yes' Vote?

A Alex Salmond wants to declare 'Independence Day' in March 2016, with the first elections to an independent parliament in May. Before that happens though, a constitutional settlement would need to be agreed with the UK government, involving issues such as defence, currency and the European Union.

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