Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled her master plan to enable an independent Scotland to prosper outside of the UK.
Capitalising on the chaos engulfing Westminster, the Scottish first minister pushed her vision for how the nation would thrive by leaving the union and becoming a member of the European Union.
In a speech at Bute House in Edinburgh on Monday, as her economic prospectus paper was published, Ms Sturgeon said her plan would bring about a “well-being economy that works for all” Scots. Scotland would, for example, be able to make full use of its natural resources, including its vast renewable energy potential, she said.
She hailed the plan as a “milestone on the conversation about how we can build a better Scotland”.
The leader of the Scottish National Party touched on currency, trade, borders and fiscal sustainability during her speech, pledging further papers in due course about energy, security, pensions and EU membership.
She previously announced that October 2023 had been earmarked for IndyRef2.
Ms Sturgeon said the recent turmoil unleashed on Britain’s financial markets by the mini-budget has showed “fiscal credibility and market stability are essential to the well-being and living standards of all of us”.
An independent Scottish central bank and a debt management office would be created if Scotland left the UK, she said. The institutions would operate independently of the government in Edinburgh and play a key role in ensuring the county’s fiscal sustainability, performance monitoring and transparent forecasting.
Ms Sturgeon also announced a vision to “significantly strengthen” Scotland’s Fiscal Commission so that it would effectively replicate the UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility.
While an independent Scotland would not have a legal responsibility for UK debt, the first minister said it would bear a “moral responsibility”. Therefore the government in Edinburgh would work with Westminster to reach a “fair settlement on both debt and assets”.
A new currency would be introduced “as soon as practicable” under the Scottish government’s plan.
The circulation of new coins and notes would not be determined by a set timetable but instead by a series of requirements and criteria guided by information from the central bank and subject to a final say by members of the Scottish parliament.
An independent Scotland would remain part of the Common Travel Area which is made up of the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the Crown Dependencies — Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
Ms Sturgeon said the notion that Scots would need to show their passports to visit relatives in England is “utter nonsense”. She stressed that while new arrangements for the border between Scotland and England would need planning for, the issues would not be unsurmountable.
She said Scots would have freedom of movement across the UK as well as the EU‘s 27 member states upon being granted membership in the bloc.
If Scots voted for independence, the government would begin a push to become part of the EU, the world’s largest trading bloc.
Ms Sturgeon said this would allow Scotland to “grow and diversity our trade the way Ireland did after joining the EU”.
Trade with the UK would also be important for an independent Scotland, she said, but it would not be the limit.
Ms Sturgeon said it is only natural for people to want to “hunker down” in the midst of a storm and await calmer times but stressed that this strategy would not benefit Scotland because the UK is “fundamentally on the wrong path”.
While acknowledging that independence would not be a “miracle cure” for Scotland’s woes, the SNP leader insisted it would be the only viable path to prosperity.
In September 2014, Scots rejected independence in a referendum.
She said the country had come a long way since then and has since established its own tax and social security agencies. She pushed Scotland’s resources including its world-class universities and internationally competitive industries such as space to hammer her message home.
Rarely in history has there been another country “better prepared for independence than we are”, she said.
Ms Sturgeon used her speech to lambast Britain’s Conservative government, which is on a damage-control spree after the disastrous mini-budget announced on September 23 caused the pound to tank.
The new chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, who replaced Kwasi Kwarteng on Friday, on Monday announced the reversal of almost all the policies announced in the mini-budget.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Liz Truss is clinging on for political survival in No 10 six weeks into her premiership.
“To say that this is now a UK government and a prime minister without a shred of credibility is an understatement,” Ms Sturgeon said.
She said it was a sign of “how badly broken” British politics are that “the prime minister’s resignation has not already been tendered”.
‘Now is not the time’
As expected, Downing Street reacted to Ms Sturgeon’s statement on independence with disapproval.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said “the prime minister remains of the view it is not the time to be talking about another independence referendum”.
“People in Scotland want their governments to be focused on the issues that matter to them, things like energy security, the cost of living and obviously supporting Ukraine in their war against Russia,” the spokesman added.