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Scotland's Future

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Introduction

What you can expect from this guide to an independent Scotland

The Scottish Government supports independence for Scotland.

On 18 September 2014 you will be asked to vote in a referendum on the question:

'Should Scotland be an independent country?'

The Scottish Government believes you should vote Yes.

This guide sets out the gains of independence for Scotland - whichever party is in government - and this Government's vision and priorities for action if we are the first government of an independent Scotland. It also explains the process by which Scotland will become independent following a Yes vote and how our newly independent Scotland will work.

Scotland has many natural advantages. The foundations of our economy are strong. We have abundant natural resources. We have a talented population with many world-class businesses and institutions. We have a proud history, progressive traditions, fine intellectual and artistic accomplishments, a strong identity and many friends across the world.

Through devolution, the people of Scotland have experienced some of the benefits of independence. The advantages of taking decisions for ourselves have been clear. Crime is lower. Health outcomes have improved. In many ways - like our unemployment rate - our economy is stronger than the UK as a whole. The Scottish Parliament has protected the NHS from privatisation and restored our tradition of free education.

This guide lays out how we can complete Scotland's journey to home rule and become a fully independent country.

If Scotland votes Yes in the referendum the Scottish Government will negotiate so that Scotland becomes independent on 24 March 2016.

In detail, this guide sets out:

The case for independence. Decisions about Scotland - decisions that affect us, our families, our communities and the future of our country - should be taken in Scotland to reflect the views and concerns of the Scottish people, rather than by governments at Westminster with different priorities, often rejected by voters in Scotland.

The strong foundations already in place for the economy and public finances of an independent Scotland. Scotland can afford to be independent. We can pay for, and protect, our public services. Even those who currently argue against independence accept that Scotland can be a successful independent country. Independence will give us the powers we need to build an even stronger economy. It will equip us to compete effectively in the global economy, rather than remain under Westminster which has created an unequal society and an unbalanced economy.

How Scotland will become independent. Following a vote for independence on 18 September 2014, Scotland will prepare to become an independent country. There will be negotiations with the rest of the UK, the EU and other international partners. Planning for independence in March 2016 allows a realistic time to reach agreement in those discussions and to complete the legal processes to transfer power to the Scottish Parliament.

The first parliamentary election in an independent Scotland will take place on 5 May 2016.

What an independent Scotland will look like. The shape of Scotland in the future will be determined by how the people of Scotland vote in elections in 2016 and thereafter. The current Scottish Government will lead Scotland from a Yes vote in September 2014 to independence in March 2016. This guide sets out what Scotland will look like at the point of independence - on issues such as the currency, the monarchy and membership of the EU.

The gains of independence for you, your family and community. Independence will give the Scottish Parliament new powers in areas like the economy, taxation, welfare, energy and defence, and control over key national assets like the postal system. In this guide we set out the many opportunities these powers will give Scotland, and some of the current Scottish Government's priorities for action if we are elected to be the government of an independent Scotland in May 2016.

Answers to your questions. In this guide we answer detailed questions we have been asked about independence.

Structure of this guide

Part one of the guide sets out an overview of the case for independence:

  • why Scotland needs independence
  • what Scotland will look like on independence
  • what will happen between a Yes vote and Scotland becoming independent
  • our financial and economic strengths
  • the benefits of independence and the priorities for action of the current Government if it is the first government of an independent Scotland
  • the consequences of Scotland voting No to independence

Part two describes the strengths of Scotland's national finances over recent decades compared to the UK as a whole. It also estimates Scotland's opening financial position at the point of independence - 2016/17 - and sets out this Government's priorities for the first term of a Scottish Parliament.

Part three provides detailed analysis of the changes needed across Scotland, the opportunities that independence provides for any future Scottish government to make those changes, and the particular priorities for action identified by this Government. These chapters cover:

  • Finance and the Economy, including measures to boost the economy, create jobs and ensure we have a skilled, motivated and fairly-rewarded workforce, and proposals on our currency, the tax system, and financial regulation
  • Transport, including proposals to strengthen connections within and to Scotland, support decarbonisation and reduce Air Passenger Duty
  • Health, Wellbeing and Social Protection, including proposals to improve pensions, build a fairer welfare system in an independent Scotland, and continue to protect our NHS
  • Education, Skills and Employment, including the opportunities for our schools, universities and colleges to flourish with independence, our transformational childcare proposals, and the need to address inequalities in educational attainment in our schools, protect free university education and strengthen Scotland's academic research base
  • International Relations and Defence, including Scotland's transition to independent membership of the EU, and our proposals for Scotland's armed forces and international representation
  • Justice, Security and Home Affairs, including the opportunities to make our communities safe, protect ourselves against terrorism and other security threats, and establish a system of immigration and citizenship that meets Scotland's needs
  • Environment, Rural Scotland and Energy & Resources, including the opportunities for our food and drink, agriculture and fishing industries, and our rural and island communities, and proposals to support our energy industries - oil and gas and renewables - and manage our energy wealth for the future with the creation of a Scottish Energy Fund
  • Culture and Communications, including the future of broadcasting and the Royal Mail in Scotland

Part four sets out the timescale and process for Scotland to become an independent country following a Yes vote in the referendum. It describes the transition that will take place and the negotiations that will be required on assets and liabilities, and to ensure continued delivery of public services. It also sets out the opportunities for a modern democracy with our own written constitution and describes how equality and human rights will be protected and promoted on independence.

Finally, in Part five we answer detailed questions we have been asked about independence.