The SNP/ Green Alliance that forms the Scottish government has a cast-iron mandate to hold a new independence referendum before the end of 2023. To facilitate that they needed to fire the starting gun on the political campaign before the Holyrood recess at the end of June and fire it they did.
Today the FM alongside co-leader of the Green's, Patrick Harvie, set out a vision for an independent Scotland, publishing the first of a series of papers.
We were not expecting a date for the referendum to be announced but there is a clear hint at September 2023 in that the budget for the referendum is set against the 2023/24 financial budget year which starts on April 6th 2023. Much of that spending would have to be done months ahead of the referendum, not just weeks - secure printing of millions of ballots etc - so although Sept 23 looks most likely the Scottish Gov will also want to leave May 23 open for tactical reasons.
The FM's points on the economy are very much driven by the thinking from our book Scotland the Brief. If you want a free electronic copy then pledge your support to Believe in Scotland's campaign and we will send you a link.
Ten Key takeaways:
1) Scotland voted against Brexit but was taken out of the EU against our will. That has led to the cost-of-living crisis and only happened because we are not already independent.
2) Brexit, Covid and Boris Johnson as a PM Scotland has rejected means it's now time to revisit the independence question. We can do better, thrive and be a fairer nation like many other smaller European nations that lack our natural economic wealth. We can be more successful as an independent nation than as part of the UK.
3) Scotland will move forward on a referendum with or without a Section 30 order - if the UK government refuses to agree to a section 30 and tries to block the referendum then that would simply mean they are antidemocratic and have no respect for the fairness and the rule of law - but we know that anyway.
4) The First Paper in the series will be published today then, new papers including:
- Analysis of the status quo
- Fiscal position
- Pensions and social security
- EU membership
- Trade and national security
- Transition and infrastructure
There has been a great deal of Nation-building since 2014. Scotland now has an independent fiscal commission, and investment bank and its own tax collection system - we even more prepared for independence than we were in 2014.
5) Boris Johnson has no democratic authority in Scotland and no moral authority anywhere.
Brexit has made the cost of living far worse in UK than elsewhere and we are experiencing double the inflation of France. Businesses are left short of workers and Brexit has hurt Scotland's exports. On top of this we have an EU trade war looming over UK Government's threatening to break Northern Ireland protocol.
6) Ten nations were listed as comparator countries - all are wealthier more equal - have less poverty - smaller gender pay gaps - more social mobility - more productivity and more R&D driving their economy. All are wealthier fairer and more productive than the UK. She then posed a question: if all those countries can outperform the UK why not Scotland?
7) The challenge is to show how we can build a better nation and show how independence delivers a better nation than we can ever be as part of the UK.
8) Patrick Harvie joined in - The world is changing, inequality is widening, we are accelerating towards environmental and societal breakdown. Actions of Scot Gov such as Child Payments and spending to mitigate Westminster cuts and austerity but with our limited budget and the UK's hostile approach to Scotland, we have our hands tied behind our backs.
9) Paper shows that we are being held back by Westminster's failed economic and environmental policies whilst other European nations have been successful by building fairer nations. We seem tied to hanging on to the coattails of an incompetent uncaring old Etonian Government that we did not vote for.
10) Whether you voted Yes or No or are one of the young people now newly eligible to vote or a new Scot - let's make this an inspiring debate.
This was better and more focused than we had hoped and makes a very clear intent to hold the referendum that many have felt has not been forthcoming. The intent is clear and the statement of proceeding with or without a section 30 order is new. The UK is broken, and these papers need to show how independence solves the problems plaguing the UK right now and show how through the current direction of UK politics there is no way to solve them even in the medium or longer term.