Independence economy would ‘work for everyone’ – Sturgeon

An independent Scotland would build an “economy that works for everyone”, according to the first minister.

Nicola Sturgeon’s pledge came as she prepared to publish a paper outlining the economic argument for leaving the UK.

Opposition politicians at Holyrood have criticised the plan to hold a referendum on 19 October next year.

The UK government also said now was the wrong time to be talking about a new independence vote.

On Sunday it emerged the prospectus, which will be unveiled at a media briefing in Edinburgh, will include details on how an independent Scotland would apply to join the European Union.

The Scottish government paper will set out proposals for key issues, such as currency, trade and border arrangements.

It will also outline a redesign of the energy market and a migration policy to boost the working population.

Last week Ms Sturgeon announced plans, which will feature in the document, for an oil fund which she said would deliver up to £20bn of investment within the first decade of Scotland becoming independent.

On the eve of the paper’s publication, Ms Sturgeon said the country had an abundance of skilled people, innovative businesses, and natural resources and pledged to create a dynamic economy rooted in social justice.

Scotland, she added, could be as successful as many other small European nations but it was currently lagging behind as part of post-Brexit Britain.

‘Fairer, greener, wealthier’

She continued: “The UK economic model is demonstrably failing and increasingly holding Scotland back.

“Independence is now essential to build an economy that works for everyone.

“The paper we are publishing today will help people make a clear, informed choice about independence and how we can forge a path towards becoming a fairer, greener, wealthier country.”

The Scottish Conservatives’ finance and economy spokeswoman Liz Smith said the SNP had “never been able to make a convincing economic case for independence”.

She added: “Nationalists are consistently unable to address the big questions that the public want answered about independence – on currency, on pensions and about how a hard border would impact our trade with the rest of the UK.

“Nicola Sturgeon has already admitted that the answers to some of key these questions would not be provided before the public was asked to vote.

“That is a ridiculous situation which would have serious implications for jobs, wages, savings and investment.”

Ms Smith added the focus of the administration should be on the global cost of living crisis as opposed to “another divisive referendum”.

Eight years after Scotland said no to independence, the debate has shifted.

In 2014 the Yes Scotland campaign insisted that embarking on a new journey as an independent nation could be a smooth and carefully managed process.

Its opponents, styled Better Together but nicknamed Project Fear by one of their own advisers, prevailed by warning against leaving the safe harbour of the Union.

Since then the country has endured a series of economic shocks — Brexit, Covid, the war in Ukraine, and the continuing effects of austerity — and polls suggest support for independence has risen.

Now the Scottish government argues, essentially, that the British state is sinking and Scotland must urgently take to the lifeboat to avoid being dragged down with it.

The circumstances have forced supporters of the union to reframe their case too. Now they say those stormy economic conditions make independence even riskier than it was in 2014.

Presentational grey line

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour called on the SNP to be honest about its proposals.

The party’s finance spokesman Daniel Johnson said: “The SNP need to drop the spin and come clean with people about the catastrophic reality of their economic plans.

“Despite wasting 15 years in government peddling the same old agenda, they still can’t answer even the most basic questions.

“They are gambling people’s livelihoods based on fantasy economics and wishful thinking.”

And Scottish Liberal Democrats economy spokesman Willie Rennie criticised the publication of the Scottish government’s third prospectus on independence this year.

Mr Rennie said: “The SNP are looking at the Conservative party’s economic chaos and saying ‘we want some more of that’.

“What’s even worse is that they are now touting a currency plan which would require vast cuts to Scottish public services like the NHS.

“This paper is not a solution to any of Scotland’s problems. It’s an indulgent distraction.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “People in Scotland want their governments to be focused on the issues that matter to them – growing our economy, ensuring our energy security, tackling the cost of living and supporting our friends in Ukraine against Russian aggression.

“This is simply not the time to be talking about another independence referendum.”

The spokesperson added Scotland benefited from being part of a wider union, through initiatives like the Covid furlough scheme or the energy support package which has limited bill increases this winter.

‘Indisputable mandate’

The paper is the third in a series, published as part of the Scottish government’s plans to hold a referendum on 19 October next year.

In June Ms Sturgeon unveiled what she called a “refreshed” case for independence and said her government had an “indisputable mandate” for a second referendum.

The following month she launched a second paper which argued independence was the only way to end the “starker than ever” democratic deficit in Scotland.

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The UK Supreme Court, which heard two days of submissions last week, is considering if Holyrood has the legal powers to press ahead with a referendum without consent from the UK government.

Scotland’s lord advocate argued that such a vote would be advisory, and therefore would not have a legal effect on the Union.

The UK government argues the case is plainly about the constitution which is reserved to Westminster and holding a referendum is therefore beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

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