An independent Scotland would keep the pound and the British monarchy, but establish its own defense force, First Minister Alex Salmond said on Tuesday, as he unveiled detailed proposals ahead of next year’s referendum.
Launching his regional government’s long-awaited blueprint for leaving the UK, the nationalist leader promised a “wealthier and fairer nation” if Scots vote to dissolve the 300-year-old union with England on Sept. 18.
“We’d become independent in more promising circumstances than virtually any other nation in history,” Salmond told a n ews conference in Glasgow.
“Ultimately at the heart of this debate there is only one question and one choice. Do we, the people who live and work in Scotland, believe that we are the best people to take decisions about Scotland’s future?” he asked.
The leader of the political campaign to keep Scotland in the union, Alistair Darling, condemned the blueprint as “thick with false promises and meaningless assertions.”
“Instead of a credible and costed plan, we have a wish-list of political promises without any answers on how Alex Salmond would pay for them,” the former British chancellor of the exchequer said.
The Scottish National Party’s (SNP) white paper tackles 650 questions on the practicalities of going it alone. It also sets out policies the party would introduce after independence in areas such as corporate taxation, pensions, childcare, education, defense and welfare.
In a key commitment, the blueprint says an independent Scotland would no longer host Britain’s Trident nuclear missile deterrent.
Scotland would remain part of the EU and NATO, it says, although pro-unionists say this is not as straightforward as Salmond makes out.
A major source of income would come from North Sea oil and gas — the SNP says more than 90 percent of revenues come from fields that would lie within an independent Scotland’s waters.
The blueprint contents that London-centric policies have left Scotland’s 5.3 million population with a “legacy of debt, low growth and social inequality,” but proposes to “share” the British national debt to start with.
Scotland would keep the pound as its currency, assuming a share in Britain’s central bank, the Bank of England, while Queen Elizabeth II would remain head of state.
Salmond was in jovial form as he fielded questions about a proposed new Scottish Broadcasting Service, assuring Scottish viewers they would still be able to watch their favorite BBC programs.
Salmond hopes the blueprint will swing undecided voters.
About 38 percent currently favor independence, according to a Panelbase survey for the Sunday Times newspaper, while 47 would vote against.
However, Darling said it was “complete fantasy to believe that you can leave the UK but keep all the benefits.”