Scotland could be wealthier within 10 years of independence, Kate Forbes says
n independent Scotland could be better off within a decade of leaving the UK, Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has said.
Ms Forbes was speaking as hustings continued in the contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon – with fellow leadership hopeful Humza Yousaf saying he would be not just Scotland’s first minister but “first activist” for independence.
Meanwhile Ash Regan, the former community safety minister who is the third candidate standing to be SNP leader, said if she is voted into the job she would seek to “heal the rifts” within the party.
She also pledged to “relight the fires” of the cross-party Yes campaign that operated in the run up to the 2014 referendum and would “reach out to the wider movement”.
We need to set out in the first 10 years of an independent Scotland how we will be wealthier, greener, fairer. People need to see it
Ms Regan told the hustings event in Dumfries that she had felt a “sense of grief” after Scots had voted to stay in the UK in 2014.
The SNP backbencher said: “I don’t want us to be thinking about that past referendum and thinking we’ve missed the boat, and that we have got to keep waiting. I want to get us there as fast as possible.”
But to achieve that she said the party needs to “change direction” and to “act differently”.
Ms Regan said: “I don’t think we can keep going the way we have been over the last few years, we need a different plan and we need to put that into action.”
She said under her leadership the first line on any SNP manifesto would state that a vote for the party would mean “Scotland would be voting for Edinburgh and Westminster in a room” to begin independence negotiations.
She told party members: “The referendum is not the gold standard here, the ballot box is the gold standard, and that is what we need to progress towards.”
Ms Regan said other nations would recognise this, saying: “International law is pragmatic and there is no question of the UK not recognising this and coming to the table.”
Her comments came as Ms Forbes, who returned from maternity leave after the birth of her daughter last summer to run to be Scotland’s next first minister, stressed the need to use “each and every opportunity to make the case for independence”.
She told the hustings: “We need to set out in the first 10 years of an independent Scotland how we will be wealthier, greener, fairer. People need to see it.
“Independence is not an abstract constitutional term we use in arguments, its about real people, real lives and how we ensure Scotland is just as wealthy, just as green just as fair as our comparator countries.”
She said: “We have got all that it takes in Scotland to be incredibly successful.
“We would be one of the richest countries ever to be independent, we have got all that it takes.”
She told the hustings: “Scotland can’t afford not to be independent. We will get there with the right leader, the right competent focus on track record of delivery and ultimately ensuring we are persuading people.”
As part of that, in what could be seen a swipe at Mr Yousaf, the Scottish Health Secretary, she stressed the need to “make sure the NHS is on a stable footing for the next decade”.
Mr Yousaf, meanwhile, said that independence is “inevitable”, adding that the days of the “unequal union” between Scotland and the rest of the UK “are numbered”.
He said the leadership contest was about “who is going to deliver independence”, saying: “I believe I have what it takes.
“I believe I have the experience, I believe I am able to unite our movement, I believe I am able to inspire people to the vision of independence.”
While he said the SNP had “governed well” in its nearly 16 years in power in Scotland, he said: “We must build on that progressive agenda that has won us so much support so far.”
He told the hustings if he was to become the next SNP leader “every single election we fight, including the next general election” will be based on a demand for Holyrood to have the powers to hold a second independence ballot.
“I am not just looking to be the leader of the party of first minister of the country, I want to be our first activist.
“I want to come with community to community, town to town, village to village, doorstep to doorstep, persuading the people of this country that our best future is as an independent nation.”