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Your Scotland, Your Voice: A National Conversation



I ask every Scot to pause and reflect, not just on what kind of country we are, but on the kind of country we could be, the kind of country we should be. I am committed to a new chapter in Scottish politics, one in which the story and the script is written by the people and not just by the politicians.

Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, 14 August 2007


No man has a right to fix the boundary of the march of a nation; no man has a right to say to his country, "Thus far shalt thou go and no further".

Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891)

Nicola Sturgeon photo

"Scotland has a long and proud record of innovation and excellence in health and healthcare, with internationally recognised medical schools alongside world-renowned clinical and scientific research. Our National Health Service is one of which we can similarly be proud. By wisely using already wide ranging devolved responsibilities for health and wellbeing on behalf of the people of Scotland we have changed the landscape of and potential for improving health and health inequalities. Huge strides have been made in reducing waiting times and our strategies to improve coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer services, among others, have brought with them significant improvements for patients. What has been done is testament to what can be achieved and I am certain that with full powers and responsibilities in an independent nation we can and will achieve much more."

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Nicola Sturgeon
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health & Wellbeing

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"For far too long we have been at the mercy of financial and economic decisions taken outside Scotland. Under the current framework, key economic policy levers, including responsibility for supporting the economy during downturns and the operation of the tax system, are withheld from the Scottish Government. This cannot be in the best interests of the Scottish economy; not now and not for the long-term. Now is the time for change. In order for Scotland to achieve its full potential we must have greater responsibility for our own economy."

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John Swinney
Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth

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"The current constitutional settlement places limits on Scotland's ability to fully capitalise on the economic benefits our education and skills system offers us. In particular our employment and benefits system must be structured to help as many people as possible from all parts of Scotland into sustainable employment. This can be best achieved by placing the needs and expectations of the people of Scotland at the heart of its design and operation."

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Fiona Hyslop
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning

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"Scotland's laws and justice system are unique. They have been established for centuries and been maintained through 300 years of an incorporating union. Under devolution with justice mainly devolved they continue to serve Scotland in a unique way appropriate to our country and its people. We have confidence in the people of Scotland and they can be proud of Scotland's achievements. We want the Scottish Government to be able to go further in the interests of the Scottish people. We want to be able to tackle all aspects of crime and its causes."

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Kenny MacAskill
Cabinet Secretary for Justice

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"Using our existing but limited powers, the Scottish Government has delivered much progress for our rural communities but there are numerous examples where the influence of an independent country would have brought much greater benefits.

When I attend European negotiations and witness the success of other similar sized nations, I appreciate more than ever how having our own voice in Europe would ensure the distinctive needs of our farmers, fishermen and our environment would be recognised."

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Richard Lochhead
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment

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"We have legislated to remove the confusion of combined polls and developed proposals to clarify the conduct of Scottish elections. Responsibility is currently split between Holyrood and Westminster. Giving Holyrood the responsibility for all elections in Scotland would bring accountability closer to the voter and restore confidence in the democratic process. We would lower the voting age to 16 and introduce STV for all elections so extending participation and democracy in Scotland."

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Bruce Crawford
Minister for Parliamentary Business

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"The National Conversation has demonstrated that there is a tremendous appetite for debate about Scotland's constitutional future. Across the country, people have considered and discussed a range of constitutional choices, from expanded devolution to independence. There are a wide variety of options to reform our constitution, but most people agree that the status quo is not delivering for Scotland. As Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, I am immensely proud of Scotland's achievements since devolution, but I believe that independence presents the best opportunity for Scotland to flourish. It would enable Scotland to thrive internationally and culturally; Scotland would conduct itself on the world stage as an equal with other sovereign states. It would also give Scotland responsibility for all the policy tools required to promote sustainable economic growth."

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Michael Russell
Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution

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"Scotland is steadily and surely shrugging off its unenviable reputation as the sick man of Europe. To do that has involved taking courageous decisions and backing these up with necessary legislation - such as leading the way in banning smoking in enclosed public spaces; delivering free personal care; and our current legislative proposals which include measures to further reduce smoking, such as banning cigarette vending machines, and to tackle alcohol misuse through the introduction of minimum pricing. I am absolutely certain that we can and should continue to lead the way in taking appropriate measures to improve the health of the people of Scotland, now and in the future. Only with full independent powers and responsibilities will we able to do so. This includes control over taxation and benefits which are vital if we are to reduce poverty and low income, and eliminate the health inequalities which plague Scotland. Such powers will enable us to more fully determine and shape the continuing improvements we need if Scotland's people are to live longer, healthier lives."

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Shona Robison
Minister for Public Health and Sport

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"Scotland's achievements for housing since devolution in 1999 are significant. I am proud to serve in a Government, which, alongside our partners in local government and beyond, is part of this dynamic shift. But current constitutional arrangements mean that crucial barriers to our progress still remain, with key issues like taxation, social security benefits and financial and business regulation remaining reserved to Westminster. We need responsibility for all policy areas impacting on housing to deliver the homes and communities that Scotland needs and deserves. Independence can bring about this vital change."

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Alex Neil
Minister for Housing and Communities

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"The Scottish Government continues to encourage, nurture and build a supportive business environment. We recognise that effective businesses are the key to delivering accelerated and sustainable economic growth. With greater autonomy and in an independent Scotland, we would have the opportunity to put in place new initiatives such as lower corporation tax to give companies in Scotland a new competitive edge and to attract new businesses to Scotland. Constitutional reform would also give Scotland responsibility for developing our vast energy resources, including our oil and gas reserves and our huge potential in renewables and carbon capture."

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Jim Mather
Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism

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"Scotland's ambitious and comprehensive climate change legislation establishes this country as a global leader in developing a low carbon economy. We recognise the contribution that Scotland must make to reverse the carbon polluting impacts of the first industrial revolution and the economic opportunities for those who move quickly into the next. We are doing all we can within the powers available to us to transform our domestic performance and to influence the conduct of international negotiations. With the powers properly available to an independent nation state, we would enhance our international contribution and move more rapidly towards the more successful and just low carbon economy we want to see."

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Stewart Stevenson
Minister for Transport, Infrastructure, and Climate Change

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"To create the sort of country of which we can all be proud to be a part, we need an education system within which our children and young people will be equipped to succeed personally, socially and economically in the modern world. This goes beyond education. For example, aspects of the UK tax credit and benefits system impact directly on the lives of some of Scotland's most vulnerable children and young people, such as those with disabilities. Constitutional reform will allow us to fully align all of Scotland's public service systems to work with the third sector, communities and parents to help enable current and future generations to thrive."

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Keith Brown
Minister for Schools and Skills

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"This Government has recently published the Early Years Framework, making clear our commitment to supporting children and their families.

While we are making progress in many areas, including setting out how we intend to improve accessibility and flexibility of childcare, the Scottish Government has limited leverage for change on the issue of affordability. Under the current constitutional settlement, tax credits which support parents with the costs of childcare can be complex and bureaucratic. Instead, we want to see a single, accessible and progressive means of supporting parents with the cost of childcare, appropriate to the needs of the people of Scotland.

We do not want Scottish solutions undermined and obstructed by monolithic UK-wide systems, which are not responsive to Scotland's specific needs. We want accessible and affordable childcare, helping parents back in to work and boosting our economy."

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Adam Ingram
Minister for Children and Early Years

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"Scottish Governments have made large scale and radical reforms to the criminal justice system to successfully address the serious challenges facing our communities. But there are important gaps in our powers and responsibilities. These gaps hinder our efforts to produce joined up policies which fully address Scottish needs and circumstances. Further constitutional reform, especially in the areas such as firearms and drink driving, would allow us to tackle these issues directly and at our own hand."

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Fergus Ewing
Minister for Community Safety

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"Our natural environment is part of Scotland's unique and distinct character. It sustains businesses and jobs, supports families and communities, puts food on our plates and offers huge potential for sustainable economic growth. We could ensure it contributes this and so much more if we didn't have unhelpful limits on our ambitions and actions."

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Roseanna Cunningham
Minister for Environment