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Alex Salmond: how an iScotland could stop pandering to fears of immigration

Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the developed world with extraordinary natural resources and advantages other countries can only dream of.

We have more top universities, per head, than any other nation, we are a hotbed of life sciences, we have a world-class food and drink industry and we have strengths in key growth sectors such as creative industries, renewable energy and tourism.

But the greatest source of our wealth is our people. It is the people of this country who drive the case for independence. We will be better off if decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland and not by Westminster politicians whose focus is elsewhere.

In recent years we have seen Scotland's population move from stagnation to growth with people from Europe, from further afield but mostly from elsewhere in the UK - adding to the economic wealth and social vibrancy of our country.

It marks the reversal of what has been the greatest indictment of the failure of Westminster economic governance of Scotland - the historic relative decline in our population.

In the 100 years to 2001 the number of people living in Scotland increased by just over 10 per cent. In England in the same period time the population rose by over 60 per cent.

Between 1971 and 2001 Scotland's population fell by 171,000 so that, even with the renewed growth of recent years, our share of the UK population is much less than it was 40 years ago.

Since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament the situation has improved. But there is no guarantee that this progress will be maintained.

Those campaigning against independence cite forecasts that predict that, if we stay within the Westminster system, the working population of Scotland is going to fall.

The No campaign wants our future to be in the hands of a Westminster establishment that foresees more jobs and opportunities crowded into one corner of these islands. They have embarked upon a process of dismantling the post-war welfare state and privatising public services.

The Yes side in this debate has a vision of a better future for the people of Scotland. Our vision is of a Scotland in which we use the vast wealth of our country to work much better for the people who live here.

By transferring political power from Westminster to Scotland we can tailor economic policy so that it is aimed at creating jobs in Scotland.

Each year around 70,000 people leave Scotland, including more than 30,000 young people. Of course, some want to travel but no-one should be denied opportunities at home.

With the powers of independence we can do much more to help people find work in Scotland.

We can do that by designing tax and economic policy to attract and maintain HQ functions to Scotland; by implementing an industrial strategy for Scotland, by working together in a social partnership to improve wages and by tailoring policy to make the most of the huge comparative advantages we have in key growth industries.

By contrast, the main Westminster parties have decided to deploy immigration as a weapon in their increasingly tawdry self-styled 'Project Fear' campaign. The UK Government and Labour Party are using an estimate that net annual migration needs to rise to 24,000 to match or exceed the same ratio of working people to pensioners in the UK as if it were something to be frightened of - a reason to vote No.

But in the 10 years to 2011/12 net migration to Scotland averaged around 22,000 a year. That means we need just 2000 more people a year.

As well as practical policies we can jettison the aggressive language of the mainstream Westminster parties, who instead of standing up to the likes of Ukip have decided to pander to them, and in this referendum to copy their tactics of engendering fear of "immigration".

Historian Tom Devine said "the nation that became Scotland" evolved from a mix of ethnic groups. The greatest Scottish heroes Robert de Brus and William Wallace came from immigrant families.

In modern Scotland we should aspire to be a beacon of hope, diversity and humanity. And in less than four months' time we can build a better, fairer, more prosperous country by taking Scotland's future into Scotland's hands.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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